13 Best Things to Do on NYC’s Lower East Side in 2024

13 Best Things to Do in Lower East Side of Manhattan in 2024

Lower East Side of Manhattan

Exploring the Lower East Side of Manhattan

Welcome to the vibrant and eclectic Lower East Side (LES) of Manhattan, a neighborhood that seamlessly blends rich history with modern urban charm. As you traverse its narrow streets and historic avenues, you’ll discover a tapestry of cultures, from the thriving arts scene to diverse culinary offerings.

The LES boasts iconic landmarks such as the Tenement Museum, showcasing the immigrant experience, and Katz’s Delicatessen, a legendary institution serving up mouthwatering pastrami sandwiches. The neighborhood’s allure lies in its unique blend of hip boutiques, trendy galleries, and an array of nightlife options, making it a magnet for both locals and tourists alike.

With its fascinating mix of old and new, the Lower East Side is an absolute must-visit, offering an authentic New York experience that captures the city’s dynamic spirit.

Manhattan’s Lower East Side History

The Lower East Side (LES) of Manhattan is a neighborhood steeped in history and marked by a fascinating evolution over the years. Originally settled by Dutch and British colonists, the area transformed into a thriving immigrant enclave during the 19th and early 20th centuries, welcoming waves of newcomers from Europe. It’s the home of the Jewish immigrants in New York. You will even find the Museum at Eldridge Street, an Orthodox Jewish synagogue, in the area.

Tenement buildings sprouted, reflecting the area’s dense and diverse population. Over time, the LES became synonymous with cultural dynamism, hosting a vibrant Yiddish theater scene and witnessing the birth of punk rock at iconic venues like CBGB.

Despite waves of gentrification, the neighborhood retains its distinctive character, with historic landmarks like the Eldridge Street Synagogue and the Tenement Museum providing glimpses into its multifaceted past. Today, the Lower East Side stands as a testament to the city’s resilience and the continuous interplay between tradition and innovation.

Best Things To Do From Local Experience, Food and Drink & Notable Attractions

Lower East Side is the perfect mix of classic, traditional and modern life. This NYC neighborhood is a must-visit when you stay in New York City because it offers a lot of fun things that will make your visit unforgettable. There are a number of museums and art galleries to visit, hidden gems waiting to be discovered, iconic restaurants and great places to eat, and more.

If you’re looking for the best things in the Lower East, take this as your guide. I’ll share with you a comprehensive list of the activities you should do, including the best places in the Lower East that you should visit. So, let’s get started!

1. Visit Tenement Museum

Lower East Side Tenement Museum is an essential destination for those interested in delving into the immigrant history of America. Set within meticulously preserved tenement buildings, the museum’s guided apartment tours vividly depict the daily lives of past residents, offering a poignant narrative of the challenges and triumphs faced by those who once inhabited these spaces.

Visitors often depart with a profound sense of empathy and insight, as the exhibits humanize the struggles of immigrants and underscore their enduring impact on shaping the cultural mosaic of New York City. The Tenement Museum serves as a compelling testament to the city’s diverse history, providing an emotionally resonant and educational experience for all who explore its corridors. The museum is open 10 am to 5 pm Monday – Thursday and 10 am to 6 pm Friday – Saturday.

2. Economy Candy

New York City’s Economy Candy, the oldest retail candy shop in existence, stands as a sweet testament to nostalgia in the Lower East Side of NYC. Boasting a vast array of vintage candies, including exotic, unique, and unusual treats, the shop invites customers to take a delightful trip down memory lane. With reasonable prices and a charming, old-world ambiance, Economy Candy has become a beloved destination for both locals and tourists.

What people cherish most about this iconic establishment is not just its extensive selection but the genuine sense of joy and whimsy it imparts, making it a cherished haven for candy enthusiasts seeking a taste of the past. Also, it’s just a walking distance from other attractions and the Essex Street Market.

3. Museum of Street Art

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Ray R- New York (@xrayvision65)

The Museum of Street Art (MoSA) transcends the label of a mere tourist attraction, emerging as a dynamic cultural hub in the Lower East Side of NYC. This outdoor museum celebrates the vibrant world of street art, showcasing the works of talented artists who transform the neighborhood’s walls into canvases of creativity.

MoSA not only captivates tourists with its visually stunning displays but also serves as a powerful platform for local and international artists to express their voices. The museum’s ever-evolving exhibits capture the essence of contemporary urban art, making it a compelling destination for art enthusiasts and a testament to the neighborhood’s evolving cultural landscape. MoSA’s impact extends beyond tourism, fostering a sense of community engagement and artistic appreciation.

4. Nightlife at the Delancey and Attaboy

The Lower East Side of NYC comes alive after dark, offering a dynamic nightlife scene that caters to diverse tastes. Live music enthusiasts can find their groove at iconic venues like The Delancey, where a range of genres, from indie rock to electronic beats, creates an electric atmosphere.

For cocktail aficionados, Attaboy stands out as one of the best bars in the neighborhood, renowned for its expert mixologists and bespoke concoctions. The Lower East Side’s nightspots, including Delancey and Attaboy, are not just destinations for a great time; they embody the neighborhood’s spirit, blending historic charm with contemporary flair, making them must-visit hotspots for an unforgettable night out.

One of our favorites is the Back Room as it exudes Prohibition-era charm, serving up cocktails in teacups to evoke the clandestine atmosphere of the 1920s speakeasies. Tucked behind an unassuming toy store façade, look for an East Side toy company sign, it remains a popular destination for those seeking a nostalgic and intimate setting for a night out.

5. Drop by at The Pickle Guys

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Block Party (@blockparty_dd)

One of the best things to do in LES is visit pickle shops, which have become a culinary phenomenon, drawing locals and visitors alike. The Pickle Guys, an iconic establishment, is renowned for its extensive selection of pickled delights, ranging from classic dill pickles to exotic specialties like pickled mango.

Katz’s Delicatessen, another LES gem, not only boasts legendary pastrami sandwiches but also offers a side of delectable pickles that have become an integral part of the deli experience. The popularity of these pickle shops lies in their commitment to tradition, quality, and the unmistakable tangy crunch that keeps patrons coming back for more, making the Lower East Side a pickle lover’s paradise.

6. Enjoy the Culinary Delights at Russ & Daughters

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Russ & Daughters (@russanddaughters)

Dining at Russ & Daughters in the Lower East Side is an experience steeped in culinary excellence, particularly celebrated for its iconic menu featuring a diverse array of delicacies. It also has a café that opened up in 2014. Renowned for its smoked fish, caviar, herring and bagels, the restaurant combines traditional Jewish appetizing with a modern twist. Patrons also love its matzo ball soup and variety of cream cheese spreads like lox.

Among its bestsellers are the meticulously crafted salads, featuring fresh and flavorful ingredients. However, it’s the bagels that truly steal the show at Russ & Daughters – hand-rolled, boiled to perfection, and served with an array of sumptuous toppings. The popularity of these bagels extends far beyond the Lower East Side, solidifying Russ & Daughters as one of the most cherished destinations for bagel enthusiasts seeking an authentic and delightful dining experience.

9. Lower East Side Food Tour

You should eat in the Lower East because embarking on a food tour in the Lower East Side unveils a culinary adventure, with standout establishments like Double Chicken Please, Yonah Schimmel’s Knish Bakery, and Katz’s Deli. Double Chicken Please is a hidden gem known for its delectable Taiwanese fried chicken, offering a perfect blend of crunch and succulence.

Yonah Schimmel’s, a century-old institution, lures visitors with its legendary knishes – doughy pockets of goodness filled with various savory delights. Katz’s Delicatessen is a must-visit for its iconic pastrami sandwiches, a timeless classic that has earned a global reputation. Enjoy the best brunch in Dudleys at Orchard Street, delicious doughnuts at Doughnut Plant, and the best pizza at Juliana’s. Each stop on this gastronomic journey represents a slice of the Lower East Side’s rich culinary heritage, leaving patrons with a taste of history and a belly full of delight.

10. Walk Around Seward Park

Seward Park offers a serene escape in the heart of the Lower East Side. There are walking tours available where a companion will accompany you for a historical walk. The park’s 2.4-mile bike and walking loop provides a picturesque path for both exercise and leisure, winding through lush greenery and scenic spots.

Amidst the natural beauty, visitors can discover an amphitheater for cultural events, a native plant garden that adds an ecological touch, and an art studio fostering creativity. Sheltered picnic areas invite relaxation, making Seward Park a versatile destination that caters to both active pursuits and moments of quiet enjoyment in the midst of urban life.

11. Have Fun at Metrograph

Metrograph stands as one of the premier destinations in Lower Manhattan, captivating cinephiles with its state-of-the-art cinema experience. This distinguished venue offers more than just a movie-watching experience; it features an upscale American eatery and two stylish bars, creating a complete entertainment package.

The cinema itself is renowned for its carefully curated film selection, ranging from classics to contemporary releases, ensuring a diverse and enriching viewing experience. With its sophisticated ambiance and commitment to the art of film, Metrograph has earned its place as a cultural hub and a must-visit for those seeking a blend of cinematic excellence and culinary indulgence in the heart of the city.

12. Chill at Bowery Ballroom

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Bowery Ballroom (@boweryballroom)

The Bowery Ballroom stands as a legendary music venue in the Lower East Side, renowned for its intimate atmosphere and stellar acoustics. Hosting a diverse range of artists across genres, from indie rock to electronic, it has become a must-visit spot for music enthusiasts. Beyond its reputation as a premier concert space, the Bowery Ballroom’s storefront adds to its charm, blending seamlessly with the neighborhood’s eclectic vibe. Its popularity stems not only from the caliber of performances but also from the unique combination of a vibrant music scene and a welcoming storefront that makes it an iconic cultural destination in Lower Manhattan.

13. Free Things

LES offers tons of fun alternatives with no hidden entrance to enjoy free activities for both locals and visitors. Pier 35, a waterside gem, provides a stunning setting with exercise equipment, giant swings, and breathtaking sunset views over the East River. Tompkins Square Park in East Village, a neighborhood oasis, hosts various events and offers a tranquil escape with its green spaces.

Walking along the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, both accessible from the Lower East Side, provides iconic and cost-free views of the city skyline and the East River. These complimentary experiences showcase the neighborhood’s diverse offerings, inviting everyone to enjoy the beauty and recreational opportunities that the Lower East Side has to offer.

Connecting with Surrounding Areas in LES

The Lower East Side seamlessly connects with surrounding areas through an extensive public transportation network, including subway lines and bus routes, facilitating easy exploration of neighboring districts. Additionally, the neighborhood’s pedestrian-friendly streets and bridges provide a delightful walking experience, allowing visitors to effortlessly immerse themselves in the diverse cultures and attractions of nearby locales.

Williamsburg Bridge

The Williamsburg Bridge is a must-visit, offering breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline and the East River. As pedestrians and cyclists traverse its span, they are treated to panoramic vistas of both Brooklyn and Manhattan, making it a popular destination for those seeking a unique perspective of the city. Beyond its functional purpose, the bridge stands as an iconic structure that provides a memorable and picturesque experience for anyone crossing its path.

Exploring Brooklyn

Exploring Brooklyn is like discovering a distinct piece of New York, celebrated for its unique neighborhoods, diverse cultural offerings, and vibrant arts scene. New Yorkers love the borough for its dynamic energy, eclectic culinary experiences, and the sense of community found in its various districts. I highly recommend venturing into Brooklyn to witness the unparalleled blend of creativity, history, and local charm that makes it an essential part of the New York experience.

Wrap Up

In conclusion, the Lower East Side of Manhattan beckons both locals and tourists with its rich tapestry of history, vibrant culture, and eclectic offerings. From the iconic Tenement Museum and historic pickle shops to Essex market, the dynamic nightlife and culinary delights, the neighborhood encapsulates the essence of New York City’s diversity.

Joining tours of the Lower East around NYC will surely be a fun experience because you’ll find tons of things in the neighborhood to savor the authentic spirit that makes this area a true gem. So do it and start with the list of the best things to do above!

Previous article10 Best Ice Cream Shops in NYC: A 2024 Guide
Next article19 Top Sushi Spots in NYC: Discover the Best Sushi Restaurants From Eater NY and The Infatuation