A Holiday Tour of Lower Manhattan in New York City
New York City has such a cool vibe anytime of year, but during the holidays it is downright magical! Not everyone loves a big city or crowds, but I love to explore and even in NYC there are places off the beaten path, little back streets and neighborhoods that make you stroll and look and linger. I am still definitely a tourist and have barely scratched the surface of this city even after visiting it numerous times. But I’ll share my favorite spots I’ve encountered so far and places you need to explore more.
Let me first explain that each of the 5 burroughs of New York City has there own distinct feel and flavor and I have only been able to enjoy three of the five so far. To most of us, each burroughs is the size of a major city on it’s own. Of these, I’ve spent the most time in Manhattan, and in all the neighborhoods I’m focusing on the neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan.
I know - when you think of Christmas in NYC you think of the Christmas tree and skating at Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, and the department store windows decked out along 5th Ave. But this time last year, as my son and I drove into the city, we started at the southern end of 5th Avenue, at the Washington Arch and explored everything to the south.
We got coffee and soaked up the watery sunshine and energy of Washington Square Park - even this time of year on a sunny day people are out! We wound our way on side streets towards the East Village and headed south through the Bowery neighborhood and the Lower East Side. We found great little side streets, funky shops and unique architecture. The streets became more active the closer we got to Chinatown and we veered back to walk down Bowery Street through Little Italy. You can tell you’ve stepped into a different neighborhood, not just from the restaurants and bakeries, but the atmosphere in this neighborhood is totally different. Chinatown was bustling and Little Italy was a bit slower pace, like you could sit and drink a cappuccino and people watch all morning.
We waved to the Brooklyn Bridge as we headed further south and walked the quiet grounds of the City Hall complex (completed in 1812!) and the inspiring Woolworth Building built a century later. We had worked up an appetite walking (there were so many places we could have eaten) but we stopped in at the Stage Door Delicatessen on Vesey St and had fantastic pastrami on rye. Suitably fueled up for more walking, we continued south to the grounds of Trinity Church. The raised churchyard and cemetery catches your eye as you walk by and it was fun to discover that Alexander Hamilton was buried there. Wall Street is just around the corner and a few blocks away is the deeply moving 9/11 Memorial.
We now began to head back north through the neighborhoods of Tribeca (Triangle North of Canal St) and SoHo (South of Houston St) - yes there is a reason for the neighborhood names! As we walked north along 6th St, the retail shops became more prevalent and so did the crowds. We veered to the west to the Hudson River rather than walking Bleeker St (the main thoroughfare for high-end shops). The green space and parks along the river are really beautiful and were a welcome break from the growing crowds of shoppers. We were beginning to drag and what better way to revive than to find a bakery and coffee! As we wandered the narrow streets of the West Village and Greenwich Village, we came across Pasticceria Rocco and sat in the window seats devouring amazing Italian pastries and cappuccinos. As we continued on our way, we admired the beautiful brownstones, indie shops, and enjoyed the quaint neighborhood vibe in this area.
We had completed a very small loop of just one part of Manhattan, but it was a full day. I highly encourage you (in any city but especially in NYC) to get out and walk! Mass transit is fine, but there is nothing like seeing the streets, the architecture, and getting a feel for the neighborhoods and people as you can when you walk!