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. Did You Know? Broadway’s original name was the Wiechquaekeck Trail. It was an old Algonquin trade route.
In one of history’s most famous real estate deals, Dutch traders purportedly purchased the island of “Man-a-hatt-a” from the Algonquin Indians in 1621 for $24 worth of beads and other trinkets. Originally called Nieuw Amsterdam by these Dutch settlers, the 21st century blend of old colonial churches and gleaming skyscrapers has become the financial capital of the world. The heart of it all is the area clustered around Wall Street – originally a walled fortress (c. 1633) built by the settlers. Titanic edifices such as the New York Stock Exchange and the Federal Reserve Bank buildings line the streets here. Also see Financial New York.
While modern day business is the focus of Lower Manhattan, many visitors come to this area to experience the history of New York City. Nearby is Federal Hall Memorial (Closed for construction as of 12/2/04), 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. Other famous landmarks include Trinity Church/St. Paul’s Chapel, a national landmark built in 1766. At the towering height of 284 feet, it was once the tallest structure in New York City. George Washington attended services here.
Alliance for Downtown New York leads a free 90-minute walking tour that includes stops at Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange every Thursday and Saturday at noon. Meet at the front steps of the National Museum of the American Indian; no reservations are necessary. For information on the tours, call 212/606-4064. Or walk the Patriot Trail, a self-guided walking tour through America’s most partriotic neighborhood. Tour lasts approximately one hour and begins one block east of the World Trade Center site at Broadway and Vesey Street.
Broadway, brownstones, books, and some of the city’s best bagels… the 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. The Upper West Side is separated from the Upper East Side by Central Park. This is the traditional stronghold of the city’s intellectual, creative, and moneyed community, but the atmosphere is not as upper crust as the Upper East Side. Did You Know?
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 Upper West Side boasts an impressive list of “firsts”: The oldest Baptist congregation in the U.S. (founded 1753; First Baptist Church, Broadway and 79th St.); the oldest Spanish and Portuguese Jewish congregation in New York (established 1654; Congregation Shearith Israel, Central Park West and 70th St.); the world’s largest bible collection (American Bible Society, with 37,000 items); the first fireproof building in NYC (122 West 78th St., built by Rafael Guastavino in 1883); the oldest school in the U.S. (Collegiate School, West End Avenue and 77th St.; founded 1628); and the world’s largest carillon (the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Carillon, in Riverside Church, and the largest tuned bell, the “Bourdon”).
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, the Library and Museum of the Performing Arts, Alice Tully Hall for chamber music, and the world-famous Julliard School of Music. The Walter Reade Theater is the home of the center’s 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 pushing their babies in imported strollers. 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 Lanhgam (a 1920s Italian Renaissance-style high rise); the twin-towered San Remo (home sweet home over the years to such luminaries as Rita Hayworth, Dustin Hoffman, Paul Simon, and Diane Keaton); and The Kenilworth, with its impressive pair of ornate front columns, once the home of Michael Douglas.
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 restaurants – the 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. The only state park situated on Manhattan Island, this 28-acre multi-level park rises 69 feet above the Hudson. Keep going, just past the George Washington Bridge, to the very tip of the island, and you will discover the Cloisters, which houses the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s medieval art collection. In Fort Tryon Park, the Cloisters displays the famous unicorn tapestries and other 12th-16th century treasures.
From the edge of Central Park at 59th Street to the top of Museum Mile at El Museo del Barrio at 105th Street, this is the city’s Gold Coast. The neighborhood air is perfumed with the scent of old money, conservative values, and glamorous sophistication, with Champagne corks popping and high society puttin’ on the Ritz.
On the corner of Lexington and 59th Street is Bloomingdale’s – one of the NYC shopping icons, a beloved sanctuary for stylish consumers. On Madison Avenue, window shopping can be intoxicating: so many tempting boutiques, so many famous names to flaunt on everything from socks to shoes to satin sheets to chocolates.
Between Lexington and Madison Avenues, Park Avenue is an oasis of calm with wide streets meant for strolling, lovely architecture, and a median strip that sprouts tulips in season and sculptures at other times of the year. Railroad tracks ran in this median before World War I. This grand street stretching down to midtown is one of our city’s most coveted residential addresses.
Once Manhattan’s Millionaire’s Row, the stretch of Fifth Avenue between 72nd and 104th Streets has been renamed Museum Mile because of its astonishing number of world-class cultural institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim Museum. This stretch 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, the National Academy of Design’s 19th 20th-century collections of American Art, the Jewish Museum’s Gothic-style mansion bursting with artwork and ceremonial objects tracing over 4,000 years of history, 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, especially in the evenings, many apartments keep their window treatments open, so it’s possible to get a discreet peek inside the posh residences and maybe pick up a decorating idea or two.
And speaking of neighbors, the mayor lives up here too, but 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. Go into “the yard” and discover a zoo, a castle, a reservoir, an an ice-skating rink, a boathouse where you can rent rowboats, a
gorgeous “secret” conservatory garden, and plenty of trails for walking, jogging, bicycling, and horseback riding. 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, you could head over to the bar at one of the neighborhood’s tony hotels, like The Mark or The Carlyle.
Midtown is the center of many visitors’ trips to New York City. The beautifully restored Grand Central Terminal is paces 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 Broadway Under the Stars, 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 over 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, the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum, 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.
Walking beside the narrow, cobblestoned streets beneath the fire escapes of turn-of-the-century tenements, you’re tempted by the sights, sounds and smells of Italian cuisine and culture emanating from the restaurants surrounding you at every step.
The heart of Little Italy is Mulberry Street. In the second half of the 19th century, NYC’s Italian immigration reached its peak, with several Italian parishes and an Italian-language newspaper. Today, there are fewer than 5,000 Italians living in Little Italy, but the heavenly aromas of the Italian bakeries and restaurants still waft around Mulberry and Grand Streets. The filmmaker Martin Scorsese shot the classic Mean Streets in this neighborhood, but today it couldn’t be friendlier or safer!
Landmarks include Old St. Patrick’s Church and the Police Building. It’s a popular neighborhood, filled with Old World atmosphere and many excellent eateries, among them Umberto’s Clam House, Da Nico, Casa Bella, and Original Vincent’s. Mid-September is a great time to visit for the most exciting annual event in the neighborhood, the ten-day Feast of San Gennaro. During this celebration, Mulberry Street is renamed Via San Gennaro and the shrines and relics of this saint are paraded through the streets – don’t be surprised to see the faithful pin dollar bills to the saint as he passes by – and the tantalizing smell of fried pastry and sausages fills the air. The crowds enjoy Italian foods of all types, rides, games, entertainment, and audience-participation singing and dancing. Tarantella, anyone?
Not so long ago, only a few note worthy shops dotted the landscape east of Broadway in Lower Manhattan. The neighborhood known as NoLIta, or North of Little Italy, seemed quaint, a living postcard of narrow streets, mom-and-pop stores, and reasonable rent. Then, during the mid 1990s, many designer refugees from celebrity-clogged, high-rent SoHo and TriBeCa fled eastward and turned tiny pizzerias and shoe repair shops into shops to purvey their creations. By 1999, a number of low-attitude boutiques blossomed on Mulberry, Mott, and Elizabeth Streets, offering gorgeous one-of-a kind, designer goodies – bejeweled and embroidered purses, rainbow colored shawls, hand-tooled boots, and custom-designed jewelry.
Little Italy is located in lower Manhattan and is easily accessible by subway, bus or car.
Little Italy Subways:
6 – Spring Street
N, R – Prince Street
F, V – Broadway Lafayette
From the East Side: Take the 6 subway downtown to the Spring Street station. Walk East 2 blocks to Mulberry Street. OR Take the M103 bus on Lexington Avenue down to Grand Street and walk West 3 blocks to Mulberry Street.
From the West Side: Take the N or R subways downtown to the Prince Street station. Walk East 3 blocks to Mulberry Street. OR Take the F or V subways downtown to the Broadway/Lafayette station and walk East 4 blocks to Mulberry Street and then walk south.
Little Italy Neighborhood Boundaries
Canal on the South
Broome on the North
Mott on the
Baxter on the West
Elizabeth on the East
Just to the east of the TriBeCa (Triangle Below Canal) triangle is Manhattan’s Civic Center. The mayor hangs his hat in an office in the main government building, City Hall (not open for tours), which has classical columns and cast-iron cupola crowned with Lady Justice, and a park on its south side. Majestic court buildings line the streets. Did You Know?
The northern façade of City Hall was left unfinished when the building was erected in 1803 – no one foresaw that the city would expand beyond Downtown.
In fact, many visitors will probably be familiar with Foley Square, a name that’s become synonymous with the New York court system; it’s where many of the attorneys on the TV series Law and Order often prepare for courtroom prosecuting and posturing. Down the street is the Municipal Building, the government’s first skyscraper (built in 1914) and where you actually get married when you have a civil ceremony “at City Hall.” Just south of the building, a pedestrian walkway leads to the Brooklyn Bridge and its world-class view. And if you’re looking for a great place for one-stop electronics, photography, and music shopping, don’t miss J&R Music and Computer World.
NYC & Company operates a visitor information kiosk that’s open seven days a week at the southern tip of City Hall Park on the Broadway sidewalk at Park Row. As the visitor gateway to Lower Manhattan, the City Hall Park Visitor Information Kiosk promotes downtown tourism with a multilingual staff distributing detailed visitor information including directions, attraction brochures, upcoming event listings, maps, and more.
Chinatown South of Canal Street lies bustling Chinatown, which has over the years expanded into the Lower East Side taking over most of Little Italy in the process and is continuting to expand almost daily. The largest Asian community in North America can be found among the narrow streets between Worth and Hester and East Broadway and West Broadway; its main street is Canal Street.
Within these boundaries, you’ll find everything from traditional Chinese herbal-medicine shops, acupuncturists, food markets filled with amazing varieties of fish and exotic vegetables, funky pagoda-style buildings, stores selling all manner of items from beautiful jewelry and silk robes to hair accessories and plumbing parts, and hundreds of restaurants serving every imaginable type of Chinese cuisine, from dim sum to fried noodles to extravagant Cantonese, Hunan, Mandarin, or Szechuan banquets. An amazing area and well worth a visit. Ans when you get thirsty or hungrey there are over 200 cafe/resturants in Chinatown to choose from.
The many signs in Chinese, the music pouring into the streets from open windows, the delicious smells from the restaurants, noodle shops and tea houses packed side by side, and the sound of the language swirling around you make it easy to feel like you’ve flown half way around the world in the short time it took to get downtown.
Although the neighborhood is known for its excellent Chinese cuisine, perhaps one of its more secret highlights is the Eastern States Buddhist Temple on Mott Street. Step inside – your spirit will be refreshed and your eyes will be delighted by the sight of 100 golden Buddhas shimmering in the candlelight. Frequent festivals and parades (especially during the January and February Chinese New Year celebrations, when paper puppet dragons, firecrackers, and beating drums rule the streets!), as well as the galleries and curio shops create a glorious celebration of Chinese culture.