It’s well known that arts and entertainment is alive in New York City. But off the city’s beaten path is a cultural hotspot where art thrives, community connects and nature inspires. Staten Island’s Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden is a hidden gem that many New Yorkers outside the borough have yet to discover.
Set on a sprawling 83-acre campus dotted with trees, gardens, museums, historic architecture and so much more, Snug Harbor provides a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Sure, Staten Island is already known as the “borough of parks.” But Snug Harbor is packed with parks and more, making it a prime cultural center in New York City. Whether you’re an art enthusiast, history buff, nature lover or appreciate live music and performances, there’s something for families and individuals of all ages to enjoy at Snug Harbor.
History of Snug Harbor
Snug Harbor was originally established through an endowment as a retirement home for sailors in the 1800s. Back then, it was called “Sailors’ Snug Harbor.” By the mid-20th century, the number of residents at Sailors’ Snug Harbor started to decrease, due in part to Social Security and other programs becoming available to financially help retirees. Snug Harbor’s history is rich and deep, and through the years, it eventually became the cultural locale that Staten Islanders know and love today.
When you visit, you can simply meander through the beautiful grounds, or pop into some of the on-site attractions. There are 26 historic structures, botanical gardens, a 2-acre urban farm, wetlands and parkland, and so much more at Snug Harbor. It’s important to note that it’s free to enter the grounds, but some on-site institutions do charge admission.
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Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden is home to five educational and exciting museums:
Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art
This is Snug Harbor’s main art gallery. It is one of the first buildings visitors see upon entering the campus from the Richmond Terrace entrance, which is located off of Staten Island’s north shoreline. Set in a Greek-Revival building on the front lawn, the museum serves as Snug Harbor’s Visitor Center. And of course, it’s a great place to see art. The galleries feature exciting and experimental art from across the world. Hours: Call 718-425-3524 for information. Admission: $5; $4 seniors; free for children 5 and younger.
The Staten Island Children’s Museum
Kids of all ages enjoy this whimsical and educational museum. The museum offers cultural, imaginative and creative experiences for kids ages 1 and older. It’s home to 12 indoor and outdoor exhibits, workshops and lots of events for kids and families to enjoy. Be sure to say hello to Francis the Praying Mantis, a giant metal mantis-shaped art installation, when you stop by! Hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 10am-5pm. Admission: $8. Free for children younger than 1.
Staten Island Museum
Children and adults with a passion for nature and the environment will enjoy the Staten Island Museum. The museum’s history traces back to 1881 when a group of young naturalists began to pool their collections with a goal to keep record for future generations and advocate for environmental preservation. It opened as a public museum in 1908. Through the years, the museum grew, and today, it maintains exhibits that focus on connections between art, natural science and history. Hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 11am-5pm; Suggested admission: $8; $5 seniors; $2 ages 2-12.
Noble Maritime Collection
If you love learning about local waters, you’ll love this museum at Snug Harbor, home to exhibits that celebrate the working waterfront of New York Harbor in the tradition of artist John A. Noble (1913-1983). The museum preserves Robbins Reef Lighthouse and the history of Sailors’ Snug Harbor. Curious about Robbins Reef Lighthouse? Owned by the Noble Maritime Collection, it is located between Staten Island’s North Shore and the Statue of Liberty. Hours: Thursday-Sunday, 12-5pm. Admission is by donation.
Art Lab: School of Fine and Applied Arts and Gallery
The Art Lab offers classes and workshops, and maintains gallery space. It provides opportunities for exhibitions of the work of students, faculty, emerging artists, established artist and community groups. Hours and admission: Call 718-447-8667 for information.
The botanical gardens at Snug Harbor are plentiful. Most are free to enter, but there is a charge to enter the New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden ($5; $4 seniors; free for children 5 and younger). Other gardens include:
- Rose Garden
- Perennial Garden
- White Garden
- RCSF Tuscan Garden
- Connie Gretz Secret Garden
- Healing Garden
Snug Harbor also offers a variety of public events, activities, programs and more.
What You Need to Know About Visiting Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden
Where is Snug Harbor located?
Snug Harbor is located in Staten Island at 1000 Richmond Terr. It is accessible by S40 bus from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal. The bus ride from the ferry is approximately 10 minutes.
When is Snug Harbor open?
The grounds are open daily, dawn to dusk, but individual museum hours vary.
How much does it cost to visit?
Visiting the outdoor grounds is free, but admission varies per museum.
For more information about Snug Harbor, visit the website.
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