Located in the Lower East Side, The Tenement Museum enlightens guests to the hardships and daily struggles of immigrant life in NYC. From 1863-1935, the 97 Orchard Street apartment building was home to hundreds of immigrants working day and night to make ends meet in their new home. The museum’s mission is to:
“promote tolerance and historical perspective through the presentation and interpretation of the variety of immigrant and migrant experiences on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a gateway to America.”
And they do just that! I encourage you to take one of the many fun and insightful tours they offer. All of the tours are guided (some in costume!) and either explore the building itself or rich history of the area. All tours meet in the Visitor Center/Gift shop. It’s a good idea to arrive 45min early so you can check out their great video on the building and immigrant life prior to your tour. The video is 30mins long and runs on a continuous loop. There isn’t air conditioning in the museum and the living quarters are tight so make sure to hydrate prior to your tour if you’re visiting in the summer. They give out paper fans before entering the building so you can cool off while inside.
Whether you take a museum tour or a walking tour, you’re sure to leave with gained appreciation of their lives and the path they paved for us today. The United States would not be the melting pot it is today without their hard work, relentless determination, and hope for a better life. They dreamed, and in their struggles to make those dreams a reality, they enriched a nation.
The Tenement Museum (97 Orchard St b/t Delancey and Broome St)
Tickets: Adults $22, Students/Seniors $15
After you visit the museum, why not explore the Lower East Side? Here’s some great spots to enjoy:
Russ and Daughter’s – est 1914. Sells great bagels, lox, smoked fish, and other jewish delicacies
Katz’s Deli – made famous in When Harry Met Sally : “I’ll have what she’s having!” / Huge pastrami sandwiches
Vanessa’s Dumplings – cheap and delicious dumpling and sesame pancake sandwiches!
The Back Room – old Prohibition bar that still keeps it’s historical vibe. Drinks are served in teacups and there’s hidden private bar behind a library shelf! Make sure you dress to impress and use a map to find it – there isn’t a sign. The front is a fake tory shop but the entrance is through a tiny alleyway to the left, knock at the door in the back. Ssshhh!
Beauty and Essex – another fake facade bar! The front looks like a Pawn Shop but once you get past the counter you’re transported to a glitzy bar with cocktails galore!
Arlene’s Grocery – pop in for a beer and to see some great music! Many bands perform here before making it big!
The Meatball Shop – fancy meatballs and create your own ice cream sandwiches!!!
Schiller’s – some of the best cocktails in the Lower East Side, delicious oysters too!
A word of warning: the LES has and always will be a popular spot for young and hip NYCers to hang out. If you’re planning on going to (and you should!) the bars mentioned above, try to plan your visit on a weeknight or weekend evening before 9p.m. After 9p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays you can expect a line or cover and a crowd!
Here’s a handy map of every spot mentioned in the post. Have fun exploring !!!