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South Street Seaport | Things to Do and How to Get Here

Updated: April 19, 2024

The South Street Seaport is one of New York City's most historic neighborhoods. If you like charming 19th-century architecture, good food and cultural activities, a visit to the South Street Seaport is worth it.

Our New York City tour guides have spent time at the South Street Seaport both giving tours and enjoying their free time there and can’t recommend it more highly.

For more opinions, we asked the more than 230,000 members of our NYC Travel Tips Facebook group. At the end of this post, you can see what they had to say.

The group consists of locals, regular visitors to NYC, and those just getting to know the city.

There's no need to join to read the recommendations. So take a look at our group for more ideas or ask a question yourself!


BRIEF HISTORY

The lands around the Seaport were once a Native American trading area, before the arrival of Dutch settlers in the 1600s. 

The colony of New Amsterdam was established in 1624, and in 1625, the first pier in this area was built by the Dutch West India Company to transport goods from the colonies back to the Netherlands.

In 1664, the British ousted the Dutch and rechristened the land as The City of New York. 

The seaport area continued to grow to meet the needs of vessels shipping goods from the colony to England. 

After the Revolutionary War, the new Americans opened the now historic Fulton Fish Market in 1822, which quickly became the largest seafood provider for the East Coast.

The Fulton Fish Market moved to the Bronx in 2005 and the development of the Seaport district as an entertainment and cultural hub has been an ongoing labor of love. 

New Yorkers and tourists alike are delighted with the offerings the Seaport brings to the city.


HOW TO GET HERE

The Seaport is located in Lower Manhattan, near the Financial District.

There are several easy ways to make it to the district, including public transportation and tours. 

By Subway and Bus

  • Subway: Take the A, C, 2, 3, J, Z, 4, or 5 train to Fulton Street.
  • Bus: Take the M-15 SBS or M-15 to Fulton Street.

By Ferry  

The East River Ferry, Water Taxi, and New York Waterway provide service to Pier 11 from Brooklyn, Queens, and New Jersey.

Read about these services from our post on all the NYC ferries.

By Car

Parking in the area is limited. A parking lot is located at Front and John Streets, just one block from the museum. Another lot is available at 294 Pearl Street.

Free Shuttle Bus

If you are already in the Downtown area there is a free Downtown shuttle bus provided by the Downtown Alliance.

TIP: Many hop-on-hop-off bus tours have routes that include Lower Manhattan.


TOP THINGS TO DO

The South Street Seaport is a historic Lower Manhattan enclave between the East River and the Financial District.

The Seaport's two-story buildings and cobblestone streets are filled with great shopping, restaurants, and a museum.

One of the best things about the Seaport is the amazing views of the New York Harbor.

TIP: The entrance to the walkway of the Brooklyn Bridge is about a 15-minute walk from the Seaport so you may want to combine a visit to the area with a walk over Brooklyn Bridge.


1. South Street Seaport Museum

The Museum includes its main building at 12 Fulton Street and other historic sights in the nearby streets and on the river.

The museum itself has cool artifacts and ongoing exhibitions that include such themes as South Street and The Rise of New York,  and Street of Ships: The Port and Its People.

Perhaps the best part of the museum is its fleet of ships docked on the East River at nearby Pier 16.

This includes the majestic Wavertree, a tall ship dating back to 1885.

Other ships in the museum's fleet are the 1908 Lightship Ambrose, the 1932 tugboat W.O. Decker, and the 1885 schooner Pioneer.

  • Museum Hours: Wednesday - Sunday from 11:00 am - 5:00 pm
  • Admission: Free when you check in at the museum. Advance tickets online are full price.
  • Separate reservations are needed for a free guided tour of Lightship Ambrose, weather permitting. Book here.

2. Take In Sweeping Views at Pier 15

Pier 15, a two-level esplanade with green space and benches, offers a free place to relax and enjoy amazing views of the East River, Brooklyn Heights, and the Brooklyn Bridge.

view from Pier 15

You can also see Brooklyn Bridge Park in DUMBO, the Manhattan Bridge, the Williamsburg Bridge, and even an internal look at the wonderful Lower Manhattan skyline.

Find out more free locations to catch beautiful skyline views of NYC.


3. The Tin Building

This historic building at the base of Pier 17 was once part of the historic Fulton Fish Market, which opened in 1822.

Now the Tin Building is occupied by a 53,000-square-foot food hall created by award-winning chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

The Tin Building is part marketplace, part retail, and a big part food heaven.

There are restaurants and food vendors of a variety of cuisines. From breakfast to dinner, there's something here for all palates!


4. Fulton Stall Market

The Fulton Stall Market enables upstate farmers to bring farm-fresh produce to the neighborhood.

It's open year-round with indoor vendors in the cold months and additional outdoor stalls in the summer.

Fulton Stall Market

You can shop for artisanal groceries and freshly prepared foods. Grab some to go and have a picnic on the Pier 15 Esplanade!

  • Hours:
    • Indoor Market Hours: Monday - Saturday 11:30 am to 5:00 am, year-round
    • Outdoor Market: Saturday 11:30 am to 5:00 pm Fulton St. at South St., May through Thanksgiving.
  • Location:
    • 91 South Street between Fulton & John Sts.

5. Enjoy a movie with a meal

At the IPIC Fulton Market full restaurant-and-movie theater, you can watch a movie while dining on a meal delivered right to your seat!

IPIC shows a range of movies from blockbusters to classics.

The menu includes burgers, pizzas, shareable snacks, main courses, and desserts.

A separate cocktail bar serves beer, wine, and craft cocktails.


6. Shop Small Boutiques

There are some lovely unique boutiques in the Seaport area, including clothing stores like Scotch & Soda, Club Vintage, and The Canvas.

Southstreet Seaport Shopping

There's even a clothing shop owned by Sarah Jessica Parker (Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City).


7. Enjoy The Arts

From light installations to murals, there is always an art display from different mediums.

Southstreet Seaport Art

It should be easy to spot the unique art exhibits in the district. Look at the roster to see what's on.


8. Dine Out

There are many good restaurants in the Seaport area, some of which are located on Pier 17, and others on nearby streets.

Some even have incredible views as well! 

Restaurants:


PIER 17

One of the piers at the South Street Seaport, Pier 17 was built on the location of an older dock that needed revitalization.

The new structure on Pier 17 has done wonders for the area. It's a hub for dining and entertainment. 

Pier 17 has 5 floors, 4 of which are home to restaurants and shops. From a distance, Pier 17 is a magical sight in Lower Manhattan.

The building’s lightband, “a glass envelope encasing the top two floors”, is lit up colorfully. It can be seen from key vantage points like locations along Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO waterfront as well as cruises on the water.

On the northern side of Pier 17 is the Riverdeck, where you can sit and admire the views of the East River and the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges.

On the 5th floor is an outdoor concert venue, The Rooftop at Pier 17. The performing bands are just about outdone by the views!

In the summer, free movies are shown at Pier 17. Space is limited and you must reserve in advance.

In the winter on the rooftop, there is usually a winter holiday market along with an ice skating rink that comes close in size to the Rockefeller Center skating rink.


FERRIES AND NYC CRUISES

The piers along South Street Seaport are the departure point for ferries and NYC cruises. Pier 11 is the hub for multiple ferries.

The East River Ferry, New York Water Taxi, and New York Waterway lines provide service between Pier 11 and Brooklyn, Queens, and New Jersey.

Read about these services from our post on all the NYC ferries.

Pier 16 is the departure point The Circle Line cruises and from Pier 17, you can take a voyage on an old-fashioned tall ship, the City Clipper.

Check out our post, Which New York Boat Tour or Cruise is Best, for information on what cruises are available, as well as prices, deals, and schedules.

TIP: Save some money and walk down to the Staten Island Ferry for a free ride that takes you past the Statue of Liberty and offers great skyline views of Manhattan and beyond!


TIPS FROM LOCALS AND TRAVELERS

Here are some opinions about the South Street Seaport from members of our New York City Travel Tips group on Facebook.

If you are looking for more thoughts about the Seaport or any other NYC topic from locals and tourists, make sure to check out our Facebook group!

As for the Seaport, it was overwhelmingly recommended. We could not find one negative comment! 

Here are some of the things group members liked about it.

Not only is the food good but there are great views and interesting things to do there. 

Also, it’s fine to visit year-round, even in the colder months as there are a lot of places to eat indoors.

Lastly, a few people recommend staying in the area.

See our post, Things To Do in Lower Manhattan, for affordable hotels in the area.


New York Travel Tips

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About The Author

Courtney Shapiro

Courtney is a lifelong New Yorker in love with the city’s history, culture and food. She's a world travel as well and enjoys sharing her travel expertise with others. She joined Free Tours by Foot in 2011, first as a guide and then as a writer. She still leads tours on a part-time basis. READ MORE...
Updated: April 19th, 2024
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