By Carlye Wisel | Vanity Fair
If the only reasons you find yourself on Duane Street is because you’re commuting to work or you’re paying your eye doctor a visit, you’re not alone. FiDi used to turn into a veritable ghost town past 5:30 P.M., but a recent revitalization has packed the neighborhood with enough culture, cuisine and can’t-miss watering holes to proffer a rich playing ground for a first date or a girls’ night out. With a marketplace grown from France’s delicacies, a carousel that’ll transport you to the depths of the sea and a painstakingly restored restaurant that offers the most remarkable views of the piers, the Financial District has taken a turn towards phenomenal. From a pop-up museum that explores scent and emotions to a revitalized South Street Seaport filled with rotating public installations, these will prove that this once sleepy ghost town has experienced a second life.
The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog
Plenty of bars consider themselves the best in the world, but only The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog actually holds the title. The FiDi phenom earned the coveted recognition by Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Awards earlier this year, outperforming every watering hole uptown, not to mention around the globe. Channeling the feel of old New York while staying true to its Irish roots, the impressive locale offers large format punch varietals as well as an inspired cocktail list pulling from decades-old favorites. Visit the first floor Taproom to take in delicious dinners paired with specialty cocktails and highball drinks or take it up a notch—and a flight of stairs—to its 3rd-floor room, The Parlor, a self-proclaimed "cathedral" to all things shaken, stirred and ready to be swallowed. Tapping into history and making it themselves? Now that’s revitalization at its best.
The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog, 30 Water St.
Seaport Culture District
Downtown has turned into a hotbed of creativity to rival that of its more artistic counterparts of Chelsea or Williamsburg thanks to the Seaport Culture District. Curated by architect James Sanders. Featuring collaborations between mainstay brands, emerging artists and everyone in between, the space shines a light on a shortlist of New York City’s most innovative projects. Some of note include Guggenheim’s Åzone Terminal, a physical installation featuring interactive visualizations of the museum’s first-ever online exhibit, or talks hosted by Eyebeam discussing how innovative technology and artistic creation go hand in hand.
Seaport Culture District, Seaport Culture District, at Front St. and Water St.
Museum of Feelings
If ever you wondered what was really behind all your feels, now you can thanks to a pop-up museum that explores how your emotions are affected by sensorial stimuli, like scent. Glade’s second annual installation, the Museum of Feelings, is setting up camp in FiDi’s Brookfield Place. Upon entering, you’ll feel like you’re walking into a gigantic mood ring, with biometric technology capturing your emotions and translating them into colorful light installations, while each room features a different mood-altering fragrance. One of the installations featured in the museum is a photo booth that analyzes your feelings by mapping emoticons and facial expressions against sentiments, creating a selfie that captures your face and your mood. It’s safe to say that this pop-up is unlike any other interactive experience in the city. The only way it would get better is if admission was free—and lucky for you, it is.
Museum of Feelings, 230 Vesey St.
South Street Seaport has been the nexus for many of FiDi’s recent renovations, and Seaport Studios is one of the most significant. This eclectic concept shop invites designers and artists to transform the historic Seaport by converting storefronts into open-to-the-public art, creating a boutique filled with discoveries worth visiting. The crop of talent within the Studio’s walls is unparalleled, with plenty of cult-status CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund nominees thrown in the mix.
Seaport Studios, 199 Water St.
This new French food hall is in a class of its own, and not because it’s the only mega-marketplace this side of the West Side Highway. Through its vast array of culinary offerings, the epicurean expanse captures the transfixing magic of Paris through its many tastes and textures, making it a challenge to decide what to devour first. Whether you're in search of French cookies, garlic-soaked escargots or a sampler of fine fromage, Le District is ready to package it up—or if you’d prefer, serve it up al fresco—satisfying any Francophile’s appetite. Try the raw bar at Beaubourg’s or get a front-row view of the chefs at L’Appart, all for a fraction of a plane ticket across the pond.
Le District, 225 Brookfield Place.
Pier A Harbor House
A downtown landmark becomes renewed in this beer hall that offers incredible views and even better oysters. Perched on Manhattan’s southernmost point, the recently restored 130-year-old building is as impressive as the sights. If you want to enjoy seaside views along with a seasonal cocktail and a signature slider under Lady Liberty's gaze, Pier A Harbor House is it. Be one with the locals who flock here for afterhour’s cocktails and ample al fresco space.
Pier A Harbor House, 22 Battery Place.
To function as an offshoot of a famed FiDi fashion mecca, an accessory-packed endeavor of this size would need to be spectacular—and Century 21’s specialty shop does not disappoint. Stocked with candy-colored Louis Vuitton handbags and price-slashed Birkins, the three-floor boutique functions as a candy shop for fashion’s biggest fans. A partnership with vintage retailer LXR&CO allows for a more localized offering, but be sure to inquire about sample sales prior to arrival—famed designers like Nicholas Kirkwood, Proenza Schouler and Chloe have all hosted bargain blowouts in this ornate setting, offering the best part of NYC fashion: designer discounts.
C21 Edition, 21 Dey St.
Multimedia technology meets art on this whimsical reinterpretation of a classic carnival attraction. This carousel elegantly creates the allusion of a deep-sea swim with meticulously sculpted fiberglass fish instead of the traditional gussied-up horses that float through a spectacle of light and sound. Grab a seat on one of 12 aquatic animals ranging from the Angelfish to the gloriously colorful Betta, and listen along as sound effects and transfixing music dance you to the bottom of the ocean. The Battery was the first home of New York’s Aquarium, so it’s only fitting that this carousel pays homage with the most innovative amusement the five boroughs have seen.
SeaGlass Carousel, Entrance at State St. & Water St.