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Exploring Historic Downtown Manhattan

January 9, 2013 - by City Guide
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New York’s neighborhoods offer a wide range of experiences shaped by their unique histories as well as by their attractions, businesses, and residents. Downtown Manhattan is especially diverse; here’s a snapshot of each of the fascinating areas south of 14th Street.

The Financial District: One of the most historic districts in the U. S., this area is home to the New York Stock Exchange. Visit Stone Street (Manhattan’s first paved street); ride the Staten Island Ferry (extra-glorious in nice weather); or tour the harbor via Statue Cruises (877-LADY TIX). Tent & Trails is NYC’s most complete outdoor store with 6,000 square feet stuffed with the most up-to-date, high-tech backpacking and climbing equipment, clothing, and tents. 21 Park Place (Church St.), 212-227-1760; The 9/11 Tribute Center is a museum created by the September 11th Families’ Association, offering first-person experiences of 9/11, walking tours of the Memorial, and more. 120 Liberty St., 866-737-1184;

Tribeca: Named for the TRIangle BElow CAnal Street, and formerly known for warehouses and industrial spaces, this neighborhood has transformed into prime real estate with expansive apartments and great restaurants. Mobile City Online offers a selection of unlocked GSM mobile phones and Bluetooth headsets as well as unique accessories for BlackBerry, iPhone, and more. 47 Walker St. (Broadway-Church St.), 212-964-4444;

Chinatown: The largest Chinese community in the U.S. Be sure to visit the Bowery, Chatham Square, and the Confucius Statue, and Columbus Park. Don’t forget to sample some dim sum or bubble tea, and keep an eye out for the unique Chinatown toy and souvenir shops. China Village offers a wide variety of Chinese specialties, including a popular Dim Sum—with over 50 choices—available all day, and a $6.68 lunch special. 94 Baxter St., 212-941-6679;

SoHo: Formerly a commercial area, the area SOuth of HOuston St. and north of Canal St. is now known as a “shopping Mecca,” with fine restaurants, sidewalk cafes, shops, boutiques and galleries. Cafe Bari offers a loft dining room, panoramic views of historic buildings, and some of the finest cappuccino south of Houston Street. Morning, noon, and night, they feature excellent options for dining. 529 Broadway (Spring St.), 212-431-4350;

Little Italy: Take a stroll down Mulberry Street, from Spring to Canal Streets, and you’ll find everything from upscale restaurants and sidewalk cafes to cozy nooks and private gardens. There are many annual street fairs, including September’s Festival of San Gennaro.

The Lower East Side: Bordered by Houston Street, the Bowery, and the East River, this gritty bohemia has funky boutiques, understated restaurants, and an all-hours vibe. The Lower East Side once attracted many Jewish immigrants, and the generous delis in the area still serve up heaping portions of pastrami on rye.

Greenwich Village: It’s often said that this area resembles Paris, with its cobblestone streets, row houses, bistros, restaurants and bars. It’s home to NYU -- which churned out some of the city’s most famous writers and artists, such as Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, Norman Rockwell and Willem de Kooning. Dave’s New York has been one of the city’s top sources for “everyday clothing” for nearly 50 years, with a wide selection at very favorable prices. 581 Sixth Ave. (16th-17th Sts.), 212-989-6444;

The East Village: Still a youthful neighborhood, the area is known for experimental music and theatre, cutting-edge fashion, and tattoo parlors (especially along St. Marks Place). McSorley’s Old Ale House on East 7th Street hasn’t changed a bit since it first opened in 1854. The south side of East Sixth Street, sometimes called “Little Bombay,” features Indian eateries.

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