Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden located in Staten Island is one of my personal favorite places in New York. It is also one of New York City’s hidden gems. Everyone has been to picturesque Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the gloriously enormous New York Botanic Garden in Bronx. Or at least heard of those two. But chances are you’ve never heard of the wondrous place that is the Staten Island Botanic Garden. Chances are you’ve never even made it out as far as Staten Island. And you probably had no reason other than perhaps to pay a visit to Russian or an Italian friend who’d recently relocated there after being priced out of South Brooklyn or while on a quick round trip ferry ride to show your out-of-town friend the State of Liberty. But I’m here to tell you that there are other great reasons to get out to Staten Island. For one, there is no place that’s more welcoming and cozier, and ideal for getting away from New York without really getting away than the Staten Island Botanic Garden. Or the whole of Staten Island really, with its miles of splendid woodlands and hiking trails. We literally encountered a deer while traipsing one of those hiking trails. A deer, people! (My companion asked me, “Am I hallucinating? Am I Will Graham?”)
My recent visit to Snug Harbor happened to take place at the height of the most beautiful and warmest fall that I’ve experienced in New York yet. I credit this to my friend who was visiting me from Russia at the time and who’s blessed with the gift of bringing good weather wherever she travels (and then coming back to foul weather in Russia, but weather in Russia is foul in general so that part at least makes sense).
Aside from the usual “beautiful foliage, beautiful bushes, beautiful trees” deal that you might encounter in other Botanic Gardens, Snug Harbor is distinguished by two important points of interest,
One is this viney arch that did not fit in my digital camera but worked perfectly for instagram:
Two, is a Chinese Scholar Garden that is guaranteed 100% to make you feel like you’ve traveled back in time to Ancient China. Sure sure, Brooklyn Botanic Garden has a Japanese Garden with a koi pond, but this is like a whole Ancient Chinese house that you can actually explore. Unless you come on a Monday or a Tuesday in which case it will be closed to the public and off-limits. It was a sad day for us because we were there on a Tuesday and could only admire the Garden from the outside. But coming on a Monday or a Tuesday also provides the added benefit of having absolutely no humans in sight which is always a plus when you do anything in New York. I also recommend coming on a weekday if you want those undisturbed Epic Vine Arch selfies.
You can find more information about Snug Harbor @