New York City: Places to Explore

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Lower East Side

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Often referred to as simply as LES, the Lower East Side was the historic "Gateway to America," after waves of Irish, German, Jewish, Hispanic, and Chinese immigrants pulled up stakes and moved to New York in search of a better life. Today, a cool arts and nightlife scene, several distinctively modern high-rises, and the ultracontemporary New Museum exist alongside buildings and cultural centers staunchly rooted in the past.

On Saturday night, the scene can be as raucous as in a college town, especially on Rivington and Orchard streets, but Ludlow Street, one block east of Orchard, has become the main drag for twentysomethings with attitude, its boutiques wedged in between bars and low-key restaurants.

The best time to experience the neighborhood's past is by day. The excellent Lower East Side Tenement Museum movingly captures the immigrant legacy of tough times and survival instincts. You might not find pickles being sold from barrels anymore but this is the place to nosh on typical "Jewish" food from Katz's Delicatessen or Russ & Daughters.

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