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Walking and Eating in Lower Manhattan

Kelly Calanni from NJ (KellyC)

Financial District, Chinatown, Lower East Side, Little Italy

The best way to really see New York is to walk. So put your comfortable shoes on and get going! For the really adventurous, take the A train to the High Street stop in Brooklyn and walk back to Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge. There is a promenade for pedestrian traffic on the bridge and the views are fantastic. It takes between 40 to 60 minutes to walk across the bridge, depending on your pace. There are plaques along the way with information on the history of the bridge.
About.com: Walking Across the Brooklyn Bridge

If you start in Manhattan, and omit the side trip to Brooklyn, I would start off in Battery Park. The ferries to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island depart from Battery Park. Purchase tickets in Castle Clinton. Even if you don't get on the ferry, there are great vistas of the Statue, and you will most likely see the Staten Island Ferry go by. The island that you see from the south end of Manhattan is Governors Island. This was a Coast Guard base for many years and was closed to the public. It was decommissioned a few years ago and the parks department occasionally has ferries going there and tours of the island available.
Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation

Map from Venere, used with permission.

Once you are ready to leave Battery Park, head up Broadway. You will pass by Wall Street, Trinity Church, City Hall, and all of the Courthouse buildings (state and federal). Walking up Broadway you will cross from the Financial District to Chinatown. You can buy just about everything you can possibly think of in Chinatown. You can also see every dead fish variety on the planet, all in rubber bins soaking in water. If you are hungry, be sure to avert your eyes. It may be enough to make more delicate stomachs very unhappy.

Now, my travel agent Lilian is Chinese and has lived in Chinatown her entire life. So I always take her advice on where to eat in the neighborhood. She says that the best restaurants are on Mott Street south of Houston. These are by no means fancy restaurants, but they serve up awesome food for a really great price. I highly recommend Wo Hop (17 Mott), as well as the restaurants on each side of it. But, according to Lilian, Wo Hop is one of the best in the neighborhood.

Once your belly is full and you are ready to move on head over to Pearl River for a little shopping. Pearl River is Chinatown's answer to a department store. They have an amazingly large variety of dragon figurines in all sizes and price ranges. Which I found out is very much to the liking of my 10 year old cousin Alex. He was in his glory there. They also have great shoes and bags and dishes. Basically, everything you could ever need! I could easily spend an hour perusing the aisles. They are located on Broadway between Grand and Broome, just north of Houston.
Pearl River

From Pearl you can head over to the Lower East Side. Just walk East on Broome Street and then head south on Orchard. Yes, you are doubling back, but trust me it is well worth it! Almost every ethnic group in New York once called the Lower East Side home. It was tenement central. And if you squint your eyes on Orchard Street, you can pretty much imagine what it was like back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Head over to Orchard Street for a great dessert treat at Il Laboratorio del Gelato (95 Orchard, between Broome and Delancy). This place makes "out of this world" homemade gelato following the strict Italian method. It is basically heaven on earth. If I lived near there I would easily weigh two to three times my current weight. The owner started Ciao Bella, didn't like how big and factory/corporate it got and started over with Laboratorio.
Il Laboratorio del Gelato

So you have been shopping and eating all day and you are beginning to feel a little guilty about not doing any "cross it off your list" style touring? Well, you are in luck. Right next door to Laboratorio is the Tenement House Museum. This place is fascinating. The building is an old tenement style apartment building. You get your ticket for a specific tour time and are guided through the building. On the getting by tour you will see two apartments that you can visit that are in the same state they were in when they were occupied way back when. You will see how a Jewish family lived in the 1870's, as well as how a Sicilian Catholic family lived in the 1930's. There are other tours as well. Book your tour in advance or go over to the ticket office before getting gelato.
Tenement House Museum

Well, you can now go home and tell people you visited a museum in New York, so you deserve a treat, right? Continue on with your old school tour of the Lower East Side and head over to the The Pickle Guys (49 Essex between Grand and Hester). For anyone that ever saw the movie "Crossing Delancey," you know exactly what I am talking about. A big room filled with barrels full of different pickle varieties. This is a fun experience. You can peruse the pickles and buy them individually or by the dozen. They are the only pickle seller remaining on Essex Street. Back in the day there were tons of them.
The Pickle Guys

From there you can head over to Economy Candy (108 Rivington at Essex Street) on Rivington Street and get some treats to bring home to share. This is a candy shop in the old school corner store tradition. They have been around since 1937 and have every kind of candy you can ever want. They have those great Cadbury candy bars you find in England, Kindereggs, wax lips, enormous Pez dispensers, Perugina hard candy, Halvah and, my favorite, Mello Cups. So just head straight up Essex from The Pickle Guys.
Economy Candy

At this point you probably want to head back to the hotel and have a bit of a rest. Go ahead, you have walked all over the place today and probably burned off a good portion of the food you have been eating. You can get in a cab and come back down for dinner when you are ready.

Dinner in Little Italy

Flag down a cab and tell them you want to go to Little Italy at Broome and Mulberry. On weekends they close off Mulberry Street to cars so you can wander down the street checking out the different menus. I recommend Da Nico and Il Cortile. Da Nico has a really nice garden out back. Il Cortile is a little bit fancier with a very elegent feel to it. They have equally good food.
Da Nico
Il Cortile

Anywhere you decide to eat on Mulberry you will probably have to wait 20 to 40 minutes for a table. If you want to have a drink while you wait, head over to Mare Chiaro (also called the Mulberry Street Bar, 176 Mulberry Street). This is an old time bar that had a jukebox that is primarily full of Sinatra and cheap drinks and beers.

No matter where you decide to eat, save room for dessert and head over to Ferrara's. They have every kind of Italian treat you can imagine. The cannolis and the Torta di Ricotta are both great. If you like Tiramisu, I hear that is really good there too. It's not my thing so I can't confirm that myself. And their coffee is excellent.

Walk around a little and peruse the vendors and walk off your feeling of being very full then head back to the hotel for sweet dreams.


www.nycvisit.com: New York City Official Tourist Site.

www.newyork.com: Tourism site with useful links.

Slow Travel USA - Travel Notes - New York Through the Centuries: Sarah Walker leads us on an historical walking tour of lower Manhattan.

brooklyn.about.com: About.com: Walking Across the Brooklyn Bridge.

www.govisland.com: Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation.

www.pearlriver.com: Pearl River, store in Chinatown.

www.laboratoriodelgelato.com: Il Laboratorio del Gelato

www.tenement.org: Tenement House Museum

www.nycpickleguys.com: The Pickle Guys

www.economycandy.com: Economy Candy

www.littleitalynyc.com: Little Italy, NYC.

www.ferraracafe.com: Ferrara, cafe in Little Italy.

© Kelly Calanni, 2005

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