Take the Ferry to Staten Island
Staten Island is one of the best-kept secrets of New York City. It is rich in history, and its main attractions place you in a different time. For the kids, it is the past made alive, for you, a fascinating and unique experience.
The Staten Island Ferry
1 Whitehall Street, Manhattan
Whitehall Street station (R or W train) or South Ferry station (1 train)
Separated by distance and water, for most of its history the only way to get to Staten Island was by ferry — a short sail from Brooklyn, a longer one from Manhattan. Staten Island was connected to Brooklyn by the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which opened November 21, 1964, at a cost of $320.1 million, but it still left the New York Ferry a necessity for those who relied on public transportation. The ferry ride is wonderful, made even better because it's free! — and you get a great view of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. Let your imagination roam free as the salt air and sound of waves against the hull transport you to a pirate ship, a cruise liner, or an immigrant steamer. Once you make landfall, there's another world to discover! The 5.2-mile trip takes twenty-five minutes, and service operates 24/7. There is no charge.
The stunning mural of Staten Island that greets visitors at the St. George Terminal on Staten Island was created by Michael Falco. A Staten Island native, Falco used thousands of photos of Staten Island to create the image of a peaceful shore with the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and the Bayonne Bridge in the background.
Historic Richmond Town
441 Clarke Avenue (at Arthur Kill Road)
The twenty-seven buildings of Historic Richmond Town survived the American Revolution and the modernization of the city.
Included in the historic town you'll find the oldest surviving elementary school, the Voorlezer House, which dates from 1695; a stately Greek Revival courthouse from 1837 (transformed into a visitors' center); a 1740s farmhouse; and an 1860s general store furnished as a nineteenth-century print shop. Located in the former county clerk's office, the museum's exhibits feature items made in Staten Island and a “Toys!” exhibit with hands-on activities.
Richmond Village often has special events on the weekends. From pumpkin picking in October to holiday-themed events in November and December, these experiences contribute to the season and show the family how colonial people celebrated. But the village isn't stuck in the past. It hosts events like the Multiple Sclerosis Walk in the spring.
Other exhibits within the quaint setting include early American crafts. Attractions feature demonstrations of quilting, carpentry, spinning, and weaving, fireplace cooking, and other aspects of colonial life. Along with guided tours of the buildings, the unique historical setting hosts a fair every Labor Day weekend. Throughout the year you'll find other events, like flea markets, an annual summer reenactment of Civil War battles, a nineteenth-century outdoor dinner (complete with plates and utensils of a bygone era), Saturday night concerts, an autumn celebration, and Christmas festivities.
Tours are given Wednesday to Friday at 2:30
The museum store sells reproductions, items made by the village craftspeople, and books on Staten Island history. A Victorian-style full-service restaurant offers casual dining.
Early residents brewed their own beer, and modern visitors can get a taste as well. Ironically, the area is near Prohibition Park, which was a strictly alcohol-free neighborhood in the 1880s.
Historic Richmond Town is located at La Tourette Park, on Clarke Avenue. Once you take the ferry over to Staten Island, you can take an S74 city bus (thirty-minute ride) or drive — there's plenty of free parking! Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, and $3.50 for children ages five through seventeen. Historic Richmond Town is open Wednesday through Sunday from 1
Wadsworth Avenue and Bay Street
From 1795 through 1995, various military branches ran this strategically located fort that protected New York Harbor — it was the longest continually manned military installation in the United States. Today the 226-acre site is run by the National Park Service and is home to U.S. Coast Guard personnel. Fourteen historic defense structures still stand, overlooking the harbor and the neighboring Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Views are outstanding!
Led by one determined volunteer, the lighthouse at Fort Wadsworth has undergone a complete renovation. Staten Island resident Joe Esposito, a lighthouse buff, worked with the National Park Service to conduct a $27,000 renovation. The new solar-powered Fort Wadsworth lighthouse reopened in 2005 after being dark for forty years.
The center has a short film on the history of the fort, plus other exhibits. Ranger-led tours are also available Wednesday to Sunday at 2:30
There is a gift shop where books and other unusual items are on sale. A picnic area is available (except during the summer months when it is reserved for staff; call for details) where you can enjoy a day of history and fun in the great outdoors. Bring a camera for shots of New York Harbor.Hours and Fees
Admission is free, and the park is open from dawn to dusk. The visitors' center is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10
Getting to Staten Island is a fun adventure in itself. In addition to the ferry, the island is connected to the rest of the Big Apple by several express buses from Manhattan and Brooklyn. In Staten Island, the Staten Island Railway, part of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, like the subways, operates from the ferry terminal through the entire borough to Tottenville along the east coast. Get a Staten Island bus and rail map free from the MTA at 212-330-1234 or
Snug Harbor Cultural Center
1000 Richmond Terrace
S40 bus from the ferry terminal
A small historical city within a city, Snug Harbor houses some twenty-six historical structures and acres of public parkland, with meadows, wetlands, and gardens. Greek Revival and Victorian architecture characterize many of the buildings, which include a music hall built in the late nineteenth century and a main hall dating back to 1833. Five Victorian artists' cottages and a Veterans Memorial Hall from 1856 are also among the classic structures you'll find here. While Historic Richmond Town has a greater focus on history, Snug Harbor is a home for culture and the arts.
Just a ten-minute bus ride from the Staten Island Ferry, Snug Harbor has a variety of attractions for varying interests. The New-house Center for Contemporary Art collection features cutting-edge contemporary art creatively displayed in vivid contrast to the nineteenth-century main exhibit hall. All in all, the structures house some 15,000 square feet of exhibit space and thirty artist studios.
The Noble Maritime Collection is a fascinating and beautiful museum within Snug Harbor. Its main mission is to preserve, display, and interpret the works and artifacts of famed marine artist John A. Noble, but it mounts a variety of marine exhibits and programs throughout the year. The kids will love the model ships and Noble's Houseboat Studio, meticulously restored and moved frame by frame to its present location. The museum store has a wide variety of interesting nautical merchandise, with a particularly good children's collection of books, toys, and ship models. Call ahead if you want a tour.
The Staten Island Botanical Garden is also part of Snug Harbor. The complex is home to several smaller gardens, including the Secret Garden (with a castle, a favorite for kids), the White Garden with white flowers, a bird and butterfly observatory, a fragrance garden, a rose garden, an herb garden, and a greenhouse. The Chinese Scholar's Garden, a sister to the Suzhou Garden in China and built by visiting Chinese artisans, is also on the premises. The garden serves as a living, working, growing scientific and educational center.
Check Snug Harbor's Web site before you go for upcoming events. The center makes a real effort to put together innovative and inter-active programs for visitors. All programs tie into the cultural center's mission of preserving Snug Harbor's maritime history and making it accessible to visitors.
The Staten Island Children's Museum, also found in the Snug Harbor Cultural Center, offers kids under twelve a variety of hands-on exhibitions in five interactive galleries, along with storytelling, workshops, and performances. There is a gift shop with books and souvenirs.
Open from dawn to dusk, 362 days a year, Snug Harbor hosts numerous outdoor events, including classical, pop, and jazz concerts in the south meadow and in the music hall. There is also an art lab with classes, workshops, and minicamps at the Children's Museum. The Snug Harbor gift shop sells jewelry, original art, posters, and books. Melville's Café serves sandwiches, entrées, and desserts.
While touring the site is fun, seeing one of the numerous performances will enhance your visit. Visiting Snug Harbor is a great way to sightsee, enjoy a concert, and have a picnic. It's not very expensive and is great for the whole family.Directions, Hours, and Fees
Take the S40 bus from the ferry terminal for a short ride to Snug Harbor Cultural Center. The site is open free to the public from dawn to dusk. The Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art is open Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 5
Admission to the Staten Island Botanical Garden grounds is free. Admission to the Scholar's Garden is $5 for adults; $4 for seniors, children, and students with ID. Admission to the Secret Garden is an additional $1, or if you don't want a Scholar's Garden ticket, $2. Call 718-362-1019 for hours and information.
Admission to the Staten Island Children's Museum is $5 per person (free for children under one); on Wednesdays grandparents are free. It is open Tuesday through Sunday and most school holidays, noon to 5