The Big Apple typically conjures up thoughts of bright lights, Broadway and Time Square—all located in Midtown Manhattan. But since 9/11, our minds and hearts have focused Downtown, where resolve, renewal, evolution and change have brought locals and tourists alike to rediscover this revered ground. We decided to make a trip of it—exploring what the tip of the island has to offer.
We started with a stay at the Ritz Carlton Battery Park. This downtown strategically situated hotel is at the epicenter of all that is happening in Lower Manhattan. A 2015 AAA Five-Diamond Property, it boasts unparalleled vistas of the iconic landmark, the Statue of Liberty, that symbolizes the freedom we enjoy. It is within easy access to One World Observatory, aka the Freedom Tower, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, Ellis Island, South Street Seaport, Wall Street, world class museums, shopping and dining, as well as Battery Park’s green oasis, walks along the Hudson River and close proximity to bus and subway lines.
The Ritz Carlton Battery Park’s contemporary lines and décor appeal to the business traveler as well as the coterie of discriminating international guests and locals who deem this hotel a worthy celebratory spot in “the city that never sleeps.” The warm welcome that is extended to all guests by the Ladies and Gentlemen of the Ritz-Carlton is ramped up to those who choose the value-laden proposition of Club Level–offering four meal presentations, all manner of beverages and 24 hour access to the Club Lounge, not to mention the acquaintance of global citizens!
The rooms at the Ritz Carlton Battery Park are spacious, well-appointed and equipped for business and leisure. Many rooms offer views of Lady Liberty, complete with telescopes poised to take advantage of her best side. The fitness center is opened 24/7 and the spa, featuring Carita of Paris products, is a welcomed asset for weary, pavement pounding travelers. After more than 7 miles of walking each day, we were pampered with a deep tissue massage to sooth our muscles. The therapists were seasoned, well trained professionals who understood the healing arts and left us revived and ready for an indulgent dinner at the hotel restaurant.
Even in a city of stellar dining, 2 West, the hotel restaurant at the Ritz Carlton Battery Park, holds its own. The casually elegant dining room, facing Battery Park, offers plenty of space between tables for private conversation, which is a rarity these days! Chef Philip Medora has access to the finest ingredients and he was most willing to accommodate any special request. We asked for our favorite, a fisherman’s stew, using whatever local fish and seafood he recommended. We were surprised and delighted with one of this dish’s finest versions, a light, spicy, tomato broth redolent with gifts from the sea—including lobster, scallops, shrimp and several species of fish that would satisfy any seafood aficionado. The “Asparagus, Mushroom Risotto” was a classic, as was the starter, “Foie Gras Torchon.” The meal was accompanied by global wine pairings from their eclectic wines-by-the-glass list that would impress any connoisseur.
Dining downtown in Lower Manhattan goes from ultra-casual to high end. Black Hound offers a chic, clubby vibe with some of the best tuna tartare and flatbread around. For a gourmet experience, book at Bouley. Chef David Bouley has been a recognized culinary giant in the city for decades. Reviews of his restaurants have always been stellar and with reason. His French technique is impeccable and his Prix Fixe Menus is a dining revelation. In the Michelin-Starred tradition, many exquisitely presented small courses–with additional surprises in between–make for a thoroughly satisfying artistic and culinary adventure.
Bouley is dining at its most rarified and refined, without a hint of pretense. The “Chef’s Tasting Menu” includes some of his signature dishes. As we indicated our preference for seafood, we were indulged with items including “Porcini Flan with Alaskan Dungeness Crab, Black Truffle Dashi,” “Forager’s Treasure of Wild Mushrooms, Sweet Garlic, Special Spices, Grilled Toro,” and “Maine Lobster with Hudson Valley Peas, Fava Beans, Green Asparagus, Wild Oregon Watercress, Australian Black Truffle Blood Orange Dressing”— to name just a few items included on Bouley’s multi-course menu.
The medley of desserts included “Chilled Coconut Soup, Pineapple Granite,” “Amaretto Ice Cream and Hot Valrhona Chocolate, with Frivolous Mandarin Sorbet,” “Prune-Amagnac Ice Cream.”
The wine selections at Bouley—chosen by Sommelier Dean Fuerth—from the impressive wines-by-the-glass list–were typically boutique “finds” that made for great conversation along with intriguing sipping.
If there is but one splurge in your budget, Bouley is well worth the expense with the Prix Fixe Lunch being one of the most coveted values in the City. The moment you are planning a visit, book Bouley!
Sightseeing downtown–at every level—is an exhilarating adventure. Start with a “Big Apple Flight” offered by Liberty Helicopter for a soaring overview of the most iconic landmarks of Manhattan. The land and seascape is breathtaking from your bird’s eye view of the island.
Then book a “Wall Street Walking Tour” from WallStreetWalks.com to ground your vision of what this hallowed, historical land is all about. If you are lucky enough to get Steve, our guide, a former marine and stockbroker, he will inform and entertain you with history and lore. Then complete your overview with a sail or cruise around Lower Manhattan including Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty with one of the many companies offering various tours. We particularly enjoyed the “AIANY architectural Cruise of Lower Manhattan” offered by Classic Harbor Line. The onboard architect points out and explains every significant architectural structure. This heightened our appreciation of the impressive skyline and the ambitious building program that makes the area so unique. The vessel is intimate with plenty of viewing space and a beverage of choice is included. We were delighted to toast the city as we gazed at its many structural marvels.
Expand your understanding of the world’s tallest buildings at the Skyscraper Museum, skyscraper.org, delve into our heritage at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Pay homage to the sacrifices of our citizens at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Enjoy the shops and eateries at Brookfield Place.
This is just a taste of the unending list of big apple bites available in Downtown and Lower Manhattan. One visit will only whet your appetite and entice you to come back for more. For a complete listing check out www.DowntownNy.com.