14 Actually Fun Things to Do On The Lower East Side New York City
Written By: Emily Walton
New York’s Lower East Side is the perfect mix of tradition, art, and modern life. No matter what you are looking for, you can find it here. The Lower East Side has everything. They’ve got trendy bars, nightclubs, museums, and establishments that celebrate the community’s heritage.
There are many things to do in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Walk around the neighborhood in the morning and you’ll catch the hustle and bustle of busy Jewish delis. A few hours later, the local art galleries and museums open their doors to locals and tourists alike. If you walk the same streets at night, they are packed with people dressed up for a night on the town.
Want to explore the neighborhood but not sure where to start? Keep reading for our list of the best things to do in the Lower East Side for 2022.
Lower East Side’s Best Outdoor Activities
#1 Find Hidden Gems With A Walking Food Tour
Exploring the neighborhood with a knowledgeable guide is a must when looking for hidden gems in the Lower East Side. Sidewalk Food Tours takes you away from the tourist traps and into the heart of this thriving neighborhood.
Not only will you discover the best places to eat in Manhattan’s Lower East Side – but you’ll also learn exactly what makes them so special to the community.
#2 Take In The Sights Along The Waterfront
If you are lucky enough to live in Manhattan, you know the views from the island are amazing! For those visiting the area, make sure to check out the waterfront. The city has done a nice job of creating spaces to sit and enjoy the views.
At Pier 35, you’ll find oversized swings perfect for a picnic. Head a little up the river along the well-paved walking to Corlears Hook Park to catch a performance in the summer. For an easy day, order some cheap eats in the Lower East Side to go at Cheeky Sandwiches and have a picnic along the waterfront!
#3 Take Advantage of LES Parks and Recreation
New York City might be known as a “concrete jungle” but locals know where all the good green spaces are. One of the best free things to do on the Lower East Side is to spend time in a neighborhood park.
Grab your running shoes and head to East River Park for a jog or play a round of flag football at Baruch Playground.
If you have some time, spend a few hours walking around Sara D. Roosevelt Park’s 7.8 acres with a friend. Another great spot is Seward Park – especially if you have kids that need to run off some energy at a playground!
#4 Get Involved In A Community Garden
Community gardens are empowering spaces. They give residents the opportunity to come together and create something beautiful.
If you’re looking to get involved with a community garden in the Lower East Side, check out the following:
- MLK Jr. Community Park and Garden
- LES Ecology Center Garden
- Hillman Garden
- 6BC Botanical Garden
- All people’s
If you are visiting, it is still nice to walk around these spaces. Spending time in these gardens can spark inspiration for your own garden back home. Just make sure to be respectful of any signs, plants, and gardeners!
#5 Visit An Internationally Respected Art Museum
The New Museum located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side is perfect for learning about contemporary art. Since 1977 the museum has worked to bring art and innovation into the lives of locals and visitors.
On a budget? We get it. Check out the museum on Thursday night from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. for a “pay what you want” admission. These nights are normally very lively and are a great way to meet friends and network in Manhattan!
#6 Enjoy Panoramic Poolside Views Of The City
Does your group enjoy hand-crafted cocktails, breathtaking views, and unique venues? Then you need to check out Mr. Purple in the LES. We all know summers in New York can get hot. So cool off with a frozen beverage while you sit poolside and take in the sights.
During the winter, they turn their rooftop into a winter wonderland complete with a warming winter chalet. This is a great spot year-round for date nights in New York City or for grabbing a few drinks with friends.
#7 Keep It Simple With A Walk Around Town
One of the things we love most about the Lower East Side is how walkable it is. Grab a coffee from Roasting Plant Coffee and walk around to check out what each street has to offer.
One of our favorite activities is finding all the beautiful murals. East Village Walls is a local art project focused on beautifying the community through art.
For specific mural locations, check out their Instagram page.
Lower East Side’s Best Indoor Activities
#8 Learn About Immigration At The Tenement Museum
The New York we know today is only possible because of the sacrifices made by immigrant families. From the 1800s-present, many have come to the United States looking for a new life. As they set up shops, they also created strong communities like the ones found on the Lower East Side.
Life as an immigrant was and still is, challenging. Take a walk through a historically recreated tenement building museum to learn about the lives of early immigrants in New York. Their stories will show how resilience built the city and ultimately shaped the country.
This is a great opportunity for anyone who loves history and wants to learn more about New York City.
#9 Dive Into Exciting New York Nightlife
If you need ideas for things to do in the Lower East Side at night, then you’re in luck. The LES has some of the most fun nightlife in New York City. There are many different bars, restaurants, and cocktail lounges to choose from.
The Back Room and Garfunkel’s are both upscale speakeasies with good cocktails. Another unique spot for drinks is the Reception Bar. They mix traditional Korean ingredients with spirits for a mouthwatering experience.
If you are looking for music, Bob Bar is famous for its Hip Hop and Reggae Nights. Or check out The Mercury Lounge if indie music is more your scene. Another iconic music venue is the Clockwork Bar. They host punk, glam, garage, metal, rock and roll, and underground music.
Looking for something a little more low-key? Local 138 is perfect for kicking back with a beer and friends – especially during Happy Hour. The Whiskey Ward is also a fun place to try out different whiskies while playing pool.
Whatever your vibe for the evening is, Manhattan’s Lower East Side has the perfect nightlife spot for you.
#10 Get Inked At A Local Museum
Daredevil Tattoo Museum is a special place because it is also a fully functional tattoo parlor. One of the Lower East Side’s best-kept secrets, the museum/tattoo parlor has hundreds of vintage designs, memorabilia, and historical photographs all relating to the art of tattooing.
You can visit the shop for the museum alone or, if you are feeling adventurous, you can get inked by one of their highly trained professionals. Just make sure to call ahead so you know they have room!
#11 Browse For Your New Favorite Book
New York is the perfect backdrop for reading a good book. Whether you are in the park on a warm summer day or are cozied up inside while it is snowing, having a book with you adds to the city’s romance.
The Lower East Side has some of the best bookstores in town. Take some time to browse the shelves at Bluestockings Cooperative Bookstore. It is a community-backed spot with a membership option if you are staying local.
Or, head over to Sweet Pickle Books. They sell affordable used books, fun merchandise, and jars of pickles. It might sound like a weird thing to do on the Lower East Side, but the pickle and book combination somehow works!
#12 Attend An Event At A National Landmark
The Museum at Eldridge Street is a celebration of Jewish history, culture, and community. Located in the oldest house of worship built by Jewish Immigrants from Eastern Europe in America, this place is not to be missed. Not only is the synagogue building historic, but it is also absolutely beautiful.
#13 Eat In A Traditional New York Deli
You can’t talk about New York without bringing up its excellent delis. The Lower East Side keeps with the tradition of having a few NY Jewish restaurants to pick from. Katz is a no-nonsense spot with tasty food and warm matzah ball soup to warm you up on those chilly winter days.
Or check out Russ and Daughters. Their original shop on Houston St. serves up fish, specialty Jewish foods, and baked goods. They also have a new dine-in spot on Orchard if you want to sit and eat.
Looking for something Italian? Regina’s Grocery has delicious sandwiches named after the business’ family members!
#14 Volunteer In New York’s Lower East Side
Neighborhoods thrive when they have the support of their community. Even if you are just visiting, consider volunteering to give back to the place you are exploring. Here are just a few volunteer opportunities to check out on the Lower East Side:
- The Bowery Mission offers support for people who are unhoused.
- GOLES (Good Old Lower East Side) provides services, education, and community organizing for housing, land use, disaster preparedness, healthy aging, and job readiness.
- Lower Eastside Girls Club connects young women and gender-expansive youth of color to programs and mentoring.
- Henry Street Settlement serves the LES through social services, arts, and health care programs.
New York City has so much to offer its residents and the people who visit The Big Apple. The individual neighborhoods, though, make up the city’s character and truly shine. The Lower East side is the perfect place to visit and an even better place to live.
No matter what you decide, there are always fun things to do on The Lower East Side of NYC!