Staten Island, long considered the "forgotten borough", has truly begun to blossom over the last few years. Now, with a fleet of new ferries, its own Minor League Baseball team, a flourishing downtown district - not to mention miles of clean beaches and pristine parks - more and more people are finding a reason to make the trip across the harbor.
To mark the 350th anniversary of the Staten Island (Aug. 22!), here are a few of the things you can take in while visiting NYC's "Borough of Parks" on your next trip.
The Staten Island Ferry
It's the best way to get over to Staten Island from Manhattan.
Take the subway to lower Manhattan (Whitehall St./South Ferry). Exit and walk south to the blue neon Staten Island Ferry sign and hop on one of the boats that leave every half hour (schedule changes nights and weekends).
In about 25 minutes, and after a catching a stunning view of the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island, you'll be docking at Staten Island's brand new St. George Terminal where you'll be able to catch a bus, train or cab to any of the island's destinations.
The kicker: the ferry is 100% FREE!
Staten Island Yankees Ballpark
Directly adjacent to the St. George Ferry Terminal you'll find the new Staten Island Yankees ballpark. Catch a Minor League game or concert here, just check the schedule to see when events are taking place.
Downtown Staten Island
Only minutes on foot from the St. George Ferry Terminal you'll find bars, shopping and tons of great food in Downtown Staten Island. Local food favorites are Beso, directly across from the ferry, where you can fill up on tapas and sangria, and the Cargo Café, a local pub with great food that's just a short walk down Bay Street. You'll know it by the artistically decorated façade that changes semi-monthly.
Snug Harbor Cultural Center & SI Botanical Gardens, Chinese Scholars Garden
Snug Harbor Cultural Center a great place for some culture, beautiful botanical gardens and wide open space.
The center's main attractions: Main Hall Building C, the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, Gift Shop, the NY Chinese Scholar's Garden, and the Connie Gretz Secret Garden are open Tuesday through Sunday from 10am to 4pm.
Only minutes by bus or cab from the ferry, the grounds & park are open from dawn to dusk and admission is FREE. Tours, galleries and gardens have a small admission fee.
To get there by bus from the ferry, take the S40 at Gate D to travel along Richmond Terrace. Let the bus driver know that you want to get off at Snug Harbor.
For more information, admission info and a schedule of events, check out Snug-Harbor.org >
Alice Austen House
The Alice Austen House is a National Historic Landmark dedicated to the life and work of the famous photographer. Whether you're a fan of photography or not, this museum/gallery is also the perfect destination for a picnic on the beach with an amazing view of New York Harbor, Brooklyn and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
The house, also known as Clear Comfort, was built in 1690.
The house is open all year (except January, February and major holidays), Thursday through Sunday from 12PM to 5PM. The grounds are open year round until dusk.
To get there from the ferry, take either a cab or the S51 bus to Hylan Boulevard (15 minute ride). Walk one block east (down hill) to the water and house.
For more information and a schedule of events, visit AliceAusten.org >
South Beach Boardwalk
A Staten Island local hot spot: The South Beach Boardwalk is the place to go for walking, running and bike riding along the island's south beach. The boardwalk is approximately 3 miles long and runs from Miller Field (an old WWII recon airbase turned into soccer and baseball fields) all the way to the base of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
Food options are a bit scarce but there's a new Ben & Jerry's ice cream & snack shack as well as the deliciously overpriced South Fin Grill to fill your hungry belly.
To get there from the ferry, take a cab or S51, S52 or S81 bus to Father Capodanno Blvd. and walk towards the water. You can't miss it!
Historic Richmond Town
Historic Richmond Town is New York City's living history village and museum complex. Visitors can explore the diversity of the American experience, through the lives of ordinary people, who struggled, survived and thrived from the colonial period to the present.
The museum town rests on over 100 acres and encompasses four sites, including NYC's oldest continuously operating farm. The main village is located in the heart of Richmond County and occupies almost 50 acres featuring over 30 original historic structures, including homes, commercial and civic buildings, as well as an historical museum.
Historic Richmond Town is only a 30-minute ride from the ferry on the S74 bus to Richmond Road and St. Patrick's Pl.
Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art
Looking to get enlightened? Staten Island has it's own little Nirvana!
Established in 1945, the museum was founded by the pioneering American woman, Jacques Marchais (1887-1948), an important collector and respected expert on Tibetan art.
Designed by Marchais, the rustic complex of fieldstone buildings resembles a Tibetan mountain monastery. These historic buildings represent the first Himalayan-style architecture in the United States. The surrounding landscape design, which Marchais named the 'Samadhi Garden', features a fish pond, meditation cells and many of her original plantings.
From the ferry take a cab or the S74 bus and get off at Lighthouse Avenue and walk up Lighthouse Hill (5–10 minutes) to the Museum. The bus ride takes approximately 30 minutes.
Admission is $6 for adults, $4 for Seniors (60 and over)/Students and children under 6 are admitted FREE.
Parks, Parks, Parks…
It's an island, so you know there are miles of beautiful (and now CLEAN!) beaches to take in. But if you're looking for some fun in the sun without getting all sandy, you can take your pick from one of the many gorgeous and manicured parks on the island.
South Beach & Midland Beach
Clove Lakes Park & Silver Lake Park
Gateway National Recreation Area
Blue Heron Pond Park
Lemon Creek Park
Wolfe's Pond Park
Mt. Loretto State Preserve
Clay Pit Ponds State Park
For info on all of Staten Island's parks, visit StatenIslandUSA.com >
Get Some Golfing In…
Looking to get away from the wife (or husband!) and kids for the day. Don't waste your time whacking balls into a giant net… get yourself out to Staten Island's public links for a day away.
-South Shore Golf Club
-LaTourette Golf Course
-Silver Lake Golf Course
The Staten Island Mall
The mall is the place to be for teens and tweens on Staten Island, but that doesn't mean you can't use some quality shopping time yourself.
The mall is easy to get to from the ferry. Just take the S61 or the S44 local bus from the terminal. Staten Island Mall is the last stop for either bus.
The Conference House Park and Museum
It could have all ended here… but it didn't.
The museum, a National Historic Landmark and New York City Landmark, is named in memory of the 1776 conference convened at the house which was attended by Lord Howe, commander in chief of British forces in America along with Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Edward Rutledge who rowed over from patriot-held Perth Amboy, NJ in an attempt to end the war. Obviously, it failed.
From April to mid-December, the house is open for guided tours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 4 PM. The grounds around the house are open to the public until dusk.
Need a little H2O?
Just across the street from the ice rink at Clove Lake Park, on Ontario Ave., you can get some quality, natural spring water, for FREE, courtesy of the Marine Corp League. The spring has been pumping out clean, crisp water for over 50 years. You can find it by following the dirt path behind the Marine Corp League building, or just follow the people carrying their water jugs!
It's a Pizza Town!
Let's not forget that the World's Best Pizza can be found on Staten Island. Just make your way to Brother's Pizza, Goodfella's Pizza, Il Pomodoro, Joe & Pat's, Denino's, Lee's Tavern or Salvatore's of Soho for the slice of your life. Of course, if you ask a local you may get a completely different list of favorites!
You'll just have to find where they are for yourselves! Start Googling, foodies!
For more fun, try Staten Island's Best Fun for Kids >
for more features.