Manhattan is a mainstay for millions of visitors who come to the city every year, but many travelers are venturing into another borough for a unique experience. NY1's Ruschell Boone reports that Queens is slowly becoming a tourist destination.
This is not her first trip to the city so Marla Wilson is skipping the usual tourist sites in Manhattan — for Queens. First stop, the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, where the Jazz great lived.
"I guess a lot of the other tourist experiences you know, Times Square and so forth, they're very kinda manufactured but this feels a little bit more authentic," Wilson said.
The Californian is among the thousands who will visit the museum this year — many from overseas.
"We get about 20,000 visitors a year here. And 20% or so are international visitors and they come from over 50 countries," said Jennifer Walden Weprin, director of marketing for the museum.
The borough's culture and diversity have become big draws. NYC & Company says more than 12 million people visited Queens in 2014 — with more from foreign countries than the U.S.
The city says tourism is helping to boost the borough’s economy, employing about 50,000 people.
"It generates $5.1 billion in revenue," said Marty Markowitz with NYC & Company.
And those numbers are expected to increase with all the buzz Queens has been getting lately.
"It's not like you're at Epcot Center," said one vistor. "This isn't staged."
The Lonely Planet travel guide made Queens the top place to visit in the United States last year. These Middle Eastern travelers are staying at the Z NYC Hotel as a result. They wanted a room facing the Ed Koch Queensborough Bridge.
"We don't have these big things in our country," said one.
"A lot of people follow Lonely Planet, take their advice for where to go and what to do, so it was a great help to the local area," said Lisa Gneo director of sales and marketing for the hotel.
Not everyone comes just to see Queens. Some tourists staying in Long Island City are spillovers from Manhattan, but that’s not the case in Flushing, now a major destination for Asian travelers. It’s not just because Flushing has a large Asian community.
"It's business, it's travel, it's leisure, it's education," said Rob MacKay, director of the Queens Tourism Council. "It's a little bit of everything."
There are new accommodations when they get here. There are now 178 hotels in Queens — 20 more than just three years ago, and 14 more are on the way.