Ready to tour the Big Apple's new hot neighborhood? No, not Nolita or the Lower East Side. Certainly not Times Square. We're talking about lower Manhattan -- specifically the area south of Chambers Street that's surrounded by water on three sides.
Crowds have flocked to the 9/11 Memorial since it opened Sept. 11, 2011. Tickets are free, but it is necessary to reserve timed admission online; there are a limited number of day passes, only two per person, available at the Official NYC Information Kiosk at City Hall, the 9/11 Preview Site at 20 Vesey St., or the New York Water Taxi booth at South Street Seaport. On the Memorial website, you'll find helpful suggestions on talking to your children about terrorism (911memorial.org).
It's impossible not to be moved by the Memorial's twin reflecting pools -- each nearly an acre in size -- the largest man-made waterfalls in North America. The pools sit in the footprints of the twin towers. The plaza will eventually have more than 400 trees brought from all the areas within 500 miles that were directly impacted by the attacks.
The 9/11 Museum is scheduled to open later this year beneath the Memorial Park, located at the bedrock foundations of the World Trade Center. It will offer exhibits and artifacts that will tell the individual stories of survivors, responders and New Yorkers. Meanwhile, at the visitor center you can watch a short film and purchase books, including several for children.
TWO DOZEN MUSEUMS
Once families venture downtown, they realize how much there is to see and do at the tip of Manhattan. There are more than two dozen museums, including The Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian (nmai.si.edu), the Museum of Jewish Heritage (mjhnyc.org) and even The Skyscraper Museum (skyscraper.org). There's also the site of George Washington's inauguration, Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange (nyse.com) and the National African Burial Ground National Memorial (nps.gov/afbg/index.htm). The Downtown Culture Pass offers significant discounted access to eight cultural institutions and a walking tour of Wall Street (downtown culturepass.org).
Take the ferry from lower Manhattan to Ellis Island (ellisisland.org) and the Statue of Liberty (nps.gov/stli/index.htm). Hop on the Staten Island Ferry for one of the best views of the New York skyline. Visit South Street Seaport. You're not far from Chinatown, Little Italy and the Lower East Side with its standout Tenement Museum (tenement.org).
And let's not forget the chance to simply walk in the park or ride a bike. Almost 57 acres of green space are here -- equivalent to 43 football fields, including Battery Park with its spectacular water views.