It’s hard to believe that one of the calmest, greenest neighborhoods in New York is in the shadows of the World Trade Center and the bustling Financial District. But that’s exactly part of the appeal of Battery Park City, where more than a third of its 92 acres are reserved for parks and public spaces.
This lush sliver of southwest Manhattan didn’t have such grassy beginnings, though. Once a vibrant shipping hub, the area and its piers languished through mid-20th century. It wasn’t until the late 1960s that the Battery Park City Authority created a plan to redevelop the neighborhood as a mixed-use community for residential buildings, commercial properties and plenty of parks. The area was expanded using landfill from the World Trade Center construction site (you know, for all those parks!) and the first buildings started popping up in the early 1980s.
About 10 years later, Battery Park City finally took shape as the neighborhood we recognize today: A quiet enclave with gorgeous views of the Hudson River, ample outdoor space, captivating museums, tucked-away monuments and plenty of good eats.
Looking to spend the day in this local hangout? Here are 12 fun things to do in Battery Park City.
Take the Ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
Battery Park is actually the gateway to two of New York City’s most iconic landmarks: The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Statue Cruises runs more than 20 ferry trips to the sites daily. Visiting both sites will take at least five hours (longer during the high season). Buy your ticket ahead of time and try to jump on the first scheduled ferry of the day to make the most of your visit and avoid the crowds. Don’t have enough time to make the trip? Stay in Battery Park, where you can gaze at Lady Liberty from the vista point for as long as you’d like.
Shop at Brookfield Place
If you want to shop in Battery Park City, grab your credit card and head to Brookfield Place, a recently opened shopping center where the abundance of luxury stores (think: Hermès, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Salvatore Ferragamo) would make Madison Avenue shoppers jealous. People don’t only come here to refresh their wardrobes, though—you can also sit beneath towering palm trees in the Winter Garden Atrium or feast on French fare at Le District food court. Check out one of Brookfield’s rotating art installations while you’re there.
Dunk Alcohol-Infused Pops in Prosecco
Loopy Doopy, the trendy rooftop bar atop the Conrad New York, has a drink menu with plenty of options. But really, there’s only one thing to order: Loopy Doopy’s ice pops. The bar gives this classic summertime treat a grown-up twist by infusing it with alcohol and dunking it in a glass of prosecco. As beautiful as it is indulgent, this drink has been spotted all over Instagram. Nothing beats the in-real-life thing, though, where you can savor it on the bar’s comfy lounge chairs while watching boats speed by on the river.
Check Out the Skyscraper Museum
Want to get a closer look at New York’s tallest buildings without getting a stiff neck? Head to the Skyscraper Museum, which offers a deep dive into the construction and design of the city’s vertical landscape. The museum packs a lot into a small space, including a highly detailed scale model of Manhattan and historical photos of some of the city’s most famous buildings—and you can see it all for just $5 ($2.50 for students and senior citizens). Architecture buffs, eat your heart out.
Ride an Aquatic Carousel
Before the New York Aquarium moved to its current spot in Coney Island, its original home was Battery Park. The neighborhood now honors that legacy with the SeaGlass Carousel, an underwater-themed carousel. Youngsters (and adults in touch with their inner child) hop into 30 fiberglass fish, some of which are almost 14 feet tall, for a 3.5-minute spin set to a symphonic soundtrack. Rainbow LEDs transform the ride into a magical, mystical experience you won’t soon forget.
Fuel Up With Cuban Food (and Cocktails)
You don’t have to head to Havana to find authentic Cuban cuisine. You can get your fill of spicy chicharrones, chorizo, empanadas, rice and beans, and Cuban sandwiches at Blacktail on Pier A. The decor acts as a throwback to American bars that moved to Cuba during Prohibition, with lush greenery, a stained glass ceiling, monuments of the Latin American nation’s biggest heroes, and vintage photos galore. Backed by the team that created the award-winning Dead Rabbit cocktail bar, Blacktail’s a no-brainer when it comes to places to drink in Battery Park City. But choosing which cocktail to order isn’t quite as easy: You’ll need to browse the roughly 100-page hardbound menu, loaded with punches, sours, old-fashioned’s, and (of course) daiquiris.
Bike the Esplanade
This neighborhood is home to one of the city’s prettiest bike paths: The Esplanade. The paved path runs the entire length of Battery Park City. To the west, you’ll catch views of Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty and New Jersey, and to the east, you’ll be treated to perennial flower beds, grassy lawns, trees, shrubs and park life. No need to bring your own set of wheels—you can borrow a bike from one of a half dozen nearby CitiBike docking stations. And if you prefer to hoof it, the Esplanade is friendly to pedestrians, as well.
Lounge Around Rockefeller Park
At the northern end of Battery Park City, you’ll find one of the community’s favorite places to picnic and play: Rockefeller Park. It features a sprawling, grassy lawn, where locals spread out for hours on sunny weekends. From May through October, you can borrow games and equipment from The Parkhouse. It’s also worth seeking out some of the park’s public art, such as Tim Otterness’s “The Real World,” a bronze sculpture of quirky monkey-like characters; and “Pavilion” by Demetri Porphyrios, a creative structure that also functions as a shelter from rain.
Visit the Irish Hunger Memorial
The Potato Famine drove more than 1.5 million people from Ireland to America from 1845-1855. The first sight of hope, for many of them, was right here in lower Manhattan. The Irish Hunger Memorial pays tribute to this troubling time, as well as to hunger issues still going on in the world today. Designed by Brian Tolle, the half-acre site features a cottage-like structure with stones from each of the 32 counties in Ireland, along with meadows and inscriptions about the devastation faced by famine victims. Equal parts eerie and humbling, the Irish Hunger Memorial aims to remind future generations that famine is often a preventable catastrophe.
Visit the Museum of Jewish Heritage
‘Never forget’ is what the world says about the Holocaust, and that’s a key part of the mission of the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Opened in 1997, the institution takes a close look at Jewish life and culture before, during and after the Holocaust. Through some 800 artifacts and 2,000 photos, the core exhibit illustrates Jewish life in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, shows how they fought for their survival against the Nazis, and eventually rebuilt their lives and culture after World War II. It’s a heartbreaking experience that aims to deepen public understanding of this horrific point in history. Bring the tissues.
Check out the American Merchant Mariners’ Memorial
Depending on what time of day you go to see the American Merchant Mariners’ Memorial, you may see three or four sailors. At low tide, three bronze seamen can be seen calling for help and trying to save a drowning comrade in the water. At high tide, the imperiled mariner slips beneath the surface. The moving memorial honors the casualties suffered by the United States Merchant Mariners during World War II, when thousands mariners did not come home. The scene captured by this memorial is based on a historical event, in which mariners tried to hang on to their sinking vessel after a Nazi U-boat attack. A photograph of this tragedy, taken by the Germans, was used as inspiration for the sculpture you now see at the Battery.
Sail Around New York City
So much of the experience of visiting Battery Park City involves looking out onto the water. But it’s equally interesting going out to sea and looking back on the city, which is exactly what you can do with Manhattan By Sail. From Slip 2, the sightseeing cruise company invites travelers to board its elegant sailing ship with 120-foot masts. No matter your interest, Manhattan By Sail has a sailing experience for you, ranging from harbor cruises at happy hour and daytime tours around the Statue of Liberty to burlesque-themed trips and special holiday rides.