Suburban character, lush greenery, beaches, and great views of New York Harbor. That’s what you’ll hear about Staten Island. A big misconception is that the island is “boring.” New York’s third-largest but least populated borough, feels a bit secluded from the rest of New York City and the rest of the NYC neighborhoods.
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For tourists, Staten Island is mostly known only for The Staten Island ferry which is one of the best things to do in New York City. The famous ferry passes the Statue of Liberty, the landmark of New York Harbor, and does not cost a penny (yes, it’s free). For daily commuters, the ferry is the only link to Manhattan and thus irreplaceable. In this guide, we’ll go over the best things to do in Staten Island.
What is Staten Island famous for?
Staten Island is known for its excellent beaches and is the least populated borough in NYC. The borough is mostly filled with locals, but tourists have been coming to the island recently especially with the new Empire Outlets that opened in the summer of 2019. Also, in pop culture, the famous hip-hop group, The Wu-Tang Clan originated from here.
Top 5 Things to do in Staten Island
The borough may be isolated from the rest of NYC, and it usually doesn’t get the best reputation, but there’s a lot of sights and attractions that need to be seen. The city recently opened a shopping center in the area to attract tourists. Restaurants are everywhere on the island and are definitely worth checking out. With that being said, here are our top 5 things to do in this neighborhood.
What are the top attractions to visit in Staten Island?
Staten Island Ferry
One of the main highlights in Staten Island is the Staten Island Ferry. The Staten Island Ferry is what takes you to Staten Island in the first place. It’s the most popular choice for everyone. Amazing views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline are another reason to ride the Staten Island Ferry. The Staten Island Ferry leaves from Terminal 4 at White Hall Ferry.
Empire Outlets Staten Island
Shopping in Staten Island is now super fun and really worth experiencing. Check out the Empire Outlets right off the Staten Island Ferry. Empire Outlets is New York City’s first and only shopping outlet. It hosts approximately 100 shops of the finest brands, an extensive array of waterfront food and beverage concepts.
Staten Island Children's Museum
Number three on my list and something really fun to do with your kids on Staten Island is the Staten Island Children’s Museum. There are over two million exhibits waiting to be discovered here and this is one of the best places to go to with your kids on Staten Island.
South Beach Staten Island
No, not South Beach in Miami, but this beautiful beach in Staten Island invites you to relax and take a stroll and is one of my top 5 things to do in Staten Island. It’s not a busy beach as other beaches near the city. It’s actually goes forgotten which makes it relaxing because on a hot day in the summer you don’t want to feel overcrowding at a beach.
Staten Island Museum
With works by Andy Warhol and Marc Chagall, Staten Island Museum is the oldest interdisciplinary museum on Staten Island. Located just two blocks from the Ferry Terminal, it includes a large natural history collection and an unusual art collection.
More super fun things to do in Staten Island
In case you’re wondering what is there to see on Staten Island continue reading. I will share my absolute favorite things to do in Staten Island and more of the top attractions to visit in the borough.
The Staten Island September 11th Memorial
Staten Island lost about 274 people on September 11, 2001. Many commuters who worked in the original World Trade Center lived on the Island. To commemorate them, the September 11th Memorial was built. It is located close to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, behind Richmond County Bank Ball Park, which is the Staten Island Yankees baseball stadium. It was designed in the form of angel wings and is precisely aligned to the skyline in Lower Manhattan.
Check out the Staten Island Zoo
Did you know that Staten Island has a Zoo? It is open all seasons and is perfect for families. It is a small zoo with an emphasis on reptiles. They do not have big animals like elephants and giraffes but nevertheless the Staten Island zoo is a wonderful hidden NYC gem. The locals call it “biggest little zoo”. With over 800 species in all the Staten Island Zoo is one of the many things to do in Staten Island that you shouldn’t miss when visiting the area.
Historic Houses on Staten Island
Who has seen the movie, The Godfather? In the Hamilton Park Neighborhood, there are many Victorian terraced houses from the Civil War. There are two large Tudor-style houses. These were featured in the classic film The Godfather (1971). These houses are known as Casa Corleone (110 + 120 Longfellow Road).
One of the most famous remnants of the past is the Conference House, also known as Billop House. It is located on the southernmost point of New York State in Staten Island and was built around 1680. In 1776 English Lord Howe, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin met here to hold a peace conference. There are tours of the historic house offered and run through Friday to Sunday from 1 Pm to 4 PM in April–December. (Address: 7455 Hylan Blvd).
A stroll through St. George and through St. Pauls Avenue/Stapleton Heights Historic District will take you to many other old historic homes of Staten Island. In order to explore the area, I recommend you to continue from the Ferry Terminal by bus. Click here for a timetable and route network on Staten Island.
South Beach in Staten Island
It might not be Miami, but there’s a South Beach and it’s one of the best things to do in Staten Island. The 1.5-mile-long wooden beach promenade is the fourth-longest in the world. Here, you’ll have a beautiful view of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. On the beach promenade, picnic areas and other sports facilities are available for use. The Staten Island beach section is really beautiful and absolutely worth it.
At the north end of the boardwalk is the most popular meeting place for the locals: a dolphin fountain. The Staten Island beach hosts annual events, free concerts, and one or two spectacular fireworks. At the southernmost point, called Ocean Breeze, you’ll see some fishermen trying their luck fishing in the most popular fishing village in New York City.
Military History – Fort Wadsworth
One of the things to do in Staten Island is visiting Fort Wadsworth. The fort played an important role in defending the port of New York nearly 200 years ago. Today it has a special meaning for many runners across the world traveling to NYC for the New York Marathon because right here is where runners line up at the start line for the famous marathon to run across the Verrazano Bridge.
The military base in the northeast of the island is one of the oldest in the US and offers a great view of New York Harbor. Today Fort Wadsworth is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area. The Park Rangers offer guided tours that take you into hidden catacombs and provide background information on the National Monument. All information about the tours can be found here (address: 210 New York Avenue).
Best tours and activities near Staten Island
Since Staten Island is mostly a residential area, there isn’t much when it comes to tours. You can literally visit the necessary attractions easily in one day. We recommend tours that are based in the city such as Lower Manhattan.
- New York City by Night – NYC night tours are pretty unique as you’ll get to witness the “City That Never Sleeps “under the lights. This tour will have guided-commentary and will drive around all the best sights and attractions in the area. You’ll drive through the Brooklyn Bridge and many other iconic locations at night. – New York City By Night tour
- New York One World Observatory: Skip-the-line-ticket – One World Trade was constructed after the 9/11 attacks and replaced after the Twin Towers fell. At the very top is probably the most famous NYC observation deck. Journey to the top of the western hemisphere’s tallest building. This ticket will let you have the flexibility and allow you to skip the long waiting lines. By the way, there are New York Passes where certain attractions are already included. Compare your New York Passes here and see which one would work well with your itinerary. – One World Observatory tickets
- Harbor Light Night Cruise Skip-the-Box-Office – This 2-hour cruise tour around New York Harbor allows you to view Lower Manhattan and Battery Park. During the cruise, it sails within 100 feet of the Statue of Liberty allowing you to capture memorable moments with your camera. What makes this cruise even better is the bar that comes equipped with the yacht. It’s perfect for warm summer nights. – Book the Harbor Light Night Cruise
- From Manhattan: Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn Half-Day Tour – Do you want to experience all of NYC but don’t have the time? This Half-Day Tour is perfect for you. The city isn’t just Manhattan. There are a total of 5 boroughs and on this NYC bus tour, you’ll experience 4 out of the 5. This bus tour will take you through the main attractions throughout the city. – Manhattan, Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn Half-Day Tour.
Staten Island Mall: Shopping in Staten Island
After years of planning and construction, The Empire Outlets in Staten Island (located right by the Staten Island Ferry Terminal) became one of the main highlights for tourists on Staten Island. Shopping on Staten Island was never really worth it until Empire Outlets opened.
This also benefits the borough as well. Some will argue that the borough has been “forgotten”, but Empire Outlets will effectively bring in more foot traffic and puts Staten Island “back on the radar”. On its inaugural weekend, Empire Outlets had over 165,000 visitors. Getting there is a breeze also. Just take the Staten Island Ferry and you’re there.
Best Restaurants In Staten Island
Staten Island offers many culinary options and visiting great places to eat is one of the best things to do on Staten Island. You’ll find a lot of very traditional Italian restaurants on Staten Island. Here are some restaurants that I’ve visited before and really enjoyed:
- Beso – Check out this restaurant which features dishes from Cuba, Mexico, and Spain. It’s located near the Ferry Terminal and close to the Empire Outlets (Address: 11 Schuyler Street).
- Trattoria Romana – A classic Italian restaurant. One of the many on Staten Island (Address: 1476 Hylan Boulevard).
- Killmeyer’s Old Bavaria Inn – They serve 200 different beers and sausages and goulash. (Address: 4254 Arthur Kill Road).
- Hokkaido Sushi Bar – Some of the best sushi in Staten Island. (Address: 3295 Amboy Road).
- South Fin Grill – If you’re into grilled food, check this restaurant out. (Address: 300 Father Capodanno Boulevard).
Staten Island Museums
You wouldn’t expect to find such great museums on Staten Island such as the Staten Island Museum, which welcomes nearly 220,000 people each year. These are my favorite museums on Staten Island.
The best Museums in Staten Island
Staten Island Children's Museum
Enjoy imaginative, creative, and cultural hands-on experiences for children ages 1 and up on the park grounds of Snug Harbor. With 12 indoor and outdoor exhibits, science & storytime, camps, and birthday parties, there’s something for every kid as they learn, explore and play.
Staten Island Botanical Garden
Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden in Staten Island is a beautiful large outdoor museum diving deep into the history of Staten Island. It’s just steps away from the Staten Island ferry. The 83-acre park includes 23 historical buildings, nine botanical gardens and 10 acres of wetlands. The neighborhood was built in 1883 for retired ship captains.
The Alice Austen House
The Alice Austen House honors pioneer photographer and feminist, Alice Austen, by showcasing her life and work through her photographs. It’s a beautiful museum with lots of memories of Alice Austen who lived her entire life in this house on Staten Island.
Staten Island Museum
With works by Andy Warhol and Marc Chagall, the Staten Island Museum is the oldest interdisciplinary museum on Staten Island. It is just two blocks from the Ferry Terminal and features a large natural history collection and a fancy art collection
Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art
The island has a unique museum as well and it’s one of the things to do in Staten Island. At the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art, you can immerse yourself in the culture and atmosphere of Tibet. There’s a mediation garden, as well as lessons in Tai Chi which are all part of the museum program. It’s a magical place and will bring peace in an often very stressful city (address: 338 Lighthouse Avenue).
Hotels near Staten Island
There are a few hotels in Staten Island but we recommend staying in Manhattan or Brooklyn since Staten Island can be experienced in one day.
Getting to Staten Island
There aren’t many options when it comes to commuting to and from Staten Island. You can always take a taxi, bus or car over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, OR you can take the glorious Staten Island Ferry. We suggest the ferry, especially if you’re a tourist. For one it’s free, and two, you get amazing views of the Manhattan skyline.
More about the NYC boroughs
There’s more to discover within NYC. Discover the city by venturing out into the other boroughs. Lower Manhattan and Midtown are the usual tourist spots, where the more popular landmarks are based, such as One World Trade Center and Empire State Building. If you want really great eats, head over to Queens, which is considered the most diverse place in the United States. If you’re looking for something creative, make sure to check out Brooklyn. The possibilities are endless here in NYC.
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Staten Island: FAQ
Where is the island located?
Staten Island is the southernmost borough of New York City and is located on a separate island and borders Jersey City by sea.
Is Staten Island worth visiting?
Staten Island is worth visiting, but only a day would be fine. It is known for the ferry that takes New Yorkers to the borough from Manhattan. The ferry is free and it passes by The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Additionally, as the ferry departs from the pier, you’ll be able to enjoy an amazing view of Lower Manhattan. There’s nothing better than One World Trade dominating the NYC skyline. In pop culture, Staten Island is home to the infamous hip-hop group, The Wu-Tang Clan.
Is Staten Island dangerous?
Staten Island in general is safe. Just make sure to be aware of your surroundings and belongings especially if its an area you’re not familiar with. Use common sense.
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Calling New York City home is still pretty surreal. After moving here 5 years ago, I still see it as my dream life. Ever since I’ve been exploring this amazing city for Loving New York I’ve grown to love it even more. I love hooking all of you up with the inside scoop, top attractions, events and everything in between. I'm your go-to person for the hidden gems, best restaurants and the absolute best things to do in the city that never sleeps.