5 Things to Do at Snug Harbor

Christina Parrella

Home to 28 buildings, 14 botanical gardens and acres of wetlands that serve as a bird sanctuary, Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden’s extensive campus offers plenty of nature and maritime history to explore. Our guide narrows down what not to miss at the Staten Island attraction, including tranquil greenery, historic architecture and notable art collections. Read on for details.

The Noble Maritime Collection. Photo: Julienne Schaer

1. The Noble Maritime Collection

Snug Harbor’s original purpose was to provide a refuge for retired sailors. The campus’ Greek Revival buildings acted as dormitories from the 1830s until the early 1970s. After a renovation in the 1990s, one of those landmark structures became home to a collection of artifacts, photos, videos and documents that represent Staten Island’s seafaring past. The museum, which holds artist John Noble’s houseboat studio as well as some of his nautical-themed lithographs, hosts lectures, folk music performances and even a knitting group.

Staten Island Museum. Photo: Tagger Yancey IV

2. Staten Island Museum

If you’re interested in science, this museum is a must: it houses one of the country’s foremost assemblages of natural science artifacts. The display includes taxidermy, fossils, pressed plants and flowers and some half-million insect specimens (including one of the largest cicada collections anywhere). Among the permanent exhibitions are a retrospective on Staten Island history and a showcase of art spanning four millennia.

New York Chinese Scholar's Garden. Photo: Tagger Yancey IV

3. New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden

One of the most serene spots at Snug Harbor, this garden evokes imperial China right in NYC. The garden’s rock formations, koi pond, falls, Chinese calligraphy and bamboo-lined paths reflect features of Ming Dynasty–era gardens. In fact, the doors, bridges and construction materials used in the garden are imports from Suzhou, China.

The Alée. Photo: Tagger Yancey IV

4. The Allée

In the center of Snug Harbor campus, you’ll walk through the Allée (French for “avenue”). More than 100 hornbeam trees curve into an overhead archway to form this stunning path. The walkway makes for a great photo backdrop as well as an aesthetically pleasing route to travel between Snug Harbor’s gardens. (Get to the Tropical Border and Cottage Row, home to the center’s artists in residence, by walking this way.)

Staten Island Children's Museum. Photo: Marley White

5. Staten Island Children’s Museum

At this interactive museum, younger visitors will love moving the giant chess pieces and dominoes, dressing up in costumes for a theater show or getting an up-close look at the world of bugs. Kids can also wander through a rainforest and, in the House About It exhibit, learn the ins and outs of home building.