Top 10 things to do in NYC’s Financial District
At the southern tip of Manhattan — all the way downtown — lies the Financial District. It’s not nearly as touristy as Times Square, which is certainly part of its quiet charm. But, the neighborhood known for Wall Street bankers has famous sights and historic districts worth visiting while in the Big Apple.
I’ve compiled 10 Financial District attractions I’ve visited and listed them in no particular order — but, I did save my favorite for last.
1. South Street Seaport
At Fulton and Water streets, you’ll find a historic district that has been restored and revamped as a shopping center. A tourist hotspot, the seaport offers views of the Brooklyn Bridge, name brand retailers, restaurants and ice cream shops. I visited here in May 2010 to shop and look across the river to Brooklyn — a fun way to spend a warm and sunny afternoon with friends. A redevelopment at Pier 17 opens in 2015/16, adding more eateries, alfresco bars and New York City’s first luxury movie theater. For more info: southstreetseaport.com
2. Brooklyn Bridge
Spanning the East River from Lower Manhattan to Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States, a national landmark and [SPOILER ALERT] where Steve and Miranda rekindle their marital romance in the Sex and the City movie. Pedestrians and cyclists can cross between the two boroughs via the promenade. Actually walking across the bridge is still on my bucket list.
3. Wall Street & New York Stock Exchange
You can’t tour the inside, but the New York Stock Exchange’s neoclassical exterior includes six Corinthian columns and a sculpture titled Integrity Protecting the Works of Man. For more info: nyse.com
4. Ground Zero & National 9/11 Memorial and Museum
Sept. 11, 2001, is a day forever etched into my memory, so visiting the memorial felt like a patriotic duty — or maybe a small act of human decency — to pay my respect to the lives lost that tragic day. The somber site features two 30-foot waterfalls, where the Twin Towers once stood, with names of the deceased etched into the surrounding railings. To view the memorial, you have to make a reservation online for a $2 processing fee, or you can attempt to get a same-day pass for free at 20 Vesey Street. The museum opens May 21, 2014, but tickets are already sold out for opening day. However, you can purchase museum tickets online or admission will be free on Tuesday evenings.
5. Staten Island Ferry
Views of the Financial District skyline and the Statue of Liberty are entirely free on this 5.2-mile ferry ride between Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan and St. George Terminal on Staten Island. It’s the cheapest way to see Lady Liberty! Click here for more info on the Staten Island Ferry.
6. Trinity Church
A beautiful Episcopalian church surrounded by skyscrapers — only in New York City. In addition to the mid-1800s architecture, including a spire that made the church the tallest building in New York upon its completion in 1846, a real draw to visitors today is one of the church’s graveyards, where Alexander Hamilton is buried. For more info: trinitywallstreet.org
7. Statue of Liberty
I’ve been content seeing Lady Liberty from the water — via the Staten Island Ferry and a ferry to Ellis Island. But, for a closer look at the oxidized copper statue that welcomed European immigrants to the “land of the free and home of the brave,” you can take a Statue Cruises ferry to Liberty Island. To visit the museum and go up to the crown, you have to make reservations ahead of time. It’s only a $3 differential between the ferry ticket with access only to the island’s grounds ($18) and the reservation to go into the crown ($21), so you might as well go for the whole shebang.
8. Ellis Island
Ellis Island visitors take the same ferry as Statue of Liberty visitors, so it’s a natural choice to add to your itinerary. After the ferry ride from Battery Park to Liberty Island and then lastly to Ellis Island, I was itching to get off the boat. Imagine having to be on a ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean! That’s what my European ancestors did when they emigrated from their homelands. Arriving by ferry yourself, you gather some idea of what arriving at Ellis Island would have been like in the late 1800s to mid-1900s. The exhibits are really informative, especially if you do the audio tour, which is available in multiple languages. Having studied German emigration in college, I found Ellis Island particularly fascinating. But, for any American whose ancestors were immigrants, Ellis Island is a must-visit attraction to learn what they experienced in order to find a more prosperous life.
9. Battery Park
Located along the water, Battery Park is a grassy respite from the concrete jungle. Castle Clinton, originally erected during the War of 1812, was an immigration center prior to Ellis Island. Today, it’s where you’ll buy your ferry tickets to Liberty and Ellis islands. From Battery Park, you can see Lady Liberty, Ellis Island, Jersey City, Governor’s Island and Staten Island on a clear day.
10. Stone Street Historic District
Tucked between FiDi skyscrapers, this cobble-stone street is filled with umbrella-covered tables. During the summer, it’s the perfect spot for a weekend brunch or a round of beers on a Friday night.
So, next time you visit New York, carve out a little time to explore this neighborhood. If you are a history buff, you won’t be disappointed.
Wish you were here,