The lower tip of Manhattan (called Lower Manhattan or Downtown), where the East and Hudson rivers meet, is where New York City began; it was also our nation's first capital.
The 21st-century blend of old colonial churches and gleaming skyscrapers has become the financial capital of the world. Today, much of the activity in this area is clustered around Wall Street, home to the New York Stock Exchange and the Federal Reserve Bank, among many other financial businesses.
While modern-day business is the focus of Lower Manhattan, the Downtown area is steeped in history, including landmarks such as Federal Hall Memorial (the spot where George Washington took his oath as America's first president) and Fraunces Tavern, where he celebrated the end of the Revolutionary War. Be sure to visit the NYC & Company Federal Hall Information Center (26 Wall Street, open Monday–Friday, 9am–5pm, except for federal holidays). Other famous landmarks include Trinity Church/St. Paul's Chapel, a national landmark built in 1766.
The Tribute WTC Visitor Center (120 Liberty St., 212-393-9160, ext. 138) provides a moving and sensitive place where visitors to the World Trade Center site can connect to the people from the September 11 community through walking tours, exhibits and programs.
Be sure to check out the Patriot Trail, a self-guided walking tour through America's most patriotic neighborhood. Patriot Tours (212-209-3370) gives daily in-depth walking tours of the area that focus on the Revolutionary and Civil War eras.
The Alliance for Downtown New York operates the Downtown Connectiona free bus service for visitors, workers and residents to find their way around Downtown. The route runs between South Street Seaport and northern Battery Park City and riders can hop on and off the bus at conveniently designated stops.
The museums of Lower Manhattan are both historic and culturally diverse, many located within walking distance of one another. Don't miss South Street Seaport, with its majestic tall ships, museums, shops, lively restaurants and special events. New York Unearthed (17 State St., 212-748-8628) is the only museum dedicated to New York's archaeological heritage, where visitors can view 5,000 years of New York history. At the bottom of the island is Battery Park (Manhattan's green toe), a wonderful waterside haven with gardens, playgrounds, a one-mile esplanade, public art and views of the Hudson River. The Museum of Jewish Heritage - A Living Memorial to the Holocaust is here. Also here is the Skyscraper Museum, the first and only institution devoted to the past, present and future of skyscrapers and skylines.
Battery Park has fine views of Governors Island, Staten Island, the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island and Ellis Island, the famous immigrant gateway to America (1892–1954) for ancestors of one in four present-day Americans. Frequent ferry service to Staten Island, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty departs from South Ferry and Battery Park.
On July 16, 2002 the city dedicated a new memorial devoted to raising public awareness of the events that led to the great Irish famine and migration of 1845–1852. The Irish Hunger Memorial is located near the corner of Vesey Street and North End Avenue in Battery Park City.
Soho & Tribeca
The blocks South of Houston (pronounced HOW-ston) and north of Canal streets are home to the city's largest concentration of cast-iron-fronted buildings. Initially built as warehouses and manufacturing spaces, many have now been converted to lofts, and are favored by the artists and sculptors who appreciate the larger spaces. These huge, 19th-century architectural gems (Victorian Gothic, Italianate and neo-Grecian among them) are prized by preservationists and the well-heeled bohemians of SoHo who call the neighborhood home.
The New York Fire Museum on Spring Street evokes nostalgia with its collection of hand-pulled and horse-drawn apparatus, engines and other equipment from the 18th through the 20th centuries. The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art promotes an appreciation and understanding of the world's most popular art form through exhibits, lectures and special events that showcase cartoonists’ and animators’ work, while documenting their artistic, historical and cultural impact.
Canal Jean Company sells authentic Levi's, cutting-edge shoes and sportswear at discount prices; The Scholastic Store sells Scholastic brands including Clifford the Big Red Dog and Harry Potter in an interactive, multimedia environment; and the Franklin 54 Gallery is a contemporary fine art gallery exhibiting established and emerging artists.
If you work up an appetite after all the shopping, head to the Cub Room or Zoë for dinner, and afterward to S.O.B.'s (Sounds of Brazil) for a little samba.
When SoHo became too upscale for starving artists, many moved further downtown to another, then-half-abandoned industrial district, TriBeCa (the Triangle Below Canal). TriBeCa also became a hot destination, most notably for dining. Area restaurants include Nobu, Tribeca Grill, Corton, Capsouto Freres Restaurant, City Hall Restaurant, F.illi Ponte, and Dylan Prime. A favorite night spot is the hip Bubble Lounge.
Greenwich / West Village
Greenwich Village extends from Broadway to the Hudson and from 14th
Street down to Houston Street. The Village is primarily a residential
neighborhood that gave birth to the Beat Generation. Bob Dylan, Jack
Kerouac and Dylan Thomas all roamed the treelined streets. Even though
rent hikes have sent such starving artists searching for new digs, the
bohemian impact is still felt within the walls of the fabled coffeehouses
and bars that border historic Washington Square Park. Past literary
residents include Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman and Mark Twain, and today
the area is overrun with the NYU students who study them. Downtown charm
is personified in lots of low-rise townhouses, thumbnail-size gardens,
secret courtyards and a serpentine layout of streets.
Washington Square Park and the rows of townhouses around it with charming
alleys behind them are all frozen in time. The park, with its arch famous
from much movie exposure, is the heart of the Village. This park, at the
foot of Fifth Avenue, is an oasis and circus combined, where
skateboarders, jugglers, stand-up comics, strollers, sweethearts, chess
players, fortune tellers and daydreamers converge and commune.
Washington Mews and MacDougal Alley are quiet cobblestone lanes right off
the square. Legendary streets such as Astor Place and Bleecker Street
(famous Beat and hippie hangouts) are lined with super-hip boutiques,
delis displaying esoteric beers from around the globe and cafes and
restaurants of all stripes.
It makes sense that New York University is in the Village, an area that
has been home to some of the world's most famous writers and artists
including Henry James, Edith Wharton, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, Walt
Whitman, Eugene O'Neill, Norman Rockwell, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko,
Willem de Kooning and Beat writers Jack Kerouac and Lawrence
At night, Greenwich Village comes alive with sounds from late-night
coffeehouses, cafés, experimental theaters and music clubs. At fabled
coffeehouses like Caffe Reggio and Café Figaro, you can order a double
espresso or cappuccino and pretend for a few minutes that you're Allen
Ginsberg or William Burroughs.
The Village is home to a large community of gays and lesbians. Across
Seventh Avenue is Christopher Street, site of a historic clash (in front
of the Stonewall Bar) in 1969 between city police and gay men, marking
the beginning of the gay rights movement.
During the 19th century, millionaires like the Astors and Vanderbilts had homes in East Village but the waves of immigrants who flooded into New York City in the 1900s soon displaced the elite, who moved uptown.
Today it's still a young person's neighborhood, with its experimental music clubs, theaters and cutting-edge fashion. New York University is in the area, so there's no shortage of clientele here. Foodies take note: this neighborhood reputedly contains the most varied assortment of ethnic restaurants in New York City, from the crush of Indian eateries on the south side of East Sixth Street (sometimes called "Little Bombay") to McSorley's Old Ale House, a pub that seems unchanged since it first opened in 1854. Nearby, in what was once the home of the Astor Library, the restored Public Theater has been the opening venue for many now-famous plays.
For more trend-setting street life, head east toward Alphabet City (named for avenues A, B, C and D) for an eclectic mix of reasonably priced, fun and gamut-running places to eat, drink and shop andif you're really getting into the scenesome very cool tattoo parlors.
A haven from the pressure of classes at New York University, students regularly gather around the Alamo at Astor Place. The Alamo is a 15-foot steel cube designed by Bernard Rosenthal that revolves when pushed. Cooper Union, a school that holds many interesting public lectures and exhibits, was established in 1859 just in time for Abraham Lincoln to make a campaign speech in its auditorium. Today, Blue Man Group performs its popular Tubes Off-Broadway audience-participation performance art extravaganza at the Astor Place Theater.
Union Square, Flatiron District, Gramercy Park
Broadway marches north and west across Manhattan, it forms a series of
squares beginning with Union Square at 14th Street, the site of the first
Labor Day Parade, held in 1882. Now, the Union Square neighborhood is a
thriving cultural, business and education hub. Throughout Manhattan and
beyond, the vibrant community is celebrated for its top-notch
restaurants, diverse retailers, excellent universities and hospitals and
one of the city’s most popular parks. The area is served by 14 bus
routes, 14 subway lines and PATH access to New Jersey and has ten
Union Square Park, the staging ground for numerous historic rallies,
demonstrations and gatherings hosts a popular greenmarket, where more
than 70 farmers bring fresh produce, baked goods and more every Monday,
Wednesday, Friday and Saturday to the city’s inhabitants. During the
holiday season, the southern end of the Park becomes the Union Square
Holiday Market. One of the best places in the city to people-watch year
round; you can review the never-ending parade of people or surf the net.
Bring your computer to Union Square and log onto the Internet through the
free wireless node. For a free guide to theatres and restaurants in the
area, contact the Union Square Partnership at firstname.lastname@example.org
Historic Madison Square Park is the vibrant center of Manhattan's
Flatiron District offering flourishing gardens, lush lawns and cultural
programs for all ages. Located on 6.2 acres between 23rd and 26th streets
and Fifth and Madison avenues, the park is an oasis for those who live
and work nearby. At the Metropolitan Life Insurance Tower and the
triangular Flatiron Building; the park's Shake Shack is a popular
lunchtime destination due to its burgers, thick shakes and
"concretes." Trendy restaurants dot the Flatiron district, but
others prefer the tried and truethe burgers at the Old Town Bar and
Restaurant, at 45 East 18th Street, in business since 1892.
The park marked the end of "ladies mile," the city's most
fashionable shopping district along Broadway and Sixth Avenue, the
location of the original Macy's and Tiffany's. Retailers and
restauranteurs have rediscovered the ornate facades and shopper-friendly
dimensions of the Flatiron District. Some say Madison Square Park is the
birthplace of baseball, since Alexander Cartwright formed the first
baseball club, the New York Knickerbockers, here in 1845. Now, the park
accommodates more modern hobbies and offers a free wireless
To its east is Gramercy Park, located between East 20th Street and East
21st Street and between Park Avenue South and Third Avenue. This small,
fenced park is accessible only to residents of its surrounding
townhouses. A walk around the park, especially at Gramercy Park West and
South, within the historically designated district, offer views of some
of the most prestigious residences in pre-Civil War New York. President
Theodore Roosevelt was born one block west of the park. The Theodore
Roosevelt Birthplace is at 28 East 20th Street, open Wednesdays through
Sundays, 9am–5pm. For more information, visit nps.gov/thrb.
Another local legend is Pete's Tavern, which first opened its doors in
1864 and has remained open ever since, making it an official historical
landmark and the longest continuously operating bar and restaurant in New
York City. Not even Prohibition forced Pete's to close its doors: it
remained open disguised as a flower shop. O. Henry wrote Gift of the Magi
at his favorite booth by the door in 1904.
The subway stop in Union Square makes this 24-hour community easily
accessible by the N, R, 4, 5, 6 and L lines.
Midtown is home to many of the icons visitors
envision when they think of New York City, and it is without question one
of the busiest and most vibrant areas of the city.
The beautifully restored Grand Central Terminal is steps away from the
Chrysler Building, the United Nations complex, Rockefeller Center, St.
Patrick's Cathedral and Trump Tower. There's the fascinating Morgan
Library and the awesome New York Public Library, both of which have
changing exhibitions. Behind the Public Library is the lovely Bryant
Park, which hosts free movies and music events in summer. And what says
New York better than Fifth Avenue stores? Midtown also includes the new,
revitalized Times Square and the Theater District, where world-famous
Broadway productions wow audiences nightly. Have a drink at a forty-foot
guitar-shaped bar and gaze at memorabilia from your favorite rock stars
at the Hard Rock Cafe. Explore pop culture and history in Madame
Tussaud's where more than 200 celebrities provide you with the
interactive experience of a lifetime.
The Museum of Modern Art, a Midtown attraction now back in a larger
renovated space, showcases the best in contemporary art. For more
museums, check out the Museum of Television & Radio and the American
Craft Museum. Music aficionados can visit Carnegie Hall and Radio City
Music Hall. Make sure to stop by NYC's Official Visitor Information
Center (810 Seventh Avenue between 52nd and 53rd streets) to speak with
travel counselors and pick up free brochures and discount coupons. The
Diamond District is on 47th Street, but if you'd rather invest in art,
explore the galleries along 57th Street.
Upper West Side
Broadway, brownstones, books, and some of the city's best bagelsthe Upper West Side extends north from Columbus Circle at 59th Street up to 110th Street, and is bordered by Central Park West and Riverside Park.
Elegant, pre-war buildings along the boulevards of Broadway, West End Avenue, Riverside Drive and Central Park West meet shady, quiet streets lined with brownstones. Much of the area is protected by landmark status, and the neighborhood's restored townhouses and high-priced co-op apartments are coveted by actors, young professionals, and young families.
The famous Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts sits between 61st and 66th Streets on Broadway. It is home to the New York State Theater, New York City Ballet, the New York City Opera, the Metropolitan Opera House, Avery Fisher Hall, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, the Vivian Beaumont Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center (located at 59th Street), the Library and Museum of the Performing Arts, the School of American Ballet and the world-famous Julliard School of Music. The Walter Reade Theater is the home of the Lincoln Center Film Society. Its central plaza is the focus of summer outdoor performances of all kinds and dance nights (free salsa, tango or swing lessons, anyone?). In early winter, the Big Apple Circus pitches its tents here.
Sidewalks in this neighborhood are always crowded during the day with performers rushing to auditions and families making their way through the streets. In the evenings, however, the action moves inside, where singles mingle in myriad restaurants and bars. Stroll along Columbus Avenue to investigate the glitzy boutique-and-restaurant strip; walk along Amsterdam Avenue with its mix of bodegas, bars and boutiques. Along Central Park West are such titanic habitats as the buff colored, castle-like Dakota, where John Lennon was killed and Yoko Ono still lives (respects may be paid across the street in Central Park's Strawberry Fields memorial). Other interesting architectural jewels along the avenue include The Langham, the twin-towered San Remo and The Kenilworth.
Cultural attractions include the dinosaur-filled American Museum of Natural History and Rose Center for Earth and Space, the New-York Historical Society (whose collection reaches from the 1600s to today), and the Children's Museum of Manhattan.
Dining choices include two of the city's most beautiful restaurantsthe romantic Café des Artistes and fantastical Tavern on the Green, plus a mind-boggling variety of cafés and restaurants along Columbus Avenue, serving everything from deli sandwiches to burritos to haute cuisine.
Venturing further uptown one finds the world's largest gothic Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, Columbia University, Grant's Tomb, Riverside Church, Audubon Terrace (home of the Hispanic Society), Symphony Space and the Morris-Jumel Mansion, a colonial treasure. For greenery, Riverside Park is a real haven. Keep going, just past the George Washington Bridge, to the very tip of the island, and you will discover the Cloisters, surrounded by scenic Fort Tryon Park, which houses the Metropolitan Museum of Art's medieval art collection.
Upper East Side
The Upper East Side is known for its
luxury boutiques, proximity to Central Park and world-famous cultural
attractionsin particular Museum Mile, the stretch of nine museums that
line Fifth Avenue between 82nd and 105th Streets. A stroll along Park,
Madison or Lexington Avenues finds the elegant townhouses and brownstones
frequently associated with the neighborhood, long home to some of the
city's wealthiest residents.
On the corner of Lexington and 59th Street is Bloomingdale'sone of New
York City's shopping icons, a beloved sanctuary for stylish consumers.
Experience unique shopping at Dylan's Candy Bar (1011 Third Avenue,
646/735-0078), which offers an assortment of gift baskets, scented spa
items, novelty candies, lollipops and more. On Madison Avenue, window
shopping can be intoxicating.
The stretch of Fifth Avenue between 82nd and 105th Streets has been
renamed Museum Mile because of its astonishing number of world-class
cultural treasures and some of New York's most distinguished architecture
such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim Museum. It is
lined with the former mansions of the Upper East Side's more illustrious
industrialists and philanthropists.
The neighborhood is a cornucopia of treasures, including the intimate
Frick Collection, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the National
The Jewish Museum's Gothic-style mansion bursting with artwork and
ceremonial objects tracing over 4,000 years, and the graceful
Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution (pictured
at left). An added attraction to strolling along Fifth and Park Avenues
are the many fascinating non-museum displays on view to the careful
observer. The mayor calls this neighborhood home, but surprisingly to
some, not in Gracie Mansion. Gracie Mansion, the usual mayoral abode, is
a historic house on 88th Street and East End Avenue overlooking the East
River and surrounded by a waterfront park.
Central Park lines Fifth Avenue. Discover a zoo, a castle, a reservoir,
an an ice-skating rink, a boathouse where you can rent rowboats, a
gorgeous conservatory garden and plenty of trails for walking, jogging
and bicycling. It's a park for all seasons, from ice-skating in winter to
free, summertime performances of Shakespeare's plays and concerts on the
Great Lawn that crescendo to dazzling displays of fireworks. After the
show, head over to the bar at one of the neighborhood's tony hotels, like
The Carlyle, the Loews Regency or the Hotel Plaza Athenee.