The Case for Skipping Midtown and Staying Downtown in New York City

Every year, millions of tourists flock to New York City to take in the bright lights, lively shows, delicious food and frenetic energy the city has to offer. Midtown is the usual hotspot for visitors and it's understandable. Times Square, the Empire State Building, window shopping on Fifth Avenue and seeing a Broadway show are all bucket list musts when seeing the city for the first time.

But Downtown Manhattan has its own must-see spots and as more restaurants, shops and attractions pop up, the case for skipping the midtown crowds and exploring Lower Manhattan grows stronger by the day. Here are the best places to go in Lower Manhattan.

One World Observatory

You won't find views like this even at the Empire State Building. Located at the top of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, there's nothing like taking in 360-degree views of the city, Brooklyn, New Jersey and beyond from the 102nd floor. Thanks to the downtown location, you actually get the best views of the entire city skyline.

The National 9/11 Memorial & Museum

While a sobering experience, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum is a must when visiting New York. The powerful memorial serves as an important reminder and the museum will leave a lasting impression on both children and adults. The exhibits are incredibly thoughtful and are both heart wrenching and educational using a mix of architecture, archaeology, and history.

The Oculus

The Vessel at Hudson Yards may be the buzzy new kid on the block, but when it comes to shopping spaces that are also ingenious architectural feats, the Oculus did it first. Part shopping mall, part food court and part train station, this stunning building is worth a visit even if you don't plan to shop, eat or take a train. The glass-and-steel structure by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava was designed to look like a dove in flight and its mind-bogglingly high ceilings will blow you away. It also gets decked out for the holidays and often features new art installations.

Soho Shopping

Most of the famous, name brand stores of Fifth Avenue can also be found in Soho. Plus, there are still plenty of upscale boutiques for those looking for something a little more unique. Stroll the cobbled streets and take a break at any one of the numerous local coffee shops scattered throughout area. From Burberry and Gucci to locally owned jewelry shops, Soho has it all.

Battery Park

An especially great spot for families, you don't have to trek all the way up to Central Park for green space and views. Battery Park is right on the water so you can get a nice sea breeze while kids blow off some energy on the lawns. Children will also go gaga over the Seaglass Carousel, where they can take a ride inside a brightly lit fish.

Brooklyn Bridge

Strolling across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge is a must and you can start or end your walk in Lower Manhattan, depending on which direction you choose to go. This is one of the best ways to get quintessential Manhattan skyline views, so if you do choose to go the direction of from the city to Brooklyn, don't forget to stop and turn back around along the way.

River Cruises

Whether you want to take a tour out to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty or just go for a leisurely sail along the Hudson or East River, you'll be starting your ride downtown. Savvy travelers also know you can always take a quick ride on the Staten Island Ferry for free as an easy way to get out on the water and see Manhattan from afar.

Whitney Museum

Sure MoMA and The Met are iconic, but the Whitney Museum of American Art is definitely worthy of a visit in its own right. From Jasper Johns to Georgia O'Keefe, the museum has an excellent collection and constantly rotating exhibitions that keep it fresh. The museum's restaurant, cheekily called Untitled, is also far beyond your standard museum grub, serving a menu focused on local and fresh ingredients.

Seaport District

This area of New York has seen rapid growth and new spots are popping up here everyday. You'll find everything from galleries and boutiques to brand new restaurants and bars here. In the winter there's even an ice rink and a small Christmas tree farm, along with plenty of holiday decorations. There's also a cool museum where kids can get a look at historic ships.

Le District and Eataly

Located just a quick 12 minute walk from one another, both of these spots offer a bustling market feel and savory bites with a European flair. Le District has a French focus, while Eataly is all things Italian. Both spots allow you to shop for your own ingredients like fresh cheese, pasta and fish or to sit down at any of the numerous restaurants and cafes within for a full meal, snack or just a quick glass of wine.

The High Line

If you're in the mood to be outdoors, walking the High Line is a great spot. Stroll along the elevated railway that's been transformed into a walkway. The park features food vendors, lush gardens, artwork and views of the Hudson River. While it is lovely during the day, it's also softly lit at night and can be much less crowded once the sun goes down.

Four Seasons Downtown

One of the best cases to be made for staying in Lower Manhattan is the Four Seasons New York Downtown. Step into the lobby and you're immediately transported from the bustling, noisy city streets into a calming oasis. Finding spacious hotels in New York can be tricky, but the rooms and suites here offer families plenty of room to relax at the end of a long day exploring. The rooms also offer spectacular views no matter which way they are facing. Best of all, the hotel also boasts a large indoor pool so families can go for a dip any time of year.

By Hannah Freedman