Downtown NYC: I’ll Take Lower Manhattan

WHY GO: A trip to Downtown NYC is an emotional journey, especially if you haven’t been here since before 9-11-01.

While some iconic buildings remain (the Winter Garden, Trinity Church), everything you thought you knew about lower Manhattan is history. The whole landscape has been so transformed as to be unrecognizable.

Once the new World Trade (Freedom) Tower was built – it set off a building boom in lower Manhattan. New life, both commercially and residentially, is still being breathed into this area of New York day by day.

This Getaway includes the affecting 9/11 Memorial, the serenity of the Hudson River Esplanade, and one extraordinarily cool hotel that ties it all together.

For information on another romantic NYC getaway, stay at the ModernHaus in SoHo, another must-see Manhattan neighborhood.

9-11 Memorial Pools NYC
9-11 Memorial Pools NYC

Things to Do in Downtown NYC

VISIT: National 9-11 Memorial

Nothing will ever come close to the shock, terror, and anguish of that cloudless September morning. And nothing will ever assuage the agony of those who lost loved ones that day.

These waterfall pools, framed with the names of the victims, merely offer a place to contemplate, remember, and pay respects to the families and friends whose lives were changed in an instant.

The National September 11 Memorial Museum opened in the summer of 2014. Twisted steel beams, rubbled stairways, and other artifacts from the buildings, as well as rescuer paraphernalia, and oral histories of witnesses and survivors will no doubt jolt you back in time. 

New York Transportation Hub

SEE: World Trade Center Oculus

The multi-billion dollar World Trade Center Oculus designed by starchitect Santiago Calatrava to look like a dove taking wing is a must-see in downtown Manhattan.

Be sure to go inside to see New Yorkers and visitors bustling around the large concourse. During the holiday season, you can also shop for cool gifts at pop-up kiosks – a great last-minute option if you’re heading out of town on a train to visit friends and family.

WALK: Hudson River Park and Esplanade

Five miles from 59th St. to the Battery downtown this beautiful riverfront walkway brings you past marinas, piers, sports complexes (Chelsea Piers), south.

Across from Jersey City on Hudson River Downtown NYC

This section of the city by the outer edges of the World Trade Center is replete with commuter ferry docks and within a Sandy Koufax throw of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

If you so desire, stroll to the Battery Park Ferry Terminal and jump on a boat to the Lady of the Harbor.

Restaurants in Downtown NYC

Locals Recommend

This being New York City, there’s a good restaurant on every block.  Pressed for time and $$?  Grab a burger and incredible fries at Shake Shack.  Craving some of the best BBQ (albeit upscale) this side of Ole Muddy?  Try Danny Meyer’s Blue Smoke in the Battery

The prices are not as sky-high as the view at ONE Dine, the restaurant bar at the top of the Freedom Tower (One World Trade).

Conrad Hotel NYC Lobby
Conrad NYC Lobby

Hotels in Downtown NYC

The Conrad Hotel, New York City

There are several qualities that make a hotel great, and the Conrad Hotel NYC– a Hilton brand – has all of them.  First, aesthetics: the Conrad is a Modern-Art knockout.

Second, service: hotel staff seem to be hired with the kind of proud, friendly and I’d go so far as to say sweet personalities that can’t be taught.

Light in Conrad Hotel Lobby NYC Downtown

Finally, location. In the shadow of the new World Trade Center and a scant block from the Hudson River within view of the Statue of Liberty, the Conrad is surrounded by poignancy and beauty.  It’s no surprise that connoisseurs of high-end hotels rave about this place.

Conrad Hotel NYC Entrance

First Impressions

Enter on street level. As you ascend the elevator to reception, what strikes you first is the enormous blue and purple work of art by conceptual op-art genius, Sol LeWitt.

Titled Loopy Doopy, this 100×80 foot installation looms a full ten stories high over the atrium lobby. It’s just one of over 2,000 works of art by contemporary favorites like Stella, Flavin, Koons, Schnabel and others sprinkled throughout The Conrad’s 463 guest rooms and common areas.

At night, the soaring atrium is awash in rotating shades that begin barely there and deepen as minutes pass. Red then blue then purple then green, renders the Jetson’s-era lobby of curvy couches and orb lamps a fantasia of color.

Conrad Hotel NYC lobby in teal light

“I was told this is a cool place,” said one awed visitor from the Midwest. “But they didn’t tell me how cool.”

Hudson River View from Conrad Hotel Guest Room NYC
View from Conrad Hotel Guest Room NYC

Conrad Hotel NYC Guest Rooms

All-suite modern-furnished rooms hush in harmonious earth tones: wooden louvered shades and built-ins, granite grey drapes, sand-hued travertine floors and shower, and backlit mirrors.

Ask for a river view. Center yourself while watching barges and boat traffic slip by Jersey City skyscrapers.

Accents Gift Shop at Conrad Hotel NYC

Things To Do At Conrad Hotel NYC

Pre or post dinner, browse through Accents. This lobby store is a little SoHo indie, a little Madison Ave boutique and unlike any other hotel gift shop you’ve seen before.

You won’t find any foam fingers here. But you will discover plenty of offbeat, upscale NY souvenirs, clothing, and craft jewelry.

In season, hit the hot rooftop bar, Loopy Doopy (named after the LeWitt installation in the lobby). It serves up its own specialty, Prosecco & Ice Pops with a – take your pick – Lime Margarita, Pina Colada, Appletini or Morello Cherry popsicle plunked right into the bubbly.

It’s the perfect summertime accompaniment to Statue of Liberty and Hudson River views.

Regal Cinema Downtown NYC from Conrad Hotell Lobby

In-House Cinema

If it’s raining or cold or you’re just not into hanging outside with a drink in hand, here’s one of New York City’s hidden secrets – one which I really hesitate to reveal here only because locals don’t want anyone else to know.

An 11-screen multiplex cinema is a mere escalator ride up from the Conrad Hotel lobby. Yes, the “never crowded” Regal Battery Park Stadium 11, (the go-to theater for New Yorkers who hate standing in line uptown), can be accessed from this very hotel.

More Romantic Getaways In New York City


  • Malerie Yolen-Cohen

    Malerie Yolen-Cohen is the Author of the cross-country travel guide, Stay On Route 6; Your Guide to All 3562 Miles of Transcontinental Route 6. She contributes frequently to Newsday, with credits in National Geographic Traveler, Ladies Home Journal, Yankee Magazine,, Sierra Magazine, Porthole, Paddler, New England Boating, Huffington Post, and dozens of other publications. Malerie’s focus and specialty is Northeastern US, and she is constantly amazed by the caliber of restaurants and lodging in the unlikeliest places.

1 thought on “Downtown NYC: I’ll Take Lower Manhattan”

  1. We lived and worked in Manhattan on September 11th. We’ll never forget that day. We just visited the September 11 Memorial last month – the first time in over 10 years since we’ve been back to lower Manhattan. I’m really glad we were able to return and put closure on the experience. Thanks for sharing your photography!

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