NYC Family Day Trips: Visiting Staten Island with Kids

Often referred to as “New York’s forgotten borough” (and the only borough not connected to Manhattan by subway), Staten Island may seem like worlds away from the urban jungle. Do your kids know NYC’s not all concrete and skyscrapers? Take them to Staten Island for a large, wild adventure with trees, shrubs, and wholly undeveloped areas.

Take a Saturday to say “Yes, Virginia, there really are giant green spaces with trees and wildlife that haven’t been created by architects and engineers!” And let them see how fun it can be.

Scenic Overlook

Take the free Staten Island Ferry from Whitehall Street in Manhattan past the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island on the 25-minute journey to St. George, your drop-off point. Kids will love exploring the different decks and taking perhaps their first “sea voyage.” Be sure to bring the Dramamine to prepare for extreme reactions.

Once you arrive, make a reservation to ride the world’s tallest observation deck, the New York Wheel, when it opens in 2017. The Wheel plans to be one of New York’s premiere attractions, so get there before the tourists!

With all the sky and sea you’ve seen already, it’s time to grab a bagel or breakfast sandwich at the delightful Bagel Mercato in St. George, a trendy little breakfast and lunch cafe that will have you thinking you’re back in Soho. Take a leisurely break – after all, you have to ease the kids into this whole “nature” thing slowly. . .

Enter the Garden

Now head for the Snug Harbor Cultural Center to see the botanical gardens and some (still manicured) green spaces. Enjoy ogling exotic plants at the Glass House. Race through the fan-favorite Secret Garden, a giant maze of life-size hedges that will keep your kids quarantined in its labyrinth of shrubs for hours. It’s scary how “real” nature feels!

Buy some fresh produce at Snug Harbor’s farm stand, open from June until November, and prepare a picnic for later in your day. Snug Harbor Heritage Farm aims to educate the local community on sustainable farming and provides ways for locals to get involved in growing their own food.

Check out the performing arts center or the art museum on the property to reconnect with your displaced inner Manhattanite.

Adjacent to the Cultural Center, pay a visit to the Staten Island Children’s Museum’s four levels of creative play space, educational games, and interactive exhibits that celebrate different learning styles and foster curiosity in your young ones.

Stop by a walk-in workshop to make crafts and explore new visual means of expression during mid-day classes on most days.

While you’re near the shore, stop in for storytime at Everything Goes Book Cafe and Neighborhood Stage. Family-friendly live music, festivals, and readings will give you a fun flavor of Staten Island’s culture and energy. Order some coffee, baked goods, and snacks and take them “to go” – you’ll need them for the picnic lunch you’re amassing.

Take the Plunge

Are you ready for this? At three times the size of Central Park, Staten Island’s Greenbelt is a nature preserve made up of untouched forests, wetlands, lakes, and meadows just ripe for wilderness exploring. Unlike so many of New York’s incredible parks, the attractions here are all natural. Climb to the peak of Moses Mountain, trick your kids into sitting in silence by legitimately calling it “bird watching”, or grab a map at the Nature Center to plan a hike.

Remember those veggies you bought at the farm stand and the snacks you couldn’t leave St. George without? Now is the perfect time to relax near a lake or creek and munch on your goodies.

Make your way up to the northern tip of the Greenbelt, Willowbrook Park, for a bit more of the “standard” park experience. Hop on the Carousel for All Children and spin on mythical wooden beasts for a great return to the quasi-nature of a planned park.

Back to Basics

Return from the wilderness for something more familiar—Pizza! Build a great custom-made pie at the family-owned, family-friendly Denino’s in Port Richmond.

Culinary-minded kids might prefer Jimmy Max, which hosts a “Children’s Pizza Seminar,” where kids get to see inside the kitchen and assist the restaurant’s chefs before being treated to a free pie. Seminars are on Monday and Tuesday nights from 5 pm until 7:30 pm. The kids’ menu also has Italian options besides pizza, too.

Finally, get some culture at the St. George Theatre, a family-friendly stage for live music, musical theater, and comedy shows in a restored 1928 cinema built in Spanish and Italian Baroque styles. Check the website to find current performance information.

And when you’re ready to hop on the ferry, just head back to the St. George Terminal and get in line. The ferry runs every 15 minutes during rush hour, and every 30 minutes through the evenings until 2am. Ferries continue to run hourly through the night, but by that time your kids will be fast asleep, dreaming of pine trees and pizza.

What are some of your top to-do’s in Staten Island?

Staten Island Ferry by Christopher Penler/Shutterstock

Tags : travel   Staten Island   New York   

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