Six Ways to Enjoy Lower Manhattan’s Waterfront
Did you know…
That Lower Manhattan is one of… if not the only… neighborhood in Manhattan surrounded on three sides by water?
The waterfront has shaped the history of the city and the nation. The Lenape used it for fishing and travel. Henry Hudson’s exploration of the river that would later bear his name began at the Harbor. The British used New York Harbor as a base during the American Revolution. Immigrants from across the globe got their first glimpse of the United States as their boats headed toward Ellis Island, and later set foot in New York at Castle Clinton.
Spending time on the water is the perfect way to engage with the city’s rich history while taking in the majestic skyline. Here’s what to do and see:
The Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
Lady Liberty is recognized worldwide as the symbol of American freedom. The massive monument — designed by sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi and Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame — was a gift from the French, commemorating the 100-year anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
There are only two places to get tickets: online at www.statuecruises.com or in person only at the Castle Clinton box office, from where ferries also leave. No other ticket sellers are able to get you to the actual statue on Liberty Island. Once your ferry stops at the island, wander the grounds, climb up the statue if she’s open, and make a pit stop at the newly-opened museum, which features Lady Liberty-related photos and memorabilia.
The same ferry that brought you to the Statue of Liberty will take you onward to historic Ellis Island. (Note that to be allowed to visit both attractions, you must board the ferry before 1 p.m.) Upon arrival, relive the immigrant experience at the formidable Immigration Museum. Between 1892 to 1924, Ellis Island and the grounds of the museum greeted close to 12 million immigrants as they arrived in the New World.
The SeaGlass Carousel at the Battery
The Battery’s small, striking SeaGlass Carousel is located just a short walk from Castle Clinton. This ethereal carousel features giant, luminescent fish and dreamy music in a radiant glass and steel pavilion, and references the Battery’s past life as the original home of the New York Aquarium. Though the carousel is currently closed, it is typically open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and costs $5 to ride. Children 12 months and younger ride for free.
Lunch on the Water at Brookfield Place
Dine with a glorious Hudson River view at Brookfield Place. On-the-water options include seafood spot Seamore’s and French cuisine at Le District, whose outdoor dining spot is dubbed Liberty Bistro. You can also opt to purchase a to-go meal inside the Hudson Eats market, then dine at one of the outdoor tables on the waterfront.
When finished eating, stroll up the East River promenade and take in the view, or even opt for a yacht or sailboat tour of the Harbor — Tribeca Sailing offers a number of private socially-distanced charters that’ll get you up close-and personal with the water.
Staten Island Ferry
The Staten Island Ferry is the Harbor’s best-kept non-secret. The free (!!!) ferry offers a spectacular view of the Harbor, the Statue of Liberty and the Lower Manhattan skyline, plus there’s a surprisingly well-stocked bar on board. Ferries leave regularly from the Whitehall Terminal (schedule here) and a one-way trip takes about 25 minutes. Did we mention it’s free?
When you land at one of the most perfectly hidden gems of New York City, you won’t believe more people don’t make this trip. Considered Lower Manhattan’s backyard and playground, Governors Island is an eight-minute ferry ride from the Battery Maritime Building. The island is a lush car-free green space with a hammock grove, one of the longest slides in the city, bike rentals, dozens of art galleries, delicious food options and incredible views of Lower Manhattan and the statue.
No exploration of the waterfront would be complete without the Seaport District. The historic neighborhood’s cobblestone streets and storefronts recall its maritime and mercantile past. Today, the Seaport is home to shops, restaurants, the South Street Seaport Museum and Pier 17, an open-air event venue. Dine outdoors, do a little shopping and catch a concert; be sure to make a visit to the Titanic Memorial Lighthouse, which pays homage to the ill-fated ship and ties the Seaport’s history to the world beyond New York.