Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to the best Staten Island things to do. Technically, this article is a lie. I have lured you here under false pretenses. I say that this is an itinerary for 24 hours in Staten Island, but this isn’t actually the case. Everyone knows that one of the best Staten Island things to do is the free ferry ride from Lower Manhattan.
So this tour actually begins in Manhattan and doesn’t actually arrive in Staten Island until the afternoon. But if I called this post “8 Hours in Staten Island”, that wouldn’t actually fit in with the branding of this blog, would it Internet Stranger? A travel writer’s got to make a living!
But don’t let my conniving misdirection deter you! I guarantee that this tour has put together the three very best things to do during your 24 hours in Staten Island, or as I like to call it, “Little New Jersey”. Join me for Manhattan bagels, Staten Island pizza, and a free look at Lady Liberty. At the end of the evening you’ll understand why even New York’s least interesting borough is still more interesting than many other places.
24 Hours: Staten Island Things to Do
Where to Stay?
I always laugh hysterically when people ask me this question. I have lived in the same apartment in New York City my entire life. That means I have never stayed in a New York City hotel. If I had unlimited funds, I’d spend my 24 hours in Staten Island in Manhattan at the Hotel Carlyle for the glamour and the bar with the Madeline drawings on them.
Or I’d stay at the Plaza, so I could pretend that I was Eloise from the adorable children’s books. I’m basically a Very Fancy Eight Year Old Girl who refused to grow up.
If you’d like to explore great deals on over 1400 other hotels in New York City, click here.
24 Hours: Staten Island Things to Do
What to Pack?
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
If the weather is rainy or snowy, which happens quite often in NYC, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them out without feeling like some gauche tourist with gross feet.
Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!
24 Hours: Staten Island Things to Do
Morning: Secret Food Tours New York
As a solo traveler, I’m a big fan of walking tours. You get to meet fun people and hear a local’s thoughts on your destination. Food tours are obviously the best kind of walking tour because you get a meal included with the information. That’s just science. I like the company Secret Food Tours and have used them in several different cities. That’s why I was amused to find that they have a tour in the Greenwich Village neighborhood.
I happen to have lived in Greenwich Village my entire life (except for the 3.5 years I spent in college). I’ve seen the neighborhood go from overrun by eccentric artists to…overrun by crazy tourist fans of Sex and the City. When the tour guide asked me where I lived, I responded, “Around the corner!” So I assume it will count as high praise when I say that I thoroughly enjoyed taking this tour of my own backyard. I’m sure you’ll also appreciate the…
Approximately Top 5: Greenwich Village Food
1) Bagels on the Square
We begin our tour with every New Yorker’s favorite way to start the day: the bagel. Our guide, a fellow native New Yorker named Thalia, explained that bagels had been brought to the United States by Eastern European Jews. In Europe, Jewish people were only allowed to bake bread if they boiled it after baking it. That twice-cooked process is where the bagel’s famous chewy on the outside and fluffy on the inside texture comes from.
As I chewed on my bagel from Bagels on the Square, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Why did they make Jewish people boil the bread? Was it an anti-Semitic comment on their hygiene?” I have to say that I am Jewish and my personal hygiene is excellent. But Jewish people are skilled at bringing good out of suffering, and bagels certainly count as a blessing.
2) Reuben Sandwich
This sandwich is a mildly controversial inclusion on a list of New York City foods because there’s some debate over its origin. Some people say that the Reuben was invented in New York City, and some say it was invented in Omaha, Nebraska. I personally think we should let Omaha have this one. After all, we are New York City, and they are Omaha. Let’s be magnanimous!
If you believe the New York origin story, the Reuben was created by deli owner Arnold Reuben for an actress customer. She expected him to name the sandwich after her, but he chose to name it after himself instead. That’s where the phrase, “as self-centered as a sandwich maker” comes from. Anyway, we got ours at charming neighborhood bar, The Barrow Street Ale House. I’d been here for drinks before, but I didn’t realize they served good food here.
What no one debates is that the Reuben is made from Rye bread surrounding corned beef, melted Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and sauerkraut. It is 100 percent not Kosher and very delicious. You have the salty meat, the fat from the dressing, the sauerness of the sourkraut, and the slight sweetness of the rye bread coming together. But I couldn’t help but wonder, “What exactly is Russian dressing made of? I always assume it’s made with the tears of peasants.”
24 Hour Tip
If you like cocktails, get the drink upgrade with the tour. For less than 10 dollars, you get a refreshing “secret cocktail” made with grapefruit and tequila to go with your Reuben. I don’t recommend ordering more than one though. We still have a Staten Island to get to tonight!
3) Molly’s Cupcakes
Cupcakes are in some sense what made Greenwich Village what it is today. It used to be a more quiet, artsy neighborhood until a little show called Sex and the City came along and introduced the world to Magnolia Bakery and its cupcakes.
Suddenly every young woman who wanted to grow up and be Carrie Bradshaw was lining around the block to get her cupcake on in my neighborhood. Then high-end stores starting coming in and pushing local businesses out. So this is just a long way of me saying that I don’t always approve of cupcakes, politically speaking.
However, Molly’s Cupcakes is a much less touristic choice than Magnolia. It was named after the founder’s third grade teacher because she used to bring cupcakes for her class. That’s why some of the proceeds for Molly’s go to help local schools. We sampled the red velvet cupcake which is colored with natural red…beet juice! But I couldn’t help but wonder, “Why couldn’t I taste the beets at all?” All I could taste was sweet, fluffy, cupcakey goodness with a freshly made cream cheese icing.
4) Everything Donut
The Dutch had a favorite treat, which was a fried dough called olykoek. (We’re actually going to eat one of these later today.) No one knows exactly how for sure, but someone had the bright idea to take the middle out of the olykoek and voila! The doughnut was born.
Our treat from The Doughnut Project was probably my favorite stop on the tour. That’s because we got the most NYC creation possible: the Everything Doughnut. This mythical creature was topped with a sweet cream cheese, but then all of the savory toppings from a proper everything bagel. You had sesame seeds, poppy, garlic, salt…If you like sweet + salty together, this is definitely for you.
One person on our tour thought it was weird, but he was clearly a Philistine who doesn’t deserve doughnuts. I ate every crumb of mine. But I couldn’t help but wonder, “What would the Everything Donut taste like if you tried to put smoked salmon in the middle?”
5) A New York Slice
No New York food tour is complete without a slice pizza. We went to Rivoli Pizza II for a traditional version of a classic NYC slice. Thalia pointed out that the proper way to eat a New York pizza is to fold the slice in half first.
She also said that one reason the pizza crust in NYC is so good is our water. Our tap water comes from reservoirs in the Catskill Mountains. So basically every time you drink New York City tap water, you’re drinking artisanal mountain spring water for free! Just another reason this is the greatest city in the world!
I did not eat the end of my pizza crust. I never do. It’s just empty calories, and who wants pizza crust without tomato sauce and cheese on top? But I couldn’t help but wonder, “Are there people out there who like to eat the pizza crust?”
6) SECRET BITE!
One of the rules of the Secret Food Tour is that there’s always one bite that’s supposed to be a surprise on the day of the tour. So Thalia asked us to keep the location of this bite a secret. I’m not even going to tell you what it is. But since they have a picture of this bite on the tour’s website, I don’t feel guilty about sharing my picture.
But I couldn’t help but wonder, “How would Secret Food Tours punish me if I did tell you what this bite was? Could they send Secret Food Ninjas to hunt me down?”
24 Hours: Staten Island Things to Do
Afternoon: Staten Island
It’s the afternoon in our 24 hours in Staten Island tour, and we’re just about to finally almost head to Staten Island! I hope you are as pumped as I am. For this trip, I brought my sister with me. She is 24 and a native New Yorker, and it was her first time visiting Staten Island. So that might give you a small hint as to how different SI is from the rest of the city.
Here are a few other things you should know about Staten Island. It’s also sometimes called Richmond County. (The borough name is Staten Island, the county name is Richmond, but Staten Island and Richmond County are coterminous. Doesn’t make any sense? Good. You’re beginning to comprehend NYC geography.)
Also it’s the only borough in the city to vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. Finally, Saturday Night Live writer/performer/ScarJo dater Colin Jost is from here. There! Now you know more about Staten Island than most New Yorkers! You’re ready for…
approximately top 5: Staten Island Things to Do
1) Dessert at Financier Patisserie
So before we jump into this whole “Going to Staten Island” thing, we need to store up on sustenance. After all, there’s no subway in Staten Island, so it’s very possible we can get stranded somewhere with no food. In order to get to Staten Island, you need to take the free ferry. Fortunately the Ferry terminal is located in historic Lower Manhattan, near one of my favorite NYC bakeries, Financier Patisserie.
There’s more than one location of this bakery now, but the original on Stone Street is still the best. The pastry shop is called Financier Patisserie because it was located so close to Wall Street.
If you go around Christmas time, and to complete this whole itinerary, you’ll have to, try one of their amazing buche de noels. They look like a confection out of Dickens’ wildest dreams, and they taste like a cloud hovering outside of Santa’s workshop. But don’t eat it out! My choice for dinner isn’t really a good place for dessert, so save it for later.
2) Staten Island Ferry
Even most New Yorkers who wouldn’t dream of spending 24 hours in Staten Island will admit that the free Staten Island ferry is a good bargain. After all, it leaves for SI promptly every half hour, and it literally costs you nothing. Even better, included with your trip is a free viewing of one of New York City’s most famous landmarks: Lady Liberty!
A lot of tour companies out there will make you pay good money for this view! On the Staten Island Ferry, you get it for bupkis! As a pro tip, if you’re going to Staten Island from Manhattan, get on the right hand side of the ferry when you enter. That’s the only side that has views of the Statue of Liberty.
PS. My sister kept asking if you need a passport to spend 24 hours in Staten Island, and though I think she might have been kidding, I’ll just clarify that Staten Island is definitely in the United States and you don’t need a passport to cross the border.
After just a few short minutes, you’ll have arrived in The 5th Borough. Make sure you have a Metrocard with plenty of cash on it, and head on the S74 bus just outside the ferry terminal. For most, this is just an ordinary bus that runs from one end of Staten Island to the other. But for us…it’s a bus that will take us back in time.
3) Candlelight Tours of Historic Richmond Town
As I have mentioned in other posts, I have one Christmas tradition I follow every year. I insist on doing something Christmas-related in all of New York City’s five boroughs. People usually ask me, “What is there to do in Staten Island?”
But in fact, Staten Island is the best tour for Five Borough Christmas, entirely because of the Candlelight Tour of Historic Richmond Town. This tour is offered on two different Saturdays every December, and it’s worth spending 24 hours in Staten Island for this reason alone.
Historic Richmond Town is a collection of that rarest of beasts in New York City: actual historic homes dating back hundreds of years. In NYC usually we like to tear buildings down six months after they were built in the first place. If you’re not lucky enough to spend 24 hours in Staten Island at Christmas time, do visit Historic Richmond Town anyway. They sometimes have evening programs like ghost tours and tavern concerts.
But nothing beats the Candlelight tour. This experience is more than just a tour of historic homes. At each location, you get to see what Christmas would have been like at the time when the home was built. As a special treat, the tour is led by local docents, each with the most bee-yoo-ti-ful Staten Island accent you ever heard. Here are a few of my favorite stops on this tour:
4) Lake-Tyson House
This home is original to Staten Island, though it was once located in a different part of the borough. It was built around 1740 by a farmer named Joseph Guyon who lived here with his family and some enslaved people. (Some people don’t realize that slavery wasn’t abolished in New York State until the 1820s.)
Most of the volunteers performing in this abode seemed to be dressed and behaving more like characters in a Jane Austen novel than people from the 1740s. There are usually even people performing that kind of dance that involves touching hands and walking around a lot that you always see Elizabeth and Darcy doing in filmed versions of Pride and Prejudice. I’m just going to assume that dance is called the Darcy Dance and hope the name catches on. (Darcy would not approve.)
Do you remember how I said we were going to try olykoek today? Well, I hope you didn’t think I was just joshing you because we’re for reals going to get to eat them now. Actually, I already ate them well before writing this post, and you’re just going to get to look at my blurry photo and not eat them. But it’s the thought that counts.
These olykoek are made straight in front of you in the historic Lake-Tyson house kitchen and you get to pop them directly in your mouth while they are still sizzling. Those colonial Dutch people were making hand-made artisanal doughnuts even before it was trendy! And they didn’t even have Instagram to show the latest food trends.
5) General Store
This general store is actually a reconstruction of a general store from the 1840s that was demolished in the 1940s. (I warned you! New Yorkers love knocking stuff down. That’s why our basketball team is called The New York Knocks.) At Christmas time, it’s full of authentic decorations from the 1800s.
The volunteer docents with their buttery Staten Island accents will be happy to explain to you how this general store would have functioned at Christmas time. One of them will be taking on the role of unfortunately named Stephen Stephens, who was the actual owner of the general store, and also the actual son of two very mean parents.
The reason tinsel got its name is because it actually used to be made of tin. They have some samples in the general store made by a tinsmith who works on the property during the day time. Sadly, the tinsel is not for sale. I think it would be a great prank to ask a friend if it would hurt if you dropped some tinsel on their head. Then when they say no, clonk them with the metal.
6) Stephens-Black House
The Stephens-Black House is probably my favorite stop on the tour. It was home to general store owner and nursery rhyme character Stephen Stephens. When you pass through this house on the Candlelight tour, you’ll meet a docent playing his wife Elizabeth.
The actors in this scene always sprinkle their patter with anachronistic pop cultural reference that will both amuse and horrify the discerning spectator. For example, this year Mrs. Stephens made a reference to “female warriors” coming to Queens. I started laughing before the rest of the audience because I’ve seen this show eight times and I knew she was making a terrible pun about Amazon coming to New York City.
The best part of the Stephens-Black House is either the chance to light a Christmas tree with real candles or the 19th century style sugar plum that they give you as a sweet treat at the end. Actually I think the real Christmas miracle was learning that everyone in the 19th century had an accent just like Bobby Bacala from The Sopranos.
Now that we’ve done with the 1800s, it’s time to call an Uber/Time Machine and head back a bit into the future…all the way to the 1930s. All we need is our cell phone and 1.21 gigawatts of lightning.
24 Hours: Staten Island Things to Do
Evening: Pizza at Denino’s
Denino’s (not Deniro’s) Pizza is something of a Staten Island legend. You can’t spend 24 hours in Staten Island without coming here. This place dates back to the 1930s and is still serving made to order pies to local customers. You will not be making reservations. They do not take credit cards. Also the jukebox only plays two artists: Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi.
Denino’s has opened a second location in Greenwich Village, but though the pizza is delicious at both places, the vibe in Greenwich Village simply can’t compare.
My sister and I got the Garbage Pie with sausage, pepperoni, meatballs, mushroom, and onions. It’s a good thing that the crust is sturdy enough to handle all those toppings without being so thick that it becomes deep dish pizza. One bite and I felt that I was stepping back into another world. A world in which calories didn’t count, nobody was vegan, and men wore leather jackets and sang about their hot rods.
Unfortunately the pizza time travel couldn’t last forever and soon it was time for our 24 hours in Staten Island to end. My sister and I had to catch the SIM3C bus back to Manhattan. Because this is an express bus, it costs 6 dollars, which is more than twice as much as the regular bus fare in Manhattan. However, it’s worth it because it will get you back to New York City quickly and easily.
We had to wait about 15 minutes for the bus, and my sister became convinced that the bus was never coming and we were going to die in Staten Island. Native New Yorkers are sometimes very sheltered people. But fortunately we did not die, and that’s why I’m able to share this post with you today. You’re welcome!
That’s 24 Hours: Staten Island Things to Do
What would you do with 24 hours in Staten Island? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in New York City right now? Would it actually involve spending 24 hours in Staten Island? And what is the real name for the Darcy Dance? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 Hours in Staten Island. And there’s a million other things to do in New York City. Want to spend Christmas in New York? With the Brooklyn Bridge? What about 24 hours in Manhattan? How about the Bronx? Or the best museums in Manhattan? I’ve got you covered here!