Brooklyn has its Bridge. Manhattan has its skyline. Here in Queens, we also have an iconic symbol: the Unisphere.
When I signed my lease to move to Queens, I immediately checked out a map to see what was nearby. Truth be told, I should have done that first, but I was just excited to come back to New York at that point. I saw that Flushing Meadows-Corona Park looked close on the map, and I got really into my plan to visit all of the park’s famous sites. Number one on that list was the Unisphere, or as I called it, that big ball thing. Turns out, the park is miles away, and taking a subway there is kind of a pain. However, it’s a great destination for a run, so I made my way to visit the iconic landmark as the midway point during my workout.
Built during the 1960s, the Unisphere was constructed as a symbol for the 1964 World’s Fair, which was held right here in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. What the heck is the World’s Fair? It literally was a fair made up of restaurants, exhibits, and attractions from 80 nations around the world. Things like telephone modems, automobiles, and even candy were on display for the more than 50 million visitors who came to the park. My mom was one of the visitors, and she said the whole thing was incredible for a kid to see. Imagine seeing computers back in the 1960s!
The Unisphere was built to represent the theme of global interdependence that took over the fair. There is a plaque on the landmark that states the Unisphere is dedicated to “Man’s Achievements on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe.” The big ball weighs more than 700,000 pounds, and is made from stainless steel. The three rings around the globe are said to represent the orbits of Yuri Gagarin (the first man in space), John Glenn (the first American to orbit the Earth), and Telstar (the first active communications satellite).
Back during the World’s Fair, the Unisphere was the landmark center of the park. Surrounded by flags of all of the participating nations, the Unisphere really stood out. Today, it is another landmark for the park, and one of the most recognizable sights in Queens. During the Queens 10K, we finished the race with a quick lap around it! It has been featured in Men in Black, Iron Man 2, and even the opening to the sitcom The King of Queens.
The Unisphere is definitely a sight that all New Yorkers should see. But, here’s the thing – all you can do is see it. As far as “awesome things to do,” I recommend filling up your time at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park with some of the other landmarks, like the Queens Museum. For me, this was a perfect sight, and it was a great halfway point during my run. I’ll be back to the park soon to explore the other Queens landmarks!