Climb aboard the ferry at Whitehall Terminal in Manhattan for a free ride to Staten Island. Lady Liberty looks best from the windy outdoor deck.
Stroll past Borough Hall, a regal French Renaissance--style brick building, to Rispoli Pastry Shop (29 Hyatt St, 718-273-5224) for breakfast. Pick up an M&M cookie ($2) to munch on later.
Kids can burn off some energy by running around at Lt. Lia Playground (Wall St between Belmont and St Marks Pls), just five minutes from Rispoli.
Three blocks away is the St. George Library Center. At its revamped children's section (5 Central Ave, 718-442-8560), tots can scour the bookshelves, then settle into a beanbag with their finds. Stellar harbor views will keep them grounded until lunch.
Grab one of the outdoor perches at Gourmet Dog (40 Richmond Terr, 718-727-1234), an inviting shack across from the ferry terminal. Try the Crunchy Dog—encrusted in potato chips ($3)—or the classic Coney Island, topped with relish and mustard ($1.75).
You can relax with an herbal tea at Everything Goes Book Caf & Neighborhood Stage (208 Bay St, 718-447-8256), while the kids sift through vintage Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys tomes. In keeping with the retro theme, the going rate for animal crackers here is just a nickel apiece.
Sadly, plans for the island's Lighthouse Museum are stalled, but at the Lighthouse Pier (first public pier east of the ferry terminal), tykes can have fun climbing rocks and buoys, ringing the huge brass bell and gazing at passing ships.
Legendary pizza haunt Joe & Pat's is a bit of a schlep down island, but similarly heavenly pies await at Pier 76 (76 Bay St, 718-447-7437), co-run by the in-the-know son of the Joe & Pat's owner.
Surveying the eight-foot-tall tanks teeming with tropical fish at the St. George Terminal should help keep the brood occupied until the next Manhattan-bound ferry pulls in.
Before planning your trip, check to see if the Staten Island Yankees are playing a home game at the Richmond County Bank Ballpark (75 Richmond Terr, 718-720-9265). The minor league team has games through Labor Day weekend, and tickets go for as little as $14. Or see a show at the historic St. George Theatre (35 Hyatt St, 718-442-2900).