Lower Manhattan Events
by nycgo.com staff, 12/17/2012
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Lower Manhattan is filled with can’t-miss events and activities, many of them free. Read the below to learn what’s going on, and be sure to check back, as we’ll be adding new listings throughout the season.
May 11–October 19
Go Fish Festival! at Wagner Park The Battery Park City Parks Conservatory presents this series, packed with catch-and-release fishing sessions, art projects and performances from family-friendly groups. Currently scheduled artists include Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could (May 11); Moona Luna (October 5); and The Suzi Shelton Band (October 19). For more information, visit bpcparks.org.
May 18–August 17
Family Dance Series at Esplanade Plaza
Increase your family's dance-style repertoire during these multicultural music sessions by the river. Move your feet to bluegrass (May 18); Brazilian dance (July 13); and East Indian Bhangra (August 17) with help from DJs, drummers and experts in the dance style of the day. For more information, visit bpcparks.org.
Governors Island Alliance Family Festival at Governors Island
Governors Island is set to kick off another packed season of family offerings. Opening weekend brings the ninth-annual Family Festival, held from 1 to 4pm. Young festivalgoers and their parents will be treated to live music, games, arts and crafts and some eco-education. Best of all, the entire day is free. For more information, visit governorsislandalliance.org.
May 25–September 29
Art Island Outpost at Governors Island
Join the Children's Museum of the Arts for this free summer program, taking place Saturdays and Sundays on Governors Island. Geared toward children ages 12 and under, these artistic sessions cover prop-making, costume design, sculpture and more, all guided by museum teaching artists. Each month brings a new theme, among them "Cityscapes," "The High Seas" and "Epic Adventure." For more information, visit cmany.org.
NBA Nation at South Street Seaport
NBA Nation, a mobile basketball playground making its way across the country, lands in NYC this summer. Adults and kids can compete for prizes, test their skills during challenges and meet NBA players during this free event. For more information and a full schedule, visit nba.com.
June 15–16 and August 17–18
Jazz Age Lawn Party at Governors Island
Over two weekends this summer, take a seat on the lawn at Governors Island and travel back to the 1920s and '30s courtesy of Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra. The festival brings live music, dance instruction and games, along with the perfect picnicking opportunity. For more information, visit dreamlandorchestra.com.
Almost Summer Celebration at Wagner Park
Family-friendly singers Elizabeth Mitchell and Dan Zanes head outdoors for this summer kickoff celebration. Before and after the artists take the stage for a concert at noon, families can participate in readings of Native American stories, art projects and nature-themed activities. For more info, visit mjhnyc.org.
New Fish City: A Seafood Feast on the Waterfront at Brookfield Place
Edible magazine has rounded up some of the area's best seafood establishments for this afternoon and evening food fest. Sample dishes from the likes of Luke's Lobster, Red Hook Lobster Pound, Kutsher's Tribeca, Littleneck and more, all set up in the plaza of Brookfield Place. During a nighttime session, guests can wash down those lobster rolls and clams with craft brews at the event's pop-up beer garden. For more info, visit brookfieldplaceny.com.
June 15–July 14
River to River Festival
Each summer, the River to River Festival takes over downtown Manhattan for a month of free performances and events. The 2013 schedule will be announced soon. Last year brought a concert by Philip Glass and Bang on a Can's 25th anniversary celebration. For more info, visit rivertorivernyc.com.
Through June 16
C. Maxx Stevens: House of Memory at the National Museum of the American Indian
Seminole and Muscogee storyteller C. Maxx Stevens brings her past to life, creating prints, installations and sculptures out of objects ranging from paper to hair. Her aim is to convey the connection between symbols, memories and the experiences of American Indians today. For more information, visit nmai.si.edu.
City of Water Day at Governors Island
Despite its sometimes heavily industrialized shoreline, New York City is still a waterfront town. On Saturday, July 20, the annual City of Water Day Festival will serve as a reminder of just that, featuring free entertainment and education for kids and adults alike about the ways the five boroughs interact with our waterways. Last year's event brought boat tours, fishing, harbor tours, live music and more. For more info, visit cityofwaterday.org.
Swedish Midsummer Festival at Wagner Park
The longest day of the year is cause for a downtown celebration. Mark the occasion with folk dancing, music, wreath-making, a parade, games and Swedish treats in the park. Special guests include folklorist Ross Sutter, American Swedish Institute of Minneapolis fiddlers and the Swedish Folkdancers of New York. For more information, visit bpcparks.org.
July 18–August 8
River & Blues at Wagner Park
Head down to the river for free blues performances from notable musicians. July and August performances include John Hammond (July 18); Christian Scott (July 25; Bill Sims, Jr. (August 1); and The Wiyos (August 8). For more information, visit bpcparks.org.
Governors Island Swim at Governors Island
This annual scenic two-mile race starts when swimmers jump from a ferry. In between strokes, participants can take in views of Lower Manhattan, Jersey City, Staten Island, Brooklyn and Governors Island. Watching competitors from dry land on the island is also an option, but if you're up for the challenge, sign up at nycswim.org.
Annual NYC Poetry Festival at Governors Island
Presented by The Poetry Society of New York, this annual celebration returns to Colonel's Row for two days this summer. Grab a blanket (and maybe your own poetry to read aloud) and head to Governors Island for a full weekend of poetry from 50 organizations, vendors, a beer garden, food, arts and crafts and activities for children. For more information, visit poetrysocietyny.org.
August 30–September 1
NYC Unicycle Festival at Governors Island
This one-wheeled festival rolls into town over Labor Day weekend, with the main celebration happening on Governors Island. On Saturday and Sunday, check out demonstrations, races and even unicycle basketball and hockey. Brave festivalgoers will have the chance to test their balance on one of the bikes. For more information, visit nycunifest.com.
Weekends in September
Governors Island Art Fair at Governors Island
The 4Heads collective, a New York arts group dedicated to beautifying abandoned spaces, invites over 100 artists each year to transform the rooms of Governors Island military barracks into site-specific installations. Galleries will be on display Saturdays and Sundays throughout September from 11am–6pm. For more information, visit 4heads.org.
The first of many hints that Accomplice is no ordinary tour comes in the form of an anonymous confirmation call about “that thing you’re doing tomorrow,” complete with instructions to meet near a red boat at South Street Seaport and, of course, to keep your plans secret. Indeed, while there’s ample walking and sightseeing during this interactive theater experience, the “guides” remain utterly committed to their roles while enlisting participants’ help as accessories to a nefarious criminal plot. For more information, visit accomplicetheshow.com.
Ongoing (Tuesdays and Thursdays)
Bowling Green Greenmarket
Every Tuesday and Thursday year-round, local farmers sell fresh produce and other edible homemade goodies at the Bowling Green plaza. The market runs from 8am to 5pm. For more information, visit grownyc.org.
Children’s Museum of the Arts
This museum nurtures young artists and displays their work. Hands-on workshops taught by working artists give budding creative folk the chance to develop their skills in the visual and performing arts while also, of course, having fun. For more information, visit cmany.org.
Dining on Stone Street
The City’s oldest paved street (at least according to legend) hosts a plethora of dining and drinking establishments. Enjoy everything from pizza to pub fare to upscale grub (not to mention beer, and plenty of it). This stretch of Lower Manhattan is a lively after-work spot. For more information, see our guide to Lower Manhattan.
Free Ferry Rides on the Staten Island Ferry
More than a means of transportation, the Staten Island Ferry is an attraction unto itself. For no charge, visitors can take a 25-minute voyage by water from Lower Manhattan to Staten Island, glimpsing the Statue of Liberty and stunning vistas of New York Harbor and the Manhattan skyline. For more information, visit siferry.com.
Free Lower Manhattan Walking Tours beginning at the statue of the charging bull
Among the many attractions covered on this free tour are Federal Hall, Wall Street, Trinity Church, Fraunces Tavern and the Brooklyn Bridge. For more information, visit freetoursbyfoot.com.
Free Tours at Federal Hall National Memorial
Lower Manhattan’s Federal Hall served as the first US Capitol Building, the site of George Washington’s first inauguration and the place where the Bill of Rights was officially passed. Though the original building has since been demolished, the current structure—built as the US Customs House in 1842—serves as a national memorial operated by the National Park Service. Brush up on your American History 101 at Federal Hall with a free tour (either on your own or with a guide); no reservations necessary. For more information, visit nps.gov.
Free Tours at the Federal Reserve
Reserve your spot at least a week, if not months, in advance for this tour of the Fed, the largest and most influential all the banks in the Federal Reserve System. Get an overview of the bank’s operations, gain admission to the bank’s onsite museum and, best of all, enjoy a guided tour of the vault, 80 feet below street level, which contains around 7,000 tons of gold bullion. To paraphrase Gordon Gekko, that ain’t exactly chump change. For more information, visit newyorkfed.org.
Free Tours at Tweed Courthouse
Named for the infamous Boss Tweed—one of the most corrupt and, lamentably, most powerful figures to ever take up politics in NYC—Tweed Courthouse is one of the City’s most impressive architectural landmarks. Explore the building, which today is the headquarters for the Department of Education, with the help of a seasoned guide who will provide enlightening insights into the building’s grand courtrooms, soaring rotunda and intricate design details. For more information, visit nyc.gov.
Juilliard Artists at 180 Maiden Lane
Every Tuesday, select music students from the Juilliard School perform an hour of free music at this office building in the Financial District. For more information, visit nyc-arts.org.
Liberty View Ice Rink at Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park
This 60-by-120-foot rink, located in Battery Park City, affords skaters views of the Statue of Liberty and New York Harbor. Twirl around the ice, learn to play hockey or just enjoy the scene. For more information, visit libertyviewicerink.com.
Movie Screenings at 92YTribeca
Downtown culture spot 92YTribeca offers several screening series year-round. Films span the spectrum, from indies fresh from the festival circuit to beloved classics. For more information, visit 92y.org.
Museum of American Finance
The Museum of American Finance (MOAF) celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit of America in its financial capital. Combining historical artifacts with interactive displays, the museum takes visitors through the story of Wall Street from its beginnings through today. Both educational and interesting, the museum is a great place for kids and adults to learn about money, markets and the economy. Throughout the winter, MOAF will host a number of special events, including walking tours and informative talks. For more information, visit moaf.org.
National Museum of the American Indian–New York
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian–New York features year-round exhibitions, dance and music performances, children’s workshops, family and school programs, film festivals and video screenings that present the diversity of the native people of the Americas and the strength of their cultures from the earliest times to the present. It’s located in a splendid Beaux-Arts building, one of the museum’s three national locations. For more information, visit nmai.si.edu.
National September 11 Memorial
The 9/11 Memorial is a tribute to the nearly 3,000 people killed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and February 26, 1993, at the World Trade Center in NYC, near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon in Washington, DC. The memorial includes two reflecting pools, each nearly an acre in size, located within the footprints of the former Twin Towers. They feature the largest man-made waterfalls in North America and, when fully complete, will be surrounded by a grove of more than 400 oak trees. Admission to the memorial is free but requires the reservation of a visitor pass; reservations can be made at 911memorial.org.
New Amsterdam Market at Fulton Fish Market
New Amsterdam Market is held every Sunday, 11am to 4pm, at the historic old Fulton Fish Market near the South Street Seaport. The market brings together butchers, bakers, grocers and other regional vendors and is steadily adding to its prepared-food lineup. New Amsterdam also has themed days at the market that highlight different kinds of food—from cured meats to hot breads, jarred products, even imported organic stone-ground chocolate. For more information, visit newamsterdammarket.org.
New Amsterdam Plein & Pavilion
A gift from the Netherlands in celebration of the 400th anniversary (in 2009) of Henry Hudson’s arrival to what would become New York City, the New Amsterdam Plein & Pavilion is an “outdoor living room,” complete with ample shade and a visitor information booth, and is conveniently juxtaposed with transportation hub Peter Minuit Plaza. It’s definitely worth stopping by and taking a look at the Pavilion’s space-age architecture. For more information, visit nyc.gov/parks.
New York Water Taxi
Many of New York City’s most famous landmarks are best seen from the water—the famous skyline, the Brooklyn Bridge and, of course, the Statue of Liberty. New York Water Taxi offers one-hour guided harbor tours, sunset cruises and the only hop-on/hop-off boat transit, with stops along the NY waterfront. Visitors can enjoy a luxury trip aboard the Zephyr Statue of Liberty Express, which departs from Pier 16 at the South Street Seaport. For more information, visit nywatertaxi.com.
The Skyscraper Museum
Located in Battery Park City, The Skyscraper Museum pays homage to the City’s tall-building history, with an especially close look at the development of the downtown skyline and at NYC’s place in the context of modern architecture. Enjoy photographs, mini-replicas, book talks and educational programs highlighting New York City’s high-rise history. The Skyscraper Museum also hosts a series of Saturday-morning family programs. For more information, visit skyscraper.org.
Ongoing (Tuesdays and Fridays)
Staten Island Ferry Terminal Greenmarket
Tuesdays and Fridays year-round (with some exceptions), local farmers sell fresh produce and other edible homemade goodies inside the Whitehall Ferry Terminal building. The market runs from 8am to 7pm. For more information, visit grownyc.org.
Due to the temporary closures of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Statue Cruises is offering two separate sightseeing excursions that include close passes by Lady Liberty. Now available are the 60-minute Statue of Liberty Harbor Cruise and the 60-minute Premium Harbor Cruise (aboard the state-of-the-art yacht Hornblower Hybrid). Both feature narration and food for purchase. All cruises depart and land in Battery Park, and there are no stops in between. CityPass and the New York Pass are accepted. For more information, visit statuecruises.com.
The Wall Street Experience
Explore world-famous financial landmarks such as the New York Stock Exchange, Federal Reserve and Wall Street guided by real Wall Street insiders. While meandering through the narrow, winding streets of Lower Manhattan, you will hear exclusive stories from “inside the trenches”—the kind of titillating stuff about the financial crisis that has scored extensive news coverage for this tour, which aims to demystify and personify Wall Street. Bring your camera and your questions. For more information, visit thewallstreetexperience.com.
Wall Street Walks
Become an industry insider with a walking tour of the world’s financial capital. Wall Street Walks provides guided walking tours in Lower Manhattan, focusing on the financial and stock markets, as well as on American and New York history. Tour guides all have real-life Wall Street experience and can separate truth from legend as they recount stories, explore architecture and teach the history of Wall Street and New York City. For more information, visit wallstreetwalks.com.
Wine Classes at New York Vintners
Enjoy the weekly Wine 101 classes offered by this downtown wine shop. Seating is limited and fills up fast, so make sure to book in advance. For more information, visit newyorkvintners.com.