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Snug Harbor Cultural Center
Daily, dawn to dusk
S40 bus to Snug Harbor
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While many New Yorkers flock to Central Park or the Hamptons on good-weather weekends, just a free ferry ride away sits a well-kept Staten Island secret: the Snug Harbor Cultural Center, with 83 acres of parkland and cultural buildings. Home to the Staten Island Botanical Garden and the Council on the Arts & Humanities for Staten Island, this vast complex is a nexus of indoor and outdoor art and history. After exploring the airy halls of the main buildings (constructed in Greek Revival architecture), themed gardens, tree-lined paths and grassy knolls of the serene waterfront property, check out an exhibition at the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art or catch a show in the 680-seat Music Hall, the second oldest concert venue in New York City behind Carnegie Hall. Snug Harbor was founded in 1833 as America’s first retirement home for sailors. The current incarnation of the original site—bought by the city of New York, opened in 1976 and designated a National Historic Landmark—is as much for the young as it is for the old. With extras like the Staten Island Children’s Museum, a Discovery Classroom and Connie Gretz’s Secret Garden—a miniature hedge maze behind castle walls—kids have plenty of opportunities to enjoy themselves while parents can appreciate the more subtle pleasures of the Carl Grillo Glass House and the Neptune Fountain.The New York Chinese Scholar's Garden
Enclosed behind the Meandering Cloud Wall on the northeast side of the grounds, the Chinese Scholar’s Garden is a veritable journey over fishponds, through pavilions, in between bamboo plants and into a peaceful teahouse. $5, paid in the nearby gift shop, buys passage through this gateway to the Far East, and includes a visit to the Secret Garden. Numerous events take place on the garden grounds. Call 718-273-8200 or see the official website for schedule and information.
Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art
Stop in to see two or three major exhibitions, five access galleries, and three artist-in-residence exhibitions available each year. The center focuses on contemporary art, especially by Staten Island and under-recognized artists.
Snug Harbor in many ways has transformed from a sailor’s refuge to an artist’s retreat. The center’s art offerings include: The Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, Newhouse Galleries, Main Hall Exhibits, the Noble Maritime Collection, the Artists-In-Resident program and the not-for-profit arts school, Art Lab.
Docent-led walking tours are conducted all year, weather permitting, starting at 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Tours begin at the Visitor’s Center, but are led by volunteers who are not always as reliable as they are charitable. Be prepared to take the self-guided walking tour instead. Weekday group tours are offered by reservation through Snug Harbor’s Education Department. Call 718-448-2500 for more information.
Classes & Lectures
An overgrown classroom of sorts, Snug Harbor offers innumerable educational resources. The Art Lab (718-447-8667) and the Children’s Harbor Montessori School (718-442-6112) are actual schools located in the main visitor’s center. The Staten Island Children’s Museum (718-273-2060), Noble Maritime Collection (718-447-6490) and Staten Island Botanical Garden each conduct their own educational tours and visits.
If You're Planning a Wedding...
Newly-engaged New Yorkers who haven’t done so already should add Snug Harbor to their list of potential wedding spots. The Great Hall, Governor’s House and Chinese Scholars’ Garden are all potential reception locales, and the surrounding green space provide ample opportunity for mingling and photo ops. Other events, gatherings and conferences can also be scheduled at these locations.