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NYC Tourists Told Not To Forget the Forgotten Borough

By Nicholas Rizzi | October 17, 2014 12:18pm
 From a historic theatre to a Chinese garden, Staten Island has plenty of spots for tourists to see.
3 Spots to Visit on a Tour of Staten Island
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STATEN ISLAND — Forget the Empire State Building, Central Park and the Museum of Natural History. There's a hidden gem being overlooked on the city's tourism scene.

Around 30 New York tour guides were taken on a daylong trip this week to see the delights of Staten Island.

Bringing the tourism industry to the Forgotten Borough was the idea of the city's visitor bureau NYC & Company.

As it prepares for a boom in vacationers flocking to Staten Island to ride the New York Wheel, the world's biggest Ferris wheel expected to open in three years, the city wants the secrets of the island out there — from an historic theater to a Chinese garden.

"We believe that people need to discover [boroughs other than Manhattan] to experience the city as a whole," said Dena Libner, director of communications for NYC & Company.

For Corey Taylor, owner of Food on Foot Tours, the visit made him consider Staten Island for the first time, especially with the upcoming addition of an outlet mall and the wheel.

"I can actually consider doing something with Staten Island," said Taylor, who does tours in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens.

"There's definitely a possibility I might be able to do something with them. Now with the outlet and the Ferris wheel it will give me more of an option."

For some, the real draw of the borough is that it lacks the glitz — and the crowds — of its packed neighbor across New York Harbor.

"Staten Island is authentic, and authentic is cool," said Snug Harbor CEO Lynn Kelly.

If you want to spend an entire day on Staten Island, or just find something to do before hopping on a return ferry, here's three great spots highlighted by NYC & Company's recent tour.

Have we missed anything? Let us know in the comments below.

St. George Theatre
35 Hyatt St., 718-442-2900

The St. George Theatre, first opened in 1929 as a vaudeville and film house, still hosts shows on its historic stage. But its real draw is the original decor.

With chandeliers, statues, paintings and ornate patterned wall decorations, it's stunning, theater CEO Wayne Miller said.

After several changes throughout the years, it became a flea market before closing in the mid-'80s, Miller said. It finally reopened in 2004 and has since hosted acts like Louis C.K., Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Mraz and Jerry Seinfeld.

Shows scheduled include Tony Bennett, Bob Saget and Amy Schumer.

And while it's going dark in April for renovation, a small lounge on the upper-level will ensure shows still go on.

Alice Austen House Museum
2 Hylan Blvd., 718-816-4506

Alice Austen was one of the earliest female photographers, a master tennis player and the first woman to drive a car on Staten Island.

Austen, who lived from 1866 to 1955, spent most of her life at her Rosebank home called "Clear Comfort" on the edge of the Narrows River.

She was mainly known for her street photography, documenting the influx of immigrants coming in and working in Manhattan in the Victorian era.

In 1975, her home was opened to the public and turned into a museum about her life and showcasing her photographs. It's the only house dedicated to a female photographer, said Ann Marie McDonnell, director of education for the museum.

Aside from Austen, the museum also highlights contemporary photographers and is currently exhibiting "Fields of Inquiry" with photos by Yola Monakhov Stockton.

The museum also hosts lessons, workshops and other events — like an upcoming tutorial on iPhone photography — and offers great views of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to practice your shots.

Snug Harbor Cultural Center
1000 Richmond Terrace, 718-425-3504

The 83-acre former sailor's retirement community at Snug Harbor Cultural Center has nine gardens, art exhibits, a working organic farm, historic buildings and concerts.

The spot, originally opened in 1801, became a public park in 1975.

Among its attractions is an all white garden and the New York Chinese Scholar's Garden, created by a team of 40 artists and craftsman in 1999.

It's based on Ming Dynasty gardens and is one of only two authentic Chinese gardens in the U.S., Snug Harbor officials said.

Aside from the gardens, the center also has art galleries, an artist residency program and an historic Music Hall.