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”).


You might also enjoy:

Dyker Heights Lights

Midtown Walking Tour

NYC Holiday Windows


Dork For New York: Midtown Walking Tour

New York City:  It is darn expensive.  Like, you can sneeze and somehow lose twenty dollars.  In less than an hour.  And twenty dollars is perhaps a conservative number.

However, in this wallet-sucking city, there are still plenty of sights and sounds to take in for… are you ready?… FREE.  No, really.

You may remember from my previous posts, I talked about checking the insane extravagant holiday lights displays in the Dyker Heights nabe in Brooklyn, as well as the holiday windows and FAO Schwarz tour in Manhattan.  Yep, those were good, free times.  Well, when my in-laws — who had never seen any of NYC beyond the Statue of Liberty — visited for New Year’s, we wanted to cram in as much as we could into the three days they were going to be here.

Josh and I planned and mapped it out, and we think (hope) it was a successful/educational/entertaining/hopefully-all-three trip, hitting some of the better known touristy highlights, as well as a few lesser known surprises thrown in as well.  If I gave you our entire itinerary, it may be more confusing than if I just provide you with a walking map, pointing out some of the (free) landmarks we checked out (I’ll also point out some landmarks we didn’t get to check out).  For today, I’ll show you our map of Midtown and the surrounding area.  (Tomorrow’s all about Lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge.)

The total walking tour is about 3.6 miles, so maybe not the best for a novice walker or someone with back or knee problems, however there are plenty of subway options along the route and if you break up the walking by stopping for lunch in between, it’s really not so noticeable (and you’re going to stop and take pictures anyway, right?)

Click on the map for an enlarged version:

Click on this image for an enlarged and printable version

For an even better printable version, check out this MS Word doc:  gpp midtown walking map

Hope this is helpful for future trips!  And if your ideal Midtown itinerary varies a bit from mine, type it into Google maps and select the walking option (or mass transit or whatever).  You can re-arrange the order of the letters/landmarks so you’re not doubling back or wasting time — though every corner of Midtown Manhattan has some famous name, landmark, and street sign, so no matter where you end up, you’d hardly be wasting time.

Check back tomorrow for a (slightly more detailed) Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge walking tour!


You might also enjoy:

Dyker Heights Lights

NYC Holiday Windows


This blurry picture of Josh and I at Grand Central Station.  We were yawning and pretending like Grand Central Station isn’t one of the most beautiful places ever.  We’re actors.

“Books and Nooks”: The Living Room Edition

We here at The Ginger Penny Pincher—and by “we” I mean me—feel strongly that you do NOT have to have a lot of money to have a beautiful home.  It usually just takes time, creativity, and a little search engine action!  Needless to say, I apply this philosophy to my own life, most recently as this past August, when my husband and I moved to Brooklyn.

Honestly though, I’ve had a lot of practice:  We have moved four times in less than three years of marriage.  Due to that whole starving artist thing we got going on—and we got it goin’ ON!—we have always been in apartments that were perhaps a little smaller than what we really needed.  As performing artists, we have a lot of work-related “stuff”:  plays, sheet music, music books, more books, lots of dance clothes, dance shoes, many notebooks, musical instruments, a surprising array of office supplies, extensive record-keeping systems and folders of receipts (since we usually work as independent contractors), two dogs…  well, the dogs are unrelated, but they do take up a bit of room… and still more books.  Lots of books.

All this stuff needs a place (“A place for everything, and everything in its place”), but with smaller living quarters, this poses a challenge.  Not to mention the challenge of trying to make our home not look cluttered.   And providing storage for all the stuff.  Oh yeah, and there’s a budget, so…

Ok, so I thought I would take you on a tour of MY home and hopefully offer some suggestions, advice, perhaps a few anecdotes, and by doing so simultaneously inspire you to go forth and revive your own home – without breaking the bank.  Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so if you do not love my apartment, that’s OK.  You don’t hurt my feelings :-)  (I LOVE my apartment!), but perhaps some of my tips and tricks can be of use to you, anyway.

Welcome to my home, “Books and Nooks”:  The Living Room Edition!!!

 (That’s right, I named our home “Books and Nooks.” )

Living room

PaintOne of the most cost-effective and easiest ways to make a major change, and it sure beats contractor white.  I used satin finish, but opted for the cheapest mix.  You have to request this, otherwise they’ll usually give you the medium-priced or highest-prices one.  (1 gallon, $22)

Couch:  Not my favorite thing we own, but it works!  The couch was a hand-me-down — from a friend of the family– and I added a slipcover from Wal-mart.   ($32)

Houndstooth rug: This is where a search engine comes in handy — I Googled houndstooth rug under the shopping option and had BY FAR the best deal.  And the quality is great!  ($125, a splurge in GPP land, but worth it for the big statement it makes, and FAR cheaper than many of the full priced dopplegangers that can run as much as $1,000.)

Throw pillows:  The paisley one was made from fabric out of the remnants bin at JoAnn (most fabric stores have these).  The green one on the couch is silk with real down filling (ooh la la!)  and I totally got it at Goodwill. The two white pillows were painted by the incomparable Teresa Hyke Foster — my mom!  They are actually separate covers that were made to cover two other pillows that I’d used in a previous apartment.  Not everyone can have a mother with mad artsy skills, so if you are not feeling the free hand thing, just use a stencil.  You can buy these or BETTER yet, find one and print it off from the computer.  (app. $20 for all pillows)

Another view of the living room

Painting:  By Teresa Hyke Foster. I am really spoiled.  It was a Christmas gift, and it is of Preservation Hall, a jazz club in New Orleans, where Josh and I honeymooned  — not in the jazz club, in the city.  (Cost = free! Santa is the best.)

Stacks of books:  I mentioned we have lots of books. One can only have so many bookshelf units in their home (we have four!).  Instead, I have chosen to “feature” some of the prettier hardback books in various stacks throughout the apartment (and yes, I try to color coordinate the stacks of books — it’s prettier that way!).  Update:  Since taking this picture, I have reduced the two short stacks to just one tall stack.  (I don’t factor in cost, because these were not originally bought for the purpose of decor).

Entertainment Center

Entertainment Center:  It was being thrown away, so we took it!  After re-painting it and adding some faux crystal drawer pulls, it’s as good as new!  (Paint = $30, Faux crystal drawer pulls = $1/each.)

Old Suitcase:  A friend of the family was getting rid of this, but we took it because… that’s what we do.  It’s easily tucked away and is also a good storage container (right now it is full of all kinds of things).

Old timey movie camera pillow:  Another THF original.  She’s a rockstar.

Large TV:  Free from a hotel that was upgrading to flat panel TV’S.   (By the way, I don’t know when we as a society got so obsessed with the size of our TV’s rear ends, but that does seem to be the trend.  Whatever, I got a free, big-screen TV out of it.)

Storage containers above entertainment center:  Pretty storage!  All purchased on clearance at a home decor store.  I can’t remember the last time I paid full price for something.  (app. $20 for all three)

I thought I was so clever, making a reading area for myself; Margeaux got to it first. Silly humans and their plans.

Old timey movie camera pillow:  Another THF original.  She’s a rockstar.

Corner by the front door

Hanging paper lamp:  Ikea, $29.99.  I love Ikea.

End table:  It was being thrown away = free for me!

Stackable chairs: Target, $15.99 ea.  Things that stack are smart!

Beautiful hardwood parquet floors:  The perks of living in a pre-war apartment building.

Wall art:  I really need a close-up of this — I took a framed “inspirational quote” from Goodwill (I bought it for the frame), took out the inspirational quote (“Reach for the stars!”  Really?), and put in my own picture — ransom note style, with various F’s and D’s cut out from magazines and glued on a piece of white paper (those are the letters of our last names, in case you were trying to work it out).  Cost = the randomly chosen Goodwill price of $1.88 for the frame.

Behind the couch

Vase, flowers:  Ikea is my baby’s daddy.  ($10, total… though I know this could be done for less.)

Baker’s Rack

Baker’s Rack:  I grew up with this piece of furniture in my childhood bedroom, and it housed all of my toys.  It started out black, then was painted fire engine red, then hunter green, then the color things get when they’re dusty, as it sat in the basement for 11 years, barely being used.  I knew in NYC we’d need as many kitchen storage options as possible because:  a) I love to cook, and b) I have a LOT of kitchen utensils and appliances that I will NOT be parting with any time soon.  Going with the vertical tradition of NYC, I took this baker’s rack and –six cans of spray paint later– it is definitely not hunter green (a color I despise), but rather lime green.  (I know this color isn’t for everybody, but I love it — it’s like caffeine for the eyes.)  Of course, I have some cabinet space, but very little, so I decided to showcase my prettiest plates and stainless steel appliances and hide the less pretty things in the cabinets.  I used various crocks and flower pots to store utensils and flatware, since my kitchen drawers were actually too narrow for a standard size drawer divider.  I stuck a rod through the curlicue holes on the sides of the baker’s rack to offer a place to hang a roll of paper towels.  The two boxes serve as storage (a packing box and a shoebox) and I just covered them with scrapbook paper that I’d previously found in the clearance section at Hobby Lobby (wrapping paper would’ve been even better, but I didn’t have any).

Appliances:  Ah, the wonders of a wedding registry :-)

S hooks:  I added these into the grated shelves of the baker’s rack.  Coffee mug storage = 10 cents each!


Barware:  Wedding registry win!

Bookcase:  Wal-Mart, $10.

Mirror:  One man’s trash is another man’s treasure…

Dining “room.” Quotation marks were essential.

Dining room table:  This is one of my FAVES!  Idea by Teresa Foster, follow-through by Courtney Foster-Donahue, demolition by Harold and Derek Foster, and assembly by Josh Donahue (we should really take our show on the road).  I knew I wanted a dining room table in NYC, but the most important things were for it to be small and… pretty!  My mother had found an antique (circa 1920’s) Singer sewing, but it had been collecting dust in their basement since my family moved to Atlanta.  I did some Googling and found this table, and by coincidence, I already had the exact same chairs, so I just copied the idea! We took a pre-made Ikea table top ($20) and affixed it to the sewing machine base (my father and brother removed the original top).  Of course, not everyone has a mother with an eye for antiques, but it is possible to find these sewing machines in a lot of unexpected places, in addition to antique stores.

Spaghetti hanging lamp:  Oh you know, someone was getting rid of it… story of my life.

Framed poster: If you still have unframed posters up on your walls, the only acceptable reason for this is that you’re still in college.  I’m not passing judgment, I’m just tellin’ you like it is. (This is where I add an emoticon so you don’t think I’m a rude word.)  :-)   There, I did it.

YUM letters:  $1 ea. at Hobby Lobby and I spray painted them with leftover spray paint from a past project.  I reeeaaalllyyyy like spray paint, but don’t worry, I don’t huff it — that’s bad news.

Textured table runner: $3.99 at Ross (Dress for Less).  And I did.

The quality of this photo is pretty rough.

Kitchen/wall:  It’s a kitchen, it’s a wall, it’s a kitchen/wall!  It’s NYC Livin’ at its finest.

Kitchen utensils:  Oooh, orange!  These were all purchased at TJ Maxx or Ross, so you KNOW I didn’t pay full price.  They have been hung using a tension rod.  Tension rods are the best.

Artwork:  These two prints above the sink are both from an old picture book all about food (thrifted, of course).  I cut them out and put them in frames from the Dollar Tree.

Hard hat sign:  Josh found this while walking in the park in Atlanta one day.  That’s called free, folks!

Kitchen nook

Kitchen nook:  You cannot see this alcove unless you are in it, so I was OK with a little more clutter here.  The magnetic knife rack is perfect for apartments (Ikea, $8.99, but really I got it at a spring cleaning clothes swap, so it was FREE).  Again, I love me some tension rods, and I have used them here to hang even more utensils (they are hung with paper clips).

Hope you enjoyed the tour of my living room!  Bedrooms pics will come very soon, but in the meantime please feel free to comment (below) or e-mail me with some pics of your very own; I’d love to feature them on this blog!

Oh yeah, SUBSCRIBE!  (to the right, to the right…)

Blind Taste Test: Cheap “Champagne”

(The Ginger Penny Pincher wants readers to know that no “champagne” was wasted and no animals were harmed in the making of this blog.)

September 16th, 2011 marked the seven year anniversary of my first date with my husband, and we thought:  “What better what to celebrate than with . . . ‘champagne’?”

Three champagnes, one winner.

And . . . being the over-achieving penny pinchers that we are, we thought:  “What better way to celebrate than with a blind taste test to determine the best cheap ‘champagne’?!”

(In reality, the taste test had been planned well before we realized this day was our date-versary, but we thought it was a lovely coincidence, so . . . just pretend you didn’t read this parenthetical aside.)

Now, you may be wondering “what’s up with all the quotation marks around the word ‘champagne’?”  Well, for those of who don’t know, the word “champagne” refers to one very specific thing:  a sparkling wine made from grapes found in the Champagne region of France.  Fin.  The end.  Nothing else.  You may see the word “champagne” on various bottles in the U.S., but the majority of these are nothing more than sparkling wines.

The word “champagne” is so sacred, in fact, that its use has been protected by law since 1891.  Furthermore, this law was reaffirmed in 1919 in the Treaty of Versailles.   (Perhaps you’ve heard of it?  It helped to end World War I – it was kind of a big deal.)

However, while it may be law in Europe, this law has never applied to the United States because the U.S. never ratified the Treaty of Versailles!  (This choice obviously had nothing to do with champagne.)  Therefore, the word “champagne” can be used for . . . well, anything:  sparkling wine…grape juice…my dog’s middle name.  Whatever.

Not surprisingly, American vineyards took advantage of this for a little while, labeling most sparkling wines as “champagne.”  However, this practice has died down quite a bit in recent decades and most sparkling wines are now called exactly that:  sparkling wine.

The Taste Test Task Force!

OK, so history lessons aside, I used only sparkling wines in the “champagne” taste test seeing as how REAL champagne is not Ginger Penny Pincher-friendly.   Our neighborhood has only ONE liquor store, and it just so happened to be closed on Saturday, but our friend Maria came through by bringing two different types of (cheap) champagne, one low-cheap and one medium-cheap. Josh and I already had one bottle of champagne that was on the higher priced end (for cheap champagne, that is), so we felt we had a good range.

Now, this was not a perfect experiment because we tasted two Bruts and one extra dry, but this was all we really had available to us, and we thought the findings were still useful enough for them to be blog-worthy, so here goes.

We sampled:

  1.   Andre, Extra Dry, $5.99 (however, out of NYC this champagne may be as low as $3.99)
  2. Jaume Serra Cristalino, $7.99  (though the internet tells me it usually retails for $6.99, but that’s NYC prices for you)
  3. Freixenet Cordon Negro, Brut, $20.99

We uncorked all three, or in the case of Andre, removed the screw-top lid.  Classy, right?  Then, we filled three glasses with a little from each, and Josh and I left the room while Maria labeled each class with a folded up piece of paper that had the identity of the contents on the inside.  We were really high-tech about this.

Maria is responsible for the drawing of the blind person. Those who are offended can direct their outrage to

The original plan was to actually blindfold Maria and hand her the glasses to sample, but she did such a great job at scrambling their order that she had already forgotten what was what by the time Josh and I returned (thus the lack of zany blindfolded pictures).  We sampled each, and in a super-sneaky-snake-post-it note ballot, we cast our votes for favorite, second favorite, and least favorite.

The results were unanimous!    Wanna find out which cheap champagne prevailed?

SUBSCRIBE and find out!

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