5 Fabulous Staten Island Day Trips for History, Chow and Nature Lovers

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    New Yorkers whose visits to Staten Island consist mostly of passing through on the way to points south may not realize the forgotten borough contains impressive historic enclaves and distinctive attractions. Its eclectic offerings of parkland, religious art, historic homes, and multicultural eats are often overlooked by those blinded by the borough’s location and distinctively non–New York feel.

    While Staten Island is known mainly for its free scenic ferry, shopping mall, and the New York Wheel (a massive ferris wheel under construction in the borough’s St. George neighborhood), it also boasts a variety of day-trip-worthy destinations for nature, history and food lovers. All are well worth a visit — several visits, actually, since you couldn’t possibly see everything in one day.

    Here, five Staten Island outings for anyone craving greenery and an offbeat excursion beyond the concrete jungle yet within city limits.

    Note: To get to Staten Island, you must drive, take a bus, or take the ferry. From there, destinations are accessible by car, bus and, in some cases, the Staten Island Railway (SIR), the borough’s only rapid transit line. For details, consult Google Maps.

    Historic Richmond Town

    Parts of this Colonial Williamsburg–esque museum run by The City of New York and the Staten Island Historical Society date back to the mid-1600s. It includes more than 30 original historic structures spread across 100 acres of land, such as a courthouse, tavern, jail, churches, cemetery, carpenter’s shop, cottages, farm houses and more. Some of the properties are landmarked.

    The museum is open to the public from 1-5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, with tours offered each day. Admission is $8 for adults, except on Fridays when admission is free.

    Staten Island Tourism Historic Richmond Town Museum of Tibetan Art Greenbelt Freshkills

    The Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art’s garden. Photo by Jason Eppink via Flickr

    Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art

    This peaceful retreat into Tibetan and Himalayan culture is located on the side of the Lighthouse Hill neighborhood. Its namesake Jacques Marchais — an American woman who was a collector of and expert in Tibetan art — designed the complex in the style of Himalayan architecture. It features a fish pond, mediation cells, Marchais’ original paintings, and a large variety of Tibetan and Himalayan art.

    The museum is open from 1-5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday from 1-5 p.m. Adult admission is $6.

    Hiking in Staten Isle #ferns

    A photo posted by Peter Kamali (@pkamali) on

    The Greenbelt

    The Greenbelt is a 2,800-acre protected green space that includes New York City’s largest forest preserve, wetlands, wildlife, more than 35 miles of hiking trails, a golf course, and a variety of parks. Cited as “New York City’s remotest spot” by the New Yorker, the space is prime for nature walks and climbs. The Greenbelt Conservancy — a nonprofit that takes care of the space — also hosts a variety of events in the Greenbelt, including free philharmonic performances and volunteer cleanup opportunities.

    Staten Island Tourism Historic Richmond Town Museum of Tibetan Art Greenbelt Freshkills

    New Asha Sri Lankan Restaurant. Photo via New Asha Sri Lankan Restaurant

    Sri Lankan cuisine in Tompkinsville, St. George and Stapleton

    Unbeknownst to many, a “Little Sri Lanka” exists on Staten Island, largely centered in the contiguous Tompkinsville, St. George and Stapleton neighborhoods. For the uninitiated, Sri Lankan food is spicy and features curries, rice and noodle dishes. There’s New Asha, known for its fish roti and chicken kootu, and Lakruwana, more of a sit-down experience, with dishes like coconut kale and deviled chicken, not to mention a weekend buffet.

    Staten Island Tourism Historic Richmond Town Museum of Tibetan Art Greenbelt Freshkills

    Freshkills Park. Photo by Michael Anton via The Freshkills Park Alliance

    Freshkills Park

    Once complete, Freshkills Park — being built atop the site of a sprawling landfill — will span 2,200 acres and be packed full of creeks, wetlands, meadows, sports fields and hilltop vistas. While completion is not anticipated for another three decades, parts of the park are already open to the public. These include Owl Hollow Fields, which contains a landscaped trail and four soccer fields; the New Springville Greenway, which provides bike access parallel to Richmond Avenue, as well as a 3.2-mile path around the park’s eastern edge; and Schmul Park playground.

    Staten Island Tourism Historic Richmond Town Museum of Tibetan Art Greenbelt

    Frank Lloyd Wright’s Crimon Beech home on Staten Island. Photo by H.L.I.T. via Flickr

    More outings

    Staten Island has dozens of other worthy cultural institutions and attractions. There are the three Every Thing Goes stores — a furniture shop, a combination bookshop and cafe, and a thrift store — all run by Ganas, an “intentional community” based on the island.

    Then there’s the Crimson Beech House, the only Frank Lloyd Wright–designed building in New York City (it’s a private residence) and the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum, a memorial — alleged to be haunted — to former borough residents Antonio Meucci and Giuseppe Garibaldi, the former an inventor and candlemaker, the latter the famous Italian nationalist and general.

    As well, the island boasts three historic districts (Seaview, St. George and Stapleton) and Fort Wadsworth, one of America’s oldest military sites, the grounds of which are open to the public daily, for free.

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