The Lower East Side, or “L.E.S.”, is a unique, diverse area where some of the oldest New York City history meets the cultural cutting edge. The Lower East Side is a must visit location for any New York City tourist or resident who wants a full picture of Manhattan life. Read on for a guide to the historical and current population of the Lower East Side, a quick sketch of the neighborhood’s attractions, and a rundown of some key online resources that can help you get the most out of your visit to this New York City area.
Who Lives There?
New York City is home to many vibrant neighborhoods, but perhaps none has seen such a rapid change in population in recent years as the Lower East Side. For many years, the Lower East Side was an area primarily populated with working class immigrants, particularly Jewish immigrants of Polish and Russian extraction. The Lower East Side has, in the past decade or so, become thoroughly infused with the more middle-class hipster community. These young New York City residents in their 20s and 30s are driven by the search for the newest cutting edge ideas in music, fashion, and all the other spheres of culture, and this pervasive hunger for the latest hot new thing has given the Lower East Side a distinctly youthful kind of vibrancy in recent years. Many of the neighborhood’s oldest institutions, like the famous Katz’s Delicatessen, stand side by side with an innovative generation of trendy shops and restaurants. This contrast between the old and the new is part of the excitement of life all over New York City, but nowhere else is it quite as dramatic as on the Lower East Side.
What Is There To Do And See?
Because the Lower East Side has quickly established itself as the Manhattan entertainment area of choice for the hipster generation, there is plenty to keep you amused and engaged in this New York City neighborhood. On a Friday or Saturday night, the Lower East Side is dotted with stylish guys and gals with edgy haircuts, who come to sample the entertainment wares of the neighborhood. And there is plenty to sample indeed: you can see why so many people are drawn here to enjoy the hip indie rock music venues, and the copious amounts of bars in the area, which run the gamut from self-consciously trashy to almost impossibly chic. During the day, the top-notch shopping will appeal to anyone with a fashion-forward aesthetic, as the streets are lined with tiny boutiques selling unique wares by local designers. The array of restaurants, from casual pizza parlors to intimate bistros, draws crowds at all hours of the day and night, especially on the weekends. It is often said that New York City never sleeps, and if you visit the Lower East Side on a Saturday at 4am, you’re sure to agree!
Where Can I Learn More?
Before you hop on a subway to the Lower East Side, check out these online resources that will help you get the most out of this unique New York City neighborhood.
If you want to catch a concert on the Lower East Side, look up the schedule at the area’s most established music venue, The Bowery Ballroom. The shows are affordable, with tickets usually in the $20-30 range, and the calendar is online at http://www.bowerypresents.com/calendar/
For a chic meal that won’t break the bank, check out Schiller’s Liquor Bar, a neo-bistro that captures the area’s playful aesthetic. You can browse the menu online at http://www.schillersny.com/home.html
If you’re looking for a vegan cupcake bakery, where in New York City would you find it but on the Lower East Side? Try a bite at Babycakes, but first check out store hours and directions online at http://www.babycakesnyc.com/
For more information on the area’s Immigrant history, check out the Lower East Side page in the Library of Congress’s “Memory” project, online at http://memory.loc.gov/learn/features/immig/alt/polish6.html