16 Cool Things To Do in Lower Manhattan
Lower Manhattan — from 14th Street down to The Battery — is Manhattan’s oldest area. At its core, the Financial District, south of Chambers Street, is where the first Dutch settlement was formed in the 17th century and became known as New Amsterdam.
There are many things to do and see in Lower Manhattan, from historic buildings and interesting museums to fun activities you need to check out the next time you’re visiting New York City. Here, I’ve listed some of my favorites.
Looking for a complete overview of the whole neighborhood? I highly recommend this Lower Manhattan walking tour. You’ll walk all over the area, starting on Wall Street and making your way to the 9/11 Memorial before finishing the tour in The Battery, formerly and commonly known as Battery Park.
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Visit the 9/11 Memorial
New York is filled with incredible landmarks, but the 9/11 Memorial touches everyone who visits. The grounds mark the location of Ground Zero, where the Twin Towers fell on September 11, 2001. Today the 9/11 memorial honors the almost 3,000 people who passed away on that fateful day.
There is so much symbolism working within the landscape and design of the Memorial Grounds and Reflecting Pools that you really need to take a 9/11 Memorial to catch it all. This tour has an option to include tickets to the 9/11 Museum and One World Observatory, or you can purchase timed-entry tickets for the 9/11 Museum on your own.
Head inside One World Trade Center for the view from One World Observatory
After you’re finished exploring the 9/11 Memorial, it’s time to go to the One World Observatory at the top of One World Trade Center. Also known as the Freedom Tower, it’s the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, and just like the 9/11 Memorial, it holds a lot of symbolism in its design.
The tallest observation deck in New York City, you get stunning views of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Governors Island, and New Jersey.
It’s an observation deck not to be missed, so purchase timed-entry tickets for the experience in advance.
Shop inside the Oculus and Brookfield Place
A feat of incredible architecture and engineering, The Oculus is part of the new World Trade Center complex and comprises a major transportation hub and a Westfield-branded shopping mall. Browse around 100 stores and dining options, or simply take advantage of the impressive photo ops, before checking out
Brookfield Place, another mall that connects to the Oculus through an underground tunnel. It runs underneath the 9/11 Memorial, and it comes up above ground next to the Hudson River. Both luxury shopping malls are fully enclosed, making them a great option for a rainy day in Lower Manhattan.
See the center of the Financial District on the corner of Broad Street and Wall Street
Wall Street was established by Dutch settlers who first landed in Manhattan, and takes its name from the double wall at the outskirts of their settlement erected to protect it from attack.
Today, you can find a few significant landmarks on Wall Street and its neighboring Broad Street, home to the New York Stock Exchange.
The ‘Fearless Girl’ sculpture stands looking up at the New York Stock Exchange — moved from her original location facing the famous ‘Charging Bull’ on nearby Broadway — symbolizing the determination and progress of women to become a critical part of the United States financial system.
On Wall Street, you can find Federal Hall, the first federal building in the United States, and the US Customs House, now the free-to-visit National Museum of the American Indian.
If you’re interested in learning more about this area of New York City and its history, including what happens when finances go sideways, take a Wall Street Insider tour. You’ll walk around the Financial District with a real Wall Street insider to learn the ins and outs of the New York Stock Exchange and more.
Or, if you’d rather experience a new place through its food, try out this Financial District Street Food Tasting Tour. There are so many great small bites and street carts in New York City, but the key is knowing which ones to stop at. This tour will teach you all about the neighborhood’s history while stopping for small bites along the way.
Step back into the 19th century at South Street Seaport
South Steet Seaport is located on the east side of Lower Manhattan. This is where most ships docked during the prime years of the New York City shipping industry when the city was home to the most significant maritime trading enterprise in the country.
Today, it’s home to the largest concentration of preserved 19th-century commercial buildings in the city. Wander through the shops, stop for a bite, and visit the South Street Seaport Museum to learn more about the shipping industry that dominated New York City.
Enjoy the view at The Battery
Formerly and still commonly called Battery Park, The Battery occupies the most southern tip of the island — the lowest part of Lower Manhattan, if you will. Within the park, you can see the Seaglass Carousel, which pays homage to the former home of the New York Aquarium, and Castle Clinton (where the Aquarium was first established.)
Castle Clinton was never used in battle, and it served as the processing center for immigrants coming into Manhattan before an immigration center was established on Ellis Island. Nowadays, it serves as an outdoor museum with a small exhibit room inside the fort with historic documents and maps. The Battery is also where you catch the boat to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Visit two of New York City’s most iconic landmarks–the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
The Statue of Liberty, standing on Liberty Island, was a gift to the United States from France in 1885. It was designed by Gustave Eiffel, the engineer behind the Eiffel Tower in France. During the influx of immigration in the 20th century, the Statue of Liberty welcomed people into the United States.
Once it was established, the adjacent Ellis Island was the processing center for the immigrant wave coming into New York City from Europe. If you have European ancestry, you can’t miss an opportunity to visit Ellis Island. Most Americans whose ancestors immigrated from Europe in the 20th century can date back to a boat arriving in Ellis Island. Walk through the halls that your ancestors saw as their first glimpse of the United States.
To visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, make sure you purchase tickets from a reputable seller in advance.
Book a round trip ticket to both Liberty and Ellis Islands, where you can explore the Ellis Island Immigration Museum Statue of Liberty Museum with an audio guide, as well as getting up close to Lady Liberty. If you want to stand on the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal, you can only buy tickets directly from Statue City Cruises, but bear in mind that these are extremely limited.
Explore the graveyard at Trinity Church
Trinity Church was where wealthy early New Yorkers would come for worship in Lower Manhattan until the Revolutionary War, when it was destroyed in the Great New York City Fire of 1776. The current church, its third incarnation, was designed in the Neo-Gothic style, characterized by pointed arches, steep gables, and a 281-foot high spire. Completed in 1846, it was the tallest building in the US for 23 years.
Trinity Church’s cemetery is the final resting place for several famous colonial New Yorkers, but none as famous as Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.
You can take The Story of Hamilton walking tour to learn more about where he lived, passed away, and his contributions to early New York City.
Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
Of all the bridges that pass from Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge is the most famous. When it opened, PT Barnum led a troop of 21 elephants across the bridge to prove to the public that it was safe and stable.
If you want to follow in the footpaths of the elephants, take a Brooklyn Bridge and DUMBO walking tour. You’ll learn more about how the bridge was built, the incredible female engineer that took over the project after her husband’s death, and a little bit more of the neighborhood across the river from Lower Manhattan.
Visit City Hall, the center of New York City politics
New York’s City Hall is one of the United States’ oldest city halls still in use today. Finished in 1812, City Hall is New York City’s political center. This is where the mayor of New York City’s offices are located.
When they’re running tours, you can make a reservation on their website to take a guided tour of the historic space.
See the African Burial Ground National Monument
Just two blocks north of City Hall Park, you can find this memorial dedicated to the more than 15,000 freed and enslaved Africans buried on this ground. It was an active graveyard from the mid-1630s up until 1795. It is the oldest and largest excavation of its kind rediscovered in the United States and was established as a National Historic Landmark in 1993. Make sure you visit this incredibly powerful space.
Observe the Irish Hunger Memorial
Found next to Brookfield Place along the Hudson River, the Irish Hunger Memorial honors over one million lives impacted by the Great Irish Hunger. Known as An Gorta Mór in Irish, the years between 1845 and 1852 were devastating due to a type of water mold found on infected potato crops, leading to a famine and massive migration of people moving away from Ireland for better opportunities elsewhere.
The Irish Hunger Memorial shows an authentic 19th-century cottage from the Irish countryside, which was moved to Lower Manhattan and features stones, soil, and plants from all over Ireland.
Learn about money at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York
This Federal Reserve Bank is located right in the middle of the Financial District in New York City. It’s responsible for maintaining the U.S. dollar and other currencies and serves as a depository institution for government securities.
If you’re interested in learning more about the history of American money, you can take a guided tour of The Federal Reserve Bank of New York on their Museum & Gold Vault Tour. It’s one of the best free things to do in New York City!
Eat like it’s the late 1700s at Fraunces Tavern and Museum
One of the more unique things to do in Lower Manhattan is visit Fraunces Tavern Museum. This still-active restaurant and museum are also known as the site where General George Washington gave an impassioned speech regarding the Revolutionary War on its front stairs.
Step inside the classic pub grub restaurant to find their varied selection of beer and visit the museum upstairs to read more about the history of Lower Manhattan, George Washington, and how the area played a part in the Revolutionary War.
Visit the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust
On one end of Battery Park, you’ll find the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.
The museum aims to commemorate the lives of Jewish individuals who were killed during the Holocaust by displaying permanent and temporary exhibits about their lives before, during, and afterward the tragic events.
The museum is open on Sundays and Wednesday through Friday, and offers free entry for everyone on Thursdays after 4 pm.
Learn at the National Museum of the American Indian
Built in 1907, the former Alexander Hamilton US Custom House now houses the National Museum of the American Indian. It’s associated with the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
Here you’ll find a permanent collection of Native American artifacts and art dedicated to history from tribes all over the region and temporary exhibitions. The New York branch of the National Archives is also located on the top floor of the building.
From museums to historical landmarks and parks, there are so many things to do in Lower Manhattan. Whether you want to go shopping or just enjoy the city, spend some time exploring this historic New York City neighborhood.