The least-populated of New York’s five boroughs by a sizable margin, Staten Island sometimes seems a world apart from other, more widely recognized areas of the city. Largely residential in nature, significant swaths of Staten Island can be classified as suburban, and the borough has even attempted to secede from New York City on multiple occasions. While the majority of New York City visitors don’t find space for Staten Island on their (already-quite-full) itineraries, this often-overlooked borough possesses its own unique charms for those up for something off the beaten path.
Traditionally, if visitors to New York City know one thing about Staten Island, it’s the Staten Island Ferry. This iconic form of public transportation has been running between Manhattan and Staten Island for over 200 years now, with the city itself taking over the service in 1905. The Staten Island Ferry famously operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, and best of all, it’s completely free to ride. The approximately 25-minute trip from Manhattan’s Whitehall Terminal in the Financial District to Staten Island’s St. George Terminal (or vice versa) features spectacular views of New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty, Governors Island, and the city’s skyline. Whether or not you’re planning to spend some time in Staten Island, its eponymous ferry is well worth the effort.
Once you’ve arrived in Staten Island, the borough is home to several notable attractions. One half-mile north of St. George Terminal, along the North Shore Waterfront Esplanade, you’ll encounter Postcards, the elegant and striking piece of sculpture better known as the Staten Island September 11th Memorial. Meanwhile, mere steps south of St. George Terminal, in historic Building 11 of the former Staten Island Depot, is the fascinating and educational National Lighthouse Museum. Just 1.5 miles west of Postcards is the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden. This remarkable site was founded as a retirement home for sailors in the early nineteenth century. Today, Snug Harbor sports an impressive array of architecturally important facilities that have been preserved across roughly 80 acres of parkland and converted into museums, gardens, galleries, and so much more.
Historic Richmond Town is another favorite local Staten Island destination. This so-called living history village has nearly 30 dozen historic structures on site, some of which date back as far as the seventeenth century. Here you can observe reenactors work at nineteenth-century crafts and trades, listen to costumed performers explain what life was like over 200 years ago, and tour an artifact-filled museum. Staten Island contains numerous parks of note, too, including Fort Wadsworth, a decommissioned military installation that has been transformed into 200 acres of public green space under the watch of the National Park Service.