15 Best Things to Do in Lower Manhattan, NYC
Exploring Lower Manhattan can give you a distinct perception of urban exploration if you want to discover more about New York City.
Also known as Downtown Manhattan, the borough plays a critical role in the city’s foundation, serving as the melting pot for business, culture, history, and government.
Located in the southern part of 14th Street and by the west of the Hudson River, Lower Manhattan has recorded over 300 000 residents in 2020.
People choosing to stay on this side of the city continue to grow as opportunities remain high in its Financial District, serving as the home of the United States’ economic power.
While many of Lower Manhattan’s streets are covered with towering skyscrapers occupied by business giants, its rich history and culture linger within it.
From historic landmarks and architecture that shaped the country’s identity to world-class shopping and entertainment centers, this side of the Big Apple proudly thrives with diverse tourist offerings.
Here are the best things to do in Lower Manhattan, New York City:
Climb to the Crown of Lady Liberty
The first one on your list should be a visit to the Statue of Liberty, one of the most famous statues in the world, and see the stunning view from there.
The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World, located on Liberty Island, New York Harbor, is a must-see iconic landmark symbolizing freedom and democracy.
The 305 feet statue was a gift given by France to the United States in 1886, signifying the two nation’s friendship.
As a National Monument, the Statue of Liberty is also one of the most famous statues in the world.
While you’ve seen the colossal copper statue in postcards, it differs from entering the symbolic landmark.
To reach the crown, you need to climb 162 stairs.
While climbing may be challenging, you’ll be rewarded with a grand view of the New York Harbor.
Visit 9/11 Memorial Plaza and Museum
In Lower Manhattan, you must never miss visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum at Greenwich Street.
The place is a tribute to thousands of people who lost their lives during the September 11, 2001 attacks and the World Trade Center bombing in 1993.
The memorial features the names of 2,983 victims engraved on its bronze pool walls.
It is a great place to know the stories of loss and narratives of hope from survivors of one of the nation’s most heartbreaking tragedies in history.
Walking through the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, you’ll also see artifacts and collections worth checking out.
Visit the Whitney Museum of American Art
Lower Manhattan is also home to the Whitney Museum of American Art, one of the city’s most comprehensive art collections.
It houses a collection of more than 25 000 art pieces from 3 500 artists.
This eight-story museum on Gansevoort Street spans 200,000 square feet.
It has a café, gallery, auditorium, and a terrace where you can rest on its comfy lounge overlooking the Hudson and Greenwich Village views.
Socialite and art patron Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney opened the gallery in 1930.
She was passionate about 20th and 21st-century American art.
This museum also allows young artists to showcase their work through its famous Annual and Biennial exhibitions.
Join a Dinner Cruise with Skyline Cruises
Join the NYC Dinner Cruise with Skyline Cruises, which leaves from Lower Manhattan, to get a different perspective of the city.
Taking you along the Hudson River, the four-hour cruise gives you the delicious treat of a three-course gastronomic experience from celebrated chefs.
Aside from dinner aboard a stylish and sleek boat, you’ll be delighted by the sights of the illuminated Manhattan skyline.
You’ll also get a glimpse of Lady Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge at night and a mesmerizing view of the skyline reflected from the waters.
A DJ plays a fitting soundtrack as you enjoy the rest of the evening with Skyline Cruises.
Take a Free Ride to Staten Island
If you want to explore this side of New York City without having to shell out a couple of dollars for transportation, ride the Staten Island Ferry for a free tour.
The 25-minute ride shows you the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the New York Harbor without booking a tour.
The Staten Island Ferry opened in 1817 and is one of the oldest operating ferries in the city.
In 1997, it started to offer free service from St George on Staten Island and Whitehall Street to those who needed reliable transportation.
Today, the Staten Island Ferry transports over 70 000 passengers daily.
Eat in Little Italy
If you want an incredible gastronomic experience, a trip to Little Italy can satisfy your cravings.
Little Italy is on the west side of the nearby neighborhood SoHo and Tribeca districts and runs through Chinatown.
This neighborhood became popular in the late 1800s thanks to its community of Italian immigrants.
It is also a go-to place to check the lineup of restaurants and cafes dominating Mulberry Street.
Strolling through its interesting holes-in-the-wall, Little Italy offers food galore, from meals and snacks to coffee and desserts.
You can also find the country’s oldest pizzeria, Lombardi’s, in the area if you crave classic Italian pizza.
Shop in SoHo’s Luxury Stores
SoHo, or South of Houston, is a district between West Broadway and Lafayette Street.
It is known for its high-end shopping centers and restaurants lining its cobblestone streets amid high-cast-iron buildings.
SoHo’s streets are a popular backdrop for fashion icons and photography sessions aiming to capture high-street fashion.
Top luxurious brands worldwide have flagship stores in the area, including Chanel, Gucci, Dior, Versace, and others.
If vintage luxury items are your thing, head to What Goes Around Comes Around to find classic and timely pieces sourced from around the world.
Go on a Financial Crisis Tour at Wall Street
If you are curious about what happened during the 2008 economic collapse, a Financial Crisis Tour at Wall Street is the perfect option.
The two-hour tour will let you dive into the world of investments you will not find in websites or books.
It will also share how financial giants faced a significant letdown, such as Lehman, AIG, and Bear Stearns, straight from insider and Wall Street veterans’ perspectives.
During the Financial Crisis Tour, you will also see the iconic landmarks of Wall Street, including the New York Stock Exchange, The House of Morgan, Federal Hall, and other statues like the Fearless Girl.
Cross the Brooklyn Bridge
The iconic Brooklyn Bridge above the East River is a photogenic landmark connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Opened in 1883 and formerly called the East River Bridge, the 1.8 km suspension bridge comprises crucible cast steel and iron.
Its neo-Gothic towers are made of limestone, granite, and cement, adding character to the bridge’s glorious beauty.
While some may find it convenient to take a souvenir photo with the bridge as the backdrop, you can go the extra mile and walk across it for an added experience.
Aside from appreciating the bridge’s beauty up close, it offers a stunning view of the Statue of Liberty.
It also allows you to witness the magnificent skyline of Manhattan from a distance.
Touch the Charging Bull
On a walking tour around Lower Manhattan, you must drop by the Charging Bull, an iconic sculpture that speaks of the city’s financial history.
The Charging Bull is an iconic sculpture in the northern part of Bowling Green in the Financial District.
The bronze artwork, also known as the Bull of Wall Street, represents the city’s financial aggressiveness.
Italian artist Arturo Di Modica built the bull in 1987 following the New York stock market crash.
It weighs over 3,200 kg and stands at 11 feet.
Over time, the tradition of touching and rubbing its head, horns, and even its oversized testicles became popular, with people believing it could bring good luck.
Enjoy a 360-Degree View of the City at One World Trade
Towering over Fulton Street is One World Trade, where you can get a 360-degree view of the city from its 100th floor.
Also known as the Freedom Tower, the building is the seventh tallest in the world and stands next to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
It has a stunning, well-designed elevator that shows its brief history with texts and visuals to keep you entertained as you ascend to the top.
Once there, you’ll meet a guide who will welcome you to the observatory, which offers a breathtaking view of the city’s skyline.
The viewing is not time-bounded, so you can enjoy the view as long as you want.
If you stay longer, you can check out the gift shop and café at One World Trade for an added experience.
Stroll around the Battery
The Battery offers a serene outdoor retreat if you want to take a breather from the hustle and bustle of urban life.
Built in the 1940s, the 25-acre public park sits at the tip of Manhattan island and is bounded by New York Harbor.
It strengthened residents’ well-being by providing a leisure area to walk and hang around.
However, the park fell into disrepair, and visitors declined.
It was renovated in 2015 to conserve the historical place and revive the park’s old glory.
Today, the conservatory is a must-visit park in Downtown New York.
You will be greeted with lush gardens, organic urban farms and lawns, an aquarium carousel, and the 19th-century fort Castle Clinton.
You can also walk around different memorials, eateries, and oval at the Battery.
Catch a Show at the Public Theatre
The Public Theatre at Lafayette Street is a famous entertainment hub for theatre lovers in the city.
Established in 1967, it was a venue for notable productions, including recent award-winning plays like Hamilton, Eclipsed, and Shylock.
This Off-Broadway theater has five theater spaces and can accommodate 299 guests.
Another exciting theater feature is Joe’s Pub, a cabaret-style setting where you can watch musical performances and spoken-word soloists.
If you are looking for a romantic date night or want to explore entertainment on this side of New York City, the Public Theatre is perfect.
Jog along Hudson River Park
If you want to lose some calories from your recent food trips around Downtown New York, the Hudson River Park is a great place to sweat and jog.
The park opened in 1998 and offers a vast area to jog through its four-mile distance from the island’s tip to Midtown Manhattan.
You’ll love the breathtaking view of the waterfront park, from the splendid sunset to the lush gardens showing off various blooms and shared trees.
Aside from jogging and running, New Yorkers and visitors like the Hudson River Park for its recreational activities, such as mini golf, kayaking, and even trapezing.
Admire the Beauty of Oculus
A favorite spot in Lower Manhattan is the Oculus, an architectural spectacle that opened in 2016 as a significant transportation hub connecting 12 subway lines.
The building stands where the Twin Towers once stood on Greenwich Street.
Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava designed it following the tragic 9/11 attack.
It aims to be a beacon of hope among the towering buildings in Manhattan, which emanates from the dove-like asymmetric structure.
Oculus is a haven for local street photographers and tourists for its striking white color and beautiful play of daylight.
Natural light passes through the structure’s interiors, making it a stunning piece of architectural wonder in the city.
Lower Manhattan is distinctly known for the Financial District, but exploring its historical identity and just walking around the bustling streets tells a lot about how it seamlessly combines culture and modernization.
You must never leave the borough without checking out its diverse spots, from unique art museums and historical memorials to crossing bridges and climbing tall buildings.
Explore the best things to do in Lower Manhattan!