The city of New York is already awash with acronyms to describe its distinct neighbourhoods: SoHo, NoLIta, DUMBO, TriBeCa, FiDi, to name but a few. Well the largest and most vibrant one you've never heard of is CanDo, referring to the area below Canal Street (Canal Downtown). Far away from the hubbub of Midtown and much more civilised, this area of Manhattan incorporates the Financial District, China Town and Ground Zero and is home to historic buildings, trendy hotels and some of the city's best alternative transport options. CanDo was originally conceived in 2010 by Clive Burrow of the New York Travel Advisory Bureau, who wanted to dispel the myth that the island's south had nothing to offer in its own right. Many of you staying in New York hotels will become familiar with the relatively newly defined district as Mr. Burrow also supplies the majority of properties in the city with tourist maps which include a detailed, blown up plan of CanDo.
Below Canal Street are many buildings of interest which tourists often don't bother to visit or simply walk past without acknowledging both their beauty and history. Among the edifices worth stopping by are the 200-year old City Hall, which still functions as the mayor's office, the Woolworth Building, which will celebrate its 100th birthday next year and is still one of the city's tallest skyscrapers, the Municipal Building, which Stalin loved so much he had Moscow University built almost in exactly the same style, India House, New York's oldest brownstone building, and the ultra modern New York building by Frank Gehry. Of course CanDo is inseparable from the 9/11 tragedy and visitors to the area can pay their respects at both the 9/11 Memorial and also to the British victims of the attacks at the Queen Elizabeth II Garden at Hanover Square. For a great view of the progress being made at Ground Zero, head to the Winter Garden and watch from the gallery as the new towers rise at impressive speed. Over on South William Street you can admire the Dutch gables and the Swiss frontages of the buildings that line the road while for museums you can choose between the NYC Police Museum, National Museum of the American Indian, Museum of Jewish Heritage, Seaport Museum and Skyscraper Museum.
There are some truly unique experiences to be had in CanDo which the other parts of the island just cannot compete with. For example, there are not one but two bridges that visitors can cross over to Brooklyn. The first of these, and the most famous, is Brooklyn Bridge which starts by City Hall. While the experience is certainly thrilling, giving a new perspective on the city, you might like to try crossing Manhattan Bridge which few people realise you can. If you fear your legs won't make it over to Brooklyn then how about another form of transport: the ferry. Considered as the greatest free ride in the world, the Staten Island Ferry allows passengers a different view of the lower island's skyline as well as an up close glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. Another ferry, although not free, also goes to Governor's Island, a popular summer destination. If its slightly older boats you prefer then why not take a clipper tour of the water from the Seaport at Pier 17. However, the ultimate way to see the city is surely by helicopter. Tours are available from the Downtown Manhattan Heliport and several companies operate various length of flight. Back on the ground, the two biggest parks in the area are The Battery and the Hudson River Park, the latter boasting tens of activities for adults, kids and even dogs! The area also has some great shopping both on land and along the piers while there are regional markets to wander through too.
If you are planning on spending a few days in the CanDo area then it may well be worth your while buying the Downtown Culture Pass which gives you access to several of the neighbourhood's attractions as well as the New York Water Taxi. In terms of hotels, remember that staying in Midtown is not the be all and end all of your stay in the city - there are some top hotels in CanDo some with great restaurants and some incredible views too.
Just like the rest of the city, CanDo is a pretty safe place nowadays and there is no need to be overly cautious. If you are not a big fan of crowds then you might want to avoid the FiDi area during rush hour when hundreds of thousands of people arrive and depart from the skyscraper offices, although we think that this is part of the charm of the place.
Being such a multi-ethnic city, there is no one particular culinary speciality that one must sample before leaving town. However, a large part of China Town is within the area defined as CanDo so you should definitely make sure you pop into one or two of the restaurants there as well as peruse the markets and other local shops which dominate this most fascinating of districts. For something more familiar in terms of cuisine head to Delmonico's which was once the most famous address in New York and its very first fine dining restaurant. Although there are numerous other high quality places to eat in the city today, the charm and history is unrivalled.
To bring back
You'll find all the usual souvenirs that you see all over the city in CanDo as well as a host of independent and high street shops. Much of what is available one could find at home, although clothes and electronics in particular are likely to be cheaper in the US. The most valuable thing you'll bring back from the area though is a new/different perspective on the city that you feel you may know from having seen a million times on the telly. If you haven't been to New York since before 9/11 or since the economic crisis you'll experience something different too.