Once an immigrant haven for Irish, Italian, Ukrainian and other ethnic groups, the Lower East Side continues to offer an amalgam of cultural experiences. Since this still-vibrant neighborhood now attracts young professionals, planners will find that Lower East Side venues include a wealth of historic sites, restaurants, bars, lounges, events and attractions.
Bounded by Allen Street and FDR Drive from the west to east, and East Houston and Canal Streets, from north to south in Manhattan, the Lower East Side is a short driving distance from New York's major airports: LaGuardia Airport (7 miles), Newark Liberty International Airport (10 miles) and John F. Kennedy International Airport (12 miles).
A few miles away, the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and Piers 92/94 are New York City's largest venues. But Lower East Side meeting venues offer choices for smaller group functions, including the Eldridge Street Project, a landmark synagogue, and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, which has space for up to 80.
Planners in search of accommodations for their groups have several options. Aside from the 141-room Thompson LES and 110-room Hotel on Rivington, visitors can stay at the 45-room Gem Hotel, the 32-room Comfort Inn and the 22-room Blue Moon Hotel.
For dining, established Lower East Side venues, such as Katz's Delicatessen and smoked fish purveyor Russ and Daughters, are still around for those who want to sample Jewish specialties. Recent years, however, have added new restaurants, including famed chef Wylie Dufresne's WD-50, the more casual Meatball Shop and the elegant newcomer Beauty & Essex, which at first glance isn't obvious: Guests must first walk through a pawn shop entrance. Mary Queen of Scots serves up a mix of Scottish and American dishes, while down the street Rayuela cooks up different types of paella. The gorgeous Shang restaurant on the second floor of the Thompson LES, dishes Asian fusion delights, including sushi, dim sum and more.
Those looking for a social scene are in luck, as the Lower East Side event venues are considered some of the most happening places for nightlife in New York City. Music fans can check out the headliners at the Bowery Ballroom or up-and-comers at Rockwood Music Hall. For a quieter night, Spitzer's Corner is known for its extensive beer menu, while Los Feliz can teach patrons a thing or two about tequila.
Staying in this neighborhood alone will keep visitors very busy. Shoppers will find original styles in the many independent boutiques. Art lovers may prefer to explore the New Museum on the Bowery, and history buffs can learn all about yesteryear at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum.