With a whole month of summer ahead, carve out a few days to spend with the grandchildren without even leaving the Island! Why travel off Staten Island when the tourist sites right here have so much to offer? Here are some day-trip suggestions that are fun, educational, and won’t break the bank!
1. a) Visit the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum (420 Tompkins Ave.) and set the kids straight! Who was the true inventor of the telephone? Antonio Meucci. Did you know it happened right here in Staten Island? Visit the Rosebank home of the inventor Antonio Meucci, his seamstress wife, Esterre, and his houseguest, Giuseppe Garibaldi. Tour the home and grounds for an enlightening experience.
b) Step back in time at Alice Austen’s historic home, known as Clear Comfort (2 Hylan Blvd.) This Victorian Gothic cottage overlooking New York Bay showcases the work of one of America’s earliest and most prolific female photographers, who was, by the way, the first woman on Staten Island to own a car!
2. a) Learn about the Underground Railroad and the oldest community established by free slaves in North America at the Sandy Ground Historical Museum (1538 Woodrow Rd.)
b) Next, visit the Conference House Park (298 Saterlee St.) with its’ historical buildings that trace the history of Staten Island over the past 300 years. It also includes miles of beach, expanded hiking and biking paths, and kayak launching points.
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3. The Staten Island Children’s Museum (inside Snug Harbor Cultural Center, 1000 Richmond Terr.) Grandparents admitted free on Wednesdays! Three stories and so much for the children to do. Check out the Bug Exhibit, Rain Forest and Ocean Floor, and the Arctic Igloo, Sea of Boats, Portia’s Playhouse, Block Harbor and so much more! Bring a picnic lunch so you can spend the rest of the day at the attraction-packed Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden, home to the serene NY Chinese Scholar’s Garden.
4. The Staten Island Zoo (614 Broadway) has been entertaining families since 1936! Here’s what the critics say: “Despite being a small zoo, the quality is great; the staff are all knowledgeable about the various animals. They are super friendly and helpful… perfect for small children. You can easily cover the whole thing in a few hours if you spend extra time at the petting zoo and carousel. Make sure you bring a camera to get lots of pictures of one of the many friendly peacocks that roam the grounds.” Need we say more?
5. Grab a scooter, bike, or your sneakers and head over to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk and Beach (Father Capodanno Blvd, Ft. Wadsworth to Miller Field) We live on an island; enjoy the boardwalk! There is ample parking, facilities, lifeguarded beaches, playgrounds, ball fields, and fountains. Teach the grandchildren that FDR was the 32nd President of the United States. And that he won a record of four elections and served from March 1933 to his death in April 1945.
6. a) Look for birds, fish, and frogs at the Blue Heron Park Nature Preserve, and then hit the Nature Center for hands-on learning with the Urban Park Rangers. Make use of their barbeque areas, ball field, fitness paths, dog-friendly areas, and paddleboat rentals.
b) Explore the Greenbelt Nature Center (700 Rockland Ave.) through its many public programs. The Center is ADA compliant and presents many accessible programs.
c) Check out Clay Pit Ponds Interpretive Center (2351 Veterans Road West) Staten Island’s only New York State Park has recreation opportunities are available for everyone – from the oldest adult to the youngest child and everyone in between, including people with disabilities.
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7. Rent a paddleboat in the 193-acre Clove Lakes Park (1150 Clove Rd), and then romp in one of the playgrounds, which are handicap accessible.
8. Take a spin on the Victorian Carousel for All Children in the Greenbelt’s Willowbrook Park (2 Eton Place). Open from May through October. $1.50 per ride.
9. Cheer on the Staten Island Yankees, the NY Yankees’ minor league baseball team, who play at Richmond County Bank Ballpark (75 Richmond Terrace). There are lots of promotion days and even fireworks after select home games!
10. Visit one (or several) of Staten Island’s 13 library branches. All are fully accessible, with the exception of Port Richmond branch, which is partially accessible. There are programs, events (including movie screenings), and computers available for public use so maybe your grandchildren can teach you a few tricks!
By Staten Islander Marianna Randazzo, author, educator, and a newly minted grandmother.