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Great hotels in lower Manhattan; New York City’s “newest neighborhood”

NEW YORK CITY – A sleek downtown hotel with great rooms and a wonderful bar. And a nearby place to sleep with an awesome restaurant and a cool rooftop patio.

I was lucky enough to spend a few days in booming lower Manhattan in August. It was truly amazing to see the kind of re-construction being done around the site of the former World Trade Centers that were destroyed in the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001; nearly 15 years ago today. And there’s perhaps no better place to see it from than the W Hotel Downtown.

The W Hotel Downtown has a great location in lower Manhattan. JIM BYERS PHOTO

The W Hotel Downtown has a great location in lower Manhattan. JIM BYERS PHOTO

W Hotels have a definite pattern of sleek design and youthful vibes, and this one is no different. The fifth floor lobby is dark and sexy, with wavy overhead fixtures and a just-right level of service that’s helpful but not in your face. They had a big-screen TV set up for the Olympics when I was there.

My room had a marvellous view out to the old World Trade Center site, now a stirring memorial to those who lost their lives on 9/11, and also to the new World Trade Center buildings, including the so-called Freedom Tower. The room was modern, with lots of white and splashes of red for effect, as well as some jaunty, eye-cathing angles. There was a mini-fridge and very good work space (always nice for folks like me) and a nice bathroom with edgy names for the products, such as Bare All for the shave cream.

The fifth floor Living Room Bar and Terrace is one of the great features of the hotel, as they have a spacious outdoor area with chic seats and candles and that remarkable view I mentioned. They also have drinks at happy hour for as little as $6; a huge bargain in New York City.

The W Hotel Downtown in lower Manhattan features sleek, modern decor and a great outdoor bar with wonderful views. JIM BYERS PHOTO

The W Hotel Downtown in lower Manhattan features sleek, modern decor and a great outdoor bar with wonderful views. JIM BYERS PHOTO

It’s a great location; only a block from the subway and very close to the new Westfield Shopping Center and the new downtown transportation hub, which is topped by a fantastic, brilliantly white sculpture by renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.

There are tons of great restaurants all around, including a new version of the hugely popular Eataly Italian market/resto and a similar food spot with a French theme called Le District, located inside the Brookfield business complex along the Hudson River. You’re only about two blocks from the river, which has wonderful parks, marinas, a volleyball court and more.

You’re only a short walk from Wall Street and from Battery Park, from whence you can get your cruises to the Statue of Liberty or the free ferry to Staten Island, where they’re building a huge “New York Eye” that will be far larger than the one in London and also New York City’s first-ever outlet mall. If you’re on Staten Island, be sure to stop in at Flagship Brewery for some great craft beer.

Battery Park also is home to Pier A Harbor House, a former immigration hall that now houses a spiffy waterfront restaurant with good fish tacos, Brooklyn-made beer and lovely views out toward the Statue of Liberty.

Located at the posh Conrad New York, Atrio restaurant serves up great paella and outrageously good meatballs. JIM BYERS PHOTO

Located at the posh Conrad New York, Atrio restaurant serves up great paella and outrageously good meatballs. JIM BYERS PHOTO

Just a few blocks from the W is the Conrad New York, an all-suite luxury hotel that boasts a wonderful rooftop bar called the Loopy Doopy Bar. In summer they serve marvellous cocktails with a liquor-infused popsicle dropped inside.

I had dinner at Atrio, the lobby restaurant. They serve wonderful Italian cuisine, including the silkiest meatballs I’ve ever tasted, a huge serving of tasty paella and perfectly cooked striped bass with a nice, crispy skin. Excellent service, too.

The new Four Seasons is slated to open later this month in the downtown area. The sleek new Beekman, a Thompson Hotel, opened in mid-August in a renovated building in the south end of the city.

The "Oculus" sculpture by Santiago Calatrava slices across One World Trade Center. Lower Manhattan has undergone a tremendous amount of growth in the past few years. JIM BYERS PHOTO

The “Oculus” sculpture by Santiago Calatrava slices across One World Trade Center. Lower Manhattan has undergone a tremendous amount of growth in the past few years. JIM BYERS PHOTO

There were something like 25,000 residents in what’s called lower Manhattan when 9/11 happened. There are now more than 60,000, which is why some call it “New York City’s newest neighborhood.”

I had a chance to go to the One World Observatory at the top of the new One World Trade Center building, also named the Freedom Tower because it stands exactly 1,776 feet tall. You get a fun ride to the top and marvellous views of the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island, The Hudson River and the growing New Jersey skyline, but also lower Brooklyn and the lower half of Manhattan. I also took in a tour of the National Museum of the American Indian, which has marvellous displays on tribes that roamed across the U.S. and Canada. Like many of New York’s finest museums, it’s free to enter.

I also had dinner on Stone Street, where they take hundreds of picnic tables and jam them into a small road where cars aren’t allowed. Everyone dines outdoors amid a jumble of folks and with food from around the world served by restaurants that line the street.

In the past, I’ve also taken a great schooner cruise in New York Harbor, where they let kids help hoist the sails. This time, I took the Circle Line Cruise (try buying a CityPass for New York to save money on attractions) and learned a good deal about the city, as well as New Jersey (where they say baseball was played for the first time, although some Canadians would disagree) and Brooklyn. I even saw folks on jet skis in the East River, which is braver than I’d be.

The 9/11 Memorial to victims of the Twin Towers  attack is only a short distance from the new One World Trade Center building and other new projects in Lower Manhattan. JIM BYERS PHOTO (with help from a Hitcase wide angle lens on my iPhone)

The 9/11 Memorial to victims of the Twin Towers attack is only a short distance from the new One World Trade Center building and other new projects in Lower Manhattan. JIM BYERS PHOTO (with help from a Hitcase wide angle lens on my iPhone)

The 9/11 Museum and the memorials to the Twin Towers are sad but vital places to visit on any trip to New York. What happened that day should never be forgotten, and the stories that are told at the 9/11 Museum are gut-wrenching.

Yet this is a city that’s constantly on the move. And the re-birth of lower Manhattan 15 years is a powerful testament to a city – and country – that refuses to buckle. For that, we should all be grateful.

FOR INFORMATION ON NEW YORK CITY: www.nycgo.com

Comments or questions or complaints? Email me: jim@jimbyerstravel.com. You also can follow me on Twitter @jimbyerstravel and on Instagram @jimbyerstravel1

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