As the southernmost borough of New York City, Staten Island is often overlooked by tourists. However, this borough has a lot to offer visitors. At first, I was hesitant to visit Staten Island. I had never been and didn’t know what to expect. But after doing some research, I found that there were actually a lot of things to do on the Island. In this guide, I’ll share with you the 14 Top Tourist Attractions and Things to Do on Staten Island, as well as some insider tips on the best things to do. Read on!
1. Cruise on Staten Island Ferry
There’s no better way to start your exploration of Staten Island than taking a ride on the Staten Island Ferry. The ferry is not just a means of transportation to and from the Island. It’s also one of the top free things to do on Staten Island, enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. The ferry departs from the Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan and arrives at the St. George Ferry Terminal on Staten Island. The ferry runs every 30 minutes or so, and there is no need to make a reservation.
The journey itself is about 25 minutes each way and provides great views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Lower Manhattan. The Staten Island Ferry is also one of the best places to see the NYC skyline, especially at night.
Onboard, there are places to sit and relax as well as a snack bar serving drinks and light meals. The ferry is mostly used by commuters but don’t be surprised to see tourists taking photos and enjoying the ride.
I suggest you visit Staten Island on a weekday as it is less crowded than on weekends. Also, try to avoid rush hour if possible as the ferry gets quite packed then. Also, remember that you can’t take a round trip. You need to disembark and board again on the return.
2. Walking Tour of St. George
St. George is the administrative center of Staten Island and home to many of the Island’s top attractions. And for a more structured way to explore St. George, I recommend taking a guided tour.
The tours are led by local guides at a small fee. The tours typically last between 2-3 hours and cover the history, culture, and architecture of St. George. I have to say that the tours can be customized to your interests and are great value for money.
For me, one of the highlights of the tour was learning about the rich history of Staten Island. I had no idea that the Island was once home to Native Americans and that it was a key strategic location during the Revolutionary War.
The tour also took us to some of the top attractions in Staten Island, including the St. George Theater, Conference House, Alice Austen House, and much more. We also got to see some of the Island’s top street art, which was a nice surprise.
And, of course, no visit to St. George would be complete without sampling some of the local food. There are a number of great restaurants in the area, serving everything from pizza to seafood. So, be sure to save room for a bite to eat!
All in all, I had a great time on the walking tour of St. George. I would highly recommend it to anyone new or anyone looking to learn more about the history of the Island.
3. Visit the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden
The Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden is one of Staten Island’s top tourist attractions. The 83-acre (34-hectare) park was once a home for retired sailors. Today, it’s a top spot for visitors to learn about Staten Island’s maritime history, enjoy the gardens, and take in the stunning harbor views.
The Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden is made up of 28 buildings, including an amphitheater, museum, art galleries, and more. The grounds are also home to an ever-changing array of art installations.
One of the top things to do at Snug Harbor is to take a tour of the historic buildings. Highlights include the neo-Classical Revival style Great Hall, which was built in 1833 and once served as the dining hall for the sailors. Another must-see is the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, which is housed in a former shipyard building and is one of the top art galleries on Staten Island.
The Snug Harbor is also a top spot for nature lovers. The grounds are home to several gardens, including the Chinese Scholar’s Garden. There are also walking trails and a pond.
The Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden is open daily. Admission is free, though there is a charge for some of the tours and special events.
4. Staten Island Museum
Visiting the Staten Island Museum is one of the top things to do for history and art lovers. The museum is located in the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden, a top tourist attraction in Staten Island.
The museum has a wide range of exhibitions and collections covering art, history, and science. Some of the top exhibits include “Remember the Mastodon,” “From Farm to City,” and “The Cabinet of Curiosities.” The museum also offers a variety of educational programs for all ages.
What impressed me most about the Staten Island Museum is the level of detail in the exhibits. The “Remember the Mastodon” exhibit, for example, talks about extinction and the challenge of preservation.The “From Farm to City” exhibit tells the story of Staten Island’s transformation from a rural farming community to a bustling metropolis.
So if you’re looking for things to do on Staten Island with kids, the Staten Island Museum is a great option. The museum is family-friendly and has a number of interactive exhibits that will keep kids entertained.
5. Chinese Scholar’s Garden
The Chinese Scholar’s Garden is one of the top attractions at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden. The garden is a replica of a traditional Ming Dynasty-style garden and is one of the only ones of its kind in the United States.
The Chinese Scholar’s Garden was built in 1999 and is designed to promote peace and serenity. Materials for the garden were imported from China, and the building and landscaping were done by Chinese artisans. The garden features a number of pavilions, bridges, and ponds, as well as traditional Chinese plants and trees.
I suggest taking a guided tour of the garden to learn all about the history and meaning behind the different features of the garden.
6. National Lighthouse Museum
Staten Island is home to the National Lighthouse Museum, which is dedicated to preserving and interpreting the history of lighthouses and lighthouse keeping.
The museum offers a variety of exhibits, presentations, and tours. The exhibits tell the story of American lighthouses and their keepers, from the early days of wooden towers and open flames to the present day of automated beacons and solar power. The museum also has a collection of lighthouse lenses and Fresnel lanterns on display. And if you’re interested in touring the nearby lighthouses, the museum offers tours at various times throughout the year.
So if you’re interested in learning more about lighthouses, this is the place to go. This is one of the top tourist attractions on Staten Island and is a must-visit for anyone interested in maritime history.
7. Fort Wadsworth
My friend recommended we visit Fort Wadsworth, located on the northeast tip of Staten Island. I had no idea that Staten Island even had a fort. However, I’m so glad we did, as it turned out to be one of my favorite places to visit on Staten Island.
Fort Wadsworth is one of the oldest continuously used military sites in the United States. It was built in the 1600s to defend New York Harbor and was used by the military until 1994.
Today, Fort Wadsworth is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area and is open to the public. Visitors can explore the grounds, visit the museum, and even take a ranger-led tour.
One of the highlights of Fort Wadsworth is Battery Weed, an impressive coastal defense fortification built in the 19th century. The views from Battery Weed are simply stunning and not to be missed. Another highlight is the Fort Tompkins, which includes a number of well-preserved buildings from the 19th century.
If you’re interested in American history or simply want to enjoy some of the best views on Staten Island, I highly recommend a visit to Fort Wadsworth. This is also a great place to enjoy the views, especially of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
8. Empire Outlets Staten Island
If you love shopping, then you’ll want to add Empire Outlets Staten Island to your list of top things to do on Staten Island. This is the only outlet mall in New York City, located just steps from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal.
Empire Outlets features over 100 designer outlets, including top brands such as Nike, Gap, Adidas, and many more. I was fortunate to find some great deals on some items that I wouldn’t have been able to find anywhere else. There are also a number of restaurants on site, making it the perfect place to grab a bite to eat after a day of shopping.
In addition to great shopping and dining, there is an observation deck on the top level with panoramic views of Lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island. This is the perfect place to enjoy the views, especially at night when the city is lit up.
Overall, if you’re visiting NYC on a budget, this is a great place to find discounts on designer brands. Even if you’re not looking to buy anything, it’s still fun to browse the stores and people-watch.
9. Richmond County Bank Ballpark
I’m a big baseball fan, so I was excited to learn that Staten Island is home to the Richmond County Bank Ballpark. This is the minor league ballpark for the Staten Island Yankees, a farm team for the New York Yankees.
Even if you’re not a baseball fan, Richmond County Bank Ballpark is still worth a visit. The ballpark is located in St. George, the northernmost neighborhood on Staten Island, and has stunning views of the Manhattan skyline and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
The stadium was built in 2001 and can seat up to 7,171 fans. In addition to baseball games, the ballpark also hosts concerts and other events throughout the year. The ballpark also has a number of restaurants and bars, making it a great place to grab a bite to eat or drink before or after the game.
If you’re looking for something to do on a summer evening, I recommend catching a Staten Island Yankees game at Richmond County Bank Ballpark. You can buy tickets in advance or simply show up on the game day. Either way, you’re sure to have a great time.
10. Historic Richmond Town
My visit to Staten Island would not have been complete without a visit to Historic Richmond Town. This is one of the top tourist attractions on Staten Island and is not to be missed.
Historic Richmond Town is a living history museum that recreates what life was like in Staten Island in the 18th and 19th centuries. The town includes over 15 historic buildings that have been preserved and restored. These buildings include homes, churches, shops, and more. You can explore these historic buildings, learn about the Island’s rich history, and even participate in hands-on activities.
Nature lovers will also enjoy Historic Richmond Town as it is set in beautiful parkland. The grounds are perfect for a leisurely stroll or picnic, and there are also a number of hiking trails nearby.
I spent a few hours at Historic Richmond Town and could have easily spent longer. This is a great place to visit for all ages, and I highly recommend it.
11. Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art
While researching things to do on Staten Island, I came across the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art. I wasn’t familiar with Tibetan art, but I decided to check it out.
The Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art is located in a beautiful Chinese-style building surrounded by gardens. The museum was founded by Jacques Marchais, a French woman who was passionate about Tibetan culture and art. The museum houses a collection of Tibetan art, including sculptures, thangkas (painted scrolls), and ritual objects. The highlight of the museum is the Replicas of Tibetan monasteries, which are very well done.
Meditation and Tai-Chi classes are offered here, and there are often Tibetan cultural events taking place. The museum is small but very beautiful and definitely worth a visit if you’re interested in Tibetan art and culture.
12. Staten Island Boat Graveyard
I would never have guessed that Staten Island is home to a boat graveyard! The Staten Island Boat Graveyard is located in the Arthur Kill and is one of the most unique places to visit on Staten Island.
The boat graveyard came into being after WWII when the Arthur Kill was used as a dumping ground for old and unused boats. Today, there are over 100 boats in the graveyard, ranging from small rowboats to large barges. This has made this place a popular spot for photographers and urban explorers.
You can explore the boat graveyard on your own or take a guided tour. I recommend the guided tour as it’s a great way to learn about the history of the boat graveyard and see some of the most interesting boats up close.
The best time to visit the boat graveyard is during low tide, when you can see more of the boats. Also, be sure to wear closed-toe shoes as there is broken glass and metal on the ground.
13. Staten Island Zoo
One of the best things to do on Staten Island with kids is to visit the Staten Island Zoo. This small Zoo is located in the heart of the Island and is home to over 350 species of animals from all over the world.
However, the Zoo is especially well-known for its serpentarium, which houses one of the largest collections of snakes in the United States. Another highlight includes Chuck the groundhog, who is the Zoo’s official weather prognosticator. In addition to the animals, the Zoo also has an aquarium that showcases various marine life. You can also learn about the Zoo’s animal residents through a number of educational programs.
This is a great place to visit for families and animal lovers alike. And, best of all, it’s one of the most affordable things to do on Staten Island.
14. The Staten Island September 11 Memorial
My visit to the Staten Island September 11 Memorial was a very moving experience. This memorial is dedicated to the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks and the brave first responders who were from Staten Island.
The memorial is quite simple, consisting of two large fiberglass structures that resemble wings. Inside each wing is a list of the victims’ names. To me, building this memorial was a great idea to reflect on the events of September 11 and remember those who were lost.
I highly recommend a visit to the Staten Island September 11 Memorial, especially if you’re visiting New York City for the first time. This is a great way to learn about one of the most tragic events in American history. Plus, you get to have beautiful views of Manhattan and the New York City skyline.
These are just a few of the top tourist attractions on Staten Island. There is so much to see and do on the Island, and I hope this article has given you a taste of what Staten Island has to offer. Whether you’re interested in history, nature, or simply want to enjoy some of the best views in New York City, Staten Island is definitely worth a visit.