Exploring Manhattan: The Financial District’s sites and history

The Financial District in Manhattan, despite having several touristy spots, is one of my favorite places in the city. You walk on cobble stone streets, through narrow alleys and past historic sites like One World Trade, Trinity Church and the famous bull. Because of the narrow streets with towering buildings, it can be really dark in this area with patches of bright light flooding down the street on a sunny day. Check out what you can see here!

One World Trade

Of course, at the top of my list is visiting Ground Zero. I had never visited this part of NYC before 9/11, so I can’t speak to what it was like before the towers fell. I came in around 2004, when you could still peer into the holes of debris where the towers had been. When the churches were filled with patches from firemen, police officers and first responders from across the state and country who came to help that day and the months that followed.

As harrowing as it was then, it is an impressive feat of architecture today. Where those holes had been, they remain, but now a forever flow of water streams down seemingly to the middle of Earth. Names of the dead line the outline of where the buildings stood. Not far, the new, fabulously tall One World Trade replaces the buildings. A winged structure reminiscent of a bald eagle sits atop the subway stop and colorful art litters the street. It is a place of reflection, a place to say hello to someone you lost, a place to rest your feet and buy an ice cream cone. The mundane always abuts the tragedy of every day life.

We ventured to the top of One World Trade one sunny day. You have to get tickets in advance, and they’re expensive (roughly $30/pp). The elevator takes you up 100 stories and on the way it takes you through a digital rendition of the building up of NYC. It’s surreal and very cool as you feel immersed in the history. At the top, you can look south to the Statue of Libery, west to NJ, north across the island, east to Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Queens. It’s a great place to get above the city. And it’s quiet.

Trinity Church

As you wander away from the One World Trade, south through the winding narrow streets, you come across Trinity Church. Everyone can remember Trinity Church from Hamilton–who, along with Angelica Schuyler, is buried here. I might be listening to it right now. (Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?)

Charging Bull

The Charging Bull is not too far from Trinity Church. It’s a large bronze bull looking ferocious in front of Bowling Green. People line up to rub the bull gold (including its underparts). It’s kind of jarring image meant to encapsulate the energy of a bull market. As we have recently ended the longest bull market in history, the bull stood strong in FiDi without so much as flinching. I suppose that’s unbridled optimism for ya. It’s best to see this guy early in the morning before you have to wait and watch hundreds of people take selfies with the immobile tyrant.

Fearless Girl

In 2017, the Fearless Girl statue was erected in front of the bull. It was striking as the young girl in a flowing skirt, fists balled at her hips like Superman stared down the bull. I never truly got to enjoy this statue back then. It drew so many people that, while I viewed her bravery in the face of the bull, the crowds kept me back. The irony of this statue was that it was commissioned by an asset management company. Granted, it is one that promotes investment in companies run by women, but any revolutionary feelings quickly subside when I remember who bought it.

In 2018, the statue was moved and placed in front of the New York Stock Exchange. The imagery is not as stark–what is even happening here? She looks like she’s aspiring to be on the exchange rather than revolutionize it. And she almost disappears into the pavement like so many other small statues scattered throughout NYC streets. It is a fun image, though, when you remember to notice her. The struggle continues.

Staten Island Ferry

While you’re in FiDi, why not get a beer aboard the Staten Island Ferry and ride past another famous female statue–the Statue of Liberty? It’s a free ride at sunset past all her glory. The only pitfall here is that you do have to get off the boat. Not much to do in Staten Island but get back on the boat and ride back to Manhattan. But who doesn’t like a boat ride especially with this view?

View from Staten Island Ferry

MTA Ferry

Speaking of ferries, Wall Street is a great place to get on MTA’s ferry to have an enjoyable ride to Brooklyn, Queens, or north up to mid-town Manhattan for just $2.75 one-way. You can get a drink/snacks on board and ride right under the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges.

There is so much to do in NYC and on a nice afternoon, and exploring the tip of Manhattan makes for a great day! If you’re looking for other ideas in NYC, check here!

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