There are certain things about Lower Manhattan most New Yorkers know: It’s a global center of commerce. It has narrow, winding streets, unlike Midtown’s grid. It’s a subway nexus.
But not everyone understands how rapidly Downtown has turned into a diverse, 24/7 destination neighborhood where people live, work and play.
While Wall Street is known globally as a premier financial services address, Lower Manhattan is also home to a rich mix of businesses, nonprofits and startups—along with 55,000 residents and six million annual tourists,” said Elizabeth H. Berger, President of the Downtown Alliance. ”With one of New York’s fastest-growing residential populations, a host of exciting amenities and attractions, and the best waterfront access in the city, Lower Manhattan is the place to be.”
Here are a dozen reasons to get in on the action:
1. Cool Streets. Get off the grid. First, try Stone Street. One visit to this winding cobblestone lane—known as the oldest street in Manhattan—at lunchtime or happy hour and you’ll be hooked. It’s lined with great restaurants that offer al fresco dining, and the bars are always lively. Adrienne’s Pizza Bar has excellent square pies in stylish digs and Vintry Wine & Whiskey—recently featured in the New York Times Sunday Styles Boite column—is sure to please. And don’t miss Ulysses’ annual Oyster Festival, held the last Saturday of every September. Then wander just a few steps south and check out the city’s only“pop-up” café. It’s an innovative, temporary new curbside seating platform featuring a sleek, modern design on Pearl Street. Though it’s paid for and maintained by the adjacent restaurants, Fika and Bombay’s, it’s open to anyone who wants to sit and take in the bustling streetscape.
2. Poets House. A national library and literary center, Poets House has the largest and most comprehensive poetry collection open to the public in America. It offers more than 200 public programs each year, including panels, lectures, readings and tours. The annual Poets House Showcase exhibits new poetry books from publishing houses large and small across the country.
3. The Hive at 55. At this ten-month-old coworking facility at the New York Information and Technology Center at 55 Broad St., an array of cutting-edge startups, freelancers and small businesses work together, often collaborating on projects and bouncing ideas around the office. And there are free happy hours and lunches for members. As more and more New Yorkers move away from a traditional office setting, the Hive is ahead of the curve. Plus, there’s free coffee.
4. Iconic New York moments. A handful of quintessentially New York locations around the city remind us why we live here. This is one of them. At 5 PM hordes of smartly dressed workers stream out of the office towers and inadvertently block hundreds of tourist photos. The Stock Exchange looms above and the bells of Trinity Church mark the hour. George Washington watches from the steps of Federal Hall. Stand in the middle of it all—or take a seat at one of the Downtown Alliance’s new Broad Street pedestrian plazas—and you’ll know why you call this city home.
5. Front Street. A charming cobblestone lane that runs parallel to the East River near the South Street Seaport. It’s home to a burgeoning restaurant scene, an eclectic mix of quirky retailers and the famous Jack’s Coffee—named by Food & Wine Magazine as one of the country’s top 10 coffee bars—which features all organic ingredients and some of the best, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate-chip cookies in the city.
6. A new kind of farmers market experience. There are farmers markets all around the city—but not like these. There’s the Andaz Wall Street Farmers Market—the first one run by a hotel in New York City—where Andaz hotel chef Maximo Lopez May runs the Saturday market outside the hotel. Then there are the New Amsterdam and Fulton Stall markets. Both are reincarnations of the historic Fulton Market, where dairy and produce and, most famously, fish, were sold for more than a century. They’re vestiges of yesterday’s New York and lend a sense of history to the farmers market experience.
7. Drinks at the bar without a bar. Bar 75 at the Andaz Wall Street hotel is long and sleek, lit with the glowing orange of Edison filament bulbs that seem to float over the nine black butcher-block tables. But there’s no bar—just a table amid the others topped with bottles, mixers and garnishes. You can discuss drinks with servers as they mix them tableside. The results are always impeccable.
8. Classic buildings. Nowhere else in the city can you find such grand examples of the Art Deco and Neoclassical architectural styles in such close proximity. Start with 20 Exchange Place and 70 Pine Street—both adorned with all the trappings of 1920s Art Deco buildings. Finish with 120 Broadway, a Neoclassical marvel that was the world’s largest office building from its 1915 opening until completion of the Empire State Building in 1931.
9. Governors Island. You can rent bikes, go mini-golfing, bring a picnic or just take a stroll on this quiet retreat just seven minutes by ferry from Lower Manhattan. The views of Downtown are spectacular—you’re so close—and yet the shady lawns feel a world away from city streets. There’s not a cab in sight.
10. The waterfront. In Lower Manhattan, it’s a short walk to the waterfronts of the East River, New York Harbor and Hudson River from any point in the district. Enjoy the glint of the afternoon sun on the shimmering towers of Jersey City from Battery Park City. See the Staten Island ferry set sail—with Lady Liberty in the background—in Battery Park. And take in sweeping views, as Walt Whitman did, of a teeming Brooklyn from the East River waterfront.
11. River To River Festival concerts. Every June through August, thousands descend on Downtown for the city’s largest free summer arts festival. Last summer brought dance performances, Indie rock, Brooklyn Afrobeat and Grammy-winning blues artists to venues like Battery Park, Castle Clinton and South Street Seaport. And yes, it’s free.
12. Movie Nights at the Elevated Acre. The Elevated Acre is a manicured lawn and boardwalk tucked behind 55 Water Street with waterfront breezes and sweeping views of the East River and Brooklyn. Every summer, the Downtown Alliance and River To River Festival present a series of classic and indie movies on the Acre at sunset. Where else can you do that?