A Visitor’s Guide to Lower Manhattan, New York

Lower Manhattan is one of my favorite places in New York. It is the oldest part of the city. The first Congress met here in Federal Hall, George Washington took the oath of office as first President on the steps of Federal Hall. Today’s City Hall is here as well as the stock market. It is a good place for a vacation if you like to explore history and want some great restaurant meals. Be prepared to do a lot of walking. This is the oldest part of New York City and the streets are very narrow. Not a good place to drive.

Financial District

South Street Seaport
It would take a day just to visit this part of New York alone. Take a step back in time in the recreated 19th century village and visit the maritime Museum where you will see examples of 19th century ships and so much more it will take most of the day. You can take a tour of the harbor aboard one of the two full sized 19th century ships. Then have lunch at one of the many restaurants and go shopping in the mall.

Castle Clinton
This was the place where immigrants entered New York before Ellis Island was used. It was originally built to defend New York Harbor during the War of 1812. It is located in Battery Park, at the tip of Maanhattan, so named for the batteries of cannon that were places here to defend Lower New York during the War of 1812. Here is where you buy tickets for the trips to Ellis Island and The Statue of Liberty. It is maintained by the National Park Service and Rangers conduct tours.

Ellis Island
This is a must see. It is maintained by the Nation Park service since it is Federal Property. The feeling you get, especially if you are descended from one of the immigrants who entered the country here is like no other. There is a movie to see that was taken in the early 1900’s of actual immigrants in New York, and a display of some of their belongings including the suitcases they traveled with. After you see the movie, they will tell you stories of some of the immigrants. One story they told was of a man. When he landed, they asked where he was going. Since he spoke no English, he had a sign saying HOUSTON. In New York there is a street spelled that way but pronounced “HOW STON.”The official looked at it and put him on a train. To Houston, Texas. Of course he was supposed to go to Houston Street where family members were waiting for him. He stayed in Texas worked and raised a family, He came back to Ellis Island for the re opening and told his story. He never did get to Houston Street, New Yokr. You can also see the remains of a 1812 fort, The Wall of Immigrants and visit the gift shop. The cafeteria has good food at reasonable prices, or bring a picnic to have on the lawn, but be ready to share it with the seagulls.

The Statue of Liberty
The Island is open, but access to the statue itself is limited, still just getting to the island is and just being there is well worth it. You may be able to enter the Statue for the gift shop, but access to the Statue itself may not be allowed.

Museum of Jewish Heritage.
Here you can explore 5,000 years of Jewish History and culture. You can take everything in at your own pace and really absorb everything. Be prepared for a lot of walking here. It is three stories high with many exhibits and you want to see as many as possible.

National Museum of the American Indian.
In New York? Yes, in New York Want to do something for free? Make this your stop for the day. They have an unsurpassed collection of Native American Art.

Trinity Church
Trinity Church is one of the oldest in the United States, the current building was built in 1846 and replaced one that was destroyed by fire. The graveyard includes the graves of such famous Americans as Alexander Hamilton.

New York Stock Exchange
The exchange is open to visitors and it is free, but you need a ticket and they are limited. Make sure to get yours early in the day and got a look at how the financial giants operate.

Federal Hall
The original Federal Hall was demolished in 1812. When New York was the Capital,the first Congress met here and Washington was inaugurated as President. The current structure was used for City Government and as A customs house. There is an awesome statue of Washington on the spot where he was inaugurated. It was closed in 2004 for alterations. Check to see if it has been reopened.

Little Italy

Little Italy is a small area, only two blocks wide and six blocks long, but you can spend a whole day just browsing the shops and choosing from some of the best Italian Restaurants this side of the Atlantic. And don’t forget the San Gennaro Festival held here every September It is the world’s largest block party and it lasts for 10 days. You can find shops here selling everything Italian from handbags and clothes to ceramics and all kinds of gifts to imported food items.


Chinatown is a New York community by itself with a strong development corporation. And the best Chinese food anywhere. Everything is prepared fresh, including the egg rolls. New York’s Chinatown is the largest in the US. It comprises a full two square miles. There are more than 200 restaurants alone with every style of Chinese cuisine available. Everything is Chinese here, evens the phone booths, which are designed as miniature pagodas. If you have a chance to be here during the Chinese New Year do it. It is a celebration like no other. Be ready to shop for authentic merchandise from China including art work gift items and clothing.

Lower East Side

The Lower East side has been home to generations of New York immigrants. Places to visit include The Lower east Side Tenement Museum, The Essex Street market where you can buy almost anything, including fresh veggies and meats. And the many historical Synagogues and Churches. And one of my favorite places to eat, Katzes Deli for the best pastrami anywhere. And the other restaurants featuring , Mediterranean, Japanese, Thai, Spanish, Turkish, Vegetarian and Vietnamese. This is one place you can literally eat your way around the world. And if you are not in the moods fro something unusual, there is always a Burger King.

So there you have it A brief tour of lower Manhattan. There is something here for everyone, whether you want to explore history, or different cultures or just take a slow walk by the Harbor.


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