Times Square

7 Free Places in Lower Manhattan Solo Travellers Can…

New York City is easy to fall in love with.

If you’re into large, bustling cities that is. A myriad of things can happen under the luminescent glow of huge adverts, which bombard you with the latest products and store sales. Costumed buskers, the warm scent of soft pretzels, a plethora of tourists busying the streets and a hearty population of 8.5 million people, solitude in NYC may seem like a startling notion. But NYC is so busy and lively, it’s entirely possible to remain invisible, which does well to let you give yourself undivided attention.

Buskers in NYC
Buskers in NYC

Thing is, there are many things to do in Lower Manhattan, NYC. It’s easy to want to do everything, yet do nothing while spending time figuring out activities for the day. I’ve compiled a one-day itinerary of seven free things to do while (mostly) on foot.

  1. The Brooklyn Bridge

Start your day at the Brooklyn Bridge. The earlier the better if you want the bridge (mostly) to yourself and to take photographs. If you’re into a morning stroll, it takes about 60 minutes to walk across the bridge’s entirety. The view is incredible. The Manhattan Bridge and Williamsburg Bridge come into view across the East River. You can spot the Statue of Liberty.

Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge

  1. The Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty was gifted from the French to commemorate the American Declaration of Independence and the alliance of France and the United States during the American Revolution. A globally recognized iconic statue, don’t settle on viewing the Statue of Liberty from afar, it’s worth it to see it up close. There are two ways to do this: take the free Staten Island ferry or purchase a Liberty Island entry ticket.

The Staten Island Ferry Whitehall Terminal is located close to the base of the Brooklyn Bridge in Lower Manhattan, just a 20-minute walk or 10-minute taxi/Uber ride. The ferry transports individuals to and fro Manhattan and Staten Island. It’s an excellent way to not only see the Statue of Liberty, but to also catch NYC’s glimmering skyline.

View the Staten Island Ferry schedule.

Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty

  1. Wall Street

Did you know Wall Street is named after a wall built by the Dutch in the 17th century? It was built for protection, but later dismantled by the British. Back then it was a busy trading area. It still is, although now it’s a trading hub of the largest financial markets.

And what’s a trip to NYC without devouring the heart of capitalism? Upon return from your Statue of Liberty cruise to the Staten Island Ferry Whitehall Terminal, walk five minutes to the charging bull and fearless girl, another two iconic American statues.

Wall Street
Wall Street in the Historic Financial District

  1. Trinity Church

Your Wall Street tour isn’t over yet, but just four minutes away is the Trinity Church, near where Wall Street and Broadway intersect. The Trinity Church is centred around the Episcopal Church and the global Anglican Communion. It provided refuge for those fleeing the 9/11 attacks and has been amidst controversy involving Occupy Wall Street.

Dim lights and low, rhythmic hymns occupied the church—I happened to visit during Sunday mass. Security is present to remind visitors to stay quiet and observe from the back of the church.

  1. Wall Street Financial District

Make your way south on Wall Street. The offices and headquarters of NYC’s major financial institutions like the New York Stock Exchange, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 23 Wall Street, which used to be the J.P. Morgan & Co headquarters and the Trump Building will come into view.

An interesting thing to note, and one which many tourists don’t seem to know was the 1920 terrorist attacks on 23 Wall Street. On September 16, a dynamite-filled horse-drawn carriage detonated, killing 30 people. First believed to be caused be a Russian from the Red Army, FBI investigation concluded, 3 years later, that Italian anarchists were behind the attack. The group had conducted an onslaught of bombings across America in 1919. There’s nothing notable left of the bombings, except markings and scars on the side of 23 Wall Street.

J.P. Morgan Bank
J.P. Morgan Bank

  1. The National September 11 Memorial

From the Wall Street Financial District, take a 10-minute walk back towards Trinity Church, past Broadway to the 9/11 memorial. Officially opening in 2011, the memorial is located at the site of the former World Trade Center complex. The names of the 2996 people who died are inscribed on bronze parapets surrounding the twin memorial pools.

9/11 Memorial
9/11 memorial

Right in front of you will be the One World Trade Centre, the main building of the rebuilt World Trade Center complex. It’s the tallest building in NYC and offers a 360° birds-eye-view of the city from its observatory for a price.

World Trade Center

There are many free or pay-what-you-wish museums in the area, such as the National Museum of the American Indian. You can also visit Battery Park. Afterwards, you can make your way to Times Square via train (subway) or hail a cab/book an Uber.

  1. Times Square

The heart of NYC, Times Square was named after the New York Times. More so located in Midtown Manhattan, it’s an outdoor gallery, with various performers and cartoon characters. See the Naked Cowboy or Gospel Choir at Times Square Church. You can eat, grab a seat in the pedestrian zone and people watch—NYC hosts many interesting characters. You can snatch a free seat for a live taping of the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon or The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at the Ed Sullivan Theater. Just remember to book your free seat in advance. If you’re in Times Square near midnight, don’t miss the Midnight Moment—the world’s largest digital art exhibition where sign operators collaborate to display synchronized, creative content on the huge billboards every night, immersing the city with spectacular imagery.

Times Square

If you have time to spare, visit the NYC Information Centre in Times Square located on Broadway, between 43rd and 44th Streets. You can get free guides, maps, brochures, coupons and discounts for hundreds of activities and sights in NYC.

I visited New York City a few weeks ago, after 15 years, and I forgot how mesmerizing the city can be. It’s a perfect city to explore solo, although I would advise solo women take caution while exploring at night. Times Square is generally a safe place due to crowds. I explored Manhattan with my DSLR in hand and nothing happened. I was there for a weekend and I hope to return soon.

Have you been to NYC? Which free activity have you enjoyed there?

Samah
Samah is a Toronto-based freelance writer, digital marketer and former public servant. Needing more creative inspiration, she purchased a camera for motivation to travel and explore. You can catch her hiking or roaming urban landscapes, camera slung over the shoulder, with an iced chai latte in one hand and checking Instagram in the other.
0 COMMENTS
  • Abigail Sinsona
    Reply

    I have all of these items in my bucket list. I am glad that these are free places because we all know how NYC is notorious for being expensive. I would just like to say that your photos are truly inspiring. NYC is one of those cities that I’ve longed to visit and this post rekindled that fire!

    1. Samah Khan
      Reply

      Thank you, Abigail! I hope you get to visit one day soon 🙂

  • Lisa
    Reply

    I remember visiting the 9/11 memorial and feeling shivers run up my spine just thinking of the tragedy that day. Brooklyn Bridge is a must see in NYC, as is the statue of Liberty. I never knew about the 1920 terrorist attack in Wall Street; you learn something new everyday!

    1. Samah Khan
      Reply

      It was surprised about the attacks too, there’s nothing notable left of it. I agree the Brooklyn Bridge is a must see.

  • Suzanne
    Reply

    This is a great rundown of the main sights in lower Manhattan. I’ve visited all of them on previous trips to NYC and really enjoy Brooklyn Bridge. I could spend hours there just looking at the river and the people jogging and biking by.

    1. Samah Khan
      Reply

      Agree, the Brooklyn Bridge in the morning is quite beautiful especially.

  • Ada
    Reply

    This is a perfect day tour! I would also add Central Park to it, at least a little part and maybe not in the end but at the beginning as we all heard the stories 🙂 I love Brooklyn Bridge, I was there few times already, and the park next to it is definitely my favourite spot in the city ( am sure there are better places but I am just a tourist there 🙂 ) New York is such a wonderful place and I cant wait to go back!

    1. Samah Khan
      Reply

      Central Park is a must, but not in Lower Manhattan 🙂 But it’s a few minutes walk from Times Square so it could be possible.

  • Heidi
    Reply

    That is one busy day but completely doable if you’re cramming it all in for a short stay. Personally, I wouldn’t miss Central Park and the Central Library either, but it’s a lot. Love your photos.

    1. Samah Khan
      Reply

      Thanks, Heidi. Almost everything is in walking distance so it’s not too bad – It’s just Lower Manhattan after all.

  • Julia Guerra
    Reply

    Wow that’s a lot of places to visit in one day! About 10 years ago, I remember seeing the Brooklyn Bridge, Wall Street, and Staten Island. It was a wonderful trip but I felt a little overwhelmed because there was so much to do and we were only there for 5 days.

    1. Samah Khan
      Reply

      There is way too much to do in NYC haha. This was quite feasible, I had a lot of time left over at the end, which I spent in Times Square!

  • Joanna
    Reply

    I had no idea how big Brooklyn Bridge was and that it takes at least 60 minutes to walk it from one side to another. Wow! You can’t go to New York and not visit The Times Square, imagining all those scenes from all those movies that have been filmed here. I have never been to New York but I know it is a fascinating city that I would like to see some day.

    1. Samah Khan
      Reply

      It’s such a spectacular city, I hope you get to visit one day, Joanna!

  • zoi
    Reply

    It seems you had a great trip. I have never been in NY, I hope I can travel there one day. You are brave to travel solo, I don’t think I can do that especially in a city that big!

    1. Samah Khan
      Reply

      Travelling solo in a large city has its perks!

  • Jodi
    Reply

    This is so helpful! I’m planning a trip to New York and Manhattan was at the top of my list of places I need to visit! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Samah Khan
      Reply

      Glad you found this helpful, Jodi!

  • Susannah
    Reply

    We loved the 9/11 memorial! It doesn’t take too long to visit and is really beautiful and meaningful!

    1. Samah Khan
      Reply

      I loved it too! And the One World Trade Centre looks amazing

  • Michelle
    Reply

    I actually haven’t been to NYC and I would love the go there. This is such a great post — I’m going to have to file it away for the future!

    Michelle x
    dressingwithstyle-s.com

    1. Samah Khan
      Reply

      Thank you, Michelle! It’s a great city with lots to do.

  • Kate
    Reply

    So true–for people who love bustling cities, it’s hard to beat NYC! I’ve visited several times, but haven’t spent much time in lower Manhattan–just a walk through of the major sights. I did walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, though, as you mentioned at the top–such a cool experience, especially on a day with good weather!

  • Patricia-Ann Que
    Reply

    ah new york new york! love the hustle and bustle but im surprise that i actually havent been the the church even after several visits! will surely do next time back!

  • Juliette
    Reply

    I’ve never been to NYC but it’s been on my list for years – it looks like such an incredible place to visit and I hear so many wonderful things about it! I’d love to walk across Brooklyn Bridge and of course see the Statue of Liberty – but Trinity Church also looks beautiful! And of course Times Square sounds like a must-visit as well. Beautiful photography!

    1. Samah Khan
      Reply

      It’s a great place to experience, Julliette! I think it’s a must visit.

  • Fatema
    Reply

    New York City… sucha a love hate relationship. I miss the buzz yet when Im there I curse the crowds. Love your photographs

    Cheers from Pakistan- Fatema

  • Erin
    Reply

    I haven’t been to America yet, but it’s high on my list!
    I just wanted to say that your photography is incredible too!

    1. Samah Khan
      Reply

      Thank you, Erin! NYC is a must visit when in America!

  • Teresa
    Reply

    Lots of great recommendations here! I’ve been meaning to go to NYC for such a long time!

    1. Samah Khan
      Reply

      Hope you do this walking self-tour, it’s great!

  • Carmela from Seeker
    Reply

    Great list of free activities in one of the most expensive cities in the world, haha! Definitely saving this for when I visit NY again <3

    1. Samah Khan
      Reply

      Nice to hear that, Carmela! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

  • Wynee
    Reply

    So thankful for this! NYC can be super expensive

    1. Samah Khan
      Reply

      I really agree! It’s nice to find free things to do in the city!

  • Marvi
    Reply

    This is such a detailed guide. I’d love to visit New York and feel its city vibe! My husband is all for bustling metropolis too and I’m sure he’ll have the time of his life! I’ve seen countless movies filmed in NYC and it will surely be a blast to see the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Times Square (to name a few) in person.

    1. Samah Khan
      Reply

      Aw, that’s great, Marvi! I really hope you visit one day and the Statue of Liberty is a must see.

  • ryan
    Reply

    I can’t wait to visit NewYork!!! Kirsty has been trying to get us to book for yours hopefully this Christmas might be the year!

    https://acoupleofidiotsabroad.co.uk/

    1. Samah Khan
      Reply

      Christmas in NYC is magical.

  • Nathan
    Reply

    I’ve been to the U.S. a few times, but I’m usually on the west coast. Nevertheless, I would love to visit the east coast and explore the Statue of Liberty on the Staten Island cruise which you recommended above 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    http://shioktravels.blogspot.com

    1. Samah Khan
      Reply

      The free Staten Island cruise is great! It’s worth it to see such an iconic statue.

  • Constance
    Reply

    I go to NYC fairly often because I have family there and I love eating there so I was surprised to see the addition of Times Square, but you did admit that it’s technically in Midtown. Overall, this was a great compilation of the top things to do in lower Manhattan. I also appreciate that it was very budget friendly, thank you for sharing!

    1. Samah Khan
      Reply

      Glad you enjoyed this post, Constance. There’s just so much going on in Times Square I just had to include it!

  • Megan
    Reply

    This is a really cool post, especially since NY is so expensive! I would also add the High Line onto this list – a walkway created from an old railway track!

    1. Samah Khan
      Reply

      The High Line sounds interesting – need to check it out when I return!

  • Sherrie Fabrizi
    Reply

    Whats not to love about NYC when you can see so many things for free! Central Park is my favorite, just walking for hours and hours. Next time I am there I would like to check out the Trinity church 🙂 Thanks!

    1. Samah Khan
      Reply

      Central Park can provide hours of fun. Do check out the church, it’s quite the sight, plus it has a ton of history behind it!

  • neha
    Reply

    Wonderful list. I guess some of these like the Brooklyn bridge and the statue of liberty would be anyways in the must see list of first time visitors. It is always good to have places in your list that you can do over a day and that also for free, and that also in expensive areas like manhattan, it is all the more welcome

    1. Samah Khan
      Reply

      Glad you found this helpful, Neha, I really kept solo and budget travellers in mind while compiling this list.

  • Bruce Schinkel
    Reply

    Really fun list! I love visiting NYC, especially since it’s such a quick (and often cheap) flight from Toronto 🙂 I found a few items on your list that I missed, or need to revisit, so thanks for sparking that

    1. Samah Khan
      Reply

      No problem, Bruce! I love that NYC is so close to Toronto too.

  • David
    Reply

    I visited New York in October and I managed to visit every one of these! I definitely agree with your list, the 9/11 Memorial and Tour is a must. It’s so easy to get round NYC too which surprised me given things are all over the place

    1. Samah Khan
      Reply

      Yep, if you plan to do a city tour, you’ll be surprised at how many things are actually in walking distance to one another!

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