Accessible Guide to Lower Manhattan Attractions

Lakshmee Lachhman-Persad

Lower Manhattan is a study in contrasts. Richly steeped in American history, the area also offers one of the City’s most inspiring modern skylines. The neighborhood—which comprises the southern tip of the borough and borders on New York Harbor—was a 17th-century Dutch trading post and later grew into the United States’ commercial epicenter. Lined with serene parks, historic landmarks and new developments, Lower Manhattan offers visitors plenty to discover. Read up on a few of our favorites below.

View from One World Observatory. Photo: Tagger Yancey IV

One World Observatory

One World Observatory (located inside 1 World Trade Center) is at the focal point of this revitalized area. The shimmering building is the tallest in the western hemisphere, and its observatory, located on floors 100 to 102, features stunning views of the City, including attractions like the Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty. High-tech interactive exhibits and knowledgeable guides offer insights into the landmarks on view. There is also a café, restaurant, bar and souvenir shop. Paid admission is required.

Accessible Tips:
The observatory is accessible. Elevators can accommodate wheelchair users and offer transportation between the experience’s three floors. There are a few seats within the viewing area available for all visitors.

September 11 Memorial. Photo: Brittany Petronella

9/11 Memorial & Museum

The outdoor memorial area is a somber space for visitors to reflect on the tragic events of September 11, 2001, and February 26, 1993. The eight-acre public park features waterfalls with infinity pools in the footprints of the Twin Towers; each is surrounded by bronze parapets, upon which are inscribed the names of those lost in both the 2001 and 1993 attacks. Nearby the South Pool is the Survivor Tree—a Callery pear tree that survived the attacks and serves as a symbol of resilience, survival and rebirth. Below ground, the National September 11 Memorial Museum examines the enormity of the attacks, telling the story of lost lives, as well as the extraordinary courage and compassion of first responders, through its poignant displays.

Accessible Tips:
All areas at both the memorial and museum are accessible. The parapets surrounding the pools are at a level where most wheelchair users will be able to read the names, though sight lines into the pools may be limited. Scattered seating is available at both the memorial and museum. Paid admission is required for the museum, but the ticket for one caregiver is free.

Le District. Photo: Julienne Schaer

Le District

This 30,000-square-foot French marketplace is a must-visit while in the neighborhood. Le District offers a market, café, garden and a variety of dining experiences, where visitors can find fresh flowers, groceries and daily essentials. The café serves fresh artisanal coffee, pastries, crepes, chocolates and other classic indulgences, while visitors to the market can enjoy meals at a raw bar, a meat and poultry counter and cheese and charcuterie station, all of which can be complemented by a range of French wines. The two fine dining restaurants are Beaubourg and L’Appart, the latter of which has earned a Michelin star.

Accessible Tips:
The market area is dimly lit. When crowded, it can be difficult to maneuver a wheelchair through the aisles. Most of the counter seating is high-top, with some standard seating available. Choose a table along the windows for the views. Outdoor seating is available during the warmer months.

Photo: Brittany Petronella

Westfield Mall

This underground mall is located inside the Oculus, a soaring structure designed by architect Santiago Calatrava to resemble a dove taking flight. On sunny days, sunlight streams into the interior, illuminating the pedestrian areas and public art exhibits. The multilevel mall (and downtown transit hub) houses more than 100 retail outlets, including specialty jewelry, luggage, designer brands and high-tech shops, plus casual and fine dining restaurants. Should visitors need assistance, staff at the concierge desk are on hand to ensure an enjoyable visit.


Accessible Tips:
Wheelchair access is available to all levels via elevators. Limited seating areas are available throughout. A family restroom is available.

St. Paul's Chapel. Photo: Will Steacy

St. Paul’s Chapel

This elegantly designed Georgian Classic-Revival church first opened its doors in 1766 and still holds regular services today. It’s the oldest church in NYC, and has survived some of the City’s worst events (including both the Great Fire of 1776 and 9/11), along with hosting some of its best—welcoming George Washington, for instance, after his swearing in as the country’s first president in 1789. Throughout its history, St. Paul's has welcomed many dignitaries and ministries. While visiting, make sure to see the Bell of Hope—presented to New York City in 2002 from the Lord Mayor of London—which rings annually on September 11 to symbolize triumph over tragedy.

Accessible Tip:
The building is wheelchair accessible via ramps on the side and rear.

Century 21. Photo: Will Steacy

Century 21

The 58-year-old flagship in Lower Manhattan offers 220,000 square feet of discount shopping. Visitors are sure to find bargain prices of around 40 to 70 percent off American and European designer clothing, shoes, home goods and decor.

Accessible Tips:
The building’s six floors are accessible via elevator. The entrances on Dey and Cortlandt Streets have wheelchair-access doors.

Trinity Church. Photo: Marley White

Trinity Church

Until 1890, Trinity Church was the tallest building in New York City. The building as it stands today was consecrated in 1846; it was located on the site of two previous church edifices, the first having been lost in the Great Fire of 1776, the second demolished due to structural issues in the late 1830s. Today, it is most famous as the burial place of Alexander Hamilton, and its soaring Gothic Revival spire is still one of the most recognized elements in the New York City skyline.

Accessible Tips:
Most of the church is closed for renovations (expected to reopen for services in January 2020) that will make the church fully accessible. The Chapel of All Saints is currently open to the public and is accessible by a temporary ramp, but will close in February 2020 for renovation. The pathway to view Hamilton’s grave will be accessible the last week in November 2019.

National Museum of American Indian. Photo: Marley White

National Museum of the American Indian

Located in the historic Alexander Hamilton US Custom House, the National Museum of the American Indian is home to permanent and temporary exhibits depicting the history of America’s indigenous peoples. The expansive collection tells the stories of North, Central and South America’s natives—from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego—through its collection of artifacts, interactive exhibits, dance performances, films and occasional symposia.


Accessible Tips:
The museum is fully accessible and free of charge to all visitors.

Fraunces Tavern. Photo: Marley White

Fraunces Tavern

This legendary tavern, originally built in 1719, played an important role during the American Revolution. It was where the Sons of Liberty rallied support for the war, and was also frequented by George Washington, who gave his famous farewell speech there in 1783 before leaving NYC for Virginia. Today the tavern operates as a museum whose mission is to preserve and interpret the American Revolutionary era through public education. It’s also a lively restaurant and bar—one of the oldest in the country—serving American cuisine along with over 200 assorted whiskeys. Patrons can expect jazz performances on the weekends.

Accessible Tips:
A wheelchair-access ramp is located on Water Street, and the restaurant is accessible. The museum requires paid admission, and is currently undergoing renovations, with its lifts and elevators in limited service during this time. Expected completion is in spring of 2020.