17 Unforgettable Things to Do in Lower Manhattan

Last Updated 23 Apr 2024 by Fiona Perisone

Stretching from 14th Street to the tip of The Battery, Lower Manhattan boasts some of the Big Apple's most recognizable landmarks and most infamous neighborhoods. Covering Tribeca, SoHo, and even Greenwich Village, Lower Manhattan has some of the main attractions and sights.

From shopping in Soho to snapping pictures in front of the Brooklyn Bridge, there's never a shortage of things to do in Lower Manhattan. Below, we've rounded up 17 activities worthy of a spot on any New York itinerary.

What is Encompass 'Lower Manhattan'

Lower Manhattan, also known as Downtown Manhattan or Downtown New York, is the perfect spot to escape from the bustle of the city.

With the East River on the east, Hudson River on the west, New York Harbor on the south, and Chambers Street on the north, Lower Manhattan has so much to offer. From enjoying parks along the river with some tranquility and gorgeous views to visiting historical sites, Lower Manhattan has a lot to offer.

Smart Saving Tip

Touring around New York City can be expensive. To save money on attractions sites, we recommend that you check out CityPASS. CityPASS allows you to save 40% at 5 top New York Attractions. It is worth purchasing if you are planning on visiting these attractions.

  • Empire State Building
  • American Museum of Natural History
  • Top of the Rock Observation Deck Or Guggenheim Museum
  • Ferry Access to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Or Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
  • 9/11 Memorial & Museum OR Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

17 Fun Things to do in Lower Manhattan

1. Explore the South Street Seaport District

During the 17th century, the South Street Seaport district connected a newly-established New York City to the world. Beginning as a port for the Dutch West India Company, the waterfront neighborhood quickly grew into a commercial hub.

Today, its cobblestone streets, restaurants, bars, and shops are the perfect way to spend a leisurely afternoon. Start with a trip to the South Street Seaport Museum and finish with a sunset view of the Brooklyn Bridge. And don't forget to check out the Hester Street Fair on the weekends.

2. Visit One World Trade Center

One World Trade Center

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When it comes to New York City Museums in Lower Manhattan, New York, the September 11 Memorial is one of the most well-known ones. A visit to the One World Trade Center— more specifically, the National September 11 Memorial and Museum— is an absolute must.

The memorial grounds feature a stunning art installation where the Twin Towers once stood, created to remember those killed during the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

Take a few moments to revel in its beauty and power after an emotional visit to the 9/11 Museum.

Be sure to grab your ticket ahead of time; if you have CityPASS, this museum is included.

3. Shop at the Oculus

Oculus new york

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Located just a short walk away from the One World Observatory and 9/11 Memorial is the Oculus.

Its unique modern architecture— envisioned by Spanish designer Santiago Calatrava— is hard to miss.

After snapping a few pictures of the artistic landmark, enjoy an afternoon of shopping inside Manhattan's largest shopping complex before making your way to the transportation hub below.

4. Wander Wall Street

wall street

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Wall Street, an eight-block stretch in New York City's financial district, is home to some of the most historic buildings and tourist sights in all of Lower Manhattan.

And don't forget to rub the Wall Street Bull for good luck when you pose for a photo. Charge Bull is always open, and it's free to visit! To avoid crowds, we recommend that you go early!

There are five buildings you should visit along the attractive cobble-stoned street:

40 Wall Street

Also known as the Trump Building, it is 927 feet tall, and it was once the tallest building in the world for a brief period in 1930. You can get a great view of Lower Manhattan through the impressive neo-gothic building with a green pyramid-shaped roof.

Federal Hall National Memorial

Federal Hall National Memorial

A historic building at 26 Wall Street, this Greek Revival-style building was the building in which George Washington was famously sworn in as the first President of the United States in 1789.

New York Stock Exchange

New York Stock Exchange

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Stop and check out the world's largest stock exchange by market capitalization, and it's a National Historic Landmark. Be sure to check out The Fearless Girl Statue right outside.

Trinity Church

Trinity Church nyc

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A historic parish church located at the intersection of Wall Street and Broadway, Trinity Church is only a three-minute walk from the Federal Hall. This church is known for its history, location, architecture, and endowment.

New York City Hall

New York City Hall

Located at the center of City Hall Park in Civic Center, this is the oldest city hall in the United States that still houses its original governmental functions.

5. Visit the African Burial Ground National Monument

African Burial Ground National Monument

The African Burial Ground is the largest excavated burial ground in North America and the resting place of 15,000 Africans buried in Lower Manhattan from the 1690s to the 1790s. Lost for centuries because of development, it's now a historic national landmark and monument that is well worth a visit.

6. Visit the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island (Or Enjoy the View from Battery Park)

Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty is undoubtedly one of America's most recognizable landmarks. Immerse yourself in American history with a day trip to the neighboring Liberty Island and Ellis Island.

Catch the ferry at Battery Park, where you'll enjoy gorgeous views of the lower Manhattan skyline during the trip over.

Don't have time for a full-day excursion to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty? Simply enjoy a spectacular view of Lady Liberty from Battery Park, a sprawling green space located at the very bottom of Manhattan.

If you have CityPASS, the ferry access is included.

7. Grab a Drink at The Stonewall Inn

Stonewall Inn

Quench your thirst at The Stonewall Inn, a gay bar and national historic landmark located in Greenwich Village. In 1969, the tavern was the site of the history-making Stonewall Riots, a series of protests that brought the LGBTQ rights movement to the mainstream.

8. Bar Hop in the East Village

Living up to its nickname of "the city that never sleeps," Lower Manhattan is never short of places to grab a drink. But if you're looking for the best bar-hopping neighborhood in New York City, head to the infamous East Village.

Located on the lively Lower East side, it's got everything from high-end cocktail bars to karaoke to celebrity-approved dives. The neighborhood's most unforgettable spots: speakeasies like Please Don't Tell, Lovers of Today, and Death & Co.

9. Shop in Soho

Nothing compares to Soho when it comes to shopping in Lower Manhattan. Short for South of Houston Street, the neighborhood's quaint cobblestone streets boast everything from affordable mass retailers to high-end designer boutiques. It's somewhere you can shop 'til you drop, no matter your budget.

10. People Watch in Washington Square Park

Washington Square Park

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Located in the center of Lower Manhattan, Washington Square Park is one of New York's best-known public parks. You'll instantly recognize the Washington Square Arch and central fountain from the countless TV shows and movies they've appeared in. Grab a classic New York bagel from a nearby bodega, sit back, relax, and enjoy some of New York City's finest people-watching.

11. Visit the Whitney Museum of American Art

Whitney Museum of American Art

For a taste of the New York City art scene, head to the Whitney Museum of American Art located in the Meatpacking District. After exploring the museum's extensive collection of 20th-century and contemporary art, hop on the nearby High Line— an elevated rail line turned public park— for a peaceful stroll up Manhattan's West Side.

12. Listen to Jazz in the Lower West Side

Over the past century, New York City has grown into a mecca for jazz musicians. From Greenwich Village to Central Harlem, there's never a shortage of world-renowned jazz clubs to visit. You won't regret a trip to Smalls Jazz Club or the Village Vanguard while you're on the Lower West Side.

13. Nerd Out at The Strand Bookstore

Nestled just south of Union Square, The Strand Bookstore is a Manhattan mainstay loved by tourists and locals alike. The independent bookstore contains a vast selection of over 2.5 million new, used, and rare books, totaling more than 18 miles. It's the perfect spot to take the family before a trip to Central Park!

14. Enjoy Global Cuisine in China Town, Little Italy, & More

Lower Manhattan is known for its diversity and delicious global cuisine. Stroll through the streets of China Town, Little Italy, the Ukrainian Village, or another one of the city's numerous ethnic enclaves to enjoy food, music, and culture from every corner of the globe. Avoid tourist traps along the main drags, and hit the side streets for a more authentic experience.

15. Visit Greenwich Village for a Photo Outside Carrie Bradshaw's Brownstone & the Friends Apartment

If you consider yourself a TV buff, skip the overpriced bus tour and head to Greenwich Village. The eclectic neighborhood is home to all sorts of boutiques, cafes, and art galleries that look straight out of a movie set.

Head to the corner of Grove and Bedford to snap a photo of the famous Friends apartment building. Then, swing by the famous Magnolia Bakery on your way to Carrie Bradshaw's Sex and the City brownstone located at 66 Perry Street.

16. Marvel at the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

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Though some go so far as to walk or bike across the Brooklyn Bridge or Manhattan Bridge, there's nothing wrong with simply enjoying the view from a downtown Manhattan waterfront. Whether it's your first time visiting Lower Manhattan or your umpteenth, you'll never get tired of this gorgeous view of the East River.

17. Staten Island Ferry

Staten Island

Get a good view of the city and Statue Of Liberty, and hop on the free Staten Island Ferry. The ferry takes about 25 minutes one way, and it is free! A perfect activity for someone who is traveling on a budget. Some will even say this free boat ride in New York Harbor is one of the best free things to do in NYC.

About the Author

Fiona is a veteran travel consultant, photographer and travel writer at planetrider.com. She has spent many years as a corporate travel consultant and decided to actually live the life rather than plan it for others!