High finance is a game played by few, and all the best financial minds in the country and beyond find themselves betting hard and fast on a lane in Lower Manhattan. Media tends to simultaneously glorify and vilify the nondescript black suits on the trading floors – glorify the lifestyle attached to the money while simultaneously disparaging their misconducts, the assumed abuse of the system, and, yes, the money and the lifestyle. The recent Scorsese film, The Wolf of Wall Street, is dazzling to watch, fast paced and a shimmering mirage of beautiful things in the most overtly superficial manner, shadowed by painful desperation. However, beyond the Jordan Belforts and the Patrick Batemans of the Hollywood screen, what do people really know about the fabled New York Stock Exchange? Well, it’s a real place with some good people, plenty of bad ones and some harsh bets, a fact that blindingly came to light during the 2008 financial crisis. It’s right there, in the charming and vicious New York; you can touch it and step lightly on its dirty concrete. Visitors to New York enticed by the men and women behind the curtains of the stock market need only take the subway to Wall Street to see it. Here’s what they’d find.
For a general tour of Wall Street to understand the history of the area around the New York Stock Exchange, Wall Street Walks offers a perfect hands-on history lesson. Annaline Dinkelmann, a former employee at Morgan Stanley and general Manhattan history buff, and her team lead visitors through the last four centuries of lower Manhattan. Their tours range from the History of Wall Street and Grand Zero Walking Tour, stopping at the NYSE, Federal Hall, Ground Zero, Delmonico’s (a long-standing and much beloved fine dining restaurant in the financial district), and the Wall Street Bowl; the Patriots, Pirates, Prostitutes and Taverns Tour; as well as a Ghost Tour which passes the cemetery at Trinity Church, the U.S. Customs House, the haunted Fraunces Tavern, Hanover Square and more than a few dark alleys and hideaways.
Luxury-wise, it’s hard to beat the Andaz – located right on Wall Street, within walking distance of the Stock Exchange, the South Street Seaport, Federal Hall, Battery Park and more, including all of the train routes. The hotel itself is relatively new and features loft-style contemporary décor with hardwood floors and some of the largest guestrooms in New York. The amenities include a complimentary minibar, 300-thread-count cotton sheets, marble bath, C.O Bigelow natural bath amenities and Geneva sound system. Downstairs, rub shoulders with some fellow ballers at their sophisticated lounges and outdoor terrace, a German beer and snacks restaurant, and Well & Water, the hotel’s own farm-to-table restaurant with views over the East River.
Most of the time, New York seems like a separate entity than the rest of the United States. Much of it is due to politics, but there’s also just that aspect of the city that is glaringly evident as soon as visitors first step off the tarmac at JFK: New York City is a self-enclosed bubble and in itself a global export. Paris is synecdochal with the rest France, but as a world-class metropolis, New York is its own, which is why it’s weird to think of something like Fraunces Tavern. The architecture of the block it’s situated on doesn’t fit in with the surroundings. Built in 1719, and said to be Manhattan’s oldest surviving building, the Fraunces Tavern was first privy to meetings by the Sons of Liberty. In the times of Revolution, the Fraunces Tavern suffered a cannonball attack by a British ship in 1775, and after the war, the building was the site of "British-American Board of Inquiry." The Fraunces Tavern was George Washington’s favorite bar and was the very location where Washington bade farewell to his officers after the Revolutionary War. It is easy to forget New York’s place in all of this, and often in America itself, but America is interlaced with the bricks and mortar that make up this astounding building. So for perhaps the most authentic Wall Street experience of all, visitors should make like Washington and grab a few drinks and a meal at the tavern.
Go to where the magic happens – the New York Stock Exchange. The rise and fall of the American class system on any given day, the principal driver of global capitalism, ever-chronicled in movies, television shows and news reports. Here the churning money doesn’t resemble the green stuff you hold in your hand but rather flipping numbers on thousand of boards. OK, so the trading floor isn’t open to the public and the NYSE no longer does tours, but the building itself is worth the walk past – built in 1903, this Classical Revival building features six tall columns and a carved banner over the main façade.
Photo by Arabani/Flickr.
Visitors who are really following the money are welcome to walk over to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and take a free tour that begins with an introduction to the banking system of the United States and the U.S economy and includes a visit to the Gold Vault five stories below the street, which holds approximately 7,000 tons of gold. There’s money in New York, but, oddly enough, the only way anybody can see it is when it’s solid.
The Wall Street Bath and Spa is the perfect place to relax after a stressful day of high finance. The Russian bathhouse is not as chic as the day spas found uptown, but it has a ton of soothing amenities like a sauna, plunge pool, juice bar, jacuzzi and eucalyptus steam room. Wall Street Bath and Spa also offers spa treatments like facials and massages.