15 Best Things to Do in Richmond County, NY

Richmond County, NY

Richmond County, New York, is a stone's throw away from New York City and Lower Manhattan.

I recently had a short trip to Richmond County, starting with a ferry boat ride from New York City.

I always find this county a complete contrast to the concrete jungle that New York City is known for.

The county spans over 58 square miles, mainly comprises the Staten Island borough, and is home to over 475,000 New Yorkers.

New Yorkers likely identify this county as Staten Island instead of Richmond County.

Regardless of its name, I find Richmond County a beautiful destination, especially for a city person like me who yearns for a quick escape from the concrete jungle.

I seized the opportunity to explore its lush green areas, gorgeous harbor views, charming neighborhoods, historical sites, cultural institutions, and local restaurants.

So, here's my well-curated list of the things to do in Richmond County, New York.

About this article: This article was written by a local contributor based on their own experiences and those around them. While this list showcases some remarkable places, it's important to note that this is an opinion piece, and there are many other exceptional places to visit that are not featured here.
Our aim is not just to guide you to popular places but to encourage you to venture out and experience the region for yourself.

Browse Through the Snug Harbor Cultural Center

Chinese garden at Snug Harbor Cultural Center
anitatakespictures / Shutterstock.com

The Snug Harbor Cultural Center is a Smithsonian-affiliated historical and cultural facility.

It's the first place I visited upon arriving in Richmond County.

It's a few blocks from the St. George Ferry Terminal in Staten Island.

The entire place spans over 83 acres.

Historically, it once served as a retirement facility for sailors and was eventually converted into a regional cultural center.

My visit there was nothing short of fascinating as I saw up close structures and artifacts.

Fully bloomed cherry trees at Snug Harbor Cultural Center
John Penney / Shutterstock.com

It includes 19th-century Greek Revival buildings, which house museums, art exhibits, and a botanical garden.

Along the way, I learned many relevant and fascinating things about Staten Island's history and unique culture.

At the same time, I enjoyed browsing through exhibits in its museums and art galleries.

I also head to its botanical garden for some picture-taking and relaxation.

In addition, it has ghost-haunting tours through Snug Harbor Cultural Center's old buildings, which I was too scared to join.

Stunning aesthetics of Snug Harbor Cultural Center
Linda Harms / Shutterstock.com

Get Your Tans at the Great Kills Beach

A photographer admiring the beauty of the Great Kills Beach
ARK NEYMAN / Shutterstock.com

One time I visited Richmond County during the summer, I remembered spending a day at Great Kills Beach.

Based on my previous visit, it's the best place to swim or sunbathe on the island.

This beach is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, equipped with a bathhouse, beach center, and food trucks.

It's part of the 523-acre Great Kills Park on the Island's southern shores.

Bicycles parked at Great Kills Beach
ARK NEYMAN / Shutterstock.com

It's best known for its sandy crystal clear water beach, which overlooks the New York Harbor.

Meanwhile, anglers love casting their line at this beach during winter to catch fish.

After a short swim, I went hiking to see the surrounding beach areas and enjoyed boating and sightseeing afterward.

So, remember to include Great Kills Beach whenever visiting Richmond County.

Get Up Close with the Animals of the Staten Island Zoo

Cheetah at Staten Island Zoo
MarinaMonroe / Shutterstock.com

My next stop was the Staten Island Zoo in West New Brighton in Richmond County.

It spans over eight acres and is open year-round.

It features over a thousand animal species from various parts of the world.

This zoo, accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, is home to African, North American, and South American animals.

Lemur at Staten Island Zoo
MarinaMonroe / Shutterstock.com

While wandering this amazing zoo, I encountered different animals, including birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects.

Some of the animals I liked at this zoo were its meerkats, bobcats.

Also, I had fun with the interactive and exciting activities at the Staten Island Zoo.

Travel Back in Time at the National Lighthouse Museum

The National Lighthouse Museum is a fascinating place I explored for a worthwhile historical side trip.

This museum is a walking distance from Staten Island's ferry terminal, another tourist attraction making it convenient.

I got the chance to see the museum's 180 lighthouse models displayed in various exhibits.

Amazingly, I learned that these lighthouse models exemplify various designs and structures from the United States and worldwide.

Also, I learned that the museum aims to preserve the history of the nation's beacon keepers and lighthouse history, adding more meaning to my time spent there.

Besides the National Lighthouse Museum displays, I also checked out its harbor to see the picturesque view of the New York City skyline.

Step Inside the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art

Plants grown on the pathway at  Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art
JDimitri / Shutterstock.com

The Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art is considered a sanctuary on Staten Island that I didn't miss visiting.

One of the unique aspects of this art museum I noticed is that it's nestled atop a hill, providing visitors with a gorgeous view of Raritan Bay.

Historically, this art museum was founded in 1945 by American art collector Jacques Marchais.

While roaming inside, I can't help but be amazed by the vast collection of art pieces from Mongolia, Tibet, and Northern China.

More fascinatingly, these ultra-rare art pieces, dating back to the fifteenth century, make this place special.

Before I saw its galleries, I was amazed at the museum building's Tibetan Buddhist mountain monastery-inspired architecture.

So, remember to visit the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art for a worthwhile art experience.

Hop on the Staten Island Ferry

Entrance to the Staten Island Ferry boarding area
pio3 / Shutterstock.com

Before setting foot in Richmond County, I enjoyed experiencing one of its most famous attractions—the Staten Island Ferry.

This iconic ferry, known for its bright orange paint, is one of the regular free commute rides from New York City to Staten Island.

Many New Yorkers grew up riding this huge three-tiered ferry to work or school daily.

However, the ferry eventually became one of New York's most famous tourist attractions.

View of the Staten Island Ferry
John Penney / Shutterstock.com

After seeing the best New York Harbor views, my ferry trip was a blast, including a wonderful view of the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline.

My ferry ride from New York City to Staten Island takes about 15 to 20 minutes.

With all that in mind, the Staten Island Ferry offers a free ride to everyone, so I highly recommend trying this activity.

View from the Staten Island Ferry
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Bask on the Gorgeous View of New York Harbor

Containers at the New York Harbor
Sujatha Vempaty / Shutterstock.com

Speaking of New York Harbor, I didn't miss visiting this spot in Richmond County.

New York Harbor is situated at the mouth of the Hudson River.

It connects the New York Bay and East River Tidal Estuary to the Atlantic Ocean.

I had a worthwhile experience during my visit to this harbor.

View of the New York Harbor
Mariusz Lopusiewicz / Shutterstock.com

I see the New York City Skyline from one angle and the Statue of Liberty from another.

I sat on one of the harbor's benches to relax and see ships of all sizes passing by while passing the time.

Also, I strolled through the entire harbor to check out other attractions.

Visiting New York Harbor is also convenient since it's near the pier where the Staten Island Ferry docks.

Tourists relaxing at New York HarborRoman Babakin
Roman Babakin / Shutterstock.com

Display Your Skating Skills at the RollerJam USA

RollerJam USA is one of Richmond County's most popular entertainment destinations, so I included it.

It's known for its disco and party nights featuring famous disc jockeys, arcades, and other fun amenities.

I was amazed to see and feel the modern skating rink on skates, a nostalgic experience many of us had back in the day.

As a fan of indoor roller skating when I was younger, I can guarantee I had a blast.

From the colorful disco lights, loud music, and party atmosphere, nothing can go wrong with having fun at this place in Richmond County.

My time there was more fun because I brought my friends, which was a great bonding experience.

For those not into roller skating, it has a huge gaming arcade featuring some of our favorite childhood video games.

For those who plan to visit RollerJam USA, it's situated along Richmond Valley Road near the Staten Island Railway and is open daily.

Breathe Fresh Air at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk and Beach

A woman posing in front of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk and Beach
Elzbieta Sekowska / Shutterstock.com

Besides New York Harbor, another scenic sight I discovered was the Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk and Beach.

It covers Fort Wadsworth to Miller Field's Gateway Recreational Area.

This one, however, faces the Atlantic Ocean, so it provided me a unique scenery, and I enjoyed breathing the fresh sea breeze, making it an excellent place to relax.

I also strolled through its long stretch of beach for a much-needed break.

For those who want a more active experience, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk and Beach has various outdoor sports facilities I saw during my visit there.

Embrace the Tranquility of the Chinese Scholar's Garden

Plants at the Chinese Scholar's Garden
JDimitri / Shutterstock.com

The Chinese Scholar's Garden is a hidden gem I discovered while exploring Snug Harbor.

This Oriental-themed botanical garden lets me find my zen which relaxes my mind and body through meditation.

The garden has gorgeous greeneries, rare ornamental plants, and flowers.

I also came across koi-filled ponds and magnificent walking paths.

View of the Chinese Scholar's Garden
aprilfourthtwentytwenty / Shutterstock.com

I also learned that it's one of the two gardens in the nation with an authentic 15th-century Ming Dynasty garden design.

Thus, it added more fascination to my visit to this garden.

What I noticed the most about the garden is the intricate details of its roof tiles, beams, and columns were directly shipped from Suzhou, China, to construct this beautiful garden.

So, don't hesitate to visit the Chinese Scholar's Garden, especially those who yearn for peace and tranquility.

Walkway of the Chinese Scholar's Garden
JDimitri / Shutterstock.com

Discover History at Staten Island Museum

For those fascinated to learn more about Richmond County's history, the Staten Island Museum is the go-to place.

Like the Snug Harbor Cultural Center, this museum is affiliated with the Smithsonian.

It's also near the St. George Ferry Terminal.

It's well-known for its well-preserved historical buildings dating back to the 1800s.

The museum has hundreds of historical artifacts from natural science, history, art, and the environment, which I browsed through its galleries.

Besides its fascinating galleries, the Staten Island Museum also features public programs, educational activities for kids, and new exhibits yearly.

Spend Time at the Fort Wadsworth

View of the Fort Wadsworth
Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock.com

Fort Wadsworth is nestled on the northeastern shores of Richmond County.

It's a 226-acre outdoor park that once served as an operating military fort back in the day.

This park is now part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.

I enjoyed plenty of historical and outdoor activities.

I explore the fort's historical military buildings that remain standing today.

Interior view of the Fort Wadsworth
ARK NEYMAN / Shutterstock.com

I also joined guided tours with fellow tourists to explore the backstories of these buildings and the entire fort.

Not contented with the tour, I strolled through various parts of the fort, which gave me a gorgeous view of the harbor and other sceneries.

I completed my visit by posing for a photo with the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge as my background.

Join one of its overnight camping with fellow tourists for a more fun experience than I had at Fort Wadsworth.

View of the Fort Wadsworth
ARK NEYMAN / Shutterstock.com

Watch Exciting Shows at the St. George Theatre

The St. George Theatre is a well-preserved historical entertainment venue that remains popular today.

So, I decided to visit it along Hyatt Street in Richmond County's northern portion.

Historically, this theatre opened in 1929 as a vaudeville theatre.

I was captivated by its strikingly gorgeous Spanish and Italian Baroque-style paintings, huge dome, grand staircases, and stained-glass windows.

I also learned that it has a 2,800 seating capacity, making it still one the best places to watch a live performance today in Staten Island.

Some well-known artists such as Jason Mraz, Jerry Seinfeld, and Chris Rock are among those that performed on this theatre's stage.

However, there was no show when I visited there.

Still, I look forward to watching live performances on my next visit to the St. George Theatre.

Explore the Historic Richmond Town

Street view of the Historic Richmond Town
ARK NEYMAN / Shutterstock.com

Historic Richmond Town is another fascinating historical attraction I didn't miss visiting in Richmond County.

This historic town features an authentic farm and town museum complex in the community of Richmond Town in the middle of Staten Island.

The entire town is a living example of the 1600s colonial era.

I was virtually transported back to the 1600s when the Dutch settlers lived there after seeing up close over 15 restored buildings.

Landscape of the Historic Richmond Town
ARK NEYMAN / Shutterstock.com

I also checked out its on-site museum that houses exhibits featuring artifacts from the Dutch settlers.

So, remember to include Historic Richmond Town when visiting Richmond County.

It's a great place to spend my time, especially since I'm curious about Richmond County's history.

Building at Historic Richmond Town
ARK NEYMAN / Shutterstock.com

See the Home Team Play Baseball at the Richmond County Bank Ballpark

People cheering at the Richmond County Bank Ballpark
Beyond My Ken, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Lastly, I watched the Staten Island Ferry hawks home game at the Richmond County Bank Ballpark.

For those unfamiliar, this team is the Class A Short Season of the New York Yankees in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball.

I had difficulty getting to the ballpark since it was walking from the St. George Ferry Terminal.

Baseball game at Richmond County Bank Ballpark
Beyond My Ken, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I watched the game along with 7,000 locals who cheered for their home team, which was an incredible sports experience for me.

So, drop by the Richmond County Bank Ballpark for an entertaining baseball game before returning home.

Final Thoughts

Richmond County, New York, is a refreshing travel destination I can guarantee to visit again if given the chance.

Since it's a stone's throw away from the Big Apple, it's an excellent alternative travel destination.

Also, the accessibility of the attractions in Richmond County made my experience there extra convenient.

I'll surely miss this county's magnificent historical sights, gorgeous sceneries, and peaceful ambiance.

So, hopefully, this list of exciting things to do in Richmond County, New York, will also convince everyone to explore this underrated destination.

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