Take a trip across the Hudson to New York City’s fifth and southernmost borough, Staten Island. Many visitors of the Big Apple bypass (or just forget about) the suburb-esque area that locals love, opting for the big lights and bustling streets of Manhattan that are thought of as the quintessential NYC experience. But, there’s lots to love about this Italian-rich borough, including some of the best pizza, pasta, and famous sfogliatelle the city has to offer. Plus, with free transportation across the river aboard the Staten Island Ferry (and the most Insta-worthy, uncrowded views of Lady Liberty) you’ll wonder why you haven’t explored New York’s forgotten borough sooner.
Brady’s Pond Park
A wildlife refuge in the midst of a concrete jungle, Brady’s Pond Park embodies the feel of the Adirondacks rather than NYC. The pristine wetlands are home to many walks of wildlife including mallards, geese, turtles, herons, catfish, and more. Also known as Grasmere Lake, the pond at Brady Park is a hidden gem for locals and long-term visitors of Staten Island -- it is the only body of freshwater left in the city that has a beach for swimming. Surrounded on three sides by residential neighborhoods, most of the pond-front is private, leaving just the sandy beach of the historic Cameron Lake Club for members to enjoy the water, paddle boats, and rowboats during the summer months.
Nonnas of the World
Enoteca Maria, a restaurant in Staten Island, celebrates the wonderful cooking of grandmothers from around the world. The restaurant opened in 2008, and several Italian grandmothers from various regions were invited to create their own menus, rotating to a new Nonna with her own cooking expertise every night of the week. In 2011, the owners decided to extend their cultural horizons and invite Nonnas of different countries to cook at Enoteca and created an online cookbook of recipes contributed from around the world. Guests fell in love with this idea of home cooked meals in a restaurant setting, and the restaurant became known around the world, appearing in newspapers and press in Ukraine, Germany, and yes, of course, Italy. Your mouth will water when you peruse the new menu each day, unable to decide which night to experience a new culinary adventure.
Historic Richmond Town
Take a step back in time and watch history come to life inside the living museum that is Richmond Town. The Staten Island Historical Society began preserving the buildings and culture of American life on Staten Island in 1856, wanting to show visitors how everyday people from many different backgrounds worked together to build a country. Guests and locals alike can tour some of the oldest preserved and restored homes in the country, as well as the oldest working farm in NYC. The flashing lights and towering skyscrapers of the city can make many forget the state’s colonial roots. But one trip through the charming town of Richmond will remind visitors of a time long before the Big Apple came to be.
Killmeyer’s Old Bavaria Inn
Ein Prosit! A toast to good friends, better beer, and a true Bavarian experience in the heart of Staten Island. Killmeyer’s is famed for its outdoor beer garden and authentic German cuisine, as well as its extensive list of beers from all over the world. In business since the mid 19th century, the Old Bavarian Inn has gone through many owners and a few name changes, but the historic building was restored in 1995 and brought back to its former glory and original namesake of Killmeyer’s. Join the restaurant’s own Zum Bier Club and drink your way through their global beers, working your way towards free growlers, discounts and more. And the best part, if there are just one too many beers you want to try because you can’t choose, there are hotel rooms right up the stairs.
Transformers come to life! Lenny Prince is a mechanic-turned-sculptor, using his innovation and recycled car parts to create custom sculptures of all sizes. His shop, Lenny’s Creations, is a gift shop/art gallery featuring some of his best work and craziest concepts. Lenny has built everything from the Eiffel Tower to spaceships to, yes, even life-sized Transformers right out of the movies! Stop by Lenny’s shop to take a look at his masterpieces, and leave a little room in the car for that piece that just calls your name.
St George’s Theater
You can’t come to NYC without seeing a show. But, how about seeing a show with a side of history. St. George’s Theater is an iconic feature on Staten Island, having opened its doors in 1929 and bringing spectacular Vaudeville shows to the neighborhood for just 75 cents. Designed in a mix of Spanish and Italian Baroque styles, the theater is nothing short of regal with a majestic grand staircase winding up to the mezzanine and large stained glass chandeliers illuminating the lobby. To keep up with the changing times and the expansion of the movie business, the glamorous theater transformed into a cinema palace in the 1930’s. From there it struggled, its identity shifting to everything from a roller skating rink to a nightclub until it ultimately shut its doors for 30 years. In 2004, one woman donated her life savings to begin a foundation to save the theater. With the help of the borough, St. George’s Theater was saved and once again thrives as a historic space with a vast assortment of performances. When you go, you may even recognize the stage from the finale of the 2003 film, “School of Rock.”