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Staten Island

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Visitors love a free ride on the Staten Island Ferry. But did you know that the Staten Island Ferry leads to "Staten Island"? It’s true! So set aside a full day if you’d like to get to know New York’s least populated borough. Perhaps the best way to get to know Staten Island on your first visit is to reserve a space on Grey Line’s Staten Island Discovery Tour, which includes many of the island’s top attractions. Visitors can hop on and hop off at eight different sites, including the Ferry Terminal, on climate-controlled trolley buses. There are many neighborhoods you can enjoy across the Island. But at nearly 60 square miles, it’s a lot of territory to cover, so pick your destination and enjoy. Then as soon as you get home, start planning your next visit.

The hilly neighborhood surrounding the Ferry is St. George, the "capital" of Staten Island. Directly across the street from the terminal you can visit Staten Island Borough Hall (1913-1919, Carrere & Hastings), and close by, the Staten Island Museum is great place to start your trip for an overview of the whole island. St. George dining options include Ruddy & Dean, with a roof deck overlooking the harbor. Along the waterfront, west of the ferry terminal is an esplanade with the Richmond County Bank Ballpark at St. George, home of the Staten Island Yankees, and Postcards, a memorial to the many Staten Islanders lost in the attacks on 9/11/01. Visitors can also walk the St. George/New Brighton Historic District to enjoy an eclectic collection of 19th and early 20th century homes.

Pick up the s44 bus anywhere along Richmond Terrace, or at the Staten Island Ferry to visit Staten Island’s version of Lincoln Center, the Snug Harbor Cultural Center. This former retirement home for sailors today houses galleries, museums, dining, a park, and gardens within its storied iron fence. At the heart of the center is a collection of superb Greek revival buildings. Visit the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, Staten Island Botanical Garden, John A. Noble Collection, and more. Dine on site at Neptune’s or just two blocks away check out the local southwestern favorite, Adobe Blues with its superb selection of beer and tequila.

To head east from the Ferry, take the s51 bus along Bay Street to Rosebank, and visit the home of a pioneer photographer at the Alice Austen House Museum, or the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum, housed an American gothic cottage once shared by the inventor of the telephone (no, not him) and an Italian patriot. Farther down Bay Street is the jewel in the Gateway National Recreation Area crown, historic Fort Wadsworth, where you’ll find centuries of military history and stunning views of NY Harbor, Brooklyn, and the Verrazano-Narrow Bridge.

Stay on the s52 and you’ll find the region’s longest boardwalk at South Beach. The shoreline continues farther south through Graham and Midland Beaches with a fishing pier, fountains, bike paths, playgrounds, ball fields, a skate park, and special events in the summer. If you’re a dedicated beachcomber, keep heading south along the shore through Miller Field (another park in the Gateway system) to New Dorp Beach. Here you’ll find a great selection of shells, stones, sea glass and odd treasures.

The s74 bus can transport you back in time to New York City’s only historic village, Historic Richmond Town, the original county seat of Staten Island. Richmondtown has a collection of buildings spanning more than 300 years. A healthy hike up Lighthouse Hill brings you enlightenment at the nearby Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art.

You can explore your inner beast on a short trip on the s67 bus to Clove Lakes Park. Commune with the trees, row, ice skate, picnic, or kiss on the old stone bridges in one of the city’s most beautiful parks. Then get wild with the meerkats, monkeys, horses, lizards and otters at the nearby Staten Island Zoo, home to a renowned reptile collection.

But to really get far out, your best bet is the skip the bus for the Staten Island Railway from the Ferry. Take the train all the way to Tottenville, the southernmost point in New York State, to visit the historic Conference House. In this home on September 11, 1776, overlooking the Raritan Bay, Admiral Lord Howe hosted a delegation of American revolutionaries, including Ben Franklin, who had hoped to prevent full blown war. But within three hours, the meeting had ended unsuccessfully and the American Revolution had become a certainty. The surrounding 265-acre park includes a nature-rich shoreline and a panoramic view of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, from an old-fashioned waterfront pavilion.

Back on the Staten Island Railway, get off just four stops away at Pleasant Plains, and walk almost a mile up Bloomingdale Road to Woodrow Road to visit the Sandy Ground Historical Society. This small museum visits the unique history of the oldest free black community in the north. Call first to confirm hours. This is also a great area to put on your hiking boots and visit Clay Pit Ponds State Park to enjoy streams, marshes, woodlands, and sand barrens. The train and the ferry run all night long -- so don’t worry too much about your long trip back to Manhattan. Besides, the Manhattan skyline looks beautiful at night.