20 Things To Do In Staten Island, NY

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One of New York City’s 5 boroughs, Staten Island is an often overlooked travel destination in the Big Apple despite its natural beauty, eclectic arts scene and important historical landmarks. The borough is situated in NYC’s southwest corner and is just a short ferry trip from Manhattan, however feels like a world away with its picturesque beaches, oceanfront views, wide open spaces and unique skyscraper-devoid skyline.

Both one of the city’s largest and least populated boroughs, Staten Island provides eager travellers with a completely different New York City experience that includes plenty of budget-friendly options, less crowded streets and tons of world-class museums, art galleries and tranquil outdoor spaces to enjoy.

Staten Island, New York

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Large Staten Island Ferry Passing By Statue of Liberty In Golden Hour
Riding the Staten Island ferry is one of the fun things to do on Staten Island.

Things To Do In Staten Island

1- Visit Snug Harbor Cultural Center 

Formally established in 2008, the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden is a blissful 83-acre (34 ha) outdoor attraction with cobblestone pathways, themed gardens, Tudor and Victorian-style architecture.

It also has several important cultural and historic landmarks.

The Smithsonian-affiliated Staten Island landmark occupies several historical buildings, including New York’s second-oldest music hall, a couple of grandiose former retirement homes for sailors, and a series of intrepid museums and art galleries.

Undoubtedly the crown jewel attraction in Staten Island, the cultural centre and its accompanying gardens are both listed on the National Register of Historic Places and are situated near several mouth-watering Staten Island restaurants and cafes.

The Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden is at 1000 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island, NY 10301.

2- Ride The Staten Island Ferry

Staten Island Ferry
Looking for things to do on Staten Island today? Check out our top 20 list.

The eye-catching Staten Island Ferry with its bright orange paint job and three-story design is one of New York City’s most iconic landmarks, entering full-time service in 1817.

A fare-free public transportation method, the 10 ferries operating along the 5.2-mile-long (8.4 km) Staten Island Ferry line carry passengers between the boroughs of Staten Island and Manhattan, passing by the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island along the way.

More than 13 million passengers use the free-to-use ferries for affordable commuting or sightseeing purposes every year, allowing visitors to ditch their cars when travelling between Staten Island and New York City’s 4 other boroughs.

The Staten Island Ferry is at 1 Bay St, Staten Island, NY 10301.

3- Explore Historic Richmond Town

Taking a historic tour of the north shore is one of the things to do in Staten Island.

Established during the 1690s, Historic Richmond Town is a living museum and historic complex that served as the seat of Staten Island’s county government from 1728 until 1898.

The town developed into a sleepy residential district during the start of the 20th century before being gradually turned into a tourist attraction and preserved historical landmark beginning in the 1930s.

Today, Historic Richmond Town spans an area of roughly 100 acres (40 ha) and features buildings and architectural styles dating back to the 17th century, allowing visitors to take in more than 400 years of Staten Island history in a single afternoon.

Historic Richmond Town is at 441 Clarke Ave, Staten Island, NY 10306.

4- Step Back In History At The National Lighthouse Museum

The National Lighthouse Museum is a cultural institution situated near the Staten Island Ferry terminal that pays homage to the humble lighthouse and the pivotal role it played in shaping the modern-day United States.

Opened in 2015, the museum is housed within a former lighthouse depot building which itself is an impressive historic landmark dating back to 1862.

There are several standout attractions, displays and exhibits on show throughout the expansive museum, such as the venue’s 180 model lighthouses, never-before-seen photos and guided boating tours of several nearby lighthouses.

The National Lighthouse Museum is at 200 The Promenade at Lighthouse Point, Staten Island, NY 10301.

5- Visit The Staten Island September 11th Memorial

Staten Island Ferry Entrance In Lower Manhattan - NYC
An iconic destination, you’ll find plenty of things to do on Staten Island today.

The Staten Island September 11th Memorial, better known as “Postcards”, was erected in 2004 to honour and remember the 263 Staten Island residents who lost their lives during the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and September 11 attacks.

Designed by architect Masayuki Sono, the memorial mimics a pair of folded postcards and pays tribute to the victims through granite plaques inscribed with each victim’s name, birthdate and place of work.

Both a unique cultural attraction and a sombre reminder of New York City’s darkest day, the monument’s scenic location along the shores of the Upper Bay means visitors are treated to spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline across the New York Harbor.

6- Wander Around The Chinese Scholar’s Garden

The Chinese Scholar’s Garden, officially known as the “New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden”, is one of only two authentic Chinese scholar’s gardens in the United States.

It’s based on typical gardens of the Ming Dynasty.

A team of 40 artists spent time abroad in China to perfect the gardens’ appearance and nail down the gardens’ authenticity, creating a unique outdoor space in Staten Island that features koi ponds, Chinese calligraphy and a series of Ghongshi scholar’s rocks.

Constructed with tiles, columns, bridges, doorways, windows and beams fabricated in the Chinese city of Suzhou, the gardens are a real treat to visit on Staten Island, providing visitors with a break from the bustle of the Big Apple.

The Chinese Scholar’s Garden is at 1000 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island, NY 10301.

7- Explore Fort Wadsworth

Situated on 226 acres (91 ha) of seashore at the mouth of the New York Harbor, Staten Island’s Fort Wadsworth is one of the oldest military installations in the United States.

The fort formally entered service back in 1808 and safeguarded New York City from attacks throughout the War of 1812 and the American Civil War, and by Word War I was the largest fort protecting New York from enemy threats.

Today, the fort is occupied by the US Coast Guard, the US Army Reserves, the National Park Service and the US Park Police, and is a major attraction where visitors get to experience a mix of history and the outdoors.

Fort Wadsworth is at 120 New York Ave, Staten Island, NY 10305.

8- See The Galleries At The Staten Island Museum

The Staten Island Museum was first opened to the New York public back in 1881 by 14 of the Big Apple’s original environmental activists.

Regarded as a “Mini-Smithsonian” due to its wide breadth of exhibits, the museum forms part of the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden and is one of the last remaining general interest museums in New York City.

Split into three sections, the museum attracts well over 80,000 visitors annually and boasts thousands of artefacts, artworks and displays on show for visitors to peek at.

The Staten Island Museum is at 1000 Richmond Terrace Building A, Staten Island, NY 10301.

9- Take A Tour Of Conference House

Dating back to the 17th century, Staten Island’s historic Conference House was built around 1675 by Captain Christopher Billopp, a Royal Navy officer who moved to the United States following his distinguished service.

The house was built in a traditional Dutch Colonial style and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966, as well as added to the National Register of Historic Places later that same year.

Situated in Staten Island’s Tottenville neighbourhood along the borough’s South Shore, the house has been carefully preserved throughout the centuries.

It’s now a museum that offers visitors guided tours to learn more about Billopp and Staten Island’s humble beginnings.

The Conference House is at 7455 Hylan Blvd, Staten Island, NY 10307.

10- Go Birdwatching At Seaside Wildlife Nature Park

The Seaside Wildlife Nature Park along Staten Island’s southern tip is a 20-acre (8 ha) outdoor recreational space overlooking Great Kills Harbor and the Lower Bay.

Dotted with pathways, native plants and trees, and a uniquely nautical-themed playground that’s seen the venue win several local awards, Seaside Wildlife Nature Park is among Staten Island’s go-to destinations for spotting bird species such as ospreys, cormorants and terns.

The Seaside Wildlife Nature Park can be found along Nelson Avenue &, Tennyson Dr, Staten Island, NY 10308.

11- Get Inspired At Alice Austen House

The Victorian Gothic-style cottage known as the Alice Austen House is the former childhood residence of Alice Austen, an activist and pioneering photographer of Victorian-era New York.

Purchased by her grandfather back in 1844, Austen spent most of her 86 years residing in this inconspicuous Staten Island home with her partner Gertrude Tate.

Better known as “Clear Comfort”, the house is now a museum where visitors can learn more about the first woman to own a car on Staten Island and the important artistic and activism work she did during her lifetime.

The Alice Austen House is at 2 Hylan Blvd, Staten Island, NY 10305.

12- Discover Tibetan Art At Jacques Marchais Museum 

Established, curated and opened to the public by art collector Jacques Marchais in 1945, the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art is one of the most comprehensive museums dedicated mostly to Tibetan art in the United States.

The one-of-a-kind Tri-State cultural attraction features one of the nation’s biggest and most comprehensive collections of Himalayan artefacts and exhibits countless Tibetan, Chinese and Mongolian art pieces dating as far back as the 15th century.

Praised by the Dalai Lama for its authenticity during his 1991 visit to the museum, the venue’s design resembles that of a traditional Tibetan Buddhist monastery and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.

The Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art is at 338 Lighthouse Ave, Staten Island, NY 10306.

13- See The Animals At Staten Island Zoo

Compact and conveniently in central Staten Island, the 8-acre (3 ha) Staten Island Zoo was considered the nation’s first “educational zoo” when it first opened to the public in 1936.

The zoo is affectionately nicknamed the biggest “little” zoo in the United States and is home to approximately 350 different animal species spanning everything from mammals and birds to reptiles and amphibians.

Among the zoo’s star attractions is New York’s beloved “Staten Island Chuck”, the zoo’s weather-forecasting groundhog who has predicted how long New York’s winter will last with 80% accuracy since 1981.

The Staten Island Zoo is at 614 Broadway, Staten Island, NY 10310.

14- Go Shopping At Empire Outlets

A true outlet shopping centre in New York City, Empire Outlets is a 350,000-square-foot (32,516 m2) retail destination situated adjacent to the Staten Island Ferry along the borough’s northernmost tip.

The outlet shopping space opened fairly recently in 2019 following a four-year construction period and is home to brands such as H&M, Nike, Nordstrom Rack and Old Navy.

With space for up to 100 different stores, the outlet shopping venue is the premier retail destination in northeast Staten Island and is just a short walk away from the borough’s main public transport connections.

Empire Outlets is at 55 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island, NY 10301.

15- Sip Pumpkin Spice Latte Ale At The Flagship Brewing Company

Glass Of Beer Ready For Drinking
Flagship Brewing Company things to do in Staten Island New York.

Specialising in creating craft beers with a unique Staten Island look and flavour, the Flagship Brewing Company is a craft beer staple in the borough producing and selling brews found nowhere else.

The venue is in northeast Staten Island and was officially opened in 2014 for Staten Islanders by Staten Islanders to bring high-quality and unique beer brews to the borough’s thirsty residents.

Complete with a tasting room serving the brewery’s in-house lagers, ales and pilsners, the Flagship Brewing Company is the only spot in NYC where you can sip Pumpkin Spice Latte Ale or a Chocolate Crumb Cake Stout.

16- Enjoy The Noble Maritime Collection

inside the former Sailors’ Snug Harbor dormitory at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden, the Noble Maritime Museum was established in 1987 to preserve and showcase the various works and collections of the renowned maritime artist, John A. Noble.

The museum initially operated out of Noble’s Staten Island home before moving to its current location at the cultural centre’s 1844 Greek Revival landmark building.

Apart from exhibiting several important maritime artefacts including Noble’s 19th-century teak yacht, the museum also oversees the management of New York Bay’s Robbins Reef Lighthouse.

The Noble Maritime Collection is at Building D, 1000 Richmond Terrace # 8, Staten Island, NY 10301.

17- Visit The Sri Lankan Arts and Cultural Museum

The Sri Lankan Arts and Cultural Museum is the first of its kind outside the Asian country, established in 2017 inside the inconspicuous “Lakruwana” Sri Lankan restaurant by 18-year-old Staten Island native Julia Wijesinghe.

Wijesinghe, whose parents emigrated to NYC from Sri Lanka, wanted to showcase her parents’ Sri Lankan roots and inspire others to explore and discover the Asian nation’s rich traditions and culture.

Now housed inside a dedicated exhibition space not far from her family’s restaurant, Wijesinghe’s Sri Lankan museum has several impressive artefacts and art pieces.

The Sri Lankan Arts and Cultural Museum is at 61 Canal St, Staten Island, NY 10304.

18- Wander Around High Rock Park

Defined by its tranquil ponds and enchanting forests, High Rock Park is among nine public parks forming part of the Staten Island Greenbelt system and is a recognised Natural Environmental Education Landmark.

The park is situated in central Staten Island and boasts a collection of 6 separate walking pathways for visitors to seamlessly explore the area’s verdant maple trees, cabbage patches and bird species.

High Rock Park is at 200 Nevada Ave, Staten Island, NY 10314.

19- See A Show At St. George Theatre

The St. George Theatre is a landmark performing arts centre and former movie palace straddling Staten Island’s North Shore that’s renowned for its opulent interior and reputation as one of New York’s go-to live music and theatrical venues.

Opened in 1924 by prominent 20th-century New York theatre operator Solomon Brill, the theatre was designed by Italian-American architect Eugene De Rosa and is capable of accommodating up to 1,900 patrons at any given time.

Some of the famous names who have graced the theatre’s stage include the Jonas Brothers, Diana Ross, Jerry Seinfeld, Ringo Starr and Art Garfunkel, cementing its legacy as Staten Island’s premier live performance space.

The St. George Theatre is at 35 Hyatt St., Staten Island, NY 10301.

20- Hang Around South Beach

Verrazano-Narrows Bridge
Verrazano-Narrows Bridge

Staten Island’s South Beach is one of the borough’s most popular public beaches, looking out across the Lower Bay and the Verrazano Bridge.

The beach is situated along Staten Island’s East Shore, is bordered by a 2.5-mile-long (4 km) boardwalk, and is regularly the setting for free concerts and fireworks displays.

While sunbathing and swimming are the most popular activities available along the beach, the outdoor attraction also has bocce courts, an eye-catching bronze fountain, picnic tables, and one of New York City’s largest public fishing piers. 

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Mark Westwood is a Seattle-based writer who writes for various online blogs and travel websites. In 2017, he went on a 12-month road trip across the USA visiting many iconic landmarks and small towns along the way. Having explored over 20 countries, his favourite places to date are along the west coast of the USA but he is happiest anywhere where there are mountains and ocean.