My family loves Manhattan so we go a few times a year. I’m going to do a few posts about New York City and this one is about Lower Manhattan activities for families. For these posts, we will assume lower Manhattan is from 34 Street down to Battery Park while Midtown Manhattan is from 34 Street to Central Park. Then we have Central Park, The Upper West Side, and the Upper East Side. I hope you enjoy our top picks. As always follow us on social media.
- 1. The Vessel
- 2. The High line
- 3. Tenement Museum
- 4. Empire State Building
- 5. Brooklyn Bridge & Park
- 6. 9/11 Memorial Reflecting Pools, Museum
- 7. Ferry Rides – to Staten Island & Governors Island
- 8. Battery Park
- 9. Statue Of Liberty
- 10. Ellis Island
free for same-day tickets
The Vessel is a sculpture on the west side of Lower Manhattan in Hudson Yards that is free to explore. Entrance to the structure is timed and you need to use your phone – no special app needed – to receive your time for same-day entrance. For us, it was a half-hour wait which it’s bad. We did go in the morning though. There is a high-end shopping mall right next to the Vessel with a public bathroom and some food vendors/stores if you need a break. If you want to book your time in advance. You can go to the Vessel website and book your tickets. For more of a flex ticket where you can arrive anytime on a select day, there is a $10 charge per ticket.
Once you enter the Vessel you have the option to take an elevator to the top or walk up. The elevator can stop at every platform but didn’t while we were there. To really experience this structure I recommend walking up. You do have an hour to explore which we thought was plenty of time. Stop on the different platforms and take in the views of the Hudson River and New Jersey.
The High Line
Right off the Hudson Yards park where the Vessel is, starts the 1.45-mile-long High Line. The High Line is an elevated public greenway/rail trail. It is the site of the former New York Central Railroad spur on the west side of lower Manhattan. Because the walkway is through gardens it has a very organic feel. Along the way, you will be enveloped in flowers, trees, and artwork. There are quite a few unique buildings on the trail as well. Since there are a few places to sit you can relax and take in the scenery. We walked the High Line from start to finish and had a great time. It was quiet, and peaceful and surprisingly the flowers were very fragrant. The artwork along the High Line was unique. Hence, adding more to look at and admire on your walk.
The Tenement Museum
$27 for adults, and $22 for seniors and students. Thursday evening events run from $23-$40.
The Tenement Museum has restored a few buildings in lower Manhattan to show how the interiors were during the early 1900s. Entering the building you really feel as though you have stepped by in time. Entrance to the museum is by appointment only so make sure to plan your visit ahead of time. They offer 6 apartment tours, 5 walking tours as well as special evening tours on Thursdays only. Explore the Tenement Museum website to see which tour is right for your family. We took the Victoria Confino tour which is recommended for children.
We started our tour by watching a short video in the museum’s bookstore. The video explained how lower Manhattan grow during the late 1800s and early 1900s. When it was our tour time we met our tour guide and she took us to 97 Orchard Street. Our tour guide gave us a brief overview of what the building was like during this time. She then gave us a choice to play either an Italian or Russian family. Our tour group chose to be a Russian family coming to America with no family to receive us.
An actor played 14-year-old Victoria Confino in her tenement apartment. The ‘real-life’ Victoria lived in the apartment and it was fun and eye-opening to see how cramped these apartments were. We asked Victoria about her experience living in New York City and why her family came to America. To find out her answers, you will need to take the tour but I can assure you it was interesting. She explained that she sleeps on a rug in the kitchen while her brothers sleep on crates and chairs. Her parents had the only bedroom that they shared with the baby. She answered all our questions about how to find an apartment, where a Synagogue is for us, where we should shop, and more. It was a lot of fun, not just for the adults but the kids loved it too. Now I want to go on all the other tours.
The Empire State Building
$78 for anyone age 6 and older, $73 if you buy in advance.
The iconic Empire State Building. King Kong climbed it! It is New York City. A must? I’d say it’s the most famous of the tall buildings with its rich history in films and it has been our pick. However, you should go to the top of one of the tall buildings in New York City. There are a few. Here are the reasons we like the Empire State Building. I like the architecture of the building. It’s Art Deco style which was a popular style in the early half of the 20th century. My husband likes it because of his own family memories of going there. My girls like the observation platform the most. Also, being just below midtown you can see both the Statue of Liberty and Central Park. Any way you look at it, this building has a lot of history, with some fun facts.
The Brooklyn Bridge & Park
free, Jane’s Carousel in the park is $2 a ride
The Brooklyn Bridge was the engineering marvel of its day. In May 2019 the bridge celebrated its 150th birthday! Thus walking across the bridge is amazing and something everyone should do. Seeing the New York City skyline from the middle of the East River is great. Go all the way across and the views from Brooklyn are even better. Of course, there must be a prize at the end! There is- to ride Jane’s Carousel! Since it only costs $2 a ride, everyone can enjoy this beautifully restored 1922 carousel. For some fun kid facts about the bridge check out this website.
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9/11 Memorial and Reflecting Pools
Reflecting Pools and Memorial Park are free. The museum is free on Thursday evenings starting at 5 pm -read the 9/11 website for all the details and the ticket pricing.
This memorial is a loving tribute to all those who died on 9/11. The reflecting pools and memorial park are lovely spaces to sit and contemplate the world we live in today. I’m glad we walked by but my kids were too upset to go into the museum. They tend to be sensitive souls and don’t want to hear about horrific acts like this one. I respect their views. However, the museum is beautiful and a wonderful memorial. I think if your children are interested, go on Thursday evening when the museum is free, the website is above.
Battery Park and Castle Clinton are free. The SeaGlass Carousel is $5 a ticket.
Battery Park is the tip of lower Manhattan. You can get the ferry to the Statue Of Liberty and Ellis Island from here. The park, however, has other reasons to visit. There is Castle Clinton National Monument. Since my husband’s name is Clinton this was something for him. I had to remind him it wasn’t named after him though.
However, my favorite reason to visit is the SeaGlass Carousel. This is truly a magical experience. The fish light up at night and you feel as if you are in a dream. The fish don’t just go up and down they spin around as well. However, no matter the time of day you go, I’m sure it will delight you and your kids.
Ferry Rides – to Staten Island and Governors Island
The Staten Island Ferry is free. Governors Island Ferry is $3 for 12 yrs and older, seniors are $1, and those under 12 yrs are free.
If your kids are anything like mine, they love boats. There are a few advantages to riding these ferries. One, the views of Lower Manhattan are amazing. Two, they are free or only cost a few dollars. Governors Island has open space, bike paths, adventures at GI (mini-golf), slide hill, glamping, Castle Williams, Fort Jay, an American Indian community house, and art galore. Governors Island is worth a trip.
Since the Staten Island Ferry is free you can just take it out and back for the views. However, there are some interesting places to visit on Staten Island. New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden is one of them. A traditional Chinese garden to meditate in while the rest of the world speeds by sounds lovely to me. Historic Richmond Town is another and with one of the oldest houses in the country, 350 years old! As well as the oldest working farm in New York City.
Statue of Liberty
For the ferry and both islands, the cost range is between $9 and $21.
“The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World” has been welcoming people to New York City Harbor since October 28, 1886. The statue symbolizes hope, freedom, and democracy to millions of people around the world. To visit the island and have an audio tour you can visit anytime. However, if you would like to enter the pedestal or go into the crown you will need reservations. Make sure to plan ahead as the tickets book out months in advance, especially for the crown. The Statue Cruises website is where to buy your tickets for the ferry, the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island.
Be sure to have your kids become Junior Rangers while visiting Liberty Island. Just opened this year is a museum that houses the Statue’s original torch. The view from the room with the torch toward the statue is special and shouldn’t be missed. The museum also has a gallery of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi’s studio that shows how he designed the statue. Make sure to leave time for the immersive theatre with its multimedia movie.
For the ferry and both islands, the cost range is between $9 and $21. See above for the website.
Ellis Island was the gateway to America from 1892-1954. This is an amazing space to walk through and understand why America is called the ‘melting pot’. There is an audio tour to take that will explain the different areas of the second floor of the building. The registration room, the large room with the arched ceiling and windows is beautiful. However, when you don’t speak the language or understand anything around you, I’m sure was very frightening. You will also see a hearing room and memorabilia from the building’s heyday. This is another great place to understand our country’s growth in the early 1900s.
I hope you have enjoyed our family’s top 10 picks for Lower Manhattan. Be sure to check back for other posts on New York City.
Have you been to New York City? Have you spent any time in Lower Manhattan? We like to split our days into the different sections of the city to get the most out of our time. Have you been to any of these 10 sites? Which one is your favorite?