With all the interesting things to do in Lower Manhattan, it’s not surprising that this is one of the most popular areas of New York City. It has everything: food, culture, museums, parks, historical monuments, and more. You can easily spend a day walking through the different Manhattan neighborhoods here and you’d still have more places to explore.
Just to be clear, Lower Manhattan starts at 14th Street and covers the area south of that until you get to New York Harbor. That’s 22 mi² to discover!
We’ve visited New York City several times, and it’s true that this part of the city has a distinct atmosphere. The restaurants, landmarks, and attractions in Lower Manhattan create a diverse world, so if you want to experience a variety of cultures and lifestyles, this is the perfect place to go.
Moreover, you’ll find indoor and outdoor activities in Lower Manhattan for all ages, so keep reading for a complete list. After giving you the 15 best things to do in Lower Manhattan, I’ll tell you where to eat and stay in this lively area.
1. Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange, and Trinity Church
Wall Street is one of the best places to go sightseeing in Lower Manhattan. It’s known as the city’s Financial District, although it has enough history and sights to appeal to all interests.
Here, you can see the headquarters for some of the world’s most prominent banks and New York’s first City Hall. This is also where you can see Federal Hall, a Greek Revival-style building constructed in 1842 to resemble the Pantheon. Inside, there is useful tourist information and several historic exhibits.
Wall Street is also home to the New York Stock Exchange, the largest stock exchange in the world. Founded over 230 years ago, it’s a National Historic Landmark and is recognized for its opening and closing bells, which ring at 9:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., respectively.
Just outside the New York Stock Exchange, you’ll find the Fearless Girl statue. A symbol of feminism, she originally stood across from the Charging Bull. You can see both of these sculptures and other Lower Manhattan landmarks on this Wall Street walking tour. In addition to the New York Stock Exchange and Federal Hall, you’ll visit Trinity Church, House of Morgan, and more.
2. Bowling Green and the Charging Bull, two must-see attractions in Lower Manhattan
While you’re in the Financial District, don’t miss the chance to stop by Bowling Green. This small park was built in 1733, making it the oldest park in NYC. In fact, it’s next to the former site of New Amsterdam, an old Dutch fort from the 17th century, making it a must-see in Lower Manhattan.
This park gets its name from the fact that it once had a bowling green. While it no longer has one, there is a grassy area, outdoor seating, and a fountain. Also, the teardrop-shaped park is surrounded by several historical buildings, including the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Customs House and the International Mercantile Marine Company Building.
Finally, Bowling Green is known for its Charging Bull statue, one of the most famous attractions in Manhattan. This large bronze sculpture is a symbol of prosperity and financial optimism, although many tourists visit it for its obvious portrayal of strength and determination. The Fearless Girl statue once stood across from the 11-foot-tall Charging Bull, but now you’ll find her outside of the New York Stock Exchange.
3. Visit One World Observatory, one of the best things to do in Lower Manhattan
Seeing the view from One World Observatory is one of the coolest things to do in Lower Manhattan, and anyone can enjoy this attraction. Also known as the Freedom Tower, this NYC observation deck stands 1,776 feet tall and is one of the best lookout points in the city.
The observatory is on the 100th floor, and there are other attractions leading up to the viewing deck. First, you’ll see the Global Welcome Center, which documents the geographic origin of visitors; the Horizon Grid, which highlights different landmarks you’ll see from above; and the See Forever Theater, which shows two performances every hour.
Then, you’ll take the SkyPod elevator to the indoor observation deck, which offers 360° views. From up here, you can see all five NYC boroughs, as well as Lower Manhattan landmarks like the Statue of Liberty. Another cool feature is the Sky Portal, a 14-foot-wide translucent disk that transmits real-time footage of the city. There is even a restaurant up here, so you can turn your visit into a family outing or date night.
4. 9/11 Memorial & Museum, one of the best museums in Lower Manhattan, NYC
If you’re going to One World Observatory, you need to add the 9/11 Museum to your Lower Manhattan itinerary.
The 9/11 Museum is one of the most poignant museums in the country and a top-rated attraction in New York City. It commemorates the history of the World Trade Center, most notably the attacks of September 11, 2001. Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives during the attack, which destroyed the Twin Towers, one of the most iconic landmarks in the city.
While buildings are replaceable, people are not, so this Lower Manhattan museum is one way in which the victims can live on. Inside, there are photos, videos, audio recordings, and objects from Ground Zero, including steel remnants from the Towers and a staircase that survived among the wreckage. There is also a portion of the museum dedicated to the six people who perished in the World Trade Center bombing of 1993.
Outside, a pair of reflecting pools sits at the former site of the Twin Towers along with bronze plaques inscribed with the victims’ names. There are several white oak trees and man-made waterfalls, which create a serene and somber environment where you can reflect and honor the fallen.
5. The Oculus, a unique place to visit in Lower Manhattan, New York
The Oculus is another component of the World Trade Center complex, serving as a multi-functional Lower Manhattan attraction. It’s a transportation hub as well as a shopping and dining venue, and an architectural symbol for the city.
This unique structure was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and is meant to resemble a white dove about to take flight. It’s a symbol of strength and a reminder that the city and people of New York City remain resilient after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Inside, The Oculus is equally impressive, with a carefully designed structure that illuminates the main hall in sunlight at a specific time of day. In addition to its huge skylight, The Oculus has various shops and cafes, and it provides access to several office towers, One World Observatory, and Whitehall Terminal. It also connects to several NYC subway lines and trains to New Jersey.
Throughout the year, The Oculus hosts community events in Lower Manhattan like markets and musical performances, so it’s worth stopping by, even if it’s just to pass through.
6. Take a helicopter ride, an unforgettable thing to do in Lower Manhattan
If you’re looking for a unique thing to do in Lower Manhattan, then I recommend taking a helicopter ride. This is one of the best ways to see the city since you can’t get this kind of view anywhere else. Even the tallest observation decks don’t give you this kind of perspective, and the rush of flying over NYC is something you can’t experience any other way.
In addition to being a fun thing to do in Lower Manhattan, this type of New York City tour is a great couples’ activity. Of course, there are a variety of tour packages available, so you’ll find the perfect option whether you’re traveling as a pair, with family, or solo.
For example, this basic tour is a wonderful choice if you want a brief aerial overview of NYC without spending too much. It departs from the heliport next to Battery Park, and you’ll see the full expanse of Central Park, the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, and more. There are other helicopter tours in NYC like the doors-off flight we took, so I recommend checking out our guide for more options. And if you’re on the fence, I say go for it! There’s nothing like getting a birds-eye look at Manhattan and the surrounding areas, so you won’t regret it.
7. The Battery, one of the most popular parks in Lower Manhattan, NYC
The Battery is another place to visit in Lower Manhattan, and the perfect spot where you can rest, take a stroll along the water, or people-watch. As one of the best parks in NYC, The Battery offers something for everyone, and given its large size, it’s not hard to find.
The park borders New York Harbor and is next to Whitehall Terminal, where you can hop on the Staten Island Ferry. Within the park, there are several notable attractions like Monument Walk, the Hope Garden, the Bosque Fountain, and the SeaGlass Carousel.
If you’re curious, this park is called The Battery (or Battery Park) because the site used to be a series of artillery batteries back in the 17th century. Later, Castle Clinton was added, and the site processed thousands of immigrants coming into the city. Remnants of these structures still remain, as well as a national monument dedicated to the site.
Another great park in Lower Manhattan is Washington Square Park. It’s in Greenwich Village, along Fifth Avenue, so it’s a nice place to do some sightseeing in Lower Manhattan.
The park’s most iconic feature is its gateway arch, which resembles the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France. This area also has some beautiful walking paths and green spaces, as well as playgrounds and dog-friendly sections, so it’s ideal for families. On summer days, you can find kids cooling off in the fountain and musicians performing for passersby.
8. Take a Statue of Liberty tour, a fun thing to do in Lower Manhattan as a family
If you want to plan some activities in Lower Manhattan, consider adding a Statue of Liberty tour to your list. There are several types of tours available, some of which cruise past the monument, and others that stop at Liberty Island.
The choice is yours, but I will say that seeing this Lower Manhattan landmark is a must-do. Lady Liberty was a gift from France to the United States to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Today, she’s still a symbol of freedom and one of the most iconic monuments in the country, and the world.
If you want to see the statue up close, I recommend booking a tour that stops on Liberty Island. There, you can visit the Statue of Liberty Museum or upgrade your ticket if you want to access the statue’s pedestal or crown.
Then, you can stop at the neighboring Ellis Island, where you can visit the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. In addition to learning about Lady Liberty’s historical value, you can visit the site that saw nearly 12 million immigrants arrive in the U.S. between 1892 and 1954.
9. Ride the Staten Island Ferry, a free thing to do in Lower Manhattan
Taking a ride on the Staten Island Ferry is one of the best free things to do in NYC, and you can catch the boat from Whitehall Terminal by Battery Park. The ferry generally runs 24/7, so no matter when you visit, you can take advantage of this free attraction in Lower Manhattan.
The Staten Island Ferry departs every 20 minutes or so, and during the 25-minute ride, you can get different views of the Manhattan skyline and even the Statue of Liberty in the distance. You’ll also spot landmarks like the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge and Ellis Island, so you can get lots of Lower Manhattan sightseeing in.
You’ll have to disembark at Staten Island, where you can either wait for the next ferry back to Manhattan or go explore Staten Island’s attractions. For example, you will find here one of the most popular outlets in NYC. That said, riding the ferry is a nice thing to do in Lower Manhattan at night since you can see the twinkling skyline from the water.
10. Admire the Brooklyn Bridge viewpoint, something to do in Lower Manhattan at night
Another cool thing to do in Lower Manhattan at night is to see the Brooklyn Bridge. This famous New York structure is an undeniable part of the NYC landscape, and depending on where you are in the city, you can get a unique view of it.
If you’re already in Lower Manhattan, the East River Greenway offers lovely views of the bridge. I suggest heading to Pier 35 for a gorgeous perspective of the Brooklyn Bridge as well as the World Trade Center and the Manhattan skyline. There is also a point along the East River Greenway where you can see a wide angle of both the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges standing perfectly parallel to each other.
Of course, if you cross the Brooklyn Bridge, you can enjoy scenic views of Manhattan’s skyscrapers and the piers along the East River. It’s one of the best things to do in NYC at night, although if you go during the day, you can use your time to visit Brooklyn Bridge Park.
11. Have a museum day, something to do in Lower Manhattan when it rains
Visiting a museum is always a good idea, and it can be a fun thing to do in Lower Manhattan if you’re hit with bad weather. Plus, this part of the city has some great museums, so you’ll have plenty of options to choose from.
First, the Tenement Museum is one of the best museums in Manhattan, so I highly recommend it. Here, you can learn all about NYC’s history of immigrants and how they shaped the city. It’s definitely one of the most interesting museums in Lower Manhattan thanks to the interactive exhibits and tour guides dressed in period costumes.
The National Museum of the American Indian is another history museum you’ll like. It focuses on Native American history and culture and has an impressive collection of artifacts from the Americas. It’s also one of the best free museums in NYC.
If you like art, consider the Whitney Museum of American Art. Its collection of 20th– and 21st-century art includes works by Edward Hopper, Jasper Johns, Willem de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, and other masters.
Finally, if you’re traveling with kids, the South Street Seaport Museum and the Museum of Ice Cream are two fantastic options. The former has ship tours, vintage models, and weekend tugboat cruises, while the latter is an Instagramable attraction full of sweet treats and props.
Most of these museums and several other Lower Manhattan attractions are included in the New York Pass.
12. Stone Street, a historical place to visit in Lower Manhattan, New York
Back in the Financial District, the small but interesting area of Stone Street is worth adding to your travel plans. This is one of the oldest streets in the city, and a nod to the old Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam. At the time, this was the first cobbled street in the area, and today, it’s on the National Register of Historic Places.
Stone Street’s quaint charm makes it one of the most unique places to visit in Lower Manhattan. Its historic scenery is quite intriguing, and you’ll find several landmark structures here, some of them dating back to the 1830s. In addition to the Greek Revival buildings, the houses at 1 Hanover Square, 1 William Street, and 85 Broad Street stand out.
Moreover, Stone Street is a trendy place to dine out or go bar-hopping. Some of the most popular spots include the Dubliner Irish pub, The Cauldron, Stone Street Tavern, and Ulysses’ Folk House. Enjoy a good meal, then finish it off with a French-style pastry at Financier Patisserie.
13. Check out Soho, Chinatown & Little Italy
If you’re not sure what to do in Lower Manhattan, then spend some time checking out the different neighborhoods. This part of the city is full of interesting areas and some of the coolest districts, so you can make a day of it.
First, SoHo is one of the best places to visit in Lower Manhattan thanks to its art galleries, luxury shops, off-Broadway theaters, fine restaurants, and rooftop bars. One of the most popular places to visit in Soho is its historic Cast Iron District where you can admire some of the most magnificent architecture.
Not far from SoHo, Chinatown offers more fun things to do in downtown Manhattan. You can visit the Museum of Chinese in America, people-watch at Columbus Park, or reflect at the Mahayana Buddhist Temple. Chinatown is also known for the “Bloody Angle” at Doyers Street, which was the site of lots of gang-related crime in the early 1900s. Of course, you can’t come to the Chinatown neighborhood without trying some Chinese food.
Little Italy is another haven for foodies, and it’s right next to Chinatown. This spot is full of authentic Italian food, from fresh cheeses and brick oven pizzas to delicious cannoli. You can experience everything Little Italy has to offer, as well as Chinatown and SoHo on this tour; it’s one of the best walking tours in NYC.
An honorable mention goes to TriBeCa, a trendy area full of artists’ lofts and boutiques. If you have time, it’s worth exploring its cobblestone streets and sidewalk cafes.
14. Greenwich Village, one of the coolest neighborhoods in Lower Manhattan
Looking for a Lower Manhattan attraction that’s suitable for all ages and interests? I suggest Greenwich Village, an artsy, well-to-do area with a one-of-a-kind atmosphere. This neighborhood was the pinnacle of the city’s counterculture movement, serving as a hub for alternative artists and hippies. Today, it’s still a great place to converse with intellectuals and creatives or to see an off-Broadway show.
Some of the best art museums in NYC are in Greenwich Village, including the Whitney Museum of Art and the Rubin Museum of Art, which has an impressive collection of objects from Asia. For those who prefer the performing arts, Comedy Cellar and Fat Cat Jazz are two lively places with nightly musicians and comedians.
You can also do some sightseeing while you’re here, as Greenwich Village has some of the most popular tourist attractions in Lower Manhattan. For example, the buildings featured in Sex and the City and Friends are located here, as is Washington Square Park. You can also see the Stonewall Inn, where the 1969 Stonewall Riots occurred, sparking the modern gay rights movement.
15. See City Hall & the New York State Supreme Court Building
Finally, City Hall and the New York State Supreme Court Building are two more historic landmarks in Lower Manhattan. Located just north of the Financial District, they’re a couple of attractions to add to your itinerary as you make your way through the area.
City Hall is where the office of the New York City Mayor is located, as well as the chambers for the New York City Council. The structure was built in the early 19th century, making it the oldest city hall in the United States.
It’s also a National Historic Landmark and boasts beautiful architectural elements like a rotunda with Corinthian columns and a grand marble staircase. Abraham Lincoln’s casket was even placed here after his assassination in 1865, as was Ulysses S. Grant. City Hall also has the Governor’s Room, which has been the site of official receptions, including visits from Albert Einstein and Marquis de Lafayette.
Nearby, you can see the New York State Supreme Court Building, which houses the Court’s Civil and Appellate Terms. It’s a Classical Roman building with a Corinthian colonnade, granite bas reliefs, and stained glass windows, giving it a temple-like appearance. Inside, you can see one of the rotunda’s most notable features, a circular mural called The History of the Law.
Where to eat in Lower Manhattan
Now that you know what to do in Lower Manhattan, you’ll need to fuel up, so you have enough energy to see everything. Fortunately, this area has a wealth of cuisines, so you can stay satisfied throughout the day.
First, I recommend starting with a typical New York breakfast at Russ & Daughters. This café has bagels of all varieties, although you can’t go wrong with a bagel and lox. If you prefer sweets, Dominique Ansel Bakery serves delectable pastries and hot coffee along with its signature cronut.
For an afternoon recharge, head to Katz’s Delicatessen for a mouth-watering pastrami sandwich. Known as one of the best foods in NYC, the pastrami here is pickled for three weeks, then rubbed in a secret blend of spices and smoked low and slow for three days.
To round out your day, consider a hearty meal at Dhamaka, one of the best restaurants in NYC where you can savor different kinds of Indian cuisine. For something more casual, I recommend Fraunces Tavern. Known as one of George Washington’s meeting points during the American Revolution, it’s also part of the American Whiskey Trail and serves simple yet delicious pub fare.
It’s also worth noting that the Lower East Side has one of the best foodie scenes in New York City, so if you’d rather try a sampling of its best dishes, do this tasting tour. It’s one of the best food tours in NYC and a great activity in Lower Manhattan for friends.
Where to stay in Lower Manhattan
Lastly, if you have a full Lower Manhattan itinerary and want to stay overnight, I recommend one of these hotels:
- The Crosby Street Hotel is a boutique Manhattan hotel with cozy rooms, a terrace restaurant, a small theater, and family-friendly amenities.
- The Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown has a great location by the World Trade Center Complex, and it’s one of the best pool hotels in NYC.
- The Beekman has luxury accommodations in the Financial District, a gourmet restaurant, and a state-of-the-art gym, making it one of Manhattan’s best hotels.
Lower Manhattan map
I hope you enjoyed reading about all the things to do in Lower Manhattan, and that you feel better prepared to plan your trip. Here is a map with all the Lower Manhattan attractions, restaurants, and hotels I mentioned that you can download for later:
I have also a full map of New York City that can help you plan your visit to other areas of the city. If you have any questions or you’d like to share your favorite activities in Lower Manhattan, feel free to leave me a comment below. I’d be happy to hear from you! Until then, have a wonderful trip!