NEW YORK DAY
2: The Statue of Liberty, Wall Street and Brooklyn Bridge
Begin day two at the southern tip of Manhattan, where New York City actually began. Start today's adventure at Battery Park. From here, you can take a ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, where millions of immigrants passed through during the 19th and 20th centuries in search of the elusive American Dream. Beyond Ellis Island lies Staten Island, dubbed New York City's "forgotten borough" because of its dearth of attractions and suburban-like environment. The free ferry, however, is a good alternative to taking the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, as it passes right by Lady Liberty.
Curiosity or patriotism (or a mixture of both) may guide you to the post-September 11, 2001 construction site at the World Trade Center, now known as Ground Zero. There's an unfinished Santiago Calatrava-designed PATH train station (which whisks commuters to New Jersey), and some tributes to the victims of the terrorist attacks. Do look for the Vesey Street staircase, a partly ruined concrete structure and the WTC's only remaining above-ground remnant. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has placed the staircase on its list of America's most endangered historic places.
But if you have your heart and mind set on skyscrapers, the cooler-than-you-think Skyscraper Museum is the place for you. A disaster relief center during the terrorist attacks of 2001, the museum (and its exhibits) tell the history of the city skyline, noting the players and historical forces that shaped the architectural marvel that is the skyscraper.
Because lower Manhattan was the original Dutch colony, its streets are narrower and more winding than elsewhere in the city. It is a good idea to stroll around the area, where Colonial-era churches (and cemeteries) sit next to heaven-reaching bank buildings. In addition to the churches, street names like Water and Bridge are some of the few remaining reminders of New Amsterdam. Eventually, you may stumble on to Wall Street, home of the heavily guarded New York Stock Exchange and a symbol of American capitalism. It's best to be here during the week when you can see the starch-collared professionals zipping up and down the street.
The nearby Brooklyn Bridge is a must for any New York City itinerary. Built in 1883, it was, at the time, the world's largest suspension bridge. If you don't want to walk all the way across, meander just to the first gothic-arched tower for camera-friendly views of the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. (Another option is to take the A or C subway trains to High Street in Brooklyn and walk across to Manhattan.)
For lunch, wander north to Little Italy. There are Italian restaurants on Mulberry Street and on the northern end, a couple of restaurants are serving up quality Italian-American fare and actually helping to bring back locals to the area for the first time in years. Rubirosa is pretty popular so expect a bit of a wait ... but it'll be worth it.
Afterward, walk down the Bowery — a long, crooked boulevard that was once New York's Skid Row. Today the street, while still not particularly pretty, has been transformed into a great place for eating, drinking and art gawking. If the latter interests you, stop by the New Museum, which is an avant-garde art museum that showcases up-and-coming artists.
Or check out the Italian American Museum (located on Mulberry Street), to learn more about the unique history of the Italian-American community. For dinner, try hitting up the nearby Soho district. Interestingly, Soho was once known as "Hell's Hundred Acres," because of its reputation as a gritty industrial neighborhood. But currently, Soho (short for South of Houston Street, pronounced HOW-ston) is the center of upscale downtown shopping and an area where high-priced clothes shops are overrun by the catwalk-prancing "beautiful people" who love them. The neighborhood also features many architectural gems. Walk the streets and don't forget to look up at the cast iron structures. Two buildings worth seeking out are the art nouveau-inflected King of Greene Street and Queen of Greene Street (72-76 Greene Street between Broome and Spring Streets and 28-30 Greene Street between Canal and Grand Streets).
Do dinner at The Dutch (if you can get in), which is chef Andrew Carmellini’s homage to high-quality American cuisine.
If you fancy a nightcap, walk a few blocks up to Houston Street to the second-floor Pegu Club, a sleek cocktail bar with great drinks and even better people watching.