Lower Manhattan Quick Tourism Hits
November 2, 2016 12:18 PM   Subscribe

Big family wedding coming up in early December in NYC. There will be a lot of family gatherings going on, so there won't really be time for us to do whole day tourism schleps. We will be staying in Tribeca and I'm looking for any and all recommendations for fun, interesting, cool things to do (in December) that are quick and easy to get to from where we're staying, and won't take all day to experience. Things that we can run out and do in an hour or two in between family events. General interests inside.

We like food and are vegetarians (one cuisine that we really enjoy and don't have any of where we live is Chinese Vegetarian). Also interested in arts and culture, and history, especially the history of immigration, class, and the labor movement. We'd definitely be down with unique, small art and artifact collections. Also just off the beaten path places to walk around and have an experience that can't be had anywhere else. (I am the person who went to London and turned around and walked right back out of the British Museum because I was having a better time exploring alleyways.) We live in a moderate-sized city now, so just generic "stuff that happens in cities" I have covered on a daily basis. But I've only been to New York a few times in my life, so getting to a really huge world-class city is not something I experience a lot.

Things neither of us care about: fashion, shopping, drinking a lot (hi, we're old and boring).
posted by soren_lorensen to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (24 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Given your stated interests, you'll love the Tenement Museum (103 Orchard St.), but bear in mind you can only see the museum via guided tour, so plan ahead.
posted by Bromius at 12:35 PM on November 2, 2016 [11 favorites]

Tribeca's right near Chinatown. I don't have vegetarian specific recommendations but Nom Wah Tea Parlor is an awesome dim sum place and you order a la carte and make sure you're getting vegetarian.

You also wouldn't be that far from The Tenement Museum.

There used to be a bunch of galleries on Church and White back when I was working around there, but non chain stores have been kind of dying there lately no one else can afford the rent.

You'll also wouldn't be too far from IFC if you want to see some indy movies.
posted by edbles at 12:41 PM on November 2, 2016

Buddha Bodai is my favorite! Veggie dim sum. Try the Mulberry Street location.

You may like the Skyscraper Museum in Battery Park City, and the Tenement Museum (on preview, I see I've been beaten to the punch), if you can make it to the Lower East Side. It will be hard to find off-the-beaten-path places in downtown Manhattan, but you will have a better time checking out Chinatown/LES than TriBeCa for sure. (I work down here and there is not a ton of unexpected stuff, though there are a few neat corners I could tell you about if you are interested.)
posted by ferret branca at 12:43 PM on November 2, 2016

You'll be fairly close to the Earth Room and the Broken Kilometer if your tastes run towards weird art installations.
posted by Jahaza at 1:04 PM on November 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Irish Hunger Memorial is pretty cool
posted by elvissa at 1:21 PM on November 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

I haven't been there and so can't vouch for how interesting it is, but the New York City Fire Museum might be a place to go, and is not far away in Lower Manhattan. Firefighting in New York is pretty complicated and has a fascinating history. Check out the relevant Bowery Boys podcast episode ahead of time.

You could also try the African Burial Ground National Monument, also on Broadway in Lower Manhattan.
posted by Liesl at 1:25 PM on November 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

The museum of Jewish heritage.
posted by brujita at 1:30 PM on November 2, 2016

If the timing doesn’t work out for a Tenement Museum visit (or even if it does?), try the Eldridge Street Synagogue Museum too. It’s terrific & would check some of your boxes.
posted by miles per flower at 1:36 PM on November 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Head to the Dominique Ansel Bakery slightly before opening time for a cronut. Lines are quite short nowadays.
posted by homodachi at 2:16 PM on November 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nish Nush makes exceptional falafel and is entirely vegetarian.

A tour through the new world trade transit hub is better than it sounds when you consider its a combined mall and subway station. It's an impressive bit of eccentric architecture and you get a sense of what $4billion will buy you in lower manhttan these days.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 2:25 PM on November 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

I really like Vegetarian Dim Sum House (all veggie as the name implies) in Chinatown. Also in Chinatown, I recently visited MOCA (Museum of Chinese in America) and found it interesting - a different perspective on US labor history. It's right around the corner from everything else in Chinatown, but not something most people will visit.
posted by stanleyhuff at 3:08 PM on November 2, 2016

In the Lower East Side and Bowery area (nearby Chinatown): The New Museum has a Pipilotti Rist interactive media exhibit that has been getting good reviews. Nearby you can find some boutique and curio shopping between Bowery and Lafayette. The Butcher's Daughter is a really welcome new vegetarian spot with great breakfast lunch or dinner.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 5:19 PM on November 2, 2016

Dear Lord, do not tour WTC with your limited time, it's a MALL. You can see the allegedly architecturally interesting bit, the Oculus, from street level.

There is not currently a museum there, but, given your interests, you might want to pay your respects at the site of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. Then go look at nearby charming Washington Square Park and contemplate how Robert Moses wanted to ram Fifth Avenue right down its middle, only to be thwarted by Jane Jacobs.
posted by praemunire at 6:24 PM on November 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

MoMA is kinda North of your hood, but Tony Oursler's film installation Imponderable is a unique art experience that you don't see every day.
posted by ovvl at 7:29 PM on November 2, 2016

Xi'An Famous Foods is just absolutely delicious NorthWestern Chinese food. Spicy and savoury and wonderful.
And the Tenement Museum is wonderful.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 7:51 PM on November 2, 2016

Check out mmuseumm. It's a little storage space turned into a one room museum of strange artifacts. It's also in Chinatown, so you could swing by right after getting veggie dim sum or seeing the tenement museum.
posted by sometamegazelle at 10:07 PM on November 2, 2016

The Oculus interior is definitely worth a visit but it's just something to walk through after you see the WTC memorial. It didn't really feel like a mall to me.
posted by smackfu at 5:36 AM on November 3, 2016

Check out the Rubin Museum, focused on the art of the Himalayas, India, Tibet and neighboring regions. Very cool exhibits.

Vatan is an all vegetarian restaurant serving Gujerati food, which is not found in most mainstream indian restaurants in the US. I highly recommend going hungry, as it's prix-fixe all you can eat, and delicious!

As you mentioned vegetarian chinese, I'd also recommend trying Indo-Chinese - it's not vegetarian per-se, but you'll find many veg options. Again, I havent found good indo-chinese in many cities in the US, so you may want to take advantage of availability in NYC. I like Spice Symphony, but you might find others on yelp.
posted by darsh at 8:24 AM on November 3, 2016

Nthing most of the suggestions above, especially the Tenemant museum and the Earth Room. You can also try the Skyscraper Museum, the New York branch of the National Museum of the American Indian, and the Museum of Chinese in America, all of which should be relatively close by. The NYC Transit Museum should be a quick subway ride away in Brooklyn. Staten Island ferry rides are free, and offer a great view of lower Manhattan. If you want to just walk around, you're in a good spot because lower Manhattan is the oldest part of the city. A great and very readable book to dip into to better prepare to wander around is The Island at the Center of the World, by Russel Shorto.
posted by lousywiththespirit at 1:24 PM on November 3, 2016

Oh and jumping back in to add that the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge are pretty convenient and walkable (each is about a mile long) and also offer great views (especially of each other). Just bundle up, and remember to walk on the pedestrian sides and not in the bike lanes.
posted by lousywiththespirit at 1:29 PM on November 3, 2016

Unfortunately, it looks like the Irish Hunger Memorial will be undergoing renovations until the spring.
posted by Bromius at 4:58 PM on November 3, 2016

It didn't really feel like a mall to me.

Ahhhh, now I see why I'm differing on this. They just fully opened the mall about a month (?) ago. Which obviously changed the atmosphere substantially from what it was until very recently.

The Brooklyn Bridge would be the easier to access from Tribeca, I think. If you walk it, you won't be far from the Transit Museum, and can easily take a subway back.
posted by praemunire at 6:16 PM on November 3, 2016

While you say you don't care about "drinking a lot", if you drink cocktails at all you should strongly consider visiting the Dead Rabbit. It's routinely listed as one of the best bars in the world and they've got a gigantic menu of some really inventive (and delicious) drinks.
posted by scottdavidsanders at 8:56 PM on November 4, 2016

I like to come back to these sorts of Asks and report back for the benefit of folks who might be searching for similar info.

We wound up having very little free time indeed, with all the family insanity, but we were able to go to the Tenement Museum and it was fan-freaking-tastic. Like, I cannot recommend it highly enough. It absolutely made my entire trip. Just be sure to get tickets in advance if at all possible. Because we waited until the morning of, my husband and I actually wound up going on two different tours, both leaving at the same time, because there was only one ticket left for each. Which was actually a pretty good way of doing it anyway, though, because after we met up again, we got to share everything we'd each learned. And it made for great wedding-mixing-and-mingling conversation later.

We walked to the Irish Hunger Memorial and it was... roped off and under construction *sad trombone*
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:44 PM on December 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

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