A Guide For First-Time Visitors To Staten Island in New York City

This writer currently lives in Staten Island (SI), the borough most of those in New York City (NYC) tend to poke fun about because of its “relative distance” from the rest of the city. Actually, SI could very well be among the top 35 biggest cities in the US, if it is not a borough of NYC. It is in fact bigger than Manhattan itself, largely suburban by NYC’s standards, and has the most number of publicly-maintained parks.

Depending on where you are coming from, the time you can spare, and your ability to commute (mainly on foot), you may start your trip by taking the SI Ferry. It has been free of fare since many years ago, though residents would still remember when they still have to pay to ride in the ferry. This trip will allow you great views of “Lady Liberty” herself as she stands, seemingly forever watching those of us who call ourselves among “the brave and the free.” Upon landing in St. George Ferry Terminal don’t leave yet to go back to Manhattan right away, as you’ll be missing so much from your trip.

Venture to visit the ubiquitous SI Borough Hall, and inspect its offerings, that include huge, classically-oriented paintings. There’s also the SI Museum that’s located a few buildings away from the Borough Hall. And there’s the landmark Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden on the far side of Richmond Terrace – there is nothing like it in all NYC, so spend at least two hours exploring this destination.

You may also do a walkabout the historic neighborhoods of St. George and Stapleton, where beautiful Victorian style houses can still be found, and lived in by residents. Most have been around at least 100 years ago. St. George hosts the renovated St. George Theatre, built at the time when people would head-off to the movies for entertainment in humongous movie-houses. Stapleton happens to be where beer breweries were last located till the 1960s when their German-descent owners decided to close shop.

Take the Staten Island Railway (SIR), most stations of which are free, to get yourself into other neighborhoods of SI mainly along the south-eastern side of the island. If you are curious and bent on shopping, you may get off at New Dorp, and check its numerous offerings from the shops lined-up in its main street. Or if you are not tired of visiting yet another shopping mall, which happens to be the biggest in all NYC, you may head off to the Staten Island Mall. Or you may choose to just stay in the SIR to reach the southern tip in Tottenville, 42 minutes away from St. George.

Other must-see attractions of SI include the Alice Austen House Museum and Park (take S51 bus to Hylan Boulevard). It offers exhibits on the photographs of the pioneering female photographer, Alice Austen. There’s also the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art (take the S74 bus to Lighthouse Avenue), which is reputedly the museum housing the biggest collection of Tibetan art outside of Tibet itself. And there’s Sandy Ground (take the S74 bus to Woodrow and Bloomingdale Roads), which is “America’s earliest settlement of free blacks.” And if you are interested to visit the house of the “true inventor of the telephone,” take either the S52 or S78 bus to Chestnut Avenue for the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum.

If you feel like going to the beach (weather permitting), you may head-off to either South Beach or Midland Beach. Views of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge will remain in sight at this side of SI. A two-mile boardwalk can be an option for you for another hike. You may probably catch sight of a number of owners with their well-loved pooches taking a walk as well along the beach – this rarely happens in other parts of NYC.

And you may actually do golf in SI. Do the range, as found in the following: Silver Lake, LaTourette, and South Shore. For public golf courses, you may call 718-225-4653 for reservations. You don’t need to drive your car to the greens, as they’re accessible via public transport.

On your way back, try taking the S79 bus to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. This bus ends at the earlier mentioned Staten Island mall, and has stops along the way, including one close to SIR’s Eltingville station. You’ll cross Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which happens to include one of the “free” sights offering you another very distinctive view of the famed NYC skyline.

As this writer has gradually discovered, SI offers a different, unique experience to the inquisitive visitor who will venture outside of the path well trodden by well-known harried tourists in this part of the East Coast. Just like the rest of NYC, SI adds so much to the peculiar mixture, why most would consider NYC as unique in all of the US.

Take pleasure in every minute of your well-deserved trip!

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