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When visitors think of New York City, many people minds’ immediately jump to the area known as Midtown. Midtown is home of the Empire State Building, Grand Central Station, Times Square, and many more iconic tourist attractions.
However, in order to experience everything this city has to offer, I highly recommend visiting other Manhattan neighborhoods when you’re coming New York City.
In particular, Lower Manhattan has been an absolutely thriving area, and while it’s not “off the beaten path,” this historical part of New York City is still essential to any trip to the Big Apple.
Personally, I love New York City’s Financial District. This neighborhood is not only home to Wall Street, but its streets are packed with historical pubs, waterside parks, and incredible museums.
In this guide, I write all about the amazing free things to do in the Financial District NYC.
Free Things to Do in the Financial District NYC
For solo travelers in New York City, the high prices can feel intimidating, especially if you know someone who lives in the city and talks about their rents (the costs ain’t pretty).
If you go to New York with a plan, you’re definitely able to keep the costs low. I’ve included a lot my favorite free things for the Financial District in this post.
However, there is a notable exclusion: The Museum of the American Indian.
The Museum of the American Indian is a Smithsonian, and as a result, visitors are welcome to see the exhibits for free, Which is fabulous!
But I still haven’t had a chance to go to the museum! Alas.
I want to write an entire post dedicated to the Museum of the American Indian once the doors open again for visitors. Stay tuned!
Map of Free Things to Do in the Financial District
Explore South Street Seaport
The first of the free things to do in the Financial District NYC is an actual historic area in its entirety. The Seaport District is one of New York City’s most historic and beautiful neighborhoods, and absolutely worth your time.
As you wander this area, snap some photos of some of the oldest architecture in all of downtown Manhattan.
Even though you can walk the streets for free, you might want to check out South Street Seaport Museum. This museum is home to Bowne & Co., Stationers, which is New York City’s oldest operating business.
South Street Seaport is home to a variety of great pubs and outdoor dining experiences, too!
Reflect at the 9/11 Memorial
Another one of the free things to do in the Financial District NYC is the 9/11 Memorial.
Keep in mind that, while the memorial is free to the public, you need to pay to go to the 9/11 Museum. It’s a tough place to visit, but I think it’s important to not forget what happened on that horrible day.
In particular, the pools are stunning on a sunny day with the waters glittering underneath the rays. Just please be respectful, and remember that you’re staying on the graves of thousands of murdered people. Don’t take selfies. Just … don’t.
However, use the time to read the names, mediate about the state of the world, say a well wish or prayer for the surviving family members. 9/11/2001 was a horrible and traumatic day, but this memorial is till very important for visitors coming to the Financial District.
As a side note, I’ve written a guide about the 9/11 Museum and Memorial for interested travelers, especially those who want to go into the museum.
See the American Stock Exchange Building
You don’t want to skip the grand landmark that is the American Stock Exchange Building!
Snap some photos at this incredible 50,000 square foot building at 86 Trinity Place. You’ll feel small and inspired as you gaze at the intimidating columns.
Furthermore, the American Stock Exchange Building is a historic landmark, as well, and you’ll see plenty of tourists taking pictures. Although you won’t get rich through stocks as a visitor, the photo opportunities are still 100% free, haha!
Pose with the Charging Bull and Fearless Girl Statues
Located in Bowling Green, you’ll discover the Charging Bull. My advice is to walk to the bull early, while most people are still sleeping or eating breakfast, because otherwise, it might take awhile to snap your picture with the bull, haha. The area gets crowded.
Artist Arturo Di Modica created the Charging Bull to capture the spirit of hard work and “we can do it!” mentality of New York City. And I’ll admit, whenever I look at the Charging Bull, I feel like I can achieve any goal in the world. Hear me roar!
Nearby, you can also take a picture with another iconic statue: the Fearless Girl.
Kristen Visbal’s work – a four foot empowered young girl – was installed for International Women’s Day, and emphasizes the importance of gender diversity in the workplace.
Visit Alexander Hamilton at Trinity Church
Need more free things to see in the Financial District NYC? I got you covered!
Next you will want to step into the pages of American’s Revolutionary and Colonial Days. Trinity Church on Wall Street is historically significant to the time period, and still a practicing congregation today. And it’s free to enter the building and adjoining cemetery.
The first church on these grounds was constructed in 1698, which is super old by American standards, believe me!
Believe or not, the spiral of this beautiful historic church was once considered the tallest building in Manhattan.
In Trinity Churchyard, the most famous graves are the final resting places of Alexander Hamilton and his wife Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton.
Trinity Churchyard is home to many other prominent New Yorkers and is worth your time.
Take a Walk at Battery Park
The Battery is, without a doubt, one of the best free things to do in the Financial District NYC.
In this park, you can explore colorful gardens, ride a bike, and check out the SeaGlass Carousel.
To be honest, if the weather is beautiful, the Battery is where I would want to spend most of my free time in Lower Manhattan. I can’t get enough of New York’s magical water views.
Ride the Staten Island Ferry
Peter Minuit Plaza is located in the Battery. And wanna hear something really cool? You can ride the FREE Staten Island Ferry here!
The Staten Island Ferry leaves every 15-30 minutes, and the ride will take you pass the Statue of Liberty. As a local, these close encounters with Lady Liberty took my breath away. It’s just so cool to be close to such an iconic and ubiquitous statue in-person.
I love the Staten Island Ferry is free for all visitors! Take advantage when you’re in the Financial District.
Window Shop at Westfield World Trade Center
In New York, everyone falls in love with shopping, even if the silk dresses and huge designer sunglasses are too expansive for most people. However, your wallet won’t stop you from window shopping.
Although Soho is more popular for shopping, the Financial District has some gems too, even if you don’t plan in making any large purchases.
My personal favorite place to window shop is Westfield World Trade Center.
In this mall, you’ll find beautiful window displays from global luxury retailers, as well as many amazing food options. You can even have a drink at Oculus Beer Garden!
Ogle at the Oculus
The Oculus is the prettiest transportation hub that I’ve ever seen in my life with the exception of Grand Central Station.
Personally, I think you should visit and take a few pictures inside the Oculus, even if you’re not taking the PATH train from nearby New Jersey.
The white ribs interlocking the ceiling make for fantastic photographs. Who doesn’t love clean lines in architecture?
Another reason to visit the Oculus is that you will find clean and free public bathrooms, which are super important whenever you’re exploring New York City!
Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
Last but not least, you’ll find the entrance of the Brooklyn Bridge in the Financial District.
I love crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on a sunny day! Be careful, though. As you walk the bridge, there are two distinct paths for pedestrians and bikers, and tourists don’t always pay attention to bikers, and bikers don’t always pay attention to tourists.
As a result, I recommend crossing the Brooklyn Bridge in the early morning hours, so you don’t feel overwhelmed from the crowds.
You can easily explore nearby DUMBO and the Financial District in the same day, which helps visitors taking a day trip to New York City.
Other Tips for the Financial District NYC
I hope you had fun reading about all the free things to do in the Financial District NYC.
Last but not least, I wanted to include a couple of tips for visiting the Financial District in general.
As you know I talk a lot about New York on this blog, so I also have plenty of information for deciding the best time to visit New York or how to reach Manhattan from Newark Airport.
However, I wanted to keep this next section brief and just relevant to this neighborhood.
Financial District Essentials
Don’t forget to bring these important items for your visit to the Financial District.
- Comfy Stylish Walking Shoes: You walk a lot in New York. A lot, a lot, a lot. I average 13,000 steps a day or more. Bring comfortable walking shoes to keep your feet happy.
- New York City Guidebook: Bring a guidebook for the most up to date information about the city’s restaurants, hotels, and sights. Lonely Planet’s New York Guidebook is my personal favorite.
- Windbreaker Jacket: You’ll definitely feel a strong breeze on the ferry most months of the year. Keep yourself warm by bringing a windbreaker jacket with you to the Financial District.
- Sunglasses: During bright days, pack a pair of versatile sunglasses to protect your eyes. This is especially important on places like the ferry decks or Brooklyn Bridge.
Where to Eat in The Financial District
You’ll discover plenty of great food options in the Financial District. As for specific recommendations, however, two places immediately spring to my mind.
The Dead Rabbit
The Dead Rabbit – which is located on the Fraunces Tavern Block Historic District – is a Financial District icon and home to the greatest bartenders in the world.
The ground floor is fantastic for lunch and beers. However, I feel like the magic truly happens in the upstairs parlor. However, seating is limited and you need to perfectly time your visit.
So arrive early to enjoy cocktails in the Parlor. You’ll feel as if you’ve died and gone to heaven. The drinks are that incredible.
Eataly NYC Downtown
I’m obsessed with Eataly, you guys.
This delightful Italian Market offers everything including a restaurant, a patio, and eat at home grocery boxes. I always feel as if I’ve transported to Italy whenever I visit here. Love it.
If you have the time, Eataly even offers cooking classes!
Where to Stay in the Financial District
Okay, so the hotels are not one of the free things to do in the Financial District NYC. Sorry to dash your hopes and dreams, haha!
Yet, believe it or not, the Financial District is one of the more reasonably priced areas to stay in Manhattan, especially when compared to Midtown, West Village, and East Village.
I’ve included a couple of hotel recommendations if you’re planning on spending the night in the neighborhood. Happy booking!
- Artezen Hotel: Want to add a splash of luxury to your trip? This upscale hotel is close to the September 11 Museum and Memorial, making it a convenient place to stay in the Financial District. See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
- Hilton Garden Inn NYC Financial Center: Need a hotel near the State Island Ferry with a gorgeous view of the water? Check out Hilton Garden Inn on your visit! See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
- Holiday Inn Manhattan Financial District: This holiday inn has a restaurant – St. George Tavern – on site, and is close to all the attractions. See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
I hope you had fun reading about all the free things to do in the Financial District NYC! Are you planning on seeing the Financial District on your next adventure in New York City?