Weekend Neighborhood Adventure: Astoria

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Instigated by local residents of the Welling Court area, in 2009 the gallery ‘Ad Hoc Art’ began an ambitious mural project in this Queens neighborhood.

Featuring a range of artists and styles, exploring the 150+ murals is an excellent mini-adventure. The quiet, residential streets run outwards from a center-point likes spokes on a wheel; standing at the intersection surrounded by colors and patterns stretching out in all directions is a beautiful sight.

This day trip offers free art, the exploration of a part of the city you probably don’t know, and a reminder that even in the largest cities, there can be an inspiring sense of community.

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I will never again go to Astoria without stopping by Al-Sham Sweets and Pastries. In fact, I’m absolutely returning to Astoria solely to revisit this Middle Eastern pastry shop. Located on Steinway Street in the area referred to as “Little Egypt”, I had read that the Knafeh they serve here is spectacular. Unfortunately, we arrived too early in the day and it was still being prepared, so we ‘settled’ for baklava, selecting 2 different pistachio varieties. We had enough self control to wait a few blocks before trying them, and if we hadn’t been on such a tight timeline, I think would have sprinted back and gone back to Manhattan with full bags overflowing with delicious, flaky, honey-drenched pastries. It was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.

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Instead, we powered on to the Museum of the Moving Image. This is one of those museums that perfectly balances education with fun. Providing a thorough look at the history of the moving image, from the very first optical illusions to the most modern of special effects and elaborate set design, their exhibits celebrate the magic of film. The displays show not only the progression of media through time, but also provide a behind-the-scenes look at TV and video production by breaking it down into it’s components: filming equipment, sound, editing, producing, costumes, marketing and more.

The $15 ticket was absolutely worth it for a vibrant, interactive, and all-around enjoyable visit, but admission is also free every Friday, 4:00 to 8:00 p.m.

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