A guide of what to do in Lower Manhattan. This section of New York City is where you will find the Financial District, the 9/11 Memorial, and the ferry to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.
Wondering what to do in Lower Manhattan? On my most recent trip to New York City, I focused my time on exploring this part of the city that I had overlooked in the past. New York City has so much to see that I like to pick a different neighborhood to visit each time I am in town. This time I picked Lower Manhattan since I had only been there a couple of times, even though I lived in NYC for two years. It turns out that Lower Manhattan has so much to see and do.
I recommend taking the subway to the Fulton Station and then going to see the 9/11 Memorial. Plaques mark the names of those who lost their lives in the attack, and white roses are placed on the names on their birthdays.
The plaques trace the outlines of the twin towers and contain waterfall like fountains. If you want to learn more about 9/11 you can visit the museum, which I hear is excellent, I just didn’t have time to fit it into my schedule.
Next, my sister recommended that I stop at The Oculus, a mall/train station hybrid with incredible modern architecture. It is just beside the 9/11 memorial, and definitely worth a quick visit. Fun fact: it cost $4Billion to build.
Then I hopped back on the subway and go to the Brooklyn Bridge. Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge offers wonderful views of Manhattan, and the bridge itself is beautiful.
It can be crowded, and if you want to avoid crowds you should go early in the morning. If you are pressed for time, you can rent a bike and bike across instead of walking.
Statue of Liberty
Lower Manhattan is also the starting point for trips to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. On my second day in NYC, I spent about 4 ½ hours at these two sites. It is very very important to book your ticket in advance! The lines for tickets were very long and it is much easier to book online in advance. Even the Will Call line took 15 minutes, so try to print your tickets at home if you can. The other reason you want to pre-book is that there are different types of tickets, and tickets to go up to the crown of the Statue of Liberty are limited. (Heads up that small children cannot go to the top of the crown).
You board the ferry to Liberty Island (where the Statue of Liberty is) from Battery Park. The ferry ride takes about 20 minutes and first drops you off at the Statue of Liberty. You can pick up an audio guide and then walk up to the Pedestal or to the Crown. There is a small museum where you can learn about the history of the Statue of Liberty.
I spent about an hour at the Statue of Liberty. I was surprised to learn that the torch has been replaced twice since the initial design that involved lighting the torch from within did not withstand the test of time. Today the torch is gilded and illuminated from the outside.
After visiting the Statue of Liberty I boarded the ferry for a short ride to Ellis Island. Ellis Island is currently offering a Hard Hat Tour that takes visitors to the abandoned hospitals on Ellis Island. The tour is 90 minutes, and it turns out that an abandoned hospital for contagious and infectious diseases is just as creepy as you would imagine. The tour was fascinating.
The fee for the Hard Hat Tour is $45, and the money is being used to continue to develop the old Ellis Island buildings so that they are safe to visit. The hospital buildings flooded severely during Hurricane Sandy, and it seems unlikely they would survive another disaster. If you have the opportunity to do the Hard Hat Tour – do it.
On the tour, we learned that only the third class passengers entered the US at Ellis Island. The ships made a stop at another island first, and the first and second place passengers went through a quick health check in their rooms before being allowed to enter the US. The third class passengers received very quick health checks to make sure they didn’t have any serious diseases before being brought to Ellis Island. At Ellis Island, passengers would receive a more thorough health check, and they would be asked how much money they had and if they had relatives in the United States. The US wanted to make sure that everyone was able to gain employment and would not spread disease.
If a passenger was sick, they would be sent to one of the hospitals on Ellis Island. They had a general hospital, a hospital for contagious and infectious diseases (tuberculosis and measles were the most common), and a maternity ward. Amazingly, 9 out of 10 patients at the hospital for contagious and infectious diseases survived. This shocked me since the only treatments for many of the ailments were sunlight and fresh air!
The Hard Hat Tour is a bigger time commitment since it is 90 minutes long. It also isn’t the most cheerful tour due to the subject matter. If you want a faster, more cheerful experience you can watch a 30-minute video about the history of Ellis Island in the main building.
Ellis Island also has a center where you can research any family members who entered the United States through Ellis Island. Very helpful staff will assist you as you search the database. As far as I know, I only had one relative arrive in the US through Ellis Island. While at Ellis Island, I took advantage of the opportunity to learn more about my Great-Grandmother’s journey from Italy to New York. She left from Naples and it took her ship 12 days to reach New York City. She had just $25 with her, and she was heading to Boston (and then Maine). Her name is on the Wall of Fame so I went to find it.
One thing that came to mind at Ellis Island was how I wanted to go there because it is where my Great-Grandmother entered the United States. I was making a pilgrimage to honor my family. At the same time, my husband is an immigrant and I don’t even know how he entered the country. Since this realization, Kelly and I have been joking about taking a family vacation to JFK (or whichever airport it was) to honor Charles’s arrival in America.
When I arrived back at Battery Park I took a quick walk up to see the Fearless Girl Statue that stares Wall Street’s Bull right in the eyes. It was a little crowded, but it was an easy stop off from Battery Park. The statue currently has a one year permit, so I wanted to see it while I could.
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