“Everybody ought to have a lower East Side in their life.” — Irving Berlin
Day 4 is the last day in this itinerary, and no New York trip would be complete without some shopping in SoHo, history in the Lower East Side, and, of course, some New York pizza!
SoHo, the East Village, and the Lower East Side are all really close to each other, so you can weave in and out of the areas on foot with ease.
There’s a wealth of history in the East Village. Start your day by exploring St. Mark’s Place. Pick up a latte and olive cake at Abraco and walk through the heart of the East Village. The buildings have been inhabited by the likes of Andy Warhol, James Fenimore Cooper, and Lenny Bruce.
After exploring St. Mark’s Place, head down to SoHo, a shopper’s fantasy! Explore trendy small boutiques and the flagship stores of major chains.
I showed quite a bit of restraint, but there were two boutiques I was particularly excited to visit because they are unique to SoHo.
First, I had to go to Birchbox SoHo. I am a loyal Birchbox online customer, but I wanted to check out their brick and mortar store, where I could peruse their vast array of beauty products in person.
Aside from getting to color-test some Smith & Cult nail polish and lip gloss before buying (my favorite nail polish brand), I also got to BYOB (Build Your Own Birchbox), which was so much fun! The ladies working at Birchbox were very friendly, and extremely attentive. A definite must for any Birchbox fan.
I also got to visit the #73SpringShop, a seasonal pop-up shop featuring Ashley Brooke Designs, Loren Hope, and Society Social, among others. It was such great collaboration — all the the products went together really well! I picked up some Christmas presents and, of course, had to buy a couple of things for myself!
Since all that shopping is likely to make you hungry, grab a quick bite from the gourmet offerings at the flagship store of Dean & DeLuca, or, for a longer lunch, escape the cold for a bistro lunch at Balthazar. The moules frite is tres bien!
After exploring SoHo, walk down to Canal Street, and head toward Chinatown. Engage the street vendors selling knock-off sunglasses and purses, or peer into the shops for more interesting finds.
Head South of Canal and check out Columbus Park, a vestige of Five Points, where today you’ll find the gathering place in Chinatown for mahjong and traditional Chinese music.
Continue up Mulberry Street and explore the Chinatown shops. Stop for some dim sum, or to gander at roasted ducks hanging in shop windows.
Cross Canal Street and you’ll find yourself in Little Italy (what’s left of Little Italy, which many Italians left after WWII, and to which many Chinese immigrants flocked after the Immigration Act of 1965). Channel your inner Vito Corleone and explore the shops and restaurants on the ground floors of tenements.
Cross Bowery and make your way over to the Tenement Museum. The museum can only be seen by guided tour, which I recommend booking no later than the night before. Choose a tour that includes the interior of the apartments at 97 Orchard Street.
I took the Hard Times tour. The tour studied the apartments located at 97 Orchard Street, and, through the stories of two immigrant families, detailed how immigrants dealt with economic depressions between the years 1863 and 1935. The tour guide was fantastic. The tour was not only a glimpse into the past, but an important reminder that the story of the immigrant – past and present – is the heart of the American story.
Budget some time to check out the bookstore after the tour, for some higher quality New York souvenirs, including books on local tenement history, immigration (local and national) and New York generally. I picked up a ceramic bodega coffee “cup” mug, by far the best souvenir I’d seen.
Make your last stop La Margarita, for a slice of classic New York pizza.
I hadn’t been to New York City since the 80s, but I had some preconceptions about the city, including that I would have to walk around with some sort of angry or tough face to fit in and avoid being hassled on the streets. To the contrary, and to my delight, NYC in the fall was so laid back and the people were so friendly. The subway system is clean and convenient. I actually heard people argue over seats on the subway — “no, please, you take the seat,” “no, you take the seat.” And it never took more than a few minutes to hail a cab. Everyone I interacted with, whether at tourist attractions or in a restaurant, was extremely down to earth and friendly. The city has so much to explore, I only wish I could have stayed longer!
I officially heart NY.