N.Y. Visitors Should Venture South

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NEW YORK -- Lower Manhattan, one of this city's most historical districts, also has become one of its hottest destinations. In fact, visitors who don't venture south of Midtown risk missing some of the juiciest bites of the Big Apple.

Downtown is especially alluring in summer, when many outdoor concerts, jazz performances, street fairs and similar events are held. South Street Seaport

Music at Castle Clinton, a free concert series sponsored by the Alliance for Downtown New York, features top-flight musicians performing in a waterfront setting in Battery Park, near the southernmost tip of Manhattan. The culmination of the summer series will take place July 4 with a gala presentation on the park lawn.

The Texaco-New York Jazz Festival takes place at various Lower Manhattan venues, including the World Financial Center and Battery Park City, on selected dates in June.

Also at the World Financial Center, visitors can enjoy free outdoor summer evening dance and concert performances on the harborside plaza. Nearby, on the plaza of the World Trade Center, music buffs out for lunch can take in free jazz performances on Wednesdays and R&B on Fridays.

The Wagner Park waterfront will attract percussion fans with its sunset drumming circles in July and August, and two of New York's oldest churches -- Trinity Church and St. Paul's Chapel -- will host concerts throughout June. Later in the summer, Trinity Church will hold a Russian music festival.

City Hall Park will come alive with the sounds of jazz in August during the fourth annual Downtown Jazz Festival, sponsored by J&R Music World/Computer World.

The South Street Seaport on Thursday and Friday evenings this summer will host its Concerts on the Pier series. There also will be concerts Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day.

In the days leading up to Independence Day, the nonprofit Heritage Trails and the Fraunces Tavern Museum have scheduled tours, exhibitions and special events.

Other cultural events include a free film festival in June at the African Burial Grounds Project and performances by the Cirque du Soleil troupe through early July in Battery Park City.

For sports fans, Lower Manhattan will be the site of the opening ceremonies of the Goodwill Games, an international event to be held at numerous venues in the New York area from July 19 to Aug. 2.

Summer's aquatic-themed events include a water festival set for mid-July in Battery Park, which will offer kids and adults an opportunity to learn about urban river ecology. The festival also will feature a swim around Manhattan, outdoor exhibits, entertainment and food.

Downtown also has plenty of attractions and activities that can be enjoyed any time of the year.

Visitors should be sure to tour the New York Stock Exchange; the Federal Hall National Memorial, on the site where George Washington took the oath of office as the first president of the U.S., and the Top of the World Observation Deck at the World Trade Center. The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are just a short ferry ride away in New York Harbor.

Lower Manhattan's attractions include the recently opened Museum of Jewish Heritage, which honors achievements of Jewish-Americans while also telling the story of the Holocaust; the Korean War Memorial and the National Museum of the American Indian, whose cultural and historical collections are housed in the former Customs House.

Also noteworthy are the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, which offers tours that re-create the early immigrant experience in New York; the South Street Sports Museum, with tall-masted ships, an old-fashioned print shop and art exhibits; the Museum of American Financial History, and the Fraunces Tavern Museum, where Washington bade farewell to his troops.

There are guided and self-guided walking tours in Lower Manhattan as well as flightseeing trips, offered by Liberty Helicopter of Lower Manhattan, including the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and aerial tours that combine the highlights of both downtown and Midtown.

Clients can take part in waterborne excursions aboard the Staten Island Ferry, which is free to passengers although there's still a charge for vehicles.

The South Street Seaport's Pier 17, the World Trade Center and the World Financial Center offer an array of shopping and dining establishments.

Famous eateries include Windows on the World, atop the World Trade Center; the Hudson River Club in the American Express Building of the World Financial Center; the recently opened 14 Wall Street Restaurant; Morton's of Chicago and the Wall Street Kitchen and Bar.

Lower Manhattan expanded its hotel inventory in the past few years.

The roster of hostelries include the Marriott Financial Center and Marriott World Trade Center, the Millenium Hilton, the Manhattan Seaport Suites, the Holiday Inn Downtown, the Best Western Seaport Inn and the Fulton Plaza.

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