36 Hours in Downtown Manhattan
By SETH KUGEL
Published: August 18, 2011
ONE WORLD TRADE CENTER is rising, and the 9/11 Memorial will open right below it next month on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. Although progress on the World Trade Center site has been slow, the surrounding neighborhoods did not wait to revive (and in some cases reinvent themselves) after all the emotional and economic devastation. The financial district is bustling, Chinatown is as quirky and enticing as ever, and TriBeCa is bursting with new restaurants, bars and hotels. With the exception of those seeking a night of relentless club-hopping, travelers hardly need venture north of Canal Street for a complete New York weekend.
1) CRUISING THE HARBOR
Been there (Liberty and Governors Islands) and done that (taken the free Staten Island Ferry)? There are other options for harbor cruises, and what better way to get an overview of Lower Manhattan? One possibility is a 90-minute sail on the Clipper City tall ship, a replica of a 19th-century lumber-hauling schooner (Manhattan by Sail; 800-544-1224; manhattanbysail.com), which departs from the South Street Seaport. Another is a one-hour harbor cruise with Statue Cruises (201-604-2800; statuecruises.com). The company will soon launch its Hornblower Hybrid, which relies on several power sources, including hydrogen fuel cells, solar panels and wind turbines.
2) SUGAR AND SOAP
Venture to TriBeCa for a treat at Duane Park Patisserie (179 Duane Street; 212-274-8447; duaneparkpatisserie.com, lemon tarts, $5; “magic cupcakes,” $4) on the shady pocket park it’s named after. Then wander into the nearby shops, ranging from the cute to the serious. At Lucca Antiques (182 Duane Street; 212-343-9005; luccaantiques.com) the owners salvage old wood and metal objects from Europe and brilliantly reformulate them into modern furniture, lamps and wall décor. Torly Kid (51 Hudson Street; 212-406-7440; torlykid.com) has funkily functional clothes for babies to tweens. At the Working Class Emporium (168 Duane Street; 212-941-1199; workingclassinc.com), a shop, you can buy quirky gifts like three-dimensional puzzles and soap shaped like dogs.
3) BANKERS’ HAPPY HOUR
If you resent investment bankers’ salaries and bonuses, then here’s something else to be envious of: the cobblestone stretch of Stone Street. What might be New York’s greatest outdoor drinking spot happens to be right next to Goldman Sachs’s former headquarters. When it’s warm, this quaint block, lined with 19th-century Greek Revival buildings, is practically blocked by tables occupied by financial types, a few sundry locals and knowledgeable tourists. Choose a table outside Adrienne’s Pizzabar (212-248-3838; 54 Stone Street; adriennespizzabar.com) and order a meatball and broccoli rabe pizza ($28.50), enough for three people; a bottle of wine starts at a few dollars more.
4) THE ANTI-COPA
Midtown’s Copacabana recently reopened, bringing some throwback flash to New York’s music scene. But for throwback grit, try the Friday night party at 2020 (20 Warren Street; 212-962-9759; 2020latinclub.com), where Latinos working in every kind of downtown job come to dance to the D.J.-supplied rhythms of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean.
5) BUENOS AIRES BRUNCH
Under one form or another, the restaurateur Stacey Sosa has run an Argentine restaurant in this cool space in TriBeCa since 1997. And though brunch at Estancia 460 (212-431-5093; 460 Greenwich Street; estancia460.wordpress.com) is very New York, with frittatas, granola and some innovative egg dishes, there are flashes of Buenos Aires, like French toast with dulce de leche. (Brunch for two about $30.)
Most people don’t put the Smithsonian on their New York must-do list. But the National Museum of the American Indian (212-514-3700; nmai.si.edu), in the Beaux Arts splendor of the old Customs House near Battery Park, is a reminder that Manhattan and the rest of the Western Hemisphere has a long and vibrant cultural history. The Infinity of Nations exhibition has everything from a macaw and heron feather headdress from Brazil to a hunting hat with ivory carvings from the Arctic. To get an up-close view of a wampum belt and corn pounder used by the Lenape Indians, who called the island Manahatta, head to the museum’s resource center and ask. The museum is free — not far from the price for which the Lenapes famously sold Manhattan to the Dutch.
7) DOCTORAL DOWNTOWN
Continue your historical education with a Big Onion tour. Downtown’s a complicated place, with layers upon layers of history: Dutch, African-American, Revolutionary and financial, among others. It takes a doctoral candidate to decode it, and that is who will lead you on a two-hour $18 tour that might include “Historic TriBeCa,” “Revolutionary New York” or “The Financial District.” Times vary; see bigonion.com.
8) WINE BY THE T-SHIRT
At the wine bar Terroir Tribeca (24 Harrison Street; 212-625-9463; wineisterroir.com), the young servers dressed in wine-themed T-shirts don’t look as though they could know what they are talking about, but don’t get them started. (Actually, do get them started.) A glass of wine begins at $8.75, and the menu is full of temptations so nonstandard you can justify it: fried balls of risotto, wine and oxtail ($8), for example, is a perfect way to spend your allotment of deep-fried calories.
9) SALVAGE AND BRUSCHETTA
Who knows how many diners have walked out of Robert DeNiro and company’s Locanda Verde, the big northern Italian spot, and wondered what was going on in the tiny, bustling restaurant across the street? Decked out with salvaged materials that evoke an old factory or warehouse, Smith and Mills (71 North Moore Street; 212-226-2515; smithandmills.com) seats 22 at tables shoehorned between the standing, drinking crowds. The menu includes tomato bruschetta, oysters with horseradish, burgers and brioche bread pudding; dinner for two about $70, with drinks. One must-see: the bathroom, in a turn-of-the-century iron elevator.
10) DRINKS ON DOYERS
Head east to Chinatown, where Apotheke (9 Doyers Street; 212-406-0400; apothekenyc.com) is a non-Chinese intruder sitting on the elbow of L-shaped Doyers Street, the spot known as the Bloody Angle for the gang-related killings there in the early 20th century. Here you’ll find one of the city’s top cocktail bars, with throwback décor and dim lighting. Try the Deal Closer, made with cucumber, vodka, mint, lime and vanilla, along with “Chinatown aphrodisiacs” ($15).
11) BROOKLYN BRIDGE CROSSING
With the arrival of the dog days, you have to get up pretty early to walk across this beloved landmark in comfort. As romantic as ever, a walk along the elevated pedestrian walkway provides a photo opportunity a minute. On your way back, stop by City Hall Park to see four decades of Sol LeWitt’s sculptures, on display until Dec. 3. Then head west across Chambers Street to pick up bagels and smoked salmon from Zucker’s (146 Chambers Street; 212-608-5844; zuckersbagels.com).
12: 30 p.m.
12) IN MEMORIAM
On Sept. 12, the National September 11 Memorial and Museum opens, with its pair of one-acre reflecting pools in the footprints of the fallen towers, names of victims inscribed in bronze panels, and rustling swamp white oak trees overhead. The on-site museum will have exhibitions on the original World Trade Center and the day of the attacks. Visitors can reserve free passes at 911memorial.org. No pass is needed to visit the “Unwavering Spirit: Hope and Healing at Ground Zero” exhibition at St. Paul’s Chapel nearby (209 Broadway; trinitywallstreet.org). St. Paul’s became a refuge for rescue workers in the days after the attacks. Now it houses photographs, testimonials and artifacts from those weeks after the city changed irrevocably.
IF YOU GO
The Greenwich Hotel (212-941-8900; 377 Greenwich Street; thegreenwichhotel.com), Robert DeNiro’s 2008 creation, has 88 individually designed rooms in the heart of TriBeCa. Free Internet and local phone calls, and for rooms starting at $495 a night, you actually get your choice of local newspaper.
To keep it boutique but lower the rate, try Gild Hall (15 Gold Street; 212-232-7700; thompsonhotels.com), a member of the Thompson Hotels, where 12-foot ceilings and marble bathroom floors go for as little as $179 a night on weekends.