Dork for New York: Lower Manhattan Walking Tour

Yesterday I offered a map highlighting some of NYC’s free (like really free) landmarks and attractions in Manhattan’s Midtown (and surrounding area).

Today: Lower Manhattan. When I had visited NYC prior to moving here, I had never really spent that much time in Lower Manhattan, beyond “Oh cool, that street sign says ‘Wall Street’” and “Why is that bull significant again?”

File:Charging Bull statue.jpg

I have since learned the Bull's significance (click on the pic to learn for yourself).

But beyond the brief walk through I’d done, along with knowing that this area was home to the New York Stock Exchange, Ground Zero, and a pretty respectable view of the Statue of Liberty, that was about all I could say for Lower Manhattan.  However, once Josh started working in Lower Manhattan (and not as an occupier OR a Wall Street Suit, by the way), he got to know the area very well, as did I.
It’s no secret that NYC is an oooold city; it was once our nation’s capital, after all.  And Lower Manhattan is a neighborhood teeming with some of the most interesting… old stuff (which translates to major cool points for a super history dork like me).  So with the help of my husband (that’s GPP web designer/social media guru/everything-else-I-can’t-wrap-my-head-around-fella/”no, he still doesn’t have a proper title” guy), we created a walking map of some of the more interesting landmarks, some with huge plaques next to them, others that you’d miss if you blinked twice (no blinking allowed).

This is by no means an exhaustive Lower Manhattan tour; there are still plenty of museums and landmarks that we haven’t seen and aren’t included in this map.  However, if you have a free afternoon and you’re trying to cram as much as you can into a three day trip, this is a good way to do it!

Hope you enjoy!

lower manhattan walking tour map

Lower Manhattan Walking Tour Map

And here’s a printable MS Word doc version:  Lower Manhattan walking tour DOC

And… here’s a more detailed itinerary, because sometimes the buildings don’t speak for themselves.

(Letters below correspond to the map above.)

A.  Sphere Sculpture:  For years, this sculpture was by the World Trade Center Twin Towers.  As a result of the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001, this sculpture was damaged.  However, it was not completely destroyed, and the ruins of it were re-located to Lower Manhattan’s Battery Park as an interim memorial.  On the one year anniversary of the attacks, an eternal flame was lit in memory of those who lost their lives on this day.  To see what the Sphere looked like before it was damaged and to read more about its significance, check out this Wikipedia article (there’s also a plaque by the actual sculpture that explains some of this).

the sphere nyc sculpture

The Sphere sculpture in Battery Park, NYC. You can see the eternal flame in the lower left hand corner of the picture, as well as the soon-to-be Freedom Tower (still under construction) in the upper left hand corner.

B.  Castle Clinton:  Currently a national monument, this sandstone fort has served as a beer garden, theatre, aquarium, and exhibition hall, as well as America’s first immigration station (yes, even before nearby Ellis Island!).  Because of its geographic position, it is also a departure point for those visiting Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty (and you can get some pretty good views of both of those landmarks from here).

Battery Park is also home to the East Coast Memorial, an area of eight 19-ft. tall granite pylons commemorating the WWII U.S. servicemen who lost their lives in the western Atlantic Ocean.

C.  Museum of the American Indian (housed in the U.S. Customs House):  While we have never been in the museum, the building itself is a work of art in the Beaux-Arts style, and the nearby informational signs offer some interesting tidbits about the building and its original site.

us customs house

U.S. Customs House, now home to the Museum of the American Indian

D.  The Charging Bull statue:  This bronze statue, an iconic image of aggressive financial optimism and prosperity, was originally a guerrilla art installation.  When artist Arturo Di Modica placed the statue beneath the Broad St. Christmas tree in 1989, police seized it and placed it in an impound lot.  Due to public outcry, The NYC Department of Parks and Recreation installed it two blocks south of the NYSE in Bowling Green Park. (Where did I learn this?  Right here.)

E.  Federal Hall National Monument:  Perhaps my favorite part of the Lower Manhattan tour, this is where George Washington was inaugurated as our first president!  Did you know that?  I guessed if I’d thought of it, I could have figured it out, but this was a cool surprise to me when I read this sign in front of it:

federal hall

F.  New York Stock Exchange:  Maybe you’ve heard of it?  Often considered the financial center of the world, it is the world’s largest stock exchange in terms of market capitalization (Source).  Not to mention, it’s a lovely building with some intense high relief going on in the building’s pediment and a colonnade of Corinthian columns that’ll bring out the architecture nerd in anyone (or at least, me).

G.  Trinity Church:  An ooolllddd church, and by “ooolllddd” I mean founded in 1696.  (However, it has suffered a few fires and some rebuilding, but still… it’s ooolllddd.)  Take a free stroll through the church, as well as its museum in the back.  You can also check out the cemetery which is the final resting place for many historical figures, including John Jacob Astor (the business guy), Robert Fulton (the steam engine guy), and Alexander Hamilton (the first Secretary of Treasury/ten dollar bill/died-in-a-famous-duel guy).


H.  Zuccotti Park:  This park — famous or infamous, depending on your ideological views — was the campground of the Occupy Wall Street protesters (and still sort of is, though they mostly just protest during the day as of this writing).

WTC Memorial:  Continue down Trinity Place (northwest) and you’ll begin to see signs pointing you in the direction of the WTC Memorial.  While the memorial is a free attraction, you must reserve passes to see it (check out this website).

Brooklyn Bridge:  To access this famous NYC landmark by foot, you can enter the promenade at Centre Street by City Hall (easily found on a Google map, just type in “Avenue of the Finest and Centre Street, NY, NY”).

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