If you are planning a multi-day itinerary in New York, and you want to find a space to visit an area a little quieter than the hectic Manhattan, you can consider organizing a visit to Staten Island.
It can be reached easily thanks to the convenient free Staten Island Ferry, and it can be a stage to be taken into consideration for those who want to discover some curiosity related not only to the history of the United States but also to our motherland; after all, the first European to set foot on Staten Island was the explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano in 1520.
So let's go and see what this large island has in store for us on the outskirts of Manhattan.
- How to get to Staten Island from New York
- Getting around Staten Island
- What to see in Staten Island
- Downtown Staten Island
- Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden
- Historical richmond town
- Fort Wadsworth
- Historic Houses
- South Beach
- Where to Eat
- Where sleeping in Staten Island
How to get to Staten Island from New York
As mentioned the best way to get to Staten Island from New York is to use the popular Staten island ferry which connects the Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan with the St. George Ferry Terminal. There is a departure every 30 minutes and there is no need to pay any tickets, making it one of the best free things to do in New York. The crossing takes about 25 minutes.
Since the ferry passes near the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island along the way, in addition to being an efficient means of transport, it can therefore also be considered an economical way to make a cruise. Just be careful to sit on the right side of the ship when departing from Manhattan and on the left side when departing from Staten Island.
The other way to get to Staten Island from New York is by car. It can be an efficient solution if your East Coast itinerary includes a stop in the area before or after visiting the Big Apple. In this case you will most likely cross the Verrazzano bridge also known as (Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge) which connects the island with the borough of Brooklyn.
Getting around Staten Island
The most convenient way to get around once you arrive is to use the Staten Island Railway (SIR) which connects the St. George Ferry Terminal with Tottenville, at the south end of the island. The most important attractions can be reached with a few minutes' walk from the stops along the route. The service is active 24 hours a day and during peak hours there is a departure every 24 minutes, while during the rest of the day one every 15 minutes. Obviously there is also a widespread network of connections made by bus, on this page you can find a map with all the lines and areas that are served.
On Staten Island transportation, the same fare types apply as for New York City buses and subways, and you can therefore use the card Metrocard.
What to see in Staten Island
Here are some of the main attractions that await you grouped by zone or thematic area so that you can better organize your itinerary on the island.
Downtown Staten Island
Most likely you have reached Staten Island by ship, so your first place to explore will be the area of St. George which is the most touristic of the whole island and, together with the neighborhoods of Tompkinsville and Stapleton, form what is commonly called the Downtown of the island. All of the attractions marked in this area are therefore easily accessible on foot after disembarking from the Staten Island Ferry.
The Staten Island September 11th Memorial
It is a moving memorial to the 275 local victims who died during the terrorist attacks of 11 September. It is made up of two sculptures that want to represent wings and letters at the same time, inside which the profiles of all the victims with the names, dates of birth and the works they carried out at the time of the 'attack.
In addition to being a highly symbolic place, it is also one of the best places from which to observe the New York skyline in the distance.
Richmond County Bank Ballpark
Between the Staten Island Ferry Terminal and the Memorial is the baseball stadium where they play Staten Island Yankees, the local team affiliated with the much more famous New York Yankees, who play a minor league. If you are a lover of this sport, and you want to see a game for something less than the counterpart of the Big Apple, you can consider going and cheering for the Baby Bombers.
Look for a ticket to the Staten Island Yankees
The National Lighthouse Museum
It is a very recent museum that opened its doors in 2015. Its mission is to safeguard and preserve the history of American headlights which, due to the use of more and more modern technologies, are becoming more obsolete every day. Inside the museum are exhibited in the Wall of Lights models of more than 180 of these buildings scattered throughout the US coast, as well as information panels that tell the story of their most important guardians.
The entrance ticket costs $ 7 and the museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11am to 00pm (November to March closes early at 17pm).
St. George Theater
One of the historic theaters not only in Staten Island but in New York itself. It dates back to 1929 and since then has seen a plethora of national and international artists alternate on its stage. The interiors are made with a mixture of Spanish and Spanish Baroque style, and can be called a work of art in its own right. Particularly impressive are the huge chandeliers made in colored verto, and the detailed decorations of the mezzanines. Nothing to do with the rather nondescript facade that you will see as you pass along Hyatt Street.
In addition to being able to take part in a tour of the facility, if you have time, you can also consider attending a show or film directly. You can find out what's on by clicking on the link below.
Look for an event at the St. George Theater
A curiosity: the epic Battle of the Bands was held inside this theater, immortalized in the final scenes of the film School of Rock.
If you are a lover of comics, and of the whole world that revolves around them, you cannot miss a visit to this shop which is a real mecca for fans of nerd culture. It is a small but well-stocked shop behind Staten Island Borough Hall, where you will surely find a gift for yourself or for some of your passionate friends who have stayed at home.
Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden
This is the best place if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of New York for a moment. The one that previously housed the residences dedicated to retired sailors (at the end of the 19th century it is estimated that more than 1000 lived in this area), is now a very extensive green area that includes numerous gardens and more than 20 historic buildings made in different architectural styles ranging from neo-Greek, to beaux-arts, to Victorian, which host attractions related to the nature and history of Staten Island.
Let's see which are the main ones you can visit:
- New York Chinese Scholar's Garden: it is certainly one of the most curious and relaxing places to walk in the area. It is a garden with buildings built according to the Chinese architectural style. You can walk in a bamboo forest and observe small waterfalls and a pond for koi carp. To access this garden, a $ 5 entrance fee is required.
- Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art: those who love contemporary art should not miss the opportunity to visit this building which represents one of the most notable examples of Neo-Greek architecture in the area, and houses an important collection of experimental art works from all over the world. Also in this case you need to get a $ 5 ticket.
- The noble maritime collection: is a museum entirely dedicated to the works of the artist John A. Noble, known to the general public for having set all his works around the theme of the sea. The most curious part to visit is the one represented by the study boat in which Noble worked which, after being completely restored, has been inserted inside the museum. A donation is suggested for entry.
- Staten island museum: is presented as the only non-specialized museum in New York. This means that inside you will find rooms and exhibitions dedicated to natural sciences, fine arts and both local and national history. Admission costs $ 8.
- The Connie Gretz Secret Garden: if you are traveling with children here you will find a fun pastime. It is in fact a labyrinth-garden surrounded by walls and three high towers. To access children aged 3 to 12 must pay a $ 3 ticket which also includes admission for an adult.
The quickest way to reach this area is to use the bus S40 from the ferry terminal.
Historical richmond town
It is a historic village dating back more than 300 years ago in which there are still more than 45 historic buildings, the most important of which can also be visited inside. It is located in the district of the same name located almost in the geographical center of Staten Island. Visiting it means taking a step back in time and reliving the traditions and lifestyle of the nineteenth century.
The most important and eye-catching building is certainly the Third County Courthouse, which now also serves as a visitor center, which was the very administrative heart of Staten Island for many years.
The hours that Historic Richmond Town can be accessed vary depending on the time of year. To consult the updated ones, I invite you to visit the official website. The price for access is $ 8 for adults. To visit this area in an even more engaging way, you can participate in guided tours which are carried out by guide-actors in typical costumes of the time. These tours typically run from Monday to Friday at 14pm and on Saturdays and Sundays at 00pm and 13pm.
Info on tickets and reservations
To reach Historic Richmond Town by public transport the most convenient way is to use the bus S74 also departing from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal.
Staten Island is home to one of the oldest military installations in the whole of the United States which, together with its equivalent Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, had the task of protecting the port of New York. Visiting this area is not only interesting from a historical point of view, but also because from here you can admire one of the best views of the Verrazzano bridge, as well as glimpsing the Manhattan skyline in the distance.
Fort Wadsworth is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, which also includes protected areas of Jamaica Bay and Sandy Hook in New Jersey. In general, it is possible to access it every day of the week from sunrise to sunset, but for the complete timetables for all periods of the year, I refer you to the official page. Admission is free.
The most comfortable way to reach the fort is to use the bus S51 which also departs from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal.
Staten Island is a place where you can find many historic buildings related to both American and… Italian art, culture and history.
It is located in one of the southernmost points of Staten Island, and one of the oldest historic buildings in the place as it was built in 1680, making it the only pre-revolutionary house still existing in New York. Among the historical events that took place within it, the most important is undoubtedly the Staten Island Peace Conference (hence the name of the house), which took place in September 1776 and had the (failed) objective of finding an agreement to end the American War of Independence.
Today the house surrounded by greenery is open to visitors during the summer months ($ 4 admission fee) and hosts exhibits on the history of the place and of the United States. To get there, you can opt for the Staten Island Railway service by getting off at the last stop and taking a 10-15 minute walk.
Built in the late thirties of the nineteenth century in neo-Greek style with the six large columns that make a fine show of themselves in the facade of the building. In addition to being inserted in a pleasant garden, where it is not uncommon to meet peacocks, its interiors, which count 18 rooms, are useful to get an idea of what life was like on Staten Island in the 19th century thanks to the care with which the furnishings have been preserved.
The house is open for tours only during special events at certain times of the year. You can check on the official website if any extraordinary opening is planned during your visit.
Alice Austen House
This house was home to one of America's foremost photographers and, according to some, the first woman on Staten Island to own a car. Today it houses a museum where his most relevant works are exhibited as well as a series of exhibitions on the artist's life. The house itself is a historic residence dating back to the early 700s and overlooks the sea, offering remarkable opportunities to take beautiful souvenir photos in the garden that surrounds it.
To be able to visit the house-museum, you need to pay a ticket of $ 5. To reach Alice Austen House you can use the Staten Island Railway service and get off at Clifton Station, which is a 10-minute walk away, or opt for the bus S51.
A significant number of Italian Americans live on Staten Island and, as evidence of this, is the home of Antonio Meucci, in which Giuseppe Garibaldi also lived as a refugee for some time before returning to Italy to undertake the unification campaign. Today it is a museum managed byOrder Sons of Italy in America which wants to pay homage to the life, achievements and cultural heritage that the two great personalities have left in both American and world public opinion. Inside you can also find some objects and relics that belonged to the two Italian heroes.
To access the museum, you need to pay a $ 10 ticket. The best way to reach it is, as in the case of Alice Austen Home, to get off at Clifton Station and take a walk of about 10 minutes. If you are interested, it may therefore be a good idea to combine a visit to these two houses in the area. Otherwise you can opt for buses S78 o S52 which stop in the immediate vicinity of the museum.
Since we are visiting an island we must necessarily consider the beaches as one of the attractions not to be missed. And when we talk about beaches we cannot fail to mention that South Beach most famous and popular among many, both by locals and tourists, who will also find here one of the best places to photograph the Verrazzano bridge. Here you can stroll along the 4-kilometer Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk which connects Fort Wadsworth with Miller Field Park.
The best way to get to this area is to rely on the bus S51 which, as mentioned above, is also useful for reaching Alice Austen House and Fort Wadsworth. It can therefore be a good solution to combine these attractions in an itinerary in this part of Staten Island.
If you are looking for other coasts worth visiting in the vicinity of the Big Apple, you can take a look at our article dedicated to the beaches of New York.
Where to Eat
If you want to spend a whole day exploring Staten Island here are some tips for refreshing yourself:
- The Flagship Brewing Company (40 Minthorne St): This is one of the few breweries on Staten Island, offering tasting tours as well as cultural activities and live music. More than for food, it is therefore recommended for those who want to enjoy a good beer to relax after the tour of the area.
- Enoteca maria (27 Hyatt St): recommending a Spanish restaurant in America can always be risky, but in this case an exception can be made. According to many, it is in fact one of the best Italian restaurants in New York. The cooking is homemade and the menu changes every week, as do the "grandmother" cooks who take turns in the kitchen, keeping as faithful as possible to the flavors of the beautiful country. There are also evenings dedicated to kitchens from other parts of the world, keep an eye on the official website to find out what to expect.
- The Phunky Elephant (1271 Bay St): Do you want to eat a good burger? Then to make no mistake you have to opt for this place, the portions are generous and the atmosphere is pleasant.
Where sleeping in Staten Island
Staten Island is an area of New York mainly residential. There are not many hotels and, most of the time, their location is not the best. If you still need to sleep here, here are two bed and breakfasts that can be an original alternative to classic hotels.
- Fort Pl Bed and Breakfast: This property is located very close to the ferry terminal and is a well-maintained typical American home.
- Harbor House Bed and Breakfast: as you can guess from the name, this b & b is located a stone's throw from the sea which can also be seen, together with the Ponte da Verrazzano, from some rooms of the structure.
In case you don't have the opportunity to stop on State Island, I recommend you read our article dedicated to where to sleep in New York to get a complete overview of the best neighborhoods to stay.