20 Best Things To Do In Lower Manhattan (Financial District)

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Best things to do in lower manhattan new york city skyline and one world trade observatory helicopter tour

Lower Manhattan offers many things to do for the entire family including parks, museums, restaurants, an observation deck, rejuvenated shipping piers and world famous landmarks. Visitors are spoiled for choice because there is far more than trade and business on the southernmost tip of Manhattan.

In this guide, we’re going to show you everything you need to know about visiting Lower Manhattan in New York City including tips for your trip.

Our NYC Experience

Mark and Kristen in front of the Statue of Liberty

Kristen is a New York State native and we lived in NYC for a few months in 2021. We chose to move to the city so we could create the best content possible because you can’t just visit New York City for a weekend and claim to be an expert. Read more about us.

While we no longer live here, we still travel to the city every year because it’s one of the best places to visit in the USA. We’ve visited every Lower Manhattan activity in this guide including some attractions multiple times. The information we share is based on our years of experience and multiple trips.

Where Is Lower Manhattan?

Lower Manhattan is defined as the area between the New York harbor, the East River, the Hudson River and as far as 14th Street. This is the southernmost part of Manhattan also known as downtown New York or downtown Manhattan.

Technically, this is a huge area covering Tribeca, SoHo and even Greenwich Village, but in this guide, we’re focusing on the attraction heavy area below Chambers Street which is commonly known as the Financial District.

Visiting all 20 places on this list is very time consuming so we recommend you give yourself 2 full days to explore Lower Manhattan. But if you don’t have that much time in your New York City itinerary, our three unmissable highlights in this region include the Statue of Liberty, 9/11 Memorial and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Travel Tip: Many of the attractions in Lower Manhattan are free to visit so you can save some money if you plan well.

1. Statue Of Liberty

Statue of Liberty on liberty island is one of the best things to do in lower manhattan new york city itinerary green statue and yellows torch in grey clouds
Lady Liberty up close from our ferry ride
  • Price: $24.50 for standard adult ferry fare
  • Hours: Open 9:30am-5:00pm everyday (changes seasonally)

We started this list of fun things to do in Lower Manhattan with one of the most famous landmarks in the world, the Statue of Liberty. Located right off the shores of the financial district, Lady Liberty is a national icon and instantly recognized as a symbol of freedom.

Designed by Frederic Batholdi and built in part by Gustave Eiffel, the Statue of Liberty was gifted to the United States by the people of France. It was dedicated on October 18th, 1886 by President Cleveland. Liberty Island hosts well over 4 million tourists each year, which is more than popular national parks such as Yellowstone and Zion.

General tickets include round trip ferry service to Liberty Island, the walking section around the pedestal, access to Ellis Island, three interactive galleries and an audio tour. But you’ll need to book a separate ticket if you want to climb up into the crown or pedestal.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • To visit on your own, you should book ferry tickets in advance with Statue Cruises or reserve your spot with a New York CityPASS.
  • If you want a guided tour, book with Viator or Get Your Guide.
  • Separate reservations must be made for pedestal reserve and crown access through Statue Cruises.
  • Ferry departures leave from behind Castle Clinton in the Battery or Liberty State Park in New Jersey. Check the schedule here.
  • Plan to book in advance because tickets sell out very quickly, especially in summer.

Further Reading: How to visit the Statue of Liberty

 

2. Ellis Island Immigration Museum

Visit the ellis island immigration museum in new york city arrival hall
The Registry Room or Great Hall on Ellis Island
  • Price: $24.50 for standard adult ferry fare
  • Hours: Open 9:30am-5:00pm everyday (changes seasonally)

Ellis Island is a tiny island with a mammoth sized imprint on American history. Around 12 million immigrants entered the United States through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1924. For many Americans, there’s a high likelihood your ancestors were processed through a building that is now the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration.

We love this museum because it’s incredibly interesting and offers a real insight into the conditions as well as experiences of immigrants arriving into the port of New York over a hundred years ago.

Ellis Island is included in the Statue of Liberty ferry ticket with no additional fee. There is no obligation to visit Ellis Island after Liberty Island, but it certainly would be a shame to miss out on such an important piece of American history. All details about ferry prices and times are the same as the Statue of Liberty.

Travel Tip: If you want to visit both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, book an early time slot at 9:00am or 10:00am. It will take several hours to visit both sites and you’ll be very rushed for time if you don’t start early.

3. The Battery Gardens

Statue of Liberty in distance as seen from Battery Park overlooking the hudson river
Statue of Liberty view from the Battery gardens
  • Price: Free
  • Hours: Open 24 hours

The Battery is a gorgeous waterfront park with harbor views stretching a half mile along the southwestern edge of Lower Manhattan. The gardens here feature 240,000 square feet of perennials, the SeaGlass Carousel and unique outdoor programs.

This park offers visitors the perfect place to slow down in Lower Manhattan to enjoy a slow stroll, go for a morning run or take the dog for a walk. An old historic fort known as Castle Clinton is located at the heart of Battery Park and is now home to Statue Cruises.

You can climb a set of stairs to a roof deck viewing platform that looks directly over the Hudson to the Statue of Liberty and New Jersey. The Museum of Jewish Heritage and the National Museum of the American Indian are located either within or on the border with Battery Park.

Travel Tip: This park is open all year and always free to visit. We like the Battery because it’s a welcome break from the towering concrete sky scrappers.

4. Rub The Charging Bull

Charging Bull in Bowling Green Lower Manhattan is one of the best touristy things to do in NYC
Kristen in front of the Charging Bull in Lower Manhattan
  • Price: Free
  • Hours: Open 24 hours

Originally conceived in the immediate aftermath of the 1987 New York stock market crash, Italian artist Arturo Di Modica spent 2 years sculpting a 7,100 pound (7,300 kg),11ft tall and 16ft long bronze bull as a symbol of New Yorkers can do attitudes.

The statue was illegally dropped off right outside the New York Stock Exchange building by Di Modica in between police patrols. He’d conducted a reconnaissance the previous night so he knew exactly when to drop the bull.

However, the Charging Bull was removed by the end of that same day, but a week later it was given a new home at Bowling Green. The Bull was an instant hit with tourists and quickly become a must see attraction in Lower Manhattan.

Today, this statue still stands proudly and aggressively on its haunches as though ready to charge. Thousands of tourists take photos at the front of the bull with it’s horns. But it’s also common to see tourists crouched down to rub it’s testicles which is said to bring good luck and fortune.

Travel Tip: This statue can be very busy so it’s best to arrive early in the day to avoid the crowds.

5. Admire The Oculus

The Oculus from outside looks like a dove flying one of the best things to do and see in lower manhattan new york city
Exterior view of the Oculus
  • Price: Free
  • Hours: Street level access limited from 1:00am-5:00am, shops open from 11:00am-7:00pm

Oculus is a unique, fascinating and beautiful structure with 12 subway lines connecting the World Trade Center campus to Brookfield Place. Manhattan is filled with impressive buildings and towering skyscrapers, but nothing compares to Oculus. It took 14 years and $4 billion to build.

On the outside, this structure resembles a brilliant white dove soaring through the sky. Inside, a surprisingly cavernous oval shaped hall opens up to reveal a bright and very white symmetrical interior.

The building was designed by Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava to allow as much natural light in as possible. It’s easy to see why Oculus is on our list of favorite NYC photography locations. Photographers visiting the city should not miss both inside and outside this gorgeous structure.

6. 9/11 Memorial And Museum

9/11 memorial and museum pools with buildings in late afternoon sun in lower manhattan new york city
One of the reflecting pools honoring the victims of 9/11
  • Price: $21-33 (active and retired military are free)
  • Hours: Open 6 days a week from 9:00am-7:00pm (closed Tuesdays)

September 11th, 2001 was an appalling and devastating day for America that will never be forgotten. Construction began on this memorial and museum, five years after the twin towers fell in Lower Manhattan.

This museum opened in May 2014 and it commemorates the 2,977 people killed on 9/11 as well as the 6 people who died as a result of the 1993 World trade Center bombing. The memorial was built on the original sites of the twin towers consisting of both a north and south pool with shallow waterfalls.

Personally, we think the 9/11 Museum is one of the best museums we’ve ever visited. It includes remnants of the original twin towers, thousands of images, recordings and a very detailed timelines of events. Visiting this museum is a harrowing experience, but it’s very well done.

You must select a date and time for admission. Here are ways to purchase tickets:

Travel Tip: We’ve visited this museum multiple times and have spent 4-5 hours inside each time. We also spent about 45 minutes visiting the memorial pools. If this is on your NY bucket list, you might want to plan for an entire morning or afternoon.

7. Wall Street

Wall Street Sign against wall backdrop
Wall Street Sign in Lower Manhattan
  • Price: Free
  • Hours: Open 24 hours

The main artery running through the world famous New York City Financial District is called Wall Street. This is home to two of the world’s largest stock exchanges, NASDAQ and the New York Stock Exchange.

Sadly it was once a market place for slave trading and residences, but business boomed and NYC’s entire financial industry landed on this very street. There are two buildings you should visit along the attractive cobble stoned street:

  • 40 Wall Street – Also known as the Trump Building, this was once one of the tallest buildings in Manhattan. It features impressive Neo-Gothic architecture with a green pyramid shaped roof you can see from all over Lower Manhattan.
  • Federal Hall – This is a famous building where George Washington was famously sworn in as the first president of the United States in 1789.

8. New York Stock Exchange (NYSE)

New York Stock Exchange from behind Fearless Girl statue wall street financial district new york city
Bronze girl statue in front of the NYSE
  • Price: Free
  • Hours: Open 24 hours, but visitors can’t go inside

The NYSE is a national historic landmark and home to the world’s largest stock exchange. Money moves at an alarming rate inside this building.

Outside the building is a small bronze statue of a little girl looking upwards, aptly named the fearless girl. Don’t forget to take home a photo of yourself in the same fearless stance, but you can expect a long line of others doing the same.

Travel Tip: In an ironic turn of events, this statue was originally placed opposite the charging bull on Bowling Green before being moved to its current position in front of the NYSE.

9. Federal Hall

Exterior view of Federal Hall
  • Price: Free
  • Hours: Open 10:00am-5:00pm Monday to Friday (closed Saturday and Sunday)

We briefly mentioned this memorial in our Wall Street section, but it has a great museum so it’s worth mentioning on it’s own. There is no fee to enter the Federal Hall National Memorial and you can reserve a spot for a 30 minute guided tour with a ranger.

This is were George Washington took oath as the first president of the United States. It was also home to the first branches of Congress, the Supreme Court and Executive Branch office. The building now serves as a museum and you can book free tours here.

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10. Trinity Church

Trinity Church from Wall Street is one of the most well known things to do in lower manhattan new york city
Perspective shot of Trinity Church
  • Price: Free
  • Hours: Open 8:30am-6:00pm everyday

Trinity Church is the historic and stunning parish church at the heart of Lower Manhattan’s financial district. Interestingly, there have been three Trinity Church buildings since 1698:

  • The first was rectangular and burned down in the Great Fire of New York City in 1776.
  • The second was taller, longer and wider but was torn down as a result of a harsh winter in 1839.
  • Today, you will find the third and final Trinity Church which was completed in 1846.

It can be seen from Wall Street and belongs on the national register of historic places. This is also the final resting place of Alexander Hamilton, the first US Secretary of Treasury and founder of the US Mint. You can find his grave in the churchyard.

Travel Tip: If you’ve seen the movie National Treasure, the treasure is located below Trinity Church.

11. One World Observatory

One world observatory at the world trade center towering above 9/11 memorial pool in new york city
View up One World Observatory from the street level
  • Price: $39-69
  • Hours: Open everyday from 10:00am-7:00pm (hours change seasonally)

One World Trade Center is the undoubted focal point of the Lower Manhattan skyline. You’ll see it at every turn and attraction unmissable as it soars high into the sky. Also known as Freedom Tower, One World Trade Center is the main building among the rebuilt complex where the twin towers once stood.

It’s the 7th tallest building in the world as of January 2024 and the tallest in the western hemisphere. The observatory was opened in May 2015 and stands taller than all other observation decks in New York City including the Empire State Building.

One World Observatory will naturally be busier in the summer months of June, July and August. Consider planning a trip to NYC in April or another shoulder month to avoid crowds. We think this observation deck offers far greater views over the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge compared to it’s competitors in Midtown and Uptown.

You must select a date and time for admission. Here are ways to purchase tickets:

Further Reading: How to visit the One World Observatory

12. South Street Seaport District

Quaint and colorful shops along South St
  • Price: Free
  • Hours: Open 24 hours but store times vary

South Street Seaport played a huge role in the early development of Manhattan. The Dutch West India Company settled and developed streets known as Pearl St, Front St, Water St and South St. We love the attractive cobblestone streets and brick buildings that include shopping malls, independant stores, restaurants and bars.

Trade routes from China and Britain opened up with what become the Port of New York at South Street. Advancements in ship building methods left the port in ruins because the water was too shallow for newer ships to dock.

Today, you can visit the South Street Seaport Museum which consists of 5 ships and maritime exhibits detailing the role of the area as a major world port. You’ll also find Browne & Co Stationers, a letterpress printing shop and New York City’s oldest continually running business.

Photography Tip: Walk beyond the ship yard out onto Pier 17. This is where you can find some of the best views of Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan.

13. Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge as seen from Pier 17 at sunrise in New York City
The Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridge at sunrise
  • Price: Free
  • Hours: Open 24 hours

New York City’s most famous bridge is one of the best things to do in Lower Manhattan for free. Right on the northeastern edge of the financial district next to City Hall, you will find the entrance or exit to the famous Brooklyn Bridge.

Depending on your NYC itinerary and where you plan to stay, you can walk across the bridge any time of day when it fits your schedule. You can read more in our guides below:

We’ve walk across the Brooklyn Bridge several times and our favorite time is at dusk right before sunset because the city will illuminate in front of your eyes. But this is a very busy time on the bridge so if you want to avoid the crowds, visit at sunrise.

14. The Elevated Acre

Elevated Acre artificial grass on the first level of a building overlooking brooklyn in new york city
Large green space at the elevated acre
  • Price: Free
  • Hours: 7:00am-10:00pm from May 1st to September 30th and 8:00am-8:00pm October 1st to April 30th 

This is one of the most unique things in Lower Manhattan because it’s an off the beaten path hidden gem that most first time visitors to the city won’t find. This is an urban garden oasis located above street level nestled among the hustle and bustle of the financial district.

A seasonal beer garden with table and chairs plus sprawling gardens with flowers in bloom make this the perfect stop if visiting NYC in the summer and a favorite lunch spot for commuters.

Travel Tip: Look for an elevator along 55 Water Street that is set back from the sidewalk. Or you can access the garden by climbing a set of stairs near the intersections of Water St and Old Slip.

15. Free Ferry To Staten Island

Huge orange ferry to staten island new york
Recognizable orange Staten Island ferry
  • Price: Free
  • Hours: Runs everyday with variable schedule

As you walk around Battery Park and along the waterfront, you’ll notice enormous orange ferries out in the bay. This is the Staten Island Ferry and it’s free to hop on any time of day.

Many first time visitors to New York take the free Staten Island ferry to get close up views over the State of Liberty without having to pay. It’s a great idea if you’re traveling on a frugal budget, but it’s nothing like the tour to Liberty Island.

On Staten Island, you can explore the Staten Island Zoo, the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and botanical garden, Fort Wadsworth, the Staten Island Children’s Museum as well as the Franklin D Roosevelt boardwalk.

If you only have a few days in NYC, we wouldn’t recommend visiting Staten Island because there’s just too much to see and do already. The Staten Island Ferry leaves from South Ferry red subway line terminal. You can’t miss the building with enormous letters out front and you can check the schedule here.

16. Governors Island

Governors island in the Hudson River new york city from above
Aerial view of Governors Island
  • Price: $4 for adults
  • Hours: Open daily from 7:00am-6:00pm

A much simpler and less time consuming ferry ride in Lower Manhattan is a trip to Governors Island. This is basically a huge floating green park space perfect for use in the warmer months. Free public arts and cultural events take place throughout the year.

Governors Island was once a military installation dating back to 1776 during the revolutionary war. The US army and coastguard both have used this island for training and it was opened to the public in 2005.

You can walk around the historic building such as Castle Williams and Fort Jay, or just enjoy the relaxing gardens. This ferry leaves Lower Manhattan from Battery Maritime Building Slip 5 next to the Staten Island Ferry.

17. Luxury Helicopter Ride

woman in helicopter over new york city
Kristen on a helicopter tour of New York City
  • Price: Average of $250-600
  • Hours: Usually 15-30 minutes

If you’re visiting New York City with a healthy budget and want to treat yourself, we recommend you consider a helicopter ride into the skies. We booked a helicopter tour the day before we moved out of the city as an exciting last hurrah and it was completely worth the money!

The iconic Manhattan skyline is extraordinary from above and there is no better way to experience the city. If you’re looking for a romantic thing to do in Lower Manhattan, book a sunset ride to share with your loved one.

There are numerous helicopter companies available and it can be difficult to choose. We booked our experience with HeliNY and they fly out of Pier 6 at Manhattan helicopters. We highly recommend you read about our NYC Helicopter ride to learn about our experience and the different companies available.

18. Pier 15

Pier 15 with open deck terrace and seats for visitors to relax along hurons river
Kristen enjoying the sun on Pier 15
  • Price: Free
  • Hours: Open 24 hours

Had enough of walking and sightseeing? Be sure to stop and drop into a seat with a view on the upper deck of Pier 15. This is a two-tiered public terrace overlooking the East River, Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Pier 15 has plenty of seats available for those in need of a breather with an indoor seating and observation area. We love the chilled, relaxing pool-side vibe here so be sure to check it out.

19. Take A Sightseeing Cruise

Hornblower cruise from pier 16 in new york city
Large sightseeing cruise boats
  • Price: $48-120
  • Hours: Everyday with various sailing times

One of the best things to do in Lower Manhattan at night is to take a one hour NY Sightseeing Cruise to see the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge and many of New York’s famous landmarks from the water.

There are two main cruise companies offering different perspectives over Lower Manhattan’s skyline with live onboard narration including City Cruises and Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises. If you’re looking for a party, you can choose the New York Alive After Five to watch Manhattan light up from the boozy boat out in the bay.

Travel Tip: Boats leave from different piers depending on the cruise you choose and certain cruises are included on the NY attractions passes so be sure to read the fine print before booking.

20. African Burial Ground National Monument

  • Price: Free
  • Hours: Open 10:00am-4:00pm Tuesday to Saturday (closed Sunday and Monday)

The African Burial Ground National Monument is consists of both an indoor visitors center with museum and an outdoor memorial. There is no fee to enter and it pays tribute to African heritage.

This is the oldest and largest known excavated burial ground in North America for free and enslaved Africans. It honors African Americans and offers education about the hardship they experienced in early America. For more information and a list of events, you can visit the official NPS website.

Lower Manhattan Interactive Map

Below you’ll find our interactive map for Lower manhattan. We’ve included every fun thing to do in Lower Manhattan we’ve mentioned in this guide including hotel and restaurant recommendations.

Click on the map to activate it so you can zoom in and out. Move around the map to see the locations of the best things to do in Lower Manhattan. You can also access our map via this link here.

Where To Eat In Lower Manhattan

The Financial District might not be the first place you think of in NYC for top places to eat, but it’s full of hidden gems spanning the entire budget range. Here are three delicious recommendations for breakfast, lunch and dinner in Lower Manhattan:

leos bagels and underground pizza breakfast and lunch in lower manhattan new york city
Exterior view of Underground Pizza and Leo’s Bagels

Conveniently located next to one another on the corner of William Street and Beaver St not far from Wall Street, you’ll find the perfect quick breakfast and lunch options.

Leo’s Bagels

Bagels are a New York Speciality and in Leo’s you’ll find the perfect Lower Manhattan bagel breakfast. The line is always long here so arrive early to beat the hungry finance workers. Check out the menu here.

Further Reading: Where to find the best NYC bagels

Underground Pizza

Underground Pizza is a great refueling spot on your Lower Manhattan itinerary. This is where you can get the traditional New York City pizza slice. The staff are always super friendly and we love the hidden gem hole-in-the-wall feel with no frills. You can check out the menu here.

Further Reading: Best pizza places in NYC

Fraunces Tavern is the perfect place to refuel after sightseeing in Lower Manhattan best things to do historic inn where george Washington thanked his men at the end of the revolutionary war
Fraunces Tavern with outdoor seating in winter

Fraunces Tavern

There are numerous restaurants in Lower Manhattan offering waterfront outdoor seating near Pier 15, but if you’re looking for a unique experience, we always recommend Fraunces Tavern which serves upscale pub food in a historic building.

Fraunces Tavern is one of the oldest buildings still standing in NYC today. This is where George Washington rounded up his officers in 1783 to thank them for their service fighting in the American Revolutionary War.

They offer classic pub grub with a huge selection of craft beers making it the best way to end an action packed day sightseeing in Lower Manhattan. You can see the menu here.

Where To Stay In New York City

Marriott Downtown Hotel is a great place to stay when visiting Lower Manhattan New York City
A beautiful Lower Manhattan view from our hotel room

With so many hotels and neighborhoods to choose between, picking the best place to stay in NYC can be a real challenge. Most visitors to New York tend to stay around Times Square and Midtown Manhattan for central location and better value rooms.

Our extremely popular where to stay in New York City guide covers the six major neighborhoods visitors should consider. We also list the top rated hotels within each area.

Alternatively, you can take a closer look at the top rated cheap, mid range and luxury Downtown NYC hotels in our guide to the 12 best hotels in Lower Manhattan on our sister site.

But in the meantime, here are the hotels we see most visitors to our site booking in NYC:

  • The Archer – One of our personal top picks located near Bryant Park with views over Empire State Building.
  • CitizenM – Centrally located at Times Square, close to Broadway and Rockefeller Center.
  • MOXY NYC – Rooftop bar and good value between Penn Station and Times Square.
  • Cambria Hotel – Affordable highly rated hotel with rooftop terrace located between Midtown and Chelsea.

How To Save Money In NYC

The four popular attraction passes in New York City

If you’re planning to visit the top attractions in New York, we recommend you purchase a New York City attraction pass. The idea is simple with these attractions passes; the more attractions you visit, the more money you will save.

Having used the NYC attraction passes ourselves when we lived in New York, we recommend the New York Sightseeing Pass because its extremely easy to use while offering both flexibility and big savings.

Many of the paid attractions in Lower manhattan are included on the NY Sightseeing Pass and we have an exclusive 5-10% discount just for our readers. However, the 9/11 Museum is not on the pass so you’ll have to purchase tickets separately (active and retired military can visit for free).

Want To Save Money In NYC?

Use the button below to claim 5-10% off any NY Sightseeing Pass.

You can also read our guides below to help decide what pass you’ll need for your visit to New York:

NYC is a vacation planning beast. It can be extremely overwhelming trying to get every aspect right. After living in the city, we created a comprehensive NYC Guidebook that will answer every question you have about where to stay, what to do, where to eat and how to get around the city.

Click see details below to read more about how we can help you plan your dream trip to NYC!

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Want more New York content? Head over to our New York Travel Guides to explore the Finger Lakes, Adirondacks and the best of NYC.


We hope this guide to the best things to do in Lower Manhattan helps with planning your visit to NYC!

Please let us know if you have any questions about where to visit in Lower Manhattan or things to do in the financial district in the comments below.

Happy Travels,

Mark and Kristen

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2 thoughts on “20 Best Things To Do In Lower Manhattan (Financial District)”

  1. This is such amazing content and insight into NYC! You guys have accomplished more in 3 months than a New Yorker has living their whole lives in the city. I absolutely love the photos, advice and agree that downtown Manhattan is where it’s all at. The action! I must try some of this things on your list that I have not done yet.

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