Since 9/11, Lower Manhattan has experienced a resurgence and is a much more vibrant place where the young professionals who work there are living now, too. The neighborhoods still retain much of their original charm while supporting a new and diverse community that has brought a youthful energy to its classic downtown aura.
Things to do in Lower Manhattan
Lower Manhattan encompasses the Financial District, The Battery, Chinatown, Alphabet City, and so many more unique hoods.
If you would like a day or two of instagrammable moments, both modern and classic, follow our tour of Lower Manhattan and the fun activities it offers!
Get a taste of old-timey New York
Many historically significant places and structures in lower Manhattan, some of them standing over a century, have been retrofitted and revamped to add a modern touch so if you want to step in the way back machine and get a taste of old-time New York and enjoy modern entertainment at the same time, here are a few spots to check out:
- Castle Clinton: Castle Clinton, built in 1808, stands in The Battery and actually predates Ellis Island as an immigration station. Its transformation into a modern performance venue started in 1998. The fortress rocks out with concerts from time to time.
- Battery Bikeway: This 10-mile bike path is the most used bikeway in the United States. Restored statues and tended nature envelop your journey from the Hudson to the East River.
Learn about the immigrants that built NYC
Lower Manhattan is home to the Statue Of Liberty and Ellis Island, the port through which 12 million immigrants passed between 1892 and 1954. So naturally, many of them settled right here in Lower Manhattan.
But instead of visiting those tourist drenched meccas, why not get a feeling for how those immigrants lived? Packed like sardines in tenements, actually.
The Lower East Side Tenement Museum will tell you all about it. In 1992 Activist Ruth Jacobs and partner Anita Jacobson found an old building that still held leftovers of immigrants lives and turned it into a tribute to NYC’s immigrants. They refer to it as a “time capsule.” It’s grown to 2 buildings where you can actually experience recreated apartments from those times.
One group with a dedicated museum that aren’t immigrants are the folks who were here first – Native Americans. Before New York became an urban behemoth, Indians used the land for hunting and fishing. Explore their heritage at the National Museum of the American Indian.
Find a treasure trove of books and records
Most things can be bought online these days, so another way to time travel is to hang out in stores and browse through relics of the past, like books and records.
Music Maniacs will find tons of treats because New York being as big as it is, there is plenty of overstock and the highest concentration of collectors – ground zero if you will. Lower Manhattan, it could be said, is where records go to die and you go to dig them up! Our two favorite spots are:
- Comend: Comend is a hidden gem with friendly staff and a unique selection. They consider themselves a community space and experiment often with local artists. Cassette tapes and vinyl pressings of those experiments are available at the store.
- Mercer Street Books and Records: What’s better than browsing records? Browsing books and records! Two of our favorite activities in one convenient location, filled with obscure literature and funky wax trax.
Take a breath of nature in the city
Besides Central Park, Lower Manhattan is the most lushly natural setting to be found on the main island of New York City. Indians made great use of the land in the past, and there are plenty of spots to enjoy in the present. It’s very outdoorsy.
Start the journey to Lower Manhattan with a brisk stroll or casual amble down the High Line, a former elevated railway that is based on a French concept. It has been converted to a pedestrian pathway high above the streets that is decorated with vegetation and flora.
After picking up some literature, soak in some peace at the appropriately and efficiently named Battery Gardens. These days The Gardens include a Bosque and an Urban Farm. It even hosts open Air Yoga. Can you imagine old-timey New Yorkers in those positions?
And it’s not exactly nature, but the urban jungle called Lower Manhattan provides a fantastic canvas for enterprising graffiti artists. So be sure to take a minute to stop and admire the murals!
Eat your way through Manhattan’s diverse cuisine
Mainstays Chinatown and Little Italy are two of the most distinctly New York neighborhoods. Recently they have been duking it out for territory, with Chinatown in the lead.
There’s enough to go around. As you might now, here at Stasher we have an affinity towards Italian food, but the Chinese have some exotic sweets and treats you may not have yet discovered. So, we suggest Little Italy for dinner, Chinatown, for dessert. That’s right – no cannolis!
In Little Italy, defer to Lombardi’s, NYC’s oldest pizzeria, melting cheese since 1905. For a more traditional home-cooked Italian feast of lasagna and burrata, try Gelso and Grand – on Grand, of course – or Il Cortile from more northern Italian cuisine.
You’ve avoided a cannoli, but you won’t be able to resist the sweet at The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory! What makes it so unique? Chinese flava! Discover peace in the Zen butter flavor.
Or for dessert that won’t melt, try Aji Ichiban USA, which offers exotic treats like sweet pickled plum and kumquat pellets!
Discover the NY comedy scene
When it comes to comedy, the farther downtown you go, the more cutting edge it gets, safely away from the mainstream. Up and coming comics give funny careers a shot, while sometimes famous comedians experiment with edgier material.
These are just 2 of the notably hot comedy clubs in Lower Manhattan:
- Caveat: Hosting comedy centered on diverse topics, the shows range from stand-up to variety to burlesque themes. And their craft beer taps are almost just as diverse!
- Secret Loft: This place won’t be a secret much longer! Offbeat comedy not for the mainstream and all kinds of crazy forms of entertainment that will make you smile. And free pizza!
The action isn’t limited to specifically comedy clubs. Any night of the week, bars and other unusual spots are hosting comedy nights. Here’s a helpful link to the best comedy nights in Lower Manhattan (and other parts) for any time you find yourself there.
Party like there’s no tomorrow at Alphabet City
Ain’t no party like an ABC party – the legendary neighborhood where numbers and letters begin!
Lou Reed and Madonna are among the long line of artists that once haunted these avenues where party people still kick it all night long in the best places for live music and dancing. Two spots not to miss are:
- Rockwood Music Hall: This huge and eclectic venue has three stages, some with a friendly one drink minimum. Rockwood makes it easy to discover new bands and music.
- Lola: Formerly known as Coney Island Baby, this venue captures the grungier old vibe of Alphabet City. Great live music you can dance to with a cheap cover charge.
If we’re not too hungover tomorrow, there’s plenty more. Like speakeasies, a popular trend right now – NYC is full of them. Or a trip through Tribeca! In winter, there’s 6 River Terrace, a Battery Park community center offering everything from Indie Craft Fairs to Film Noir screening nights to Zumba dancing!
Native New Yorker. Travel addict. Hardcore thinker. Analyst. Pop culture fanatic. I live in Queens with my wife Linda and our dog Clemenza.