15 Best Things to do in Staten Island

Staten Island

Staten Island was one of the original 12 counties of New York.

Full of natural beauty and diverse wildlife, the borough can be a very intriguing getaway from the never-ending bustle of city life.

Though often an overlooked borough, it is New York’s greenest.

It offers serene getaways and boasts of tranquil beaches, botanical gardens, mysterious forests, and much more.

The historic island's roots stretch back to the 17th century, with many buildings preserved in their original conditions.

It is no wonder then that Staten Island is also well-known for its paranormal activities.

From haunted houses to ghostly graves, there’s something mysterious at every corner.

Historic Richmond Town

Old house in Richmond Town
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Richmond Town is a place stuck in time.

Walk into this authentic 17th-century town which dates back to the very beginning of American history.

The whole town stands today as it did back then.

With over 30 original buildings and much more than 100,000 historical relics, Richmond town is a place steeped in American history.

The town is also known for its events and programs that allow for a more immersive experience.

You can go pumpkin picking, join in the Great American Harvest Festival, or learn a historic trade.

They also celebrate Halloween, but beware- many believe that the town is genuinely haunted.

Lights at the parsonage are known to switch on and off at will, and many have seen apparitions at St. Andrews church.

Conference House Park

Conference House Park
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In 1937, Conference House opened to the public as the very first ‘house museum’.

The beautiful stone house became famous when the likes of Benjamin Franklin sat down to peace talks during the Revolutionary war.

History was made within these walls. Visitors can roam the rambling colonial gardens as well as the house itself.

The in-house guide will show you around the parlor, dining room, basement kitchen, and bedrooms.

There is also a beach only a few steps across the yard of the house.

Conference House park, like most preserved historical mansions, is known to be home to ghosts.

The house is built near an ancient Indian burial ground and has seen its fair share of tragedy.

It is no wonder that restless spirits roam the ground at night.

Some claim to have seen apparitions of British soldiers drifting around, while others talk about the candlelight lit by the maid who was murdered there by the owner centuries ago.

New York Chinese Scholar's Garden

New York Chinese Scholar's Garden
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The NYSG is one of the two authentic outdoor Chinese gardens in the USA.

The garden is an assemblage of different gardens seen in China.

However, it mainly draws its inspiration from the Ming Dynasty gardens which were built around the 14th century.  

All The architecture pieces seen in the mesmerizing classical garden were built in Suzhou, China, and took 40 artists over a year to build.

They stick together simply by the magic of brilliant architecture. It is all built without the use of nails or glue.

Visitors can also wander through the bamboo forest path, pass by waterfalls, or visit the Koi pond.

Stunning Chinese calligraphy can be seen all over. Spectacular rocks the likes of which inspired Confucian, Buddhist, and Taoist monks over the years are homed in the Garden as well.

These rocks, called ‘Scholar’s Rocks’ are what gives the name to the garden.

The National Lighthouse Museum

National Lighthouse Museum
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One thing islands are usually famous for is their lighthouses.

Staten Island has multiple lighthouses dotting the shores, which is why they dedicated a museum to the workings of those majestic towers.

Vistors are taught about how lighthouses work and the history of all the important one in the USA.

The tours within the museum tell personal stories as well as historical ones.

We often don't think of lighthouse keepers and their duties during wartime. However, this museum might open your eyes.

The museum also organizes boat tours to the various lighthouses on Staten Island.

On top of that, they also hold lectures and events at the museum.

Historical House

Alice Austen House Museum
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The Alice Austen House Museum and garden homes the famous works of Alice Austen.

America's first female photographer, Austenlugged pounds of gear in order to capture a then up-and-coming New York.

Alice Austen broke the restrictive rules of Victorian womanhood.

She was one of the first women to own a car, fought for women to be allowed to ride bicycles, and set up the Staten Island Garden Club.

The museum pays its homage to Austen.

It displays not only her famous photographs but also contemporary up-and-coming artists.

There are also educational courses available for students that touch upon women’s history, and women’s photography.

For those otherwise inclined, the galleries offer some great insight into the art of both Victorian and modern-day photography.

The grounds of the Gothic cottage overlook the Buono beach neighboring the New York bay.

Fort Wadsworth

Fort Wadsworth
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The oldest military installation in the United States, Fort Wadsworth is steeped in history.

It was an important center of the action from the American Revolution to the Cold War era.

Their history, can in many ways sum up the military history of both New York and of America itself.

The detailed stories, along with gear from the 17th century to the 2nd world war can be found in Fort Wadsworth Museum.

The fort is still functional and used by the U.S coast guard despite being open to the public.

The fort, though known for its martial endeavors, is home to myriad types of ecosystems.

Despite being located in the most urbanized part of the USA, visitors can walk through grasslands, woodlands- see sand dunes, ponds, salt marshes, visit beaches, and forests.

Many rare birds and animals from seals to plovers can also be found in these areas.

All in all, Fort Wadsworth is a great place to soak in the history, while looking out at the famous New York Harbor.

High Rock Park

If you want to take a break from the concrete jungle, there is no better way to do that than walking into a forest.

Tall trees welcome you into this shady haven that’s home to a myriad of natural attractions.

Rugged hiking trails, ponds, wetlands are open to all those who want to spend time in the great outdoors.

From hawks to Great Blue Herons, these lands are home to a great many woodland creatures.

For those looking for some grueling activity, the park hosts the high rock challenge every year.

The 10k course made for two-member teams runs through rugged terrains, water bodies, and some incredible views.

Making it even more difficult are mystery events and obstacles that are revealed only on the day of the race.

The park also affords the most spectacular view of New York City.

For this, you will have to climb the 260-foot man-made hill named Moses’ mountain.

Grandma's cooking

If you tire of all the history and hauntings in Staten Island and are looking for something homey, Enoteca Maria is a must-visit restaurant.

The Italian restaurant functions on a very interesting concept.

Every night, a different grandmother is the head chef in the kitchen.

They've had grandmothers from Pakistan to Poland, adding to the ever-changing menu at this wine bar and restaurant.

Their Italian fare is also cooked daily by Italian grandmothers.

They hold hugely popular cooking classes, which are almost always completely booked months in advance.

Kreischer Mansion

Kreischer Mansion
Thomas Altfather Good, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Gothic Victorian home named Kreischer Mansion has been the site of multiple TV shows such as Broadwalk empire.

It has also been the scene of violent deaths both in the past and in modern times.

It is no wonder then, that this is seen as one of the most haunted houses in the region.

There have been multiple reports of hearing slamming doors, footsteps, scratches, and much more.

Ghosts aside, this Queen Anne style home is a historic building that makes for some great photography opportunities.

Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art

Interior of Jacques Marchais Museum
Jim.henderson, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Jacques Marchais Museum is one of the most well-known museums of Tibetian art and culture and commended by the Dalai Lama himself for its authenticity.

Built-in 1945, the goal of the premises was to foster friendship and understanding between two diverse cultures.

The museum was the first building in the USA to employ Himalayan or Tibetian-style architecture.

The complex was built in a way so as to give visitors an enchanting experience of being in the mountains of the East.

With the terraced gardens, lotus ponds, and genuine artifacts, the complex invites you to immerse yourself in the rustic life of a Himalayan monastery.

You can take up classes on tai chi and meditation at the museum.

They also host other events such as lectures, film screenings, and musical performances.

Staten Island Zoo

Cheetah in Staten Island Zoo
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Nicknamed the 'biggest little zoo', this zoo is well known for its collection of critters and rattlesnakes.

Opened in 1936, the zoo also has on exhibit more than 800 species in a sprawling eight-acre area.

You can see animals like spider monkeys, Emus, Red Kangaroos, and more.

The Staten Island zoo also focuses on Zoological education and is in fact, considered to be the nation's first educational zoo.

In that vein, today the zoo has an internship program for Vetenarary students.

The educational programs are aimed not only at school students, but also at teachers, local wildlife clubs, and veterinary technicians.

St. George Theatre

The only theatre open round the year, the dazzling Baroque interiors seat 2,800 people.

Adding to the feeling of opulent luxury, the theater houses a $25,000 Wurlitzer organ.

Opened in 1929, it managed to eclipse even the Capitol theater of Broadway.

The theater has showcased the best of showbiz over the years. Bill Cosby, Joan Rivers, Jim Balushi, and many more have all performed here.

However, it came close to being torn down in the early 2000s.

Despite having hosted famous musicians and artists, later owners struggled to keep it open till Mrs. Rosmary along with her daughters managed to transfigure it back to its former glory.

Today, the legacy continues as well-known faces in the industry still hold center stage here.

Freshkills Park

Freshkills Park
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One of the reasons Staten Island has a bad rep is because in the past the borough's landfill took most of New York's waste and soon became the largest in the world.

Today, a giant park is being built on top of it. The project is slated to be complete in 2035 and planned to be thrice the size of Central Park.

However, for now, they normally have 'discovery day' on which day visitors can cycle, kayak, hike, or simply roam around a closed section of the park.

More parts of the park are being slowly opened to the public.

Visitors now can also cycle or walk the New Springville Greenway on Richmond Avenue.

It is also possible to visit the Owl Hollow Soccer Fields near Arden Heights or have a fun-filled day at the playground at Schmul Park in Travis.

Staten Island Museum

Staten Island Museum
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Founded in 1881, the Staten Island Museum is New York's only 'general interest' museum. Its interdisciplinary exhibits in natural science, art, and history are for those who have a wide variety of interests, or simply want to broaden their horizons. They hold items and artifacts that shaped Staten Island over the ages. Along with the usual collections on view, the museum also hosts traveling exhibits, adding to its storehouse of knowledge.

The museum also holds educational events, workshops, and camps for children.

Staten Island Ferry

Staten Island Ferry
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One of the best ways to travel to Manhattan is to jump aboard the historic Staten Island Ferry.

One of the few New York ferries still remaining, the ferry is a great way to learn about the history of New York, while soaking in the sun.

The free ferry ride is famous for its sweeping view of the New York harbor, along with the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.