Friday, July 29, 2011

The Best Things In Life Are Free: Staten Island Ferry

The Statue of Liberty is an amazing sight, albeit one that is rather difficult and time-consuming to get to. In keeping with the “being a tourist in our own city” theme, I had tentatively planned an all-day pilgrimage with Charlie to see the Lovely Lady this summer, only to find out that on the day we were scheduled to go, all tour boats to Liberty Island were completely booked. So we ended up doing what I don’t think is only the next best thing, but may just be the best thing: we rode the Staten Island Ferry for free (let me repeat that: for free) and then followed a Time Out Kids itinerary for the St. George neighborhood of Staten Island.

I’ll be honest with you: St. George is no great shakes. You could probably skip it altogether, although I’ll fill you in on what we did anyway in case you’re jonesing to break out of your Manhattan malaise and visit another borough. Exotic it ain’t. But it is another borough. Just manage your expectations accordingly—which, come to think of it, may just be my best piece of advice when attempting any type of activity or outing with young children. That, and always arrive armed to the teeth with snacks.

What you absolutely, positively should do on a regular basis, however, is ride the Staten Island Ferry if for no reason other than that it’s free (did I mention that already?), it’s easy, and it offers an unparalleled view of the Statue of Liberty. If I had to do it all over again, I would just ride the ferry over and back and not leave the ferry terminal. In fact, the Staten Island Ferry may be my new favorite go-to stop for out-of-town guests.

Now for some of the other stops on our day’s journey, courtesy of Time Out Kids:

Staten Island Ferry, Getting there: Take the 1 Train to South Ferry and head to the Whitehall/Staten Island Ferry Terminal,; Hours: During rush hour, the ferry runs about every 15 minutes; during non-rush hour, it runs about every ½ hour; Free.

Rispoli Pastry Shop, 29 Hyatt Street, Staten Island, NY 10302-1801, (718) 273-5224: Most of the time, the key to my children’s happiness seems to be simply keeping them well-fed. To that end, this was our first stop immediately off the ferry to stock up on Italian cookies.

Lt. Lia Playground, Wall Street between Belmont and St. Marks Place, Staten Island, NY: With few exceptions, a playground is a playground is a playground and this one was no different. Its one benefit worth noting was that it was encircled by a shady pergola with benches.

Everything Goes Book Café & Neighborhood Stage, 208 Bay Street (near Victory Boulevard), Staten Island, NY 10301-1904,  Directions: turn left when leaving the terminal and either walk along Bay Street until you run into it on your right or take the #51 or #76 bus to Victory Blvd,, (718) 447-8256: A hippie dippie bookstore and café that will make you feel like you’ve stepped back into a friend’s rec room circa 1979. Their shelves were well-stocked with vintage Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and comic books and they had lots of records for sale, which led to an interesting discussion with Charlie as to what, exactly, a record is.

Gourmet Dog, 40 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island, NY 10301-1904, (718) 727-1234: Try their world-famous crunchy dog, a split, grilled hot dog layered with their secret sauce and potato chips. Be prepared for friendly, but very slow, service.

-Riding the Ferry with Captain Cruz by Alice Flanagan

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