Why we love Staten Island
• Wide open spaces just a ferry ride away.
• Nature meets culture.
• Authentic local bites.
Walking through the Chinese Scholar’s Garden, you cross a bamboo forest path, pass by waterfalls, and meander past a Koi-filled pond. Are you still in NYC? Absolutely. You’re in one of the city’s most undiscovered boroughs, only a free ferry ride away from Manhattan: Staten Island. Yes, the WeekEnder Staycation five-borough series is back, and this time around we are taking you on a journey across the river to spend some time exploring this surprising urban oasis.
For this weekend’s escape, our neighborhood guide is Puiyan Taglianetti, who has lived her entire life on the North Shore of Staten Island. She says that she is as diverse as the neighborhood itself. “I am Chinese, Black, and Japanese with a touch of American Indian and English. And then with my children, we throw into that mix Italian and Scottish,” says Puiyan. “So that adds to why I love my neighborhood. There is so much diversity and not just diversity in people, but there’s also diversity in restaurants and diversity in experiences to enjoy.”
Puiyan works at one of New York’s hidden gems: Snug Harbor, an 83-acre cultural center and botanical garden located not far from the Staten Island Ferry. According to Puiyan, it’s just one of the many reasons so many people have escaped to Staten Island during the pandemic: “You’re not surrounded by tons of people and you can have a moment of peace and relaxation.”
Join us as we explore what the expansive southernmost NYC borough has to offer. And with Puiyan as our guide, we assure you’ll want to hop on the Staten Island Ferry and stick around for a bit.
-Laura Begley Bloom, New York's Senior WeekEnder Writer
Editor’s Note: Your safety is our primary concern. We encourage you only to travel when it’s safe to do so. While we’ve vetted businesses featured here to ensure they are adhering to the state’s current COVID requirements, the situation is fluid. If you’re not comfortable traveling, save this guide for a later date, as all these activities will be just as amazing in the future as they are today.
For more info on travel within New York, visit the state’s official COVID-19 information page.
Map of the area
1. Snug Harbor
2. Chinese Scholar's Museum
3. Postcards: September 11 Memorial
4. Empire Outlets
5. Staten Island Ferry Terminal
6. National Lighthouse Museum
8. Beans and Leaves
9. Silver Lake Park
9. Clove Lakes Park
Where to eat
Flower & Oak
The first thing to know about Staten Island’s food scene is that it’s mostly homegrown. When you go to restaurants here, you’ll meet owners who have lived their entire lives on this island and can’t wait to share a taste of its diversity with visitors.
Best brunch: Bruno’s - This family-owned Italian bakery and restaurant is a top neighborhood destination anytime of the day — but especially on the weekends. “It’s got my favorite brunch on Staten Island,” says Puiyan. “Don’t miss the creamy polenta topped with mushroom ragu and a poached egg.”
Coffee on the go: Beans & Leaves - Local coffee bar with global blends and sweet treats. “They serve elaborate Belgian waffles that take up the whole plate,” says Puiyan.
Beans & Leaves (L), Bruno’s (R)
For South of the Border Bites: The Burrito Bar - Expect Mexican classics like fish tacos, a Yellow Submarine Burrito with grilled shrimp (Puiyan’s favorite), and a warm welcome. “The owner, Kim, is a Staten Islander and she's very invested to the community and loves to give back.”
For flavors of India: Dosa Garden - Try the traditional dishes from India and Sri Lanka. “Their biryani is so delicious, but you have to enjoy the heat,” says Puiyan.
Date night: Flower & Oak - “This is the place for artisan hand-crafted pizzas,” says Puiyan. “And it’s chic but laidback.” The restaurant is scheduled to reopen any day now.
What to do
Chinese Scholar’s Garden
Arts & culture
The North Shore is home to Snug Harbor, an 83-acre oasis filled with botanical gardens, cultural spaces, and historic 19th century buildings. We know navigating a sprawling place like this can be challenging when you only have an afternoon, so we talked to Puiyan and did the homework for you. Here are six spots not to miss:
For quiet contemplation: Chinese Scholar’s Garden - “The moment you step into this garden, you’re immediately transported to a different time and place,” says Puiyan. “The plum blossoms should be blooming any minute and in April the cherry blossoms will start to appear.”
For history lovers: Staten Island Museum - “This is a wonderful place to learn about Staten Island’s history,” says Puiyan. “You can see artifacts like a pen from the early 1900s.”
For marine lovers: Noble Maritime Collection - The collection highlights works by famed marine artist John A. Noble, as well as his restored houseboat studio. “It’s a great way to see the history of the island from a marine perspective,” says Puiyan.
Children’s Museum (L), Noble Maritime Collection (R)
For foodies: Heritage Farm - This cooperative farm uses organic practices to create the healthiest crops. “People buy produce straight from our farm and we also donate regularly to local food banks and a smaller portion goes to local restaurants,” says Puiyan.
For garden lovers: Botanical Gardens - “Garden clubs come here from all over the world. Don’t miss the 60 varieties of Chinese peonies,” says Puiyan.
For families: Children’s Museum - First thing to know: You need to have a child to be allowed in. “There’s a miniature fire engine that kids can ‘drive,’ life-size chess pieces, insects to discover, and more.”
Other North Shore highlights
Postcards – the Staten Island September 11 Memorial
For those who want to remember: Postcards – the Staten Island September 11 Memorial - On the Staten Island waterfront is a somber but uplifting tribute that frames a view of the location where the Twin Towers used to stand. “A huge number of Staten Islanders passed away on 9/11 and we want to make sure that we honor and celebrate them in a way that’s really meaningful,” says Puiyan. “It has a simple elegance that does a really nice job of honoring their lives.”
For lighthouse lovers: National Lighthouse Museum - “This old foundry building celebrates how lighthouses play such a vital role in welcoming seafarers,” says Puiyan.
For outdoorsy types: Silver Lake Park - Staten Island’s version of Central Park has running trails and an 18-hole golf course. “I've seen a number of people get on the bus from the ferry with their golf clubs,” says Puiyan.
And more outdoors: Clove Lakes Park - Right near Silver Lake Park is another open green space with playgrounds, baseball fields, and a lake where you can rent rowboats.
Puiyan’s Tip: Bring binoculars. “Staten Island has amazing bird watching: orioles, red-winged blackbirds, red-tailed hawks, blue jays, and more.”
▶️ Want to see Staten Island with Puiyan? Video: Snug Harbor
Where to stay
AirBNB: Magnolia House
When you visit the North Shore, you’ll notice there aren’t many big hotels. We recommend staying like a local in an Airbnb.
For history buffs: Magnolia House - This eccentric home from the 1830s has been called Staten Island’s version of the Chelsea Hotel.
For a cheap sleep: Victorian House Suite - Staten Island is known for its Victorians; you can experience one by renting a room with a private entrance from a Superhost.
|The cheapest, most direct, and most atmospheric way to get here is on the Staten Island Ferry (free) from lower Manhattan. Once you’re on the island, you can easily explore the North Shore by foot or bus. And in case you think you need a car, driving here takes awhile and includes a trip over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge from Brooklyn ($19 toll), but parking is a breeze.
Buddhability - “I listen to it when I’m running. It’s another way for me to be grounded during the pandemic,” says Puiyan.
Favorite Staten Island Show
Younger - A series from Sex & the City creator Darren Starr. “It has scenes shot on Staten Island and the ferry,” says Puiyan.
Tom Cintula and the Buffalo 24 (“a local high school music teacher and one of the local artists that I really enjoy”) or anything by the Wu-Tang Clan, who are from Staten Island (“I think I was in high school with one of them.”)
In case you forgot something
Empire Outlets is a destination shopping hub with lots of big names.
From The WeekEnder
You are reading a special ‘Staycation’ edition of The WeekEnder on Staten Island.
In our first Staycation issue on The Bronx we spoke with two locals who gave us their recommendations for a food-focused escape to NYC’s most northern borough. Read it here.
Our second Staycation went on a winter beach trip to Coney Island with a local muralist who showed us where to get the most authentic hot dogs and see the best art. Read it here.
Then, we checked out Chelsea with a tech entrepreneur and found out where to get some of the best chocolate chip cookies in the city. Read it here.
On our most recent Staycation, we explored a pair of unsung but remarkably rich destinations in Queens neighborhoods known for food and culture. Read it here.
Tip: For more information on curated itineraries in Staten Island and the rest of New York City, visit our friends over at nycgo.com.
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