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.
The new soaring World Trade (Freedom) Tower is just that. One tower. For now. Though there is so much construction going on, it behooves aficionados of the offbeat to visit and document each phase of the reclamation.
New life, both commercially and residentially, is breathed into this area of New York day by day. The rebirth, undeniably compelling.
This Getaway includes the affecting 9/11 Memorial, serenity of the Hudson River Esplanade, and one extraordinarily cool hotel that ties it all together.
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. $26 adults, $15 kids, open Sun-Wed 9am-8pm, Fri & Sat 9am-9pm.
DO: Click on Discover Lower Manhattan for information
You’ll need comfortable walking shoes and quick reflexes to dodge cranes, hard-hat engineers and construction crews for now. But, right, that’s all in the spirit of exploration.
Try to get photographs of as many angles of the gleaming shard-like World Trade Center as you can. Shooting up into the sky, it’s virtually impossible to miss from anywhere downtown.
Also, follow the progress of the multi-billion dollar World Trade Center Transportation Hub, designed by starchitect Santiago Calatrava to look like a dove taking wing.
In March 2014, the steel skeleton looked more like a brontosaurus. But by March 2016, it was basically completed.
Today, it’s a work of wonder both inside and out.
Five miles from 59th St. to the Battery downtown this beautiful riverfront walkway brings you past marinas, piers, sports complexes (Chelsea Piers), south.
This section of the city by the outer edges of 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
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).
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.
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.
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 thirteen 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.
“I was told this is a cool place,” said one awed visitor from the Midwest. “But they didn’t tell me how cool.”
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, backlit mirrors.
Ask for a river view. Center yourself while watching barges and boat traffic slip by Jersey City skyscrapers.
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.
If it’s raining or cold or you’re just not into hanging outside with 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 on line uptown), can be accessed from this very hotel. (For more to explore in Lower Manhattan, see this Getaway Mavens Guide).
Depending on season, rooms begin at $350 per night to $650. Larger suites from $709 to $1300 per night.