With New York City’s phased reopening still underway, now is the perfect time for New Yorkers to head Downtown and explore New York’s most historic neighborhood. With fewer tourists around, it’s your chance to walk slow, point up at the buildings and get lost among the winding cobblestone streets and iconic tourist attractions you have been meaning to check out for forever. (Plus, no one will see you gasp in awe while you’re wearing your PPE.)
So grab your keys, don your mask and use this guide to explore local shops, restaurants, bars and businesses that make Lower Manhattan vibrant 365 days a year.
1. The Statue of Liberty
You’ve been meaning to do this for a while, we know. The National Parks Service announced a partial reopening of Liberty Island, giving New Yorkers access to the grounds where great waves of people have been welcomed from all over the world.
If you’re planning on sailing out to the islands to view the nation’s first federal center for immigration, it’s recommended that you buy an advance ferry ticket to avoid the lines at Battery Park. The park is open 8:30a–6:45p daily.
2. Governors Island
Your apartment can fit, what? Like, one hammock? Governors Island has 50. New York’s massive playground sits just 800 yards from our shores. The perfect social-distancing spot, there’s much to embrace: Think of the city’s longest slide, a grove with 50 hammocks, bike rentals and sit-down dining — plus miles of coastline to walk, talk, relax and take in iconic city views. You can even have a staycation right on the island in one of the Collective Retreats luxury glamping yurts.
Visitors must reserve tickets for the ferry in advance to ensure that events do not exceed social-distancing occupancy guidelines.
3. Battery Park
Does your dog need to get out, too? Stroll the waterfront along the west side of Lower Manhattan in Battery Park. Enjoy the dog runs, free WiFi and plenty of room to stretch in these 25 acres of public park that are looked after and cared for around the clock. Your dog will be fine, but if you need to use the loo, you can also do that here, too.
4. The Seaport District
Walk along the water, point at random things, buy an I Love New York mask. It’s your turn to be a tourist. Pull up a bench or bar stool with unparalleled views of the Brooklyn Bridge, and wave across the East River at Brooklyn Bridge Park on a visit to the Seaport District. This area spans several city blocks, and has brought an incredible selection of culinary, fashion, entertainment and cultural experiences outdoors for the summer. You can also hop the ferry and skip the subway altogether. Opting a ride to Pier 11 on the open waters is a resourceful way to get some fresh air and sunshine.
5. Charter A Private Yacht
This is a surprisingly affordable splurge for an afternoon. By now you might have expanded your social bubble. If you can get up to six people together, Tribeca Sailing will welcome you aboard its six-person private yacht. Head up the Hudson, circle the Statue of Liberty, and spend two hours eating, drinking and taking in the city all to yourselves. You can even sync to the boat’s Bluetooth speaker and blast your favorite tunes.
Of course, you can also always grab those same friends and jump on the Staten Island Ferry for a ride across the bay and pass by Lady Liberty for free with the same fresh air and inspiring city views on your way back to Lower Manhattan.
6. Outdoor Dining
For those hunkered down at home and rightfully tired of home cooking and cold takeout, dining Downtown gets you away from your screens and gives your A/C unit a rest. Grab your PPE and a seat at any of these restaurants offering delicious (and socially-distanced) alfresco dining.
7. The Oculus
Designed by renowned architect Santiago Calatrava, the interconnected beams of The Oculus rooftop may take on many forms to the beholder: the belly of a whale, a bird, even a cathedral.
Inside this spacious interior that provides a safe and cool walk beneath Lower Manhattan’s streets is Westfield World Trade Center, which offers shoppers excellent food, fashion and lifestyle stores, as well as a convenient, car-free passage way to our next scenic waterside recommendation. Usually packed with hundreds of thousands of commuters, tourists and shoppers, there’s currently so much more space to explore the architecture, take selfies and enjoy the views of One World Trade Center.
8. Brookfield Place
While some stores are still closed, this luxury retail destination is open for business with shopping, dining and curated art exhibitions, such as this month’s “Floating MAIZE” from Brooklyn-based sculpturist Jean Shin. Spend time wandering around Brookfield Place, then grab takeout from the upstairs Hudson Eats and make your way outdoors to dine along the Hudson River.
9. The 9/11 Memorial Glade
The 9/11 Museum is still closed to visitors, but the new 9/11 Memorial Glade — completed in 2019 and dedicated to those who helped in the recovery efforts after the attacks on September 11 — is a new addition that adds a peaceful, cathartic element to 9/11 Memorial Plaza. For those seeking to reflect, head across the street and up the stairs to Albany Park, where you can sit among wildflowers and elevated benches overlooking the entire World Trade Center campus.
10. Get Lost
If you’re a New Yorker, you probably have started to miss the sights and sounds of the city. Take yourself on a randomized tour of the winding streets of Lower Manhattan but don’t be surprised when you stumble upon one of many lovely local haunts.
11. Takeout In The Park
Many New York City restaurants have dexterously pivoted to takeout and delivery to keep you well-fed during this extraordinary time. Fortunately, many of Lower Manhattan’s restaurants — from popular sit-down dining to grab-and-go takeout spots — are ready to take your order. So while you’re on your walking tour, scout out a spacious green slice of public property, grab a blanket and fire up the food-delivery app on your smartphone. And be sure to tip well — yes, even for takeout!
While on the subject of all things happening in Lower Manhattan, you can learn more about the district by subscribing to our weekly newsletter.