Inside South Street Seaport

Neighborhood Highlights

by Alyssa Grossman, 06/26/2013

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The South Street Seaport is back in a big way. The Lower Manhattan attraction has undergone a major makeover and crowds of visitors are already taking notice, arriving by bus, train and boat to shop, dine, catch a concert and bask in some of Manhattan's most striking views. Today, it's difficult to imagine that less than a year ago, Hurricane Sandy forced these historic blocks to a standstill. Even if you were familiar with the Seaport before the storm, its See/Change initiative, a program launched to amp up the area's offerings, is providing even more reasons to visit. A stroll down Pier 17 reveals the eclectic vibe of this storied waterfront stretch: vendors peddle jewelry, gourmet dog treats, macarons and henna tattoos; riders line up for river cruises; and diners fill up on everything from oysters to pigs in a blanket. Read on to discover what else these cobblestone streets have in store.

Shopping
The retail scene here has something for everyone. Even if you're not in the market for invitations or cards, Bowne & Co., Stationers, operating since 1775, is worth a look just to gaze at the old-fashioned letterpress machines. Further down the pier, The Salty Paw, located in a temporary storefront on Pier 17, takes specialty shopping in a different, four-legged direction, selling treats like dog bones with "I Love NY" written in icing and MetroCard and taxi chew toys. If you need a break from the summer sun, duck inside the three-level shopping center at Pier 17, which houses a blend of bigger-name retailers and smaller, boutique-style shops selling clothes, shoes, bags and other trinkets. On Sunday afternoons between Fulton and Beekman Streets, the Fulton Stall Market sets up shop where the historic Fulton Fish Market served as a community staple from 1822 to 2005. Visitors today stock up on fresh food, snacks and gift items from a rotating selection of vendors. Still, one of the neighborhood's most-striking retail options may be a newly installed, two-story collection of shipping containers, prepped to serve as pop-up shops for new vendors.

Dining and Nightlife
When hunger strikes, the South Street Seaport has several options, from sit-down dining to food carts and stands. The area's latest attraction for foodies is SmorgasBar, located at the corner of South and Front Streets. Find stalls from the likes of Asia Dog, Brooklyn Oyster Party and Red Hook Lobster Pound selling cocktails, beer, wine and signature menu items. Make your selection, then grab a seat at a picnic table lining the block and dig in. Nearby, Fresh Salt, housed in a former smokehouse built in 1885, serves up sharable plates and sandwiches alongside cocktails, beer and wine. When the sun goes down, Beekman Beer Garden Beach Club, located on the north side of Pier 17, is the place to be. About as close as you can get to drinking on the water, this restaurant and bar spans 22,000 partially sand-covered square feet and features light-up couches, foosball, table tennis and a life-size chess board, plus a regular schedule of bands and DJs.

Arts and Entertainment
The South Street Seaport is more than just a place to grab a meal and spend some time shopping. It's also a destination for concerts, film screenings, exhibits and festivals. Still to come this season are Front Row Cinema screenings [PDF] on the turf at Front and Fulton Streets, programming in conjunction with Lower Manhattan's River to River Festival (through July 14), the music-filled Brasil SummerFest (July 21) and the Sound Bites Music Series at the Fulton Stall Market on Sundays in August. And though the South Street Seaport Museum is closed, special children's programming, including sailing lessons and outings, are still taking place. For those looking for a quieter experience, the historic building at 206 Front Street, just steps from SmorgasBar, leads to Cannon's Walk, a courtyard housing a rotating roster of artwork.

On the Water
The scenery here looks just as good—if not better—from the water. At the center of all the action, you'll find kiosks for Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises, sailboat tours from The Clipper City and tickets to board the New York Water Taxi. Historic ships—including the 19th-century schooner Pioneer, Peking, one of the biggest sailing barks in the world, and Ambrose, a lightship used to guide other vessels—are also docked nearby.

With all the action going on around you, it's easy to forget to pause for a minute and take in the sights. Above all the sights and sounds, the deck of Pier 17 affords beautiful views and coin-operated binoculars. To your north stands the Brooklyn Bridge, and to the west, the City's towering skyscrapers paint a picture-perfect scene. Historic ships serve as a centerpiece for the pier.

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