Just before Thanksgiving, my sister traveled to NYC for a few days on a work trip, and I decided to join her for a little girl time. Our sister trips to the Big Apple usually consist of staying Uptown and schlepping all over to our favorite spots. What we’ve realized, though, is that many of our fave haunts are in Lower Manhattan, far away from much of the hustle and bustle, so we switched it up this time. At the risk of sounding like SNL’s Stefan, I’ve put together a guide of our go-to places to eat, stay, shop, and play in lower Manhattan. I have no clue about “New York’s hottest nightclub,” but I’m well-versed in shopping and eating!
WHERE TO STAY
Of course there is no shortage of awesome hotels in NYC, but sometimes narrowing them down can be overwhelming. We’ve done the work for you! These are a few of our faves in Lower Manhattan.
Ritz-Carlton Battery Park
2 West Street | 212-344-0800
My sister’s meetings were in the Financial District, so we booked the Ritz-Carlton in Battery Park. Due to an annoying flight delay, we didn’t arrive at the hotel until after midnight, but our travel woes disappeared when we realized we had been upgraded to a fabulous corner suite with views of the Hudson, the Statue of Liberty, and downtown Manhattan! Our room was even equipped with a telescope to check out Lady Liberty and beyond. The Ritz-Carlton Battery Park truly provides an uptown dose of pampering in a laidback downtown locale.
123 Nassau Street | 212-233-2300
For more of a “scene,” The Beekman manages to mesh its painstakingly restored 130-year old architecture with a hip artsy vibe and spacious (relatively speaking) rooms that are actually comfortable. No easy feat! The library-inspired Bar Room serves inspired craft cocktails in a cozy lounge illuminated by the Insta-famous pyramidal skylight at the top of the open atrium, and both on-site restaurants are impressive enough to justify never leaving the premises. Part of the Thompson Hotel portfolio, The Beekman just gets it right!
9 Crosby Street | 646-218-6400
Located in the heart of SoHo, NoMo is a gem of a hotel within walking distance to all of the curiosities this quirky neighborhood has to offer. The picturesque entrance and courtyard restaurant feel as if you’ve stepped into a magical fairy garden with twinkle lights and ivy-covered everything, and the lively ambiance and spot-on service make NoMo a destination in itself!
Gramercy Park Hotel
2 Lexington Avenue | 212-920-3300
Perhaps it is not technically considered Lower Manhattan, but Gramercy Park Hotel is close enough for me! We adore everything about this hotel, from the imaginative decor and impressive art collection to the chic Rose Bar and exclusive guest access to the private Gramercy Park.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
Basically, we go to New York for all the French food!!
138 Lafayette Street | 212-271-4252
Located in the 11 Howard Hotel on Lafayette in SoHo, Le Coucou feels at once vintage and contemporary, and I can’t help but think this recently crowned James Beard winner for “Best New Restaurant” will become a classic staple for upscale French dining.
5 Beekman Street | 212-375-0010
While the vibe at Augustine (one of two eateries in The Beekman) is decidedly Parisian, the food definitely has an all-American flair — the whisky burger, to my surprise and delight, was served with a shot of bourbon! Along with the requisite frites and aioli, it was easily my favorite meal of the trip.
80 Spring Street | 212-965-1414
Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, Balthazar (yes, another brasserie…NYC just does them so well!) offers comforting faves like French onion soup and reliably delicious steak frites in a cozy neighborhood setting. You may have to get over the fact that the strangers at the adjacent table are so close they could feasibly split your meal, but that’s part of the fun at Balthazar. Besides, it could be a super cool celeb, like Isla Fisher, who was at the bar next to us!
767 Washington Street | 212-243-1053
For a carefree, dancing-on-the-table kind of night, head to Tortilla Flats. This kitschy cantina boasts weekly bingo and hula hoop contests, and the Mexican fare is surprisingly very solid…especially for New York!
181 W. 10th Street | 212-488-2626
Although we didn’t make it this trip, Bobo is always a favorite. With its gorgeous decor and elegant French menu (are you noticing a trend?), this West Village spot is a design lover’s dream!
Other notables include Jack’s Wife Freda (224 Lafayette Street | 212-510-8550) an understated American-Mediterranean bistro, The Bao (13 St. Marks Place) known for their delicate Shanghai-style soup dumplings, Raoul’s (180 Prince Street | 212-966-3518) a timeless NYC bistro that will having you feeling like a character in a Woody Allen film, Carbone (181 Thompson Street | 212-254-3000), a glam red-sauce Italian joint, and Waverly Inn (16 Bank Street | 917-828-1154), infamous for serving the “worst food in New York” according to Donald Trump! Waverly Inn may be considered passé to some, but to me, it’s timeless. I love feeling as if I’m eating my delicious meal in a good friend’s home. And the people watching is next to none….I sat across from Uma Thurman during my last visit! Last but not least, no trip is complete without a stop at Ladurée (398 West Broadway | 646-392-7868) for a box of beautiful macarons!
WHERE TO SHOP
While my sister attended her meetings, I took full advantage of the glorious fall weather by walking around and poking my head into all of the adorable shops SoHo has to offer! I adore the Old World vibe of this neighborhood, from the cobblestone streets to the unique merchants and galleries. Without an agenda, I tried to just explore without the aid of my phone. I did go in a few circles, but it’s not a trip to New York without losing your way once or twice! Here are a few of my favorite discoveries:
16 Howard Street | 212-625-1797
This fabulously quirky boutique is filled with bespoke wares created in M. Crow owner Tyler Hays’s Philadelphia workshop. The meticulously hand-painted wooden jigsaw puzzles are true works of art and kept me browsing this gallery-like shop for close to an hour!
459 Broome Street | 212-420-8796
If you know me, you know my creative skills are…let’s just say underwhelming. Knitting is not on my resume, but after perusing the lovely, colorful display of yarn at Purl SoHo, I just may need to schedule some lessons. The rainbow of raw materials on display is inspirational, and the helpful, friendly staff makes this a place to which you want to return.
Rudy’s Music Shop
461 Broome Street | 212-625-2557
My son has recently taken up guitar playing, and Rudy’s Music Shop is such a fun place to poke around for him. Full of Fenders and Gibsons, both vintage and new, this is a great stop for any music lover.
27 Howard Street | 212-343-0033
For the design lovers, Michele Varian is a fabulously eclectic home and lifestyle boutique, featuring stunning wallpaper and lighting designed by Varian herself. Great stop for a unique gift or conversation-starting accent.
MoMA Design Store
81 Spring Street | 646-613-1367
Though the Museum of Modern Art is located in Midtown, the MoMA Design Store has an outpost in SoHo, conveniently located directly across the street from Balthazar. The MoMA Store has so many cool and unique items that make great gifts or souvenirs. I had several friends celebrating big milestone birthdays immediately following my trip, and I chose to gift them each with a set of Kaleido modular trays by Swedish designer Clara von Zweigbergk. So fun!
For the fashionistas, SoHo is heaven on earth! Walk to favorites Isabel Marant (469 Broome Street |212-219-2284) for effortless, upscale Parisian-designed items with a Bohemian flare, The Reformation (23 Howard Street | 212-510-8455) for California-cool “killer clothes that don’t kill the environment,” Zimmermann (55 Mercer Street | 212-226-6440) for sophisticated and feminine frocks designed by an Australian sister duo, Marissa Webb (104 Grand Street | 212-334-1853) for accessible yet edgy pieces, and of course Intermix (98 Prince Street | 212-966-5303) for all of it!
WHAT TO SEE
Eden Fine Art Gallery
470 Broome Street | 212-888-0177
Galleries abound all over the city, but Eden Fine Art Gallery has an identity all its own. Featuring colorful pop-art pieces from a handful of Israeli artists, this outpost is the ninth location by this husband-wife duo — locations include Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, San Francisco, and St. Barth. What I love about this place is that you simply cannot leave here in a bad mood. The art itself is lively and uplifting, and the cheery curators and directors will make you feel right at home.
9/11 Memorial and Museum
180 Greenwich Street | 212-227-7931
I am usually not one for the big tourist attractions in New York. I’ve not been to the Empire State Building, I’ve only seen Lady Liberty from afar, and I steer clear of Times Square at all costs, but I have wanted to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum for years. Because it was within walking distance from where we were staying in Battery Park, my sister and I headed there on our way to dinner. It was sobering and emotional, but it felt like an important thing to do. It is tastefully done, and although I did not personally know any of the victims honored here, I felt like I was paying my respects in a way. I hope to go back next trip and spend more time in the museum.
Richard Rodgers Theatre, 226 W. 46th Street | 212-221-1211
I totally realize Broadway is nowhere near the geographical limitations of this Lower Manhattan favorites guide, but I’m throwing this in here because Uber! It took us about 30 minutes to get to the Richard Rodgers Theatre from our dinner at Augustine, and it was worth every minute of the drive. Hamilton is the real deal, and although I sometimes have trouble staying focused during musicals, I was captivated by this show and its brilliant use of hip-hop numbers to tell the story of Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton.