Of all of New York City's boroughs, Staten Island is the most mysterious. Located five miles across New York Harbor from Manhattan, the island feels a world apart from the electric energy of the city. It isn't as famous as Harlem or popular as Brooklyn, but its diverse community and storied past give this secluded district a certain charm. Think outside of the Big Apple, and discover the many things to do on Staten Island.
Staten Island is the only one of NYC's boroughs not connected to the subway. To make the trip, you can Uber across the scenic Verrazano Bridge or take the ferry across New York Harbor. Staten Island's iconic orange barge transports over 65,000 people daily and runs 24 hours a day at no charge. That means the ferry can get crowded during peak hours, so you may wish to board before the sunrise or during midmorning. The journey lasts about 25 minutes, which is ample time to visit the café or photograph panoramic views of the harbor. You'll also pass the Statue of Liberty along the way. For the best views, head for the stern of the ship while heading for Staten Island, and the bow when sailing back to Manhattan.
The Staten Island Ferry debarks at the St. George Terminal, in the heart of the St. George neighborhood. A waterfront promenade along the Upper Bay provides fantastic views of the Manhattan skyline. Spend some time admiring the scene before catching a minor league baseball game at the North Shore Waterfront Esplanade Park. If sports aren't your thing, you may prefer a show at the historic St. George Theater. The fully restored venue is a masterpiece of the Spanish and Italian Baroque Revival styles.
The Jaques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art is not your typical gallery. This rustic collection of stone buildings is a peaceful sanctuary, designed to resemble the mountain monasteries of Tibet. Tour the museum's collection of Tibetan art, and spend some quiet time in the meditation garden to relax and take some unique photos. If you're in town on Saturday afternoon, sign up for a Tai Chi class and mingle with the locals. The museum is at the top of a steep hill, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes if you're walking from the bus stop.
Located in the rolling hills of Central Staten Island, the Greenbelt is this NYC borough's hidden jewel. With 35 miles of hiking trails, 3,000 acres of green space, a recreation center and countless other activities, the Greenbelt is perfect for families and outdoor enthusiasts. High Rock Park is known for its wetlands and biodiversity, and a great place to spot wildlife and migratory birds. After you've enjoyed Greenbelt's natural spaces, head for Todt Hill. This affluent neighborhood climbs to a summit of 401 feet, the tallest natural point on the East Coast. Snap a selfie for bragging rights, then wander through the Moravian Cemetery for some stunning photo opportunities.
In addition to classic architecture and beautiful green spaces, Staten Island boasts great beaches for spending sunny days outdoors. South and Midland Beaches provide serene views of the Lower Bay. The Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk is a popular destination, stretching for almost three miles along the shoreline. Head to the Ocean Breeze Fishing Pier for some inspiring views, then wander through the Ocean Breeze Park, keeping an eye out for wildlife. NYC public beaches are open from late spring to early autumn, so check online if you plan on sunbathing or swimming.
Considered the crown jewel of Staten Island, no journey to this borough would be complete without a visit to the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Gardens. The site was once a retirement community for sailors, but now it's home to almost two dozen historic buildings, wetlands, 9 botanical gardens and several museums. You might not be able to see everything in one day, so head for the New York Chinese Scholar's Garden first. This classical outdoor Chinese garden is an inspiring and peaceful retreat, and a world away from the noise of the city. Enjoy the manicured walking paths, bubbling fountains and intricately designed pavilions year-round.
Historic Richmond Town is an authentic town and farm museum. The 100-acre complex is home to NYC's living history. Guided tours and skilled artisans transport visitors to the 19th century, recreating the daily lives of this rural community. You'll admire the various styles of European-influenced architecture and other notable structures, like the oldest schoolhouse in the United States. If you plan your trip right, you can catch a concert at the tavern or a crafting seminar. Don't leave historic Richmond City until you've sampled some traditional cuisine and browsed the gift shops for artisan crafts.
NYC is known for its diverse culture and international cuisines, and Staten Island is no exception. The largest Sri Lankan community outside of the small island nation lives in Tompkinsville, on Victory Blvd. In Little Sri Lanka, you'll find restaurants and grocers specializing in exotic foods, spices and imports. Stop at a café for tea and pastries, or watch a game of cricket over rice and curry. The restaurants in NYC aren't open on certain weekdays, so check online to make sure you don't miss out on this delectable opportunity.
For over 200 years, Fort Wadsworth has served as the guardian to the entrance to New York Harbor. Its location on the East side of Staten Island is perfect for panoramic views of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge and the Lower Bay. Visitors can enjoy a stroll on the Shoreline Walk and a picnic lunch on the grounds, or plan for a camping adventure in the summer. The guided tours of Fort Tompkins and Battery Weed are a must. Explore the fort's underground tunnels, climb the overlook tower, and learn about the site's history and ecology.
Shopping in NYC can be an event. From luxury brand flagship stores to the bustling intersection at Times Square, retail therapy is plentiful in the Big Apple. It can also get pricey, prompting locals to head for New Jersey or Upstate New York for better deals. Fortunately, Staten Island is on the cusp of becoming the city's newest shopping destination. The Empire Outlets, also known as Harbor Commons, is NYC's first outlet mall and retail shopping center. Located only steps away from the Staten Island Ferry, this five-story complex boasts numerous dining and entertainment options. There are also lots of quirky design elements, murals and photogenic spaces, providing endless Instagrammable opportunities.