Searching for things to do in lower Manhattan? Locals argue all the time about what constitutes lower Manhattan. “That’s downtown, manhattan, not lower manhattan!” they say. “It starts at the bridge!” they say. “That’s still midtown!” they say. It doesn’t matter.
Things to do in lower Manhattan
You won’t even have time to argue about where you are while figuring out what to do in lower Manhattan. Here is a tour of all the lower manhattan attractions that can keep you occupied on the sprawling streets of what some might simply call “The Fun Zone.”
Fashion at its finest
New York’s finest fashion police are always around the corner. So you have to look great and, more importantly, authentic. That way, you don’t get treated like a tourist. So before you step out in lower Manhattan, get your outfit ready. Here’s some suggestions on where to put together that fabulous ensemble for your stroll.
This is lower Manhattan, the birthplace of new wave and new york punk. It was home to fashion icons like Debbie Harry. Best to follow her lead and hit some thrift shops!
You can start in upper-lower Manhattan, on 7th Street at the on-trendy auH20shop. Started by a Milwaukee native, it has plenty of 80s and 90s fashion, often for less than thirty smackers. Tokio7, also on 7th Street, is pricier and more vintage, but you will find second-hand designer duds for the extra bread.
Oh, you want to go super-stylish, and money is no object? Well, try some of the classy and sassy lower manhattan boutiques! At Angela’s Vintage Boutique on 2nd Ave., Angela actually helps you find the gems waiting on her shelves. Lower Manhattan first came to fame on it’s quirky, avant-garde attitude, and Assembly New York on Ludlow St. reflects that vibe. It’s the perfect place to assemble your hip downtown combo.
All dressed up and need somewhere to go? Start your adventure at the top of the alphabet with an art walk! You can go classy at the galleries or trashy with the street art.
An ambitiously artistic afternoon
After a nice glass of wine in a local park, take a stroll through some art galleries. Try the lower east side, a neighborhood which is home to Derek Eller Gallery, 33 Orchard, and Bodega, among others. In Chinatown, you’ll find Foxy Production and Helena Anrather, who showcases emerging artists.
But more legendary than the manhattan art community is the new york street art. After all, New York City is the birthplace of graffiti! In lower manhattan neighborhoods like Little Italy and Nolita, walls have been graced by art from the likes of Shepard Fairey, Banksy, Claw Money, and Tristan Eaton.
There is even a Museum of Street Art! Well, it’s more of a staircase, appropriately, located in the Bowery Hotel at 189 Bowery Street and cleverly named “MoSA,” a play on “MoMA,” or the far more prestigious “Museum of Modern Art” located uptown.
The art doesn’t stop there. No, the list of things to do marches on with the first letter of the alphabet and another form of artistic expression, architecture!
The search for skyscrapers
New York has always set the pace for modern skyscrapers. From the first boom in the middle of the twentieth century to a more recent surge in development in the last decade, lower Manhattan is a great place to admire the craft and its evolution from the past through today.
Start with the Woolworths building, one of the earliest specimens, completed in 1913. Located in upper-lower Manhattan, you can take a guided tour of this relic, unlike others that aren’t open to the public.
A modern masterpiece is the Gehry New York building, designed by Frank Gehry. Its shimmering, tubular design stands out among the crowded skyline.
Of course, the original World Trade Towers held a record while they were standing, and the replacement towers have renewed that record. But in the interim years, a tower that had previously held the record, 70 Pine St, reclaimed its crown as the tallest building in NYC. Visit the past at 70 Pine St, built in 1932, then see what the future has brought and visit the modern World Trade Complex, home of the Freedom Tower, which opened in 2014.
Why don’t you begin or end your search for amazing architecture at the Skyscraper museum? That’s right; there’s a museum for skyscrapers too! It’s located way lower in Manhattan at 39 Battery Place and traces the evolution of the city’s architecture from tenements to towers.
This places us almost squarely in the financial capital of the city and the world. Wall Street. What to do now?
How to get lucky on Wall Street
Wall Street itself is a living museum. And it’s got an inanimate one, too – The Museum of American Finance. Fortunes are bought, sold, and traded on Wall Street every day, influencing more of our day to day life than we realize. You can see where it all started in 1792 when 24 traders signed the Buttonwood Agreement at 68 Wall Street.
Besides the One World Trade Center Complex, there are many notable attractions to see while wandering around Wall Street – take a selfie with “Charging Bull,” a Black Monday prank sculpture at Bowling Greens that later got adopted by the Wall Street community.
Learn more by taking the Wall Street History and Finance Tour. It includes the homes and businesses of famous magnates like J.P. Morgan and Andrew Carnegie, who made their fortunes here.
And of course, Rockefeller Amble through the park that bears his name at 75 Battery Place, then wrap up your tour at another eye-catching statue, “Fearless Girl.” It was installed in March 2017 to celebrate women’s empowerment, right across from the Stock Exchange building. Fun Fact!: Originally it was installed in bowling green, facing down “The Bull,” but got moved to its present spot after receiving complaints.
Tired of conducting your own tour? Check out the next section – problem solved!
A tour for all seasons
AKA Traveling Museums! Museums on the go, perfect for an on the go place like NYC. NYC is a clusterfudge of tours for everything. And since so much of history happened in Lower Manhattan, there’s no shortage of traveling museums for you to join!
Can’t get tickets to Hamilton – the musical? Get tickets to Hamilton – the Walking Tour! Visit everywhere from bars where Hamilton conspired against the Brits to the burial tomb where he and his wife Eliza rest eternally.
This might pique your interest in the Revolutionary War period. There’s a tour for that! It takes you from the first reading of the Declaration of Independence all the way through to Washington’s inauguration, along many of the original cobblestone streets the patriots traversed.
Another patriotic American period in which New York played a significant role in the Civil War. If that’s your cup of tea, there’s a tour for you too! The Underground Railroad Tour, which includes the site of the first slave market and a Harriet Tubman memorial.
Finally, since you already explored where the money is traded, see where the money gets made. Take a tour of the Federal Reserve! Because it makes cents.
The new history of the new New York
New York is the city that never sleeps and never stops making history. New York never loses its relevance. Besides the new WTC complex mentioned in skyscrapers, Lower Manhattan has some notable spots from recent history worth exploring.
Zuccotti Park, located at One Liberty Plaza, was “ground zero” for the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011, with protestors building an encampment. Ironically, it is controlled by Goldman Sachs and has since been cleaned.
Even more remarkable is St. Paul’s Chapel on Fulton Street, affectionately called “The Little Chapel That Stood.” It was built in 1766 and managed to survive 9/11. It claims the crown of the oldest surviving church in Manhattan. Take a note from Aretha Franklin and say a little prayer while you’re there.
Want another tour that covers more modern history? Take the Financial Crisis Tour, where you visit old landmarks like the Lehmans and Goldman Sachs buildings, in which new history was made that nearly collapsed the world economy.
Too depressing for you? Go see some friends! Or rather, the “Friends” building, the facade you see in the establishing shots of Monica and Rachel’s apartment from the beloved sitcom. It’s at the corner of Grove Street with an official address of 90 Bedford Street.
Take a stroll by the waterfront
When you think of New York, you don’t always think of the waterfront. But there’s plenty to do there as well.
New York has a waterfront on both sides. On the west side, it’s South Street Seaport. On the east side, it’s Battery Park. Battery Park is an oasis of nature and art in the city, situated on grounds Native Americans used for fishing and hunting. For a moment of meditation, try the Battery Labyrinth or the Battery Woodlands.
For inspiration, take the monument walk, overflowing with monuments celebrating the achievements of many of New York’s most important figures of history.
Finally, take a ride on the Seaglass Carousel, a magnificent treasure found inside the Woodlands. It’s an immersive experience that transports you to a state of underwater weightlessness.
Take a walk on the other side
Head westward next to the South Street Seaport. In opposition to the nature of Battery Park, South Street Seaport is more of a consumer experience.
At Pier 17, you have a super mall with a variety of uniquely New York shops alongside the brands you already know and love. Then pay tribute to the victims of the classic movie, er, ship known as the Titanic at a memorial built in 1913. Appropriately, it is a lighthouse.
Maybe you’re staying in a luxurious air BnB with a nice kitchen and want to make use of it. Try Fulton Fish Market for your ingredients. It doesn’t get any fresher than that!
And people say there aren’t things to see in lower Manhattan! Hah! The only thing left to do now is watch the sunset over the Hudson River. Enjoy and take some pictures!
Native New Yorker. Travel addict. Hardcore thinker. Analyst. Pop culture fanatic. I live in Queens with my wife Linda and our dog Clemenza.