Spanning the area from Houston Street to Canal Street, the Manhattan district of Soho is certainly a different place from its bohemian heyday of the 60s and 70s. Today the former artists’ haven is the personification of gentrified New York, with boutique stores and upscale loft apartments occupying many of the art spaces that once dominated the neighbourhood. Nonetheless, there remains a vibrant creative scene in Soho – it’s just that nowadays it’s more likely to be displayed on an Apple Mac than a canvass.
Whatever you make of Soho’s evolution, it remains one of New York’s most popular areas with locals and visitors alike. If you’re planning a trip to the Big Apple and would like to spend some time in Soho during your stay, we thought we’d help you pre-plan you itinerary by picking 12 of the most unique things to see and do here.
Visit a museum dedicated to LGBTQ art
The social justice movement continues to bring previously marginalised groups into the mainstream, and the Leslie-Lohman Museum, whose roots date back to the late 1960s, is playing a key role in that. Said to be the world’s only art museum dedicated to art created by and for the LGBTQ community, the free-to-enter museum is home to a vast collection of over 24,000 sculptures, paintings, and photography.
LOCATION 26 Wooster Street HOURS Weds & Fri-Sun 12pm-6pm Thurs 12pm-8pm Closed Mon-Tues
Explore Soho with a professional photographer
Photography enthusiasts visiting Soho can join a unique private photography tour which offers the chance to be accompanied around the district by a professional snapper. The 2-hour tour takes in both Soho and Brooklyn, and there’ll be regular stop-offs at notable landmarks and places of interest, as well as several off the beaten path locations, for taking snaps and getting some valuable photography tips from your guide. You’ll even get to take home 75 professional quality photos as mementos, which are included in the tour price. Tours can be booked with GetYourGuide here.
Drink and dine with a view
If you’re seeking a unique entertainment spot in Soho that combines delectable food & drink, top notch live music, and wonderful views, City Vineyard is very hard to beat. The drinking and dining venue is also a fully operational winery, and its setting on Pier 26, overlooking the Hudson River, makes it a magnet for patrons keen to escape Soho’s glut of basement nightspots. Indeed, while City Vineyard is an all year round venue, summer time is when it truly comes into its own, with a picturesque wine garden allowing patrons to spill out and enjoy the magical vistas while supping on the acclaimed fare.
LOCATION 233 West Street HOURS Sun-Thurs 11am-10pm Fri-Sat 11am-11pm
Cast your eyes up at cast-iron architecture
Soho’s assortment of cast-iron buildings is almost unparalleled across the world. Home to over 500 beautiful buildings with ornate facades made from the distinctive alloy metal, the Cast-Iron District has been maintained down the years thanks to the concerted efforts of local residents determined to preserve this unique characteristic of the New York City.
Spend a rainy day in a fire museum
There are few kids in the world who aren’t captivated by fire engines, making the New York City Fire Museum a popular family attraction for whiling away a rainy Soho afternoon. Visitors can peruse a huge collection of fire-fighting related memorabilia and paraphernalia, including apparatus, gear, artefacts, and art, all designed to document the history of firefighting in NYC. The museum is also home to a touching memorial to the brave fire-fighters who lost their lives on 9/11.
LOCATION 278 Spring Street HOURS Mon-Sun 10am-5pm
Admire the art of drawing
Soho is at the heart of New York’s vibrant artistic scene, and as America’s only non-profit arts organisation devoted exclusively to drawing, the Drawing Center stands out as one of the district’s most unique arts venues. Spread across a multi-floor gallery, the large space showcases an assortment of drawings by both historical and contemporary artists, as well as a sprinkling of works by emerging talents in the field. There’s also a busy programme of movie screenings, artist talks, participatory art events, and plenty more.
LOCATION 35 Wooster Street HOURS Weds & Fri-Sun 12pm-6pm Thurs 12pm-8pm Closed Mon-Tues
Catch an independent flick
Don’t expect to find any Hollywood blockbusters here – the Film Forum is an independent film house that showcases exclusively foreign flicks and avant-garde documentaries. After opening its doors in the 1970s, the venue grew to become a much loved institution on New York’s rich cinematic landscape, and remains the city’s only autonomous, nonprofit cinema. As well as adult fare, families will also find kid-friendly classics on the programme here.
LOCATION 209 West Houston Street
Peer across the city from a rooftop bar
You don’t need to clamber up the Statue of Liberty for great views of New York City. Jimmy at the James Hotel in Soho offers fabulous vistas across the city, not to mention a top notch drinks menu, including plenty of exotic cocktails, as well as comfy seating areas which offer the ideal spot for kicking back and relaxing after a busy day’s sight-seeing.
LOCATION 15 Thompson Street HOURS Mon-Weds 5pm-1am Thurs-Fri 5pm-2am Sat 3pm-2am Sun 3pm-1am
Browse a vintage jewellery emporium
When it comes to unique shopping spots in Soho, Artists & Fleas is hard to beat. This superb Soho emporium is the destination of choice for lovers of vintage jewellery and other designer-ey delights. Now in its 15th year of operations, the bustling marketplace recently relocated to one of Soho’s most historic buildings at the intersection of Broome & Broadway, but has lost none of its vim and vigour along the way, with more than 40 new artists and creators setting up shop every fortnight to display their wares.
LOCATION 490 Broadway HOURS Mon-Sun 11am-8pmn
Sip teas sourced from across the world
Americans do not have quite the reputation for voracious tea drinking as their British cousins, but any Brits visiting Soho may well be relieved to discover the presence of this family-owned tea company. Dating back three generations, Harney and Sons Fine Teas sources, blends and packages its own specialty tea products, with its tiny downtown Soho store housing over three hundred different kinds of tea, many featuring ingredients sourced from across the globe. The shop also has a lounge and tasting bar where patrons can sample the in-house produce.
LOCATION 433 Broome Street HOURS Mon-Sun 11.30am-6.30pm
Peruse coins dating back centuries
It may something of a niche predilection, but anyone visiting Soho with an interest in medals, currencies and coins will be delighted to discover that the district is home to The American Numismatic Society. Founded in the mid-19th century, the society houses a vast permanent collection of more than 800,000 artefacts, some dating all the way back to 650 BCE, as well as a library brimming with tends or thousands of documents and books.
LOCATION 75 Varick Street HOURS Mon-Fri 9am-5.30pm Closed Sat-Sun
Look around a cookbook store
If you fancy bumping into an acclaimed chef such as Alain Ducasse and April Bloomfield, there’s a decent chance you’ll do so at Joanne Hendricks Cookbooks, which counts several famous gastronomes among its regular patrons. Housed in a 19th-century townhouse, the shop is awash with rare, vintage, and out-of-print cookbooks, along with classic cocktail books, unique menus, old photographs, and collectible tableware, all amassed by the eponymous Joanne Hendricks. Prices range from low to high, with first editions reaching into the thousands of dollars.
LOCATION 488 Greenwich Street HOURS Tues-Sun 11.30am-7pm