Lower Manhattan is perhaps most famous for Wall Street, but the neighborhood is about much more than finance. The area has seen some of New York City’s, and the nation’s, greatest triumphs—the inauguration of the country’s first president, the founding of its first bank—and some of its greatest heartaches. But in true NYC fashion, Lower Manhattan has emerged stronger than ever and now plays host to world-class cultural attractions, a thriving restaurant scene and scintillating shops. Stone Street is bustling these days, offering all kinds of sustenance: thin-crust pizzas and expense-account lunches, glasses of 1990 Bordeaux and happy-hour margaritas. The neighborhood’s bars and lounges are loosening ties and pulling in fashion types. And everyone continues to throw elbows to score discounted designer duds at shopping mecca Century 21.
This stretch of cobblestone, said to be the City’s oldest paved street, is the setting for impeccably restored brick buildings full of vintage charm that hide all manner of establishments. Our favorites? One is Harry’s Cafe and Steak. A maze of rooms connects the audible power-buzz of its subterraneansteak house and wine cellar to the martini-sipping crowds in the lively bar. Mexican cantina Mad Dog & Beans is an ideal drinking spot, with its vast selection of tequilas, walls covered in old barn wood and vintage photos of Pancho Villa lit by Edison bulbs. Other lively post-work scenes include Beckett’s Bar & Grill, where investment bankers crowd the sidewalk seating to devour burgers and sweet potato fries, washed down with beer. But, really, there’s no need to choose. Our approach is to eat our way up one side of the street and down the other. The area also includes Smörgås Chef, Stone Street Tavern, Adrienne’s Pizzabar, Financier Patisserie, Ulysses’ Folk House and Vintry Wine & Whiskey.
New York City may be in a love-hate relationship with its financial institutions these days, but that only makes Wall Street and the stock exchange all the more fascinating. Unfortunately, the New York Stock Exchange trading floor hasn’t been open to public tours since 9/11. You shouldn’t let that stop you from snapping photos of the exchange’s prominent facade or the bronze bull at nearby Bowling Green. If you really want to get the inside scoop on the City’s financial institutions, spend an afternoon at the Museum of American Finance. Housed in the old Bank of New York building (which, by the way, was the nation’s first bank, founded by Alexander Hamilton in 1784), the museum offers an entertaining and accessible look at the history of America’s financial system. Learn about the causes of the credit crisis, the history of money and how to pick a stock.
26 Wall St., 212-825-6990
54 Pearl St., 212-968-1776
Sure, Washington, DC, has the White House, but the real roots of presidential power lay in downtown Manhattan: George Washington was inaugurated on the balcony of the original Federal Hall, which was home to the first Congress, Supreme Court and presidential offices. You can take weekday tours of Federal Hall National Memorial (built in 1842 as a customs house on the site of the original structure), but if you really want to commune with ol’ Georgie, we suggest toasting to his memory at his old stomping grounds, Fraunces Tavern. It was within this humble three-story brick building that revolutionaries plotted the New York Tea Party, merchants founded the New York Chamber of Commerce and Washington famously bade farewell to his officers in 1783. These days you can walk through the tavern’s colonial rooms, checking out Revolutionary-era firearms, early American flags and old-school drinking memorabilia.
For a neighborhood famous for betting on futures, the Financial District has plenty of institutions willing to take a look back. Learn about urban architecture, law enforcement and much more at the neighborhood’s multitude of museums. We suggest starting at the Skyscraper Museum, an homage to that iconic NYC edifice and everything necessary to bring it from architectural daydream to skyline-altering reality. Then head off to celebrate NYC’s many different cultures at theMuseum of Jewish Heritage and the National Museum of the American Indian, with plenty more, like the termporarily relocated New York Police Museum, within easy walking distance.
Culture vultures, take note: enjoy deep savings with the Downtown Culture Pass, which gives you three days of unlimited admissions to eight downtown museums (including the Skyscraper Museum, the Museum of Jewish Heritage and the NYC Police Museum), plus gift shop discounts and a neighborhood walking tour. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit downtownculturepass.org.
Lodging options abound in Lower Manhattan, making the area an attractive one to consider when planning a trip to NYC. These 15 hotels—located in and around Battery Park, the Financial District and South Street Seaport—are a stone’s throw from the area’s dining and nightlife hot spots, not to mention historical buildings and landmarks, some dating back to the days when George Washington was president and New York City was our nation’s (first) capital. —Staff
Andaz Wall Street
Best Western Seaport Inn Downtown
Conrad New York
Cosmopolitan Hotel – Tribeca
DoubleTree by Hilton New York City–Financial District
Gild Hall – A Thompson Hotel
Hampton Inn Manhattan/Seaport–Financial District
Holiday Inn New York City – Wall Street
Holiday Inn Express New York City – Wall Street
New York Marriott Downtown
The Ritz-Carlton New York, Battery Park
Smyth Tribeca – A Thompson Hotel
W New York – Downtown
World Center Hotel
22 Cortlandt St., 212-227-9092
At one point or another, every fashion-conscious New Yorker has braved the crowds and narrow aisles of Century 21 in the hopes of finding the discount-store holy grail—a bargain-basement Pucci minidress, say, or a Prada croc clutch priced at less than a month’s rent. Much like the City itself, this megastore demands much from its acolytes, including treasure-hunting abilities, rack-searching ruthlessness and saint-worthy patience. But it offers quite a bit in return: good-quality, reasonably priced designer duds, home goods and children’s wear. You can expect to pay 40% to 70% below retail here, sometimes even less. Unless you’re well versed in the ways of hand-to-hand combat, we suggest avoiding the weekend crush and opting for off-peak shopping.
Most downtown office workers don’t have time for T-bones and single malts at lunch. Instead, they dash outside to grab some grub from the growing number of street food trucks and stands. And we’re not talking stale knishes and dirty-water hot dogs. Some of the trucks roam the City, stopping in Lower Manhattan a few times a week. Among them? You’ll find piping-hot Belgian waffles topped with strawberries, Nutella, whipped cream or walnuts (or all of the above) daily from 10am till 6pm at City Hall Park at Wafels & Dinges, which has a Twitter feed. Veronica’s Kitchen, on Water Street between Pine and Wall Streets, serves up stick-to-your-ribs comfort food—fried chicken, mac ‘n’ cheese—and Caribbean fare like jerk chicken and curried goat. The Cinnamon Snail food truck typically can be found at Wall and Water Streets on Tuesdays, serving organic vegan and vegetarian breakfasts and sandwiches. And there are always lunchtime mobile eats over atBrookfield Place, good for bites like Korean tacos, Gree fries and grilled cheese sandwiches.
1 Albany St., 212-266-5211
Upon completion, One World Trade Center will rise 1,776 feet, becoming the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. At the base of 1 WTC, as it’s known, is the 9/11 Memorial, which opened in 2011. This eight-acre park honors those who lost their lives during the February 26, 1993, and September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The name of every person who died has been inscribed on the bronze parapets of two massive reflecting pools, which occupy the footprints of the Twin Towers and are bounded by the largest man-made waterfalls in North America. Admission requires a reservation, which is free if made in person. Reservations made over the phone or online carry a nonrefundable $2 service fee (9/11 victims’ family members are exempt). Using artifacts, news footage, photographs, oral histories, clothes, phone messages and related materials, the 9/11 Memorial Museum will also pay tribute to those affected by the attacks. (It is scheduled to open in May 2014 and will cost $24.) Nearby, the triangular park at 7 World Trade Center is “dedicated to those who survived.” At its center, Jeff Koons’ shiny Balloon Flower (Red) reflects the WTC construction site, buildings and viewers, symbolizing constantly shifting perspectives and unremitting hope. —Jessica Allen