Canal Street, one of New York City’s major thoroughfares, gives an ever-changing view of lower Manhattan. The street’s most well-known sweep -- famous for its designer knockoffs, authentic Asian eats and pedestrian crowding -- is a nine-block stretch between Broadway and Bowery in Chinatown. However, the commotion, sudden neighborhood shifts, abundance of foreign language signs and multiple storefronts selling identical goods can make Canal Street a bit hard to navigate.
Eastern States Buddhist Temple of America
When James and Annie Ying opened the Eastern States Buddhist Temple of America in 1962, it was merely a 20-by-20 space in the back of their retail store on Broadway. Created as a social and religious space for Chinese laborers who came to America to earn a better wage to share with loved ones back home (but became stranded after China fell under communist rule), the temple offered social activities, sandwiches, free hot tea and religious services. It was officially registered in 1962, and moved its location to 64 Mott St., where it stands today. It is the oldest Buddhist temple in the eastern United States, and is open daily, with lectures open to the public every Saturday night.
Church of the Transfiguration
Over two centuries old, the Church of the Transfiguration on Mott Street is one of the oldest churches in New York City, and as of 2013, boasts the largest Chinese Roman Catholic congregation in America. Catering to the Irish, Italian and Chinese immigrants of the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the Church of the Transfiguration conducts Masses in three languages: Cantonese, Mandarin and English.
Mahayana Buddhist Temple
Besides being the largest Buddhist temple in New York City, the Mahayana Buddhist Temple also contains what is rumored to be the largest Buddha statue in Manhattan. The golden statue is 16 feet high and rests on a lotus flower. The entrance to the temple is guarded by two large golden lions and decorated with red paper lanterns; it's open daily.
New York City is full of green spaces -- if you know where to look. Recently renovated in 2005, Canal Park is a 0.66-acre green space between West and Washington streets on the west end of Canal Street. Take a stroll through the park and you will discover evergreen and flowering plants, cobblestone walkways, sections of original iron fencing, and historical images within a granite planter placed at the tip of the triangular shaped park.
Numerous storefronts along Canal Street offer similar, if not identical goods -- for cheap. Merchants peddle cheap sunglasses, New York themed souvenirs, catchphrase T-shirts, purses and accessories. You may also find independent fruit stands lining the sidewalks. It's not always easy to tell which items are real and which are fake, so be cautious when purchasing from a street retailer. Also note that most of these sidewalk shops are cash only, so it's a good idea to stop by the bank before you hit the stores.
The majority of traditional brick-and-mortar retailers sell shoes and jewelry, with most jewelers found on the north side of Canal, between Baxter and Mott Streets. These establishments are more likely to accept credit and debit cards.
For people in pursuit of more creative endeavors, Pearl Paint at Mercer Street is a four-story art supply mecca that carries everything from pencils and paints to fabric patterns and mannequins.
NYC Information Kiosk
On a tiny concrete island between Canal and Walker Street at Baxter, you will find an official NYC Information Kiosk complete with a large map denoting popular and historic destinations in Chinatown. You may also pick up maps of the city and ask the representative any questions you might have. It's open daily.