My husband and I have lived in the New York City area for 21 years now. When he worked in NYC, the last thing he wanted to do on weekends was go back into the city. But, now that he is retired, the city has taken on a new appreciation. We've started going to a lot of plays and lectures at the 92 Street Y. When I recently booked 2 events on consecutive nights, he suggested we stay for a few nights in the city. I was not going to say no...
Although our night plans were on the east side at 92nd street, I decided there were some tourist things I wanted to do downtown. So, I chose our base to be Tribeca, which would put us closer to the daytime sightseeing locations. Tribeca is probably most notable for the Tribeca Film Festival and Robert DeNiro. It was an enclave for artists in the 1960s and 70s and has maintained its creative roots. If you just wander like we did, you'll find that the cast-iron buildings hold gems around every corner. You may stumble upon a quiet bar, a pop-up clothing boutique, a Michelin restaurant, or an independent art gallery.
But it's definitely not a tourist area, which suited us just fine. In fact, we were hard pressed to see any tourists. It has a real vibe as a residential area. If you keep walking, you can visit downtown, the lower east side, and Brooklyn to the south and SoHo, the West Village, Chinatown, Little Italy, and Chelsea to the north....
We had such a wonderful time that we decided we're going to do this for many other areas of the city. Here'a our first venture into Tribeca...
I chose to stay at a boutique-type hotel in Tribeca called the Duane Street Hotel. In all honesty, I chose it because so many others at this time of year were either fully booked or really expensive, like over $500 a night. I googled best hotels in Tribeca and found Duane Street among them, gave a few names to my travel agent, and she came back recommending it. With that and not wanting to spend a lot as we were not going to be in the room much, I settled on this gem.
We weren't quite sure when we first drove up as it sits on a busy corner of a nondescript area of Tribeca. It was very cute, but my first thought was it's going to be noisy. When we walked in, any concerns went away. We found modern decor with a cute bar and sitting area with a Christmas tree and very welcoming staff.
The Duane has 43 rooms on 6 floors. While our Executive King room was not large, it offered more than enough space. We were on the 5th floor and never heard a sound, especially from the street below. The rooms are decorated in chic black and white. They do offer special packages, so be sure to check before you book.
Duane Street is part of the IC group with hotels on the east and west coasts. Rates start around $200/night for a Superior Queen and will depend on time of year.
The Frederick Hotel, the Greenwich Hotel, the Four Seasons Hotel Downtown, AKA Smyth Tribeca, the Beekman, and the World Center Hotel are a few other choices you should be happy with.
What to see will be very specific to what you want to do. We spent the few hours of our first afternoon walking the area to get our boundaries. We came across darling shops like the Mysterious Bookshop, Philip Williams Posters, and the Jenga building. Since we had our nights planned with talks by Peter Sagal of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me fame and Wendy Sherman and Madeline Albright at the 92nd Street Y, I only had to plan the days' sightseeing. Top on our list has been the 9/11 Memorial, so that was our first priority.
Also within walking distance is the Brooklyn Bridge and on the lower east side, the Tenement Museum. I had been to the museum once before and loved it and knew my husband, the history buff, would, too. I had also walked across the Brooklyn Bridge on a glorious summer day a few years back and gladly agreed to do it again so my husband could be as fascinated by the views. I booked tickets for both museums online and recommend you do, too.
9/11 Memorial and One World Trade Center
For the 9/11 Memorial, we did the tour which is outside and the museum which is subterranean and so should you. You learn things during the tour like why the names on the memorial are not in alphabetical order that we wouldn't have learned otherwise. It takes about 40 minutes and then you go into the museum and can spend as much time as you like. Having tickets, we walked right in. Otherwise, there was a LONG line to purchase tickets. We spent about 2 1/2 hours in the museum and felt that was sufficient to see most. Of course, you could spend several more hours if you read everything. Up to you...
The Oculus is across the street from the museum and now houses multi-level shopping and the subway station. It's a gorgeous building and the eye actually closes on 9/11 in commemoration of the event. One World Trade Center is now the tallest building in the world at 104 stories.You can to the top on the high speed elevator and see the world from the One World Observatory. Buy your timed tickets online.
Until last year, I had no idea the Tenement Museum was in NYC, yet it is one of the most popular sightseeing stops. During busy times of the year, tours easily sell out. The museum tells the stories of immigrants who started their lives anew on Manhattan's Lower East Side between the 19th and 21st centuries through the recreated apartment and businesses of real families in two historic tenement buildings.
Visitors take guided tours of apartments that recreate immigrant life. Walking tours explore how life was for immigrants on the Lower East Side and how the neighborhood changed. We took the Under One Roof tour which details the lives of 3 families who lived in an apartment over the years. The tours last 1 - 2 hours. There is also a really nice gift shop on the premises.
I did this a few years ago when I took a photography lesson. It was so much fun and amazing. You can start down by City Hall and end in Dumbo, Brooklyn or do the opposite. Take the subway over to Dumbo, spend some time checking out the area, including Brooklyn Bridge Park with its carousel. Then, walk back with the stunning views of Manhattan in your face. Any way you choose, the views from front, back, and all sides are mesmerizing and include the Statue of Liberty.
You can spend as much time as you want doing this, but plan at least an hour walking across - it is a mile. After all, you will have to stop for pictures. Sunrise or sunset walks are particularly spectacular.
What Else You Can See
This area has some of the most famous sites in NYC. Think Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, Federal Reserve Bank, Trinity Church, Brookfield Place for upscale shopping, and Stone Street with its cobblestoned streets and the Fraunces Tavern and Museum that dates back to George Washington.
One of the best things about NYC is the ability to pretty much walk everywhere. It just depends on how much time you have. We luckily had decent weather even for December, so spent a great deal of time walking. When it came time to head to 92nd Street, however, that wasn't an option. We could Uber, taxi, or choose public transportation. We opted for the subway and it couldn't have been easier. Just a 10 minute walk to the Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall station and then a direct train to 86th or 96th Street.
I searched Best Restaurants in Tribeca and came up with quite a few. We only had 2 nights so I wanted to choose carefully. But since we had to be at the 92nd Street Y by 7:15pm one night, I chose to have dinner down there. What we did find is that so many restaurants are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so if you can't make it for dinner...
I can highly recommend Marc Forgione restaurant. Everything about our experience made us happy. From the rustic decor to the atmosphere to the service to the food, it surprised and amazed. I'm a sucker for brick walls, so was sold when we walked in. But what always is a good indication of things to come is when your waiter asks right off the bat if you have any allergies or preferences that he needs to be aware of. I'm vegetarian so he steered me right away to what I could have on the menu, but added that the chef would be happy to prepare a dish for me. The Kona Kampachi, Honeynut Squash Salad, and Halibut en Croute were impeccable. If you can share, go for the Chicken Under a Brick or the Porterhouse.
We had been to The Odeon many years ago, so we knew what to expect. It has been an institution in the area since 1980. While it may not be a top restaurant, it is reliable bistro and fun to think about Andy Warhol having a martini at the bar! We went for breakfast and were quite pleased.
This restaurant is open all day, but we tried it for breakfast which was perfect. Standard fair and no complaints. Not sure I would want to go for a nice dinner, but for breakfast and lunch in a casual atmosphere you can't go wrong. Plus, always a good sign - it was filled with locals and people having business meetings.
A few we didn't try, but definitely are on my list for next time...
Eataly NYC Downtown - I've been to the original Eataly in the Flatiron district and can highly vouch for it. This new one is located at 4 World Trade Center. It is an upscale Italian market with five themed in-house eateries, six takeaway counters, and two bars; one for coffee and one for wine.
Locanda Verde - I had heard really great things about Locanda Verde, but time ran out to give it a try. It used to be one of the hottest restaurants in town and is still noted to be one of the best. As the name implies, it is Italian. It's also known to be a big celebrity sighting spot if you're into that. I'm not, but can't wait to try the food.
Graffiti Earth - Graffiti Earth is the latest restaurant from celebrity Chef Jehangir Mehta, a runner-up on Food Network's Next Iron Chef. Graffiti Earth features vegetable-forward dishes with flavors rooted in Chef Mehta's Indian roots and Persian heritage. a strong emphasis on sustainability. It is located in the Duane Street Hotel.
Then there's...Smith & Mills, Frenchette, Racines, Little Park, and American Cut if you just have to visit a steakhouse.
Very excited for our next New York City adventure. Will it be Chelsea, the Upper West Side, or Brooklyn? So many choices....