A historic warren of old brick buildings, converted warehouses, Belgian-block streets and boat slips, the South Street Seaport is perhaps best known for its nods to modern commerce. It's peppered with places to shop and eat, and the recent opening of Seaport Studios only adds to this reputation. Though it remains a neighborhood in transition since Superstorm Sandy—with construction underway to redevelop Pier 17, former home to a showpiece mall demolished in 2014—the Seaport still offers up plenty of ingredients for a fun seasonal stroll: striking views of Brooklyn Bridge and the East River; gourmet street food sold; tall ships moored in the harbor (and the chance to sail on a few of them); and a steady diet of free summertime events.
Even if you're not in the market for invitations or cards, Bowne & Co. Stationers, which traces its roots back to 1775, is worth a look just to gaze at the old-fashioned letterpress machines; it's run by the South Street Seaport Museum, which has gone to great lengths to preserve the area's history—though the district continues to be vulnerable. Over on Peck Slip, the Salty Paw takes specialty shopping in a different direction, selling treats like dog bones with “I Love NY” written in icing and MetroCard and taxi chew toys. On weekends, the Fulton Stall Market runs an outdoor farmers' market on Front Street between Fulton and Beekman Streets and, during the week, it has an indoor market at 207A Front St. where visitors can stock up on fresh food, snacks and gift items. The neighborhood's newest retail space is Seaport Studios, a two-story collection of designer wares and art exhibitions at the corner of Fulton and Front Streets. The idea is that the vendors will rotate, with new craft makers coming in to sell their jewelry, clothes and fashion-forward accessories on a revolving basis.
Eat and Drink
Just outside Seaport Studios along Fulton Street is Seaport Smorgasburg. The downtown location of the popular Smorgasburg outdoor food market has angular, tentlike “pods” manned by the likes of Ramen Burger, Pizza Moto and Lumpia Shack. Nearby, Fresh Salt, housed in a former smokehouse built in 1885, serves up sharable plates and sandwiches alongside cocktails, beer and wine. Other local spots include MarkJoseph Steakhouse, Paris Café, New Zealand–themed Nelson Blue, kitschy Cowgirl Sea-Horse and the home of the morning happy hour, Jeremy's Ale House.
Do and See
The South Street Seaport is more than just a place to eat and shop. The South Street Seaport Museum, which also oversees Bowne & Co. and a passel of restored ships, is located in the lobby of 12 Fulton St.; visitors can arrange for private tours of the galleries. The museum’s Melville Gallery, at 213 Water St., occasionally hosts plays and other events. The Seaport's summer season brings a varied roster of programming with Lower Manhattan's River to River Festival (late June), the Seaport Food & Film Festival (through July) and the music-filled Brasil SummerFest (August 1). Hornblower Cruises runs their “Alive After Five” happy hour cruise from Pier 15 (April through October), with a special theatrical-style show about the origins of rum called Imbible on certain trips through Labor Day. If you have any Broadway aspirations, head to the downtown TKTS Booth, conveniently located at the corner of Front and John Streets, where you can buy discounted tickets to the day's shows.
Get on the Water
The Seaport sights look just as good—if not better—from the water. Head to Pier 16 to get tickets for Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises or 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.
If you want to stay landlocked, find your way over to Pier 15 and take advantage of its indoor-outdoor seating, which provides excellent views of the water and surrounding area.