Staten Island might be the "forgotten borough," but it's home to plenty that's worth discovering -- especially in St. George.
Home to a Staten Island Ferry terminal, St. George is a vibrant community on a hill that's characterized by charming Victorian homes, a bustling downtown strip, the borough's municipal buildings and hip restaurants and bars. Soon it also will be home to the world's largest observation wheel, the New York Wheel, and an upscale outlet mall, Empire Outlets.
The next time you're looking to see a show in a beautiful venue, check the schedule at the lovingly restored St. George Theatre. If you want to see a cheaper ball game, catch the Staten Island Yankees at the waterfront Richmond County Bank Ballpark.
But the neighborhood also is full of options that don't require buying tickets in advance -- and St. George's compact size and proximity to the ferry make it a perfect place to wander around and explore. Here are some of the spots you should check out.
Start aboard the Staten Island Ferry
If you're coming to St. George from pretty much anywhere other than another Staten Island neighborhood, the Staten Island Ferry is the best way to get there. It's more than just a free public transit trip -- it's a beautiful and relaxing way to start the day.
Take in the view of the Statue of Liberty
Ignore the hawkers who will try to sell you a ticket for a Statue of Liberty boat tour. The ferry offers fantastic views of Lady Liberty, along with the Manhattan skyline and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the country. Play tourist, sit outside and snap some photos.
Get your coffee fix at Everything Goes
If you need some morning caffeine, visit Everything Goes Book Cafe and Neighborhood Stage on the edge of the neighborhood at 208 Bay St., where Steve Jones has been doling out coffee and offering up tasty baked goods (including many vegan-friendly treats) since 2005. His cafe also serves as a bit of a meeting place for the neighborhood, which he said is a close-knit one.
"I like the community relationships," he said. "People know each other. It's a village kind of thing."
Then, browse used books or catch a performance
Everything Goes is also Staten Island's largest used bookstore. There are several rooms worth of titles in the back -- and it's home to a stage for local performers. It also has two computers that customers can use and a chess board for those looking to unplug. A back room includes a collection of vinyl records and a listening station.
Sample craft beer at Flagship Brewery
A nice stroll to the edges of St. George will bring you to Flagship Brewery -- which is technically in neighboring Tompkinsville, but it's a short walk. (And if you're feeling lazy, you can take the train one stop from the ferry terminal.)
The borough's first craft brewery, its beers have really taken off since the brewery opened in 2014: They can be found in bars across the city. Sample brews in the tap room, open Thursdays through Sundays, where the walls are adorned with mounted deer heads, including a particularly impressive buck that hangs over the bar and serves as a reminder that the animals have made Staten Island their home in recent years. There's also a glass wall through which you can check out the brewing operations. (40 Minthorne St.)
Order a pizza from Pier 76 for lunch
This pizzeria is a solid choice for a lunch that will go perfectly with your beer. "Pizza and beer, it's simple," Joe Guastavino, Pier 76 owner, said.
The Italian restaurant is a sibling of the island's famed Joe & Pat's pizza, and both are known for their super-thin crust pizza pies.
"New York is really known for its pizza, but not really in the city -- the city is more of a tourist slice," Guastavino said, using outerborough terminology for Manhattan. "You're getting these giant slices and it's like dollar slices or whatever. You really find the best pizza in the boroughs, mainly Staten Island and Brooklyn." (76 Bay St.)
Learn about the area's history at the lighthouse museum
Before it was a lighthouse depot, this site was referred to as The Quarantine, housing afflicted immigrants, per the museum's website. Those buildings were burned down -- the locals apparently linked the hospital to some outbreaks -- giving way, in 1862, to a depot built by the U.S. Lighthouse Service that remained active until 1965. But since 2015, the lighthouse-curious can learn about its rich history for $5. (200 The Promenade at Lighthouse Point)
Take a class at Makerspace
A 20-minute walk along the scenic waterfront will bring you to a workshop that gives lessons on welding, woodworking, electronics, sewing and screenprinting. MakerSpace offers full classes and one- or two-hour sessions, or you can just spend time perusing the outdoor sculpture park and community work space. (450 Front St., Unit B, at Thompson Street)
Reflect at the Postcards Memorial
Postcards, located on Bank Street, is a memorial to the Staten Islanders who were killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It features two elegantly curved walls along the waterfront, through which One World Trade Center is now visible. Inside the walls are silhouettes for each of the local victims, facing the direction of where the Twin Towers once stood.
Dine on cuisine cooked by a nonna
If tapas aren't your thing, try Enoteca Maria, which is famous for employing Italian nonnas -- instead of chefs -- to cook dinner. The restaurant has branched out to include an international cadre of nonnas, like Isioma Edu from Nigeria, pictured. She was cooking Egusi soup, made with goat meat, beef, dried fish, smoked turkey, dried shrimp, melon seeds and pounded yams. (27 Hyatt St.)
Catch a show at St. George Theatre
Built in the late 1920s, the onetime vaudeville and movie palace was resurrected -- after being shuttered for decades -- in the early 2000s. Now the St. George Theatre offers an array of bands, shows and films in refurbished opulence. (35 Hyatt St.)
When you board the ferry, many passengers (read: all the tourists) will rush to the Statue of Liberty side. But a truly wonderful and underrated view can be found from the smaller deck facing Manhattan (either the front or back of the boat, depending on which direction you're heading). From there, you can watch the skyline rise or fade away, while still getting a great view of the Statue of Liberty on one side of the boat and the Verrazano-Narrows and East River bridges on the other.
More key ferry advice: Sunset is an incredible time to ride the boat -- and a great opportunity to visit the snack bar for a surprisingly wide selection of cheap beers (roughly $3 to $4 each). What could be better than happy hour on the harbor?