In lower Manhattan, in order to trap visitors into staying longer and spending tourist dollars in our shops and cafes, we have added two additional streets called Broadway to confuse everyone. On several occasions I have seen a group of visitors standing on a corner somewhere on W. Broadway, and they've got that unmistakable look of being lost. People who get confused just sort of stand around, and their eyes wander off in despair. Someone will pull out a map, and then the whole group looks over the person's shoulder. Of course, these people want to be on plain old Broadway, which is conveniently east of West Broadway, but us wily Villager types have entrapped them into spending time in our world. I try to help these lost souls, because they look pitiful.
West Broadway doesn't make too much intuitive sense either. Unlike a numbered street labeled West, like West 26th, West Broadway runs south by southwest. It goes all the way down to the World Trade Center site. I wouldn't take West Broadway to go west, but I like to take it when walking south. I wouldn't take West 4th to go west, but that's another story. North of Houston, the street is not even called West Broadway. For the blocks just south of Washington Square Park, West Broadway is LaGuardia Place. Isn't that so very clear?!?
People who find themselves mistakenly on W. Broadway should know that they've found a cool street anyway. As I live up near the park, I'll frequently walk south on W. Broadway to get to Tribeca or to Battery Park City. The street runs through tony sections of lower Manhattan and is lined with art galleries, boutiques, and several fine restaurants. The blocks south of Canal are particularly charming, with many restaurants offering sidewalk seating. There's much French-ness.
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People looking for Broadway but who end up on East Broadway must possess a poor sense of direction. East Broadway stretches from a wacky confluence of streets (Bowery, Worth, Park Row, and more) on the west to Grand Street on the east. Strangely, East Broadway runs east (or east by northeast), and though far shorter than West Broadway, is entertaining in its own fashion. Nestled in the lower parts of the Lower East Side, E. Broadway shows Chinese and Jewish cultural influences. Broadway East, a fine restaurant, exemplifies a new interest in this neighborhood. I've written before about the Forward Building, the imposing Beaux Arts structure that was home to the Yiddish socialist newspaper before it became condos.
A note to visitors: Even if West or East Broadway was not originally what you were looking for, stroll these Broadways awhile, and you'll get a fuller sense of the city. On this map, I've even made a note of hotels along these streets.
Images: Top: West Broadway; Below: East Broadway.