In his 1947 love letter to Manhattan, writer E.B. White described the city as both “changeless but changing…in New York you feel the vibrations of great times and tall deeds.” And there’s no better example than the trendy downtown neighborhood of SoHo. The former merchant and manufacturing mecca turned artist enclave turned shopping destination is both beautifully preserved and always evolving.
SoHo (short for South of Houston) began as a farming community in the 1600s and gradually built up by the mid-1800s, when ornate cast iron facades rose above the stylish department stores, theaters, casinos, and hotels along Broadway. Manufacturing left the area in the 1950s, and a decade later, this neighborhood became the stomping grounds of artists like Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and David Bowie, among others.
Today, this area remains a destination for high-end shopping, blue-chip art galleries, and charming cafes and bistros. For such a small section of Manhattan, it’s at once diverse, thriving, and in touch with its history, thanks in part to the cobblestone and Belgian block side streets that recall Old New York.
It was this distinct vibe and world-class shopping that lead UNTUCKit to open its first-ever store on Prince Street in 2015. It’s just one of the must-visit places on a long weekend visit to this iconic neighborhood.
Angelika Film Center
Need a break from the extremes of New York City weather, it’s bold brand of energy, and even bolder personalities? You’ll find quite respite at the Angelika Film Center. This small corner theater has been a neighborhood institution since the late 1980s and has hosted many star-studded premieres. Relax and take in a quiet indie film or documentary, then grab a coffee at the cafe inside.
Insider Intel: Don’t forget to admire the architecture of the building. Originally built in 1894 as a cable power building for the New York Cable Car Company, it was designed in a Beaux Arts style by architects McKim, Mead & White.
DTR Modern Galleries
Have you ever gotten casually close to an Andy Warhol painting? Take a gallery stroll along West Broadway, and you’ll see museum-worthy works from your favorite artists—including Basquiat, Murakami, and Chagall, to name a few—for free. At DTR Modern Galleries you'll see modern masters, including Warhol and Hirst, plus black-and-white rock photos of the Rolling Stones, Iggy Pop, and other downtown New York fixtures.
Insider Intel: The exhibitions change often, so stop by every time you visit the city to see what’s new.
The rich, roasted scent of coffee that greets you immediately as you walk through the door might supply enough caffeine to open your eyes, but you won’t want to miss the creamy draft latte on tap. Made with cold-pressed espresso and frothed milk, it’s a local favorite that will fuel your day and help you keep pace with the New York City sidewalks.
Insider intel: There’s no room to sit at the Prince Street location, but you take your coffee to go you can pick up a pretzel croissant from the Birdbath Bakery housed in the former Vesuvio Bakery next door.
Crosby Hotel Bar
Even if you can’t afford an exclusive suite here at this high-end hotel on a quaint side street, make time for a trip to its cocktail lounge. The bar (which also hosts a traditional afternoon tea service), spans an entire city block so there are plenty of spaces in this breezy spot to enjoy a classic cocktail with a modern twist, such as the bourbon-laden Charlie Bronson or a whisky-rich Scottish Mule.
Insider Intel: Probably one the best secrets is the hidden Crosby Bar Terrace that faces out onto Lafayette St., one level down from the street.
You’ll feel like you’ve traveled to another era at historic Fanelli Cafe, where the interior—and the prices—seem perfectly preserved in time. The former speakeasy and second-oldest continuously operating drinking establishment in New York City (opened in 1847) still keeps the beer cold and the conversation lively. Pull up a stool at the weathered bar and consider the history of past patrons, which included Beat poets and downtown artists, as you mix with its current cast of characters.
Insider intel: Don’t stop at a few pints—stay for the bison burger on an onion roll for a kid-friendly, casual lunch. It’s not fancy, but it’s definitely delicious.
Trendy restaurants sparkle and fade in this town faster than a firework, but this iconic French brasserie that opened its doors more than 20 years ago is still going strong. There’s a reason it’s never lost its luster: It offers dependably good meals in an electric atmosphere. Whether you stop in for its famous, freshly made croissants at breakfast, chicken paillard for lunch, or late-night steak frites, you’ll mix with locals, tourists, power players, and undercover celebs.
Insider intel: Ask for extra bread to sop up the delicious wine and garlic sauce the mussels are swimming in moules frites. But save room for the banana ricotta tart.
Consider this the easiest shopping experience you’ve ever had. Load up on all your favorite work and weekend shirts in one stop at this Prince Street mainstay opened in 2015. Choose one of the 50-plus fits that best suits your shape, and swoop up every iteration that appeals to you—and maybe a matching version for your son. If you plan to wear them during your visit to New York, the wrinkle-free performance options will keep you looking crisp even after a full day of sightseeing.
Insider intel: Don’t hesitate to ask for help—or a drink! The sales associates are extremely attentive and the bourbon you sip will help make your shopping decisions easy.
MoMA Design Store
When you can’t make it uptown to the Museum of Modern Art, get full cultural cred when you bear gifts from the MoMA store. Good design is the mantra at this bi-level downtown outpost, which has cool gifts for every age and budget—from lust-worthy art books and vintage posters to sleek jewelry, handbags, toys, Scandinavian-designed home goods and furniture, plus affordable and unique knick knacks.
Insider intel: No room in your luggage? Check out the goods in person, then order them online and have them shipped.
Probably the best souvenir you can take home is a sharp New York City haircut. This new school barbershop with traditional techniques offers precise trims in a relaxed atmosphere. If you had a few too many SoHo cocktails the night before, add the Hangover Treatment, a mini facial, to your cut and shave and you’ll walk away with a fresh face.
Insider intel: No time to book an appointment? Walk in before 5 p.m., and you won’t wait long. If there is a short wait, take advantage and shop for hard-to-find grooming goods.