There are plenty of things to do on Staten Island, so if you’re on the fence about visiting this part of NYC, I say go for it. Staten Island is known for its green spaces and parks, making it a great New York City borough to visit if you want some fresh air and a break from the hustle and bustle.
For example, the Staten Island Greenbelt has a network of beautiful trails, and Fort Wadsworth is an interesting historical site with old military fortifications. From the wetlands to the shores of New York Harbor and the Lower Bay, you’ll find a variety of outdoor activities in Staten Island. If you’re visiting during the colder months, don’t worry because there are awesome museums here for all ages.
Moreover, Staten Island has the smallest population of all five NYC boroughs, so you can enjoy a slower pace of life here. That said, you can easily get to Brooklyn or Manhattan via the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and Staten Island Ferry.
After visiting New York City multiple times, I can say that Staten Island has a distinct character that you won’t get in any other part of the Big Apple. To help you plan your trip, I’m sharing the 10 best places in Staten Island that you won’t want to miss.
1. Go to Fort Wadsworth, one of the best things to do in Staten Island, New York
Right next to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, you’ll find Fort Wadsworth, an impressive Staten Island landmark. This former U.S. military defense base was used during the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and World Wars I and II.
If you’re into history, you’ll appreciate the old structures and installations here, like Fort Tompkins and Battery Weed, a four-tiered fortification. Both were built in the mid-1800s and contain some interesting relics from the past, like old weapons. You can take a guided tour of these forts and other buildings at Fort Wadsworth, like former artillery batteries.
Best of all, this place is easy to get to from Brooklyn since all you have to do is cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. In addition to all the important history here, you’ll also get nice views of Brooklyn and Manhattan, so be sure to check it out.
2. Visit the National Lighthouse Museum, the best thing to do in Staten Island with kids
Located along the busy New York Bay in the Staten Island Coast Guard Station, the National Lighthouse Museum is another must-see in Staten Island. This family-friendly attraction offers a fascinating exploration of the history of lighthouses in the United States and New York. During your visit, you’ll learn how these massive structures operate, as well as the technology and personal stories behind them.
The museum also has a cool exhibit of lighthouse models from dozens of states, as well as a timeline of the lighthouse’s development from ancient Egypt to the present day. Check out different beacons and historical artifacts and discover what the life of a lighthouse keeper was like back in the day.
It’s interesting to see the intricacies of using lighthouses as navigational tools, especially since most people rely on phones and GPS systems today. Without a doubt, this is a cool place in Staten Island that you can visit as a family, and you can even take lighthouse boat tours from May to October. Admission is $7 for adults and $4 for kids 12 and up (children under 12 are free).
3. Tour Historic Richmond Town, a unique thing to do in Staten Island
Historic Richmond Town is another interesting place in Staten Island where you can delve into history. This historical complex has over 30 structures, some dating as far back as the late 17th century. The town buildings and homes reflect the population of the time, which was mostly Dutch, English, and French immigrants who worked as blacksmiths, craftsmen, and shoemakers.
As a living history museum, this attraction is an immersive experience that takes you through the lives of 19th-century farmers and homemakers. You can tour the different shops, cottages, and houses, including the Guyon-Lake-Tysen House, a Dutch Colonial farmhouse from 1740. Another highlight is the Voorlezer’s House, the oldest surviving elementary school in the U.S., dating back to 1695.
Historic Richmond Town also has a cute village store with handicrafts and products made by local artists. I also recommend checking out nearby Decker Farm, which has seasonal activities and produce for sale. This is definitely a fun thing to do in Staten Island as a family, and admission is reasonably priced. Adults are $10, kids are $5, and children under 5 are free.
4. Staten Island Museum, the best museum in Staten Island, NY
The Staten Island Museum is the oldest cultural institution in Staten Island, but it remains one of the best. Founded in 1881, this free NYC museum boasts a large collection of artistic, historical, and scientific objects spanning ancient history to the modern day.
Among its collection, there are half a million biological and botanical specimens, including fossils, minerals, and animals. You can also browse paintings, drawings, and handicrafts from around the world, some dating back to prehistory. The museum also has a library of maps, films, audio recordings, and photographs related to the history of Staten Island and New York.
So, if you’re looking for a cheap or free thing to do in Staten Island, this is the perfect place to go. The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday, and admission is pay-what-you-wish. Plus, the Staten Island Children’s Museum is a few steps away.
This hands-on children’s museum has a dozen indoor and outdoor exhibits that encourage interaction, exploration, and creativity. It’s a popular Staten Island landmark, and you can’t miss the large metal Francis the Praying Mantis sculpture outside.
Here, younger kids can learn about the sciences and the arts while engaging in hands-on activities. General admission is $8, and the museum is open from Wednesday to Friday.
5. Ride the Staten Island Ferry, a free thing to do in Staten Island
One of the most essential activities in Staten Island is riding the Staten Island Ferry. This is a popular outdoor activity in NYC, although it’s also an easy way to get from Staten Island to Manhattan and vice versa. In fact, this is the only way to travel directly between the two boroughs.
The ferry departs from St. George Terminal in Staten Island and Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan. It takes about 25 minutes to travel the 5.2 miles of New York Harbor, and during the ride, you can get nice views of Ellis Island, Governors Island, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, Jersey City, and the Lower Manhattan skyline.
In addition to being one of the best free things to do in Staten Island, you can also see the Statue of Liberty from the ferry. So, if you’re short on time or you don’t want to invest in a full tour of Liberty Island, you can see the statue while riding the ferry.
The Staten Island Ferry operates 24/7 and is always free. The boat leaves every 15-30 minutes, depending on the time of day.
6. Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden, one of the best places to visit in Staten Island
Sailor’s Snug Harbor on Staten Island’s northern shore includes several institutions, including the Snug Harbor Cultural Center, one of the best places to visit on Staten Island.
This is where sailors retired after Captain Robert Richard Randall’s death in 1801. The area opened to the public in 1976, becoming the Snug Harbor Cultural Center. This attraction is home to incredible 19th-century structures and memorial sites, including Temple Row, five Greek Revival buildings connected to each other. The exterior grounds are beautifully landscaped and feature a sailor’s cemetery surrounded by cast-iron gates.
Another lovely building is Veteran’s Memorial Hall, a former chapel built in the 1850s in the Italianate style with a gable roof, belfry tower, and brick façade with arched windows. The Staten Island Museum, Staten Island Children’s Museum, and Staten Island Botanical Garden are also here. The latter is a gorgeous garden inspired by the one at Sissinghurst in Kent, England. Strolling through the grounds is one of the most romantic things to do in Staten Island.
One notable part of the garden is the Chinese Scholar’s Garden, which was inspired by the Ming Dynasty gardens in Suzhou. It was built by Chinese artisans who brought over natural materials from Suzhou, China. The garden is an elegant and harmonious space with meditation areas, bridges, pavilions, and pretty flora like roses, lilacs, and peonies.
Without a doubt, Snug Harbor Cultural Center is one of the best free places in NYC, and the Chinese Scholar’s Garden is just $5.
7. Greenbelt Nature Center, one of the most beautiful places in Staten Island
The Greenbelt Nature Center is another beautiful place in Staten Island where you can enjoy some fresh air and quiet time. It’s in Latourette Park and hosts guided hikes, lectures, environmental programs, workshops, and yoga classes. From here, you can follow one of the paths through the Greenbelt trail network.
There are six major trails, with the Blue, White, and Yellow trails being the longest and most difficult. For a more moderate route, try the Red Trail, a four-mile loop in the center of the Greenbelt. The easiest routes are the Nature Center Trail, a one-mile loop, and the Multipurpose Trail, a 2.6-mile trail you can walk or bike. You can get more details about each one on the Staten Island Greenbelt website.
Whether you opt for a short path or one of the longer ones, you’ll appreciate the peaceful environment of forests, wetlands, streams, and ponds. Keep an eye out for bullfrogs, salamanders, and white-tailed deer, as well as birds like blue jays, cardinals, great horned owls, and hawks.
The Staten Island Greenbelt has some of the best hikes in NYC, and exploring the trails is one of the top outdoor activities on Staten Island.
8. Shop at the Empire Outlets, something to do in Staten Island when it rains
If you’re visiting Staten Island during the colder months, or you want to do some shopping, check out the Empire Outlets. This shopping mall is next to the St. George Terminal, and it’s the closest outlet to New York City.
This is a newer mall, but it’s also the only outlet that’s actually in the Big Apple, so it’s a popular shopping destination. The indoor-outdoor venue is home to big-name brands in addition to local and family-owned stores, so you can support smaller brands while also getting luxury items.
Some of the retailers here include Banana Republic, Gap, and Nordstrom Rack, although there are plenty more. There are also some cafes, restaurants, bakeries, and a brewery. The views of Lower Manhattan are also very nice, so if you’re not sure what to do in Staten Island on a rainy day, check it out.
9. Visit Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk & Beach, one of the best outdoor activities in Staten Island
If you visit this New York City borough during the summer, don’t miss the Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk and Beach. The 2.5-mile boardwalk stretches along New York’s Lower Bay from Fort Wadsworth to Miller Field and offers lots of fun activities on Staten Island.
You can rent a bike and pedal along the boardwalk or take your time strolling the walking path. The water is great for swimming, canoeing, and kayaking, although fishing is also a common activity here. In addition to biking and water activities, you can enjoy several different sports here, like baseball, basketball, bocce, handball, soccer, and volleyball.
South Beach is closer to Fort Wadsworth, while Midland Beach is near Miller Field. Both beaches have lifeguards on duty during the peak season, as well as spray showers and restrooms. South Beach even has a skate park that’s open to the public.
So, if you’re looking for some summertime activities in Staten Island, you can’t beat a trip to the beach. If you plan on staying all day, bring a picnic lunch since the food trucks aren’t always there.
10. Staten Island Boat Graveyard, one of the coolest places in Staten Island, NY
Finally, one of the coolest places on Staten Island is the little-known Staten Island Boat Graveyard. This hidden attraction is over on the southwestern end of the borough and, despite being out of the way, it’s become popular with history buffs and photographers.
This old marine scrapyard has about 100 boats and ships, most of them cargo ships and tugboats from the 20th century. Some of them are historic watercraft, like the USS PC-1264, a submarine chaser from World War II. There is also an FDNY fireboat from 1904 that’s still preserved in the mud and water.
Visiting the old boats is definitely an unusual thing to do on Staten Island, but if you’re curious, follow Arthur Kill Road and look for a small bayside cemetery. From there, walk past the cemetery and you should see a makeshift walking path out onto the bay. It’s best to go at low tide so you can see all the ships.
Also, while you’re in the area, check out Long Pond Park, a lovely green space and pond fed by underground springs. It’s a much more pristine environment!
Where to stay in Staten Island
If you plan on spending the night here, these are the best places in Staten Island to stay:
- Hilton Garden Inn New York/Staten Island – This hotel is just a 20-minute drive from Newark-Liberty Airport and has modern rooms and suites, a restaurant, and entertainment options.
- Hampton Inn and Suites Staten Island – Located next to Hilton Garden Inn, this is a cheaper option with comfortable guestrooms, a 24-hour convenience store, and a shuttle service to the Staten Island Ferry.
- Harbor House Bed and Breakfast – This B&B is perfect if you want to stay closer to the ferry terminal. It features skyline views of Manhattan, daily continental breakfast, and cozy rooms with Wi-Fi and TV.
There aren’t many accommodation options in Staten Island, but Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan aren’t too far away. If you want to check out some hotels there, I recommend our guide on where to stay in NYC.
Staten Island map
That’s it for this guide on what to do in Staten Island. Before I go, here is a map where you can see all the best things to do in Staten Island that I mentioned, as well as the hotels:
I also recommend reading our guide on the best things to do in NYC especially since Manhattan is just a short ferry ride away.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave me a comment below so I can help you out. Until then, have a wonderful trip!