September 18th, 2011 was the infamous date that marked the highest number of robbery occurrences in the history of Staten Island. Beginning in the early morning hours, thousands of borough residents who commute to neighboring New Jersey were forced to hand over $12 to the Port Authority upon entering the Island (the toll had previously only cost $8). Because so little has been done to maintain our deteriorating eighty-five year old bridges, an increase in toll fare might be inevitable; however, a $4 jump in price is heinous and the only way to fight these thieves is to use the bridges only when absolutely necessary. With that being said, here are ten weekend outings that don’t require an expensive off shore excursion.
1. Ft. Wadsworth– Scenically comparable to the historical garrison at Sandy Hook, New Jersey, this archaic fort was constructed in 1663 but didn’t gain significant importance until over a century later during the American Revolution. While this park is dripping with history, its soccer fields, shaded paths, barbecuing grills and ample views of Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge make it a relaxing and enjoyable weekend destination for even non history buffs.
2. Staten Island Mall– Courtesy of the PA, shopping at the Staten Island Mall has never been cheaper! It used to be that a weekend trek to Menlo Park or Woodbridge was a financially smart move: cheaper sales tax, less expensive gas and inexpensive cigarettes were among the many fruits that the garden state had to offer. While the cost of everything is still cheaper in Jersey, the tolls and gas mileage make it more worth while to shop on the island. With several stores opening this fall including Trader Joe's, there is even less of a reason to cross a bridge.
3. Lemon Creek Park– Encompassing an area much greater than the average islander would imagine, Prince's Bay's Lemon Creek Park is a great place play touch football, fish, sunbathe or even swim. While most cringe at the thought of dipping into the waters of Raritan Bay, the far end of this park is shockingly clean and the beach is litter free (this section of the park is accessed at the end of Seguine Avenue). Be sure to remember barbecuing supplies as several grills line the front of the park.
4. Cedar Grove Beach– Widely unknown until its acquisition by the New York City Parks Department last year, this half a mile stretch was Staten Island's last resort community. Hidden at the end of Ebbitts Street in New Dorp Beach, this quiet and isolated shoreline is a small taste of Staten Island's faded resort history.
5. Snug Harbor Cultural Center– Located amongst architectural marvels of utmost historical importance, the cultural center is much more than just an intricate compilation of various gardens. Weekend festivals such as the Italian harvest fair on October 15th or the widely popular halloween festival at the end of the month offer food, art, tours and leisure time amidst a unique social setting. In addition to these festivities, several art classes are offered throughout the year.
6. Staten Island Yankees– Going to a Staten Island Yankees game can be the highlight of your weekend. Avoid the lengthy commute, ballpark prices and late night return, all of which comes with the trip to the official Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. While the island's minor league team will be sure to maintain your attention, the social setting is a major perk especially with a group of friends. To learn more about prices, schedules and firework nights check out their website by clicking here.
7. Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art– If you're looking for some peace of mind, the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art is the place to go. Located in an unsuspecting location atop Lighthouse Hill, this 1947 stone villa was opened by the American art collector Jacques Marchais, as a home for her vast collection of Tibetan and Himalayan art. Constructed in the style of a Tibetan monastery, the museum features terraced gardens, lotus ponds and panoramic views of the south shore.
8. Historic Richmond Town– The grounds of Historic Richmond Town are more comparable to a sleepy Massachusetts village or a Walt Whitmanesque Long Island; however, this carefully preserved historical district is in the heart of Staten Island. Activities including arts, crafts and tours are offered year round. After visiting some of our country's oldest homes and shops, stop by the new eleven acre organic garden for farm fresh produce. Visit their website for more information.
9. St. George Theater– Once the premiere gem of Staten Island, this opulent baroque theater was vacant for over thirty years until its reopening in 2004. After extensive restorations, today’s St. George Theater holds various concerts, movies, theatrical performances, stand up comedy and much more. To find out more about the theater and upcoming shows, visit their website at www.stgeorgetheatre.com.
10. Manhattan via the Staten Island Ferry– While not widely acknowledged, each borough is granted one free pedestrian pathway into Manhattan. Just as Brooklyn has the Brooklyn Bridge and Queens has the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, Staten Island has the ferry, so if you have to leave, the ferry will deport you to lower Manhattan for absolutely no charge! Providing service since 1817, the Staten Island Ferry is our most popular trademark and whereas $12 would have gotten you over a rusty traffic cluttered bridge, you can now spend your bucks on some crisp Heinekens all while relaxing and enjoying the panoramic views of the New York Harbor.
Aside from the ideas listed above, there are several other ideal destination points all across Staten Island. Clove Lakes Park, Blue Heron Reserve, Clay Pitts Pond, the Alice Austen House and Seguine Mansion are among numerous other weekend options. While the Port Authority’s abuse might immobilize the average islander, we should take this time to fully become accustomed with our borough. Take this time to visit new restaurants, unfamiliar neighborhoods and hidden points of interest. Who knows, the island with which we’re so familiar might in fact surprise us.