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Lower West Side of NYC—One Perfect Day

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New York is a massive city filled with some of the most incredible tourist attractions in the country. But, it’s great to get off the beaten path a bit to see the true Manhattan for all of its greatness. The Lower West Side of NYC is the perfect place for this.

NYC was a slow burn for me. I grew up north of Boston, so visiting Manhattan was going to “the big city.” It was fun, exciting, and exhilarating, but I can’t say I ever felt comfortable there. I always said I loved to visit and equally loved to go home. That I could never live there.

Then my best friend moved to “the city.” She passionately loved New York and, for years, wanted to move back. I visit her once or twice a year and have for many years now. Between my prior visits and seeing her, I’ve seen most of the tourist spots and even many off the beaten path.

I have grown to love this city through her eyes. Recently, we spent a day on the Lower West Side exploring a new spot and some old favorites. So, if you want to get a little off the beaten path and see the Lower West Side of NYC, here are some of the places we’d recommend.

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Little Island

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Check Out the Top Spots in the Lower West Side of NYC in a One-Day Itinerary

If you’re looking to explore one of the neighborhoods in Manhattan that offers a wide range of fun things to do, the Lower West Side of NYC may be just your thing.

You can easily see all of these top spots in a day, with stops for lunch and dinner as you wander. It’s a great mix of green space and city life, seeing some of the iconic spots in New York.

This is the itinerary my friend and I used for a perfect day in the Lower West Side of NYC:

  • Little Island Park
  • High Line Trail
  • Chelsea Market
  • Washington Square Park
  • Greenwich Village

Of course, spend more time where you’re enjoying it most. And then you can skip or shorten your time where you’re less interested. You can breeze through this in half a day as well, though I don’t recommend it. Take the time to enjoy this itinerary!

Explore the Little Island Park

I’m a city lover at heart, but I even like to get out of the city into green space often when I visit cities. I enjoy city parks and make an effort to visit them when I visit new and repeat cities.

So, when I learned that this park opened in 2021, I added it to my list for a coming NYC visit. I’m so glad I did! This park is really special.

Little Island is an artificial park in the Hudson River at Pier 55. It covers almost two and a half acres, and the pier is around 13th Street in the Lower West Side, near the Chelsea and Meatpacking neighborhoods.

The park is supported by 132 “tulip” structures suspended above the water on concrete pilings. The pots are all between 15 and 62 feet above the waterline of the Hudson.

When you’re on the walkway heading to the park, there’s no doubt you’re heading somewhere special. It’s such a unique place.

Walk along the winding path that meanders through the park. There’s a large area with benches and tables and a small hill to walk up to enjoy the views of the park and the nearby piers overlooking the river.

Towards the back, you’ll find a good-sized outdoor amphitheater as well. They hold a lot of events and activities in the park.

Walk the path slowly to enjoy the views. You’ll see families with young children, sunbathers, artists, locals, and tourists enjoying being out in nature in the middle of the concrete jungle.

The Little Island is located at Pier 55 in Hudson River Park. Get here by public transportation easily or take a taxi. It’s free to enter, and there’s no cost to stay as long as you like!

Hudson River

If you have some extra time, head for a walk along the Hudson River. It’s a surprisingly peaceful place on the edge of a busy area.

You can walk along the river and walk onto some of the piers for different views. You’ll see boats and ships passing along.

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Journey Through Time at the High Line

Another incredible and unique city park just a few minutes on foot from Little Island Park is the High Line. It’s a public park built on a nearly 1.5-mile-long elevated rail structure.

This area was saved from demolition by the residents in New York, seeking to preserve the heritage of this historic freight rail line. The park was opened in 2009. It’s an incredible “hybrid public space where visitors experience nature, art, and design.”

It’s a beautiful homage to its history and a soothing place to visit in the middle of the city. You’ll see tracks, paying attention to this area’s roots, artistic sculptures, small gardens, and lovely viewpoints to take in the city from the midst of the green space of this park.

There are some interesting and beautiful gardens, sculptures, and modern art installations. And, of course, some interesting and beautiful street art nearby.

One end of the park runs near Hudson Yard. If you have the time and interest, head over to the Vessel for some incredible views of the city.

The High Line is located on the West Side and runs from Gansevoort Street to 34th Street. It’s open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Check this page for a list of access points to the High Line, including stairs and some elevators.

Get Your Fill at Chelsea Market

Who doesn’t love options?? When it comes to dining out, I love all sorts of different kinds of food. It can be tough to make a choice, and with Chelsea Market, you really don’t have to!

This building is loaded with lots of great eateries. There are all different kinds of food, ranging from bakeries, gelato shops, Mexican, French, sushi, Korean, and the list goes on! The Lobster Place at Chelsea Market is another popular spot.

Wander through here to see what tempts your fancy. If you can imagine it, they pretty much have it! And, they have a lot of really interesting and creative options as well.

One of my favorite shops in Chelsea is Seed and Mill. Have you ever had Halvah? It’s a sweet made of crushed sesame seeds, and it’s lightly sweet. It’s Middle Eastern/Jewish, and I have fond memories of eating it as a kid.

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Seed + Mill

Chelsea Market Seed & Mill

When I saw it while visiting Chelsea a few years ago, it brought back childhood memories. I’ve since had Halvah at other places, but man, this place is the best by far!

They have all different flavors, from traditional like plain, pistachio, and chocolate, to salted caramel, cherry, cardamom, and more. Grab a taste and see if you don’t fall in love.

I will warn you about trying their ice cream, though. Wow. It was truly incredible and worth every bite!

A few years ago, I did a food tour in Chelsea Market and learned that you really can’t go wrong. I didn’t have one thing that I didn’t enjoy, and I wouldn’t hesitate to eat anywhere in this hot spot.

Try an old favorite or try something new. And check out the big art shop before you leave for a fun find!

Seed + Mill is located at 409 W 15th St, New York, NY 10011, in Chelsea Market.

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Hang with the Cool Kids at Washington Square Park

I absolutely love Washington Park. First, I love the triumphal arch that you can walk through to enter the park. It reminds me of my favorite city, Paris, and makes me smile.

There are a lot of reasons why I love this park, but top on my list is the people-watching. The people that come here are so eclectic and a patchwork quilt of the people who make this city so amazing.

There is the man surrounded by pigeons, feeding them from his seat on the bench. The tall, thin man with long dreadlocks moved his head to the beat of his wireless headphones over his head.

There’s the young businesswoman rolling a joint and an old woman talking to her little dog as if he were the love of her life. Children are splashing in a puddle, squealing in delight as their nearby mother cringes.

There is a group of college students talking loudly and a group of younger kids playing with a hacky sack by the fountain in the center of the park. A couple is lounging on the grass as if they were the only two in the world.

Washington Park is a gathering of all the people that make New York—New York. It’s magical, vibrant, and real.

Washington Square Park is located in Washington Square, New York, NY 10012.

Wander Around the Village

Greenwich Village, or “the Village” as it’s often locally known, is such a fun area to explore. There’s a lot of history here as this neighborhood has ushered in some of the many changes in New York City.

It was the center of counter-culture in the 1960s, where people explored different lifestyles. Now, it’s an eclectic mix of university students, hippies, and even Wall Streeters occupying gentrified areas.

I love walking around this area and exploring the different areas within this neighborhood. There is some fun and interesting street art, great studios and restaurants, and more.

Greenwich Village is located here on a map.

mural in greenwich village, lower west side new york
Greenwich Village mural

Dine on Vietnamese Comfort Food

I love Vietnamese food, especially since I went to Vietnam nearly a decade ago. So, when someone tells me of a great Vietnamese restaurant, I’m all over it.

My friend in NYC told me a funny story about how she found this place. It was just a random meeting on the Staten Island Ferry that happens as so many things in New York seem to.

A guy who happened to be a chef overheard her conversation on the Staten Island Ferry as they were heading through the throngs of people to exit. He shouted out this restaurant name: Saigon Shack.

She tried it and loved it. It’s a little “hole in the wall” type of place with a small outside area and a handful of tables. The incredible aroma coming through the front door let me know we were in the right place.

I got a pho tai, beef rice noodle soup. Comfort in a bowl. We split a vegetarian spring roll—a thin rice cellophane-like wrap around bean sprouts, cucumbers, carrots, rice noodles, and a tofu-like textured protein.

She got a banh mi, a traditional Vietnamese sandwich with crusty French bread, veggies, pickled veggies, and textured protein with an incredible sauce.

I have other friends who are vegan and do enjoy vegan food, but I’ve never had “fake meat” that had such an incredible texture like this before. I truly would not have known this was not pork! The flavor was incredible, and I was sorry I didn’t get a banh mi as well!

Just as with anywhere in New York, it’s all about the people. A man in a marked van pulled up and, laughingly, asked us to watch his van for us as he ran an errand. “Sure!” This is New York City at its finest, where random moments make you smile.

Saigon Shack is located at 114 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012.

Check Out the Lower West Side of NYC

Sure, there are a lot of heavily touristed areas in New York. Many of them are worth seeing—don’t get me wrong. But if you want a mix of places to see that are a little off the beaten path but offer you an incredible view of what this place has to offer, check out the Lower West Side of NYC.

I have learned to fall in love with this city, and there are a lot of areas I really enjoy. But I’ll tell you that the Lower West Side of NYC keeps me coming back for more!

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