Downtown Manhattan's Explorer in Chief Contest

Live in Downtown New York City This Summer as Explorer in Chief

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We’ve all dreamed of living in downtown New York. Friends made it look like an endless party, Sex and the City made it look like a true concrete jungle where dreams are made, and hundreds of other TV shows, movies and pop culture references have left the rest of us dreaming about working, playing and living in Manhattan. And I’m about to tell you how you can do just that. This summer. For free. And, the cherry on top? You’ll be paid to do it!

Three Perfect Days in New York: Staying at the Plaza Hotel and Eating Our Way Around Manhattan

This post is sponsored by the Alliance of Downtown New York. All thoughts, opinions and memories are my own.

But first, my own summer living in downtown New York

Days after graduating from the University of Tennessee, I packed two bags and boarded my flight to JFK, where I’d hop a cab that would take me directly to my accommodation for the summer in downtown Manhattan. It was a fantasy summer, particularly for this fresh-off-the-plane, rural-born-and-raised Tennessean who had lived nearly her entire life in the U.S. South. A few days a week, I’d walk 60-ish blocks up to my office at Newsweek just off Columbus Square, taking my lunch breaks on the southern edge of Central Park every sweaty afternoon, then walk those 60-something blocks home at the end of the day, getting in my steps, sure, but most importantly soaking up every ounce of that New York summer energy.

Live in New York City for the Summer

On weekends, my friends—mostly fellow transplants from the Southern states—and I would explore Lower Manhattan by foot: We went to loft parties in Tribeca, met new friends (and potential dates) at Friday afternoon happy hours on the patios that line Stone Street, hobnobbed with A-listers at Cipriani Wall Street’s red-carpet events, took the free ferry out to Staten Island and, of course, visited Ellis Island to see the Statue of Liberty. I’ll never forget my first Fourth of July in NYC: My parents and Kari flew up to visit me for the long weekend, and we posted up in Battery Park, wide-eyed as the fireworks illuminated the Hudson River, Lady Liberty watching over the city in the background.

Fourth of July in New York
Fourth of July in New York
Fourth of July in New York
Vintage film shots from July 4, 2005

It was the summer of a lifetime. Come August, I’d leave for a year in Europe, only to return to Manhattan at the end of the following summer. Still, no seasons to date have beaten my first living it up in Downtown New York. There’s a certain kind of energy that pulses through the heart of a city filled with more than 8.5 million hustling souls; it feels something like a crackling fire on the verge of shooting a lightning strike into the sky, and it’s hard for a short-term visitor to truly experience that electricity unless he or she lives there.

Living in Downtown New York as the Explorer in Chief

Living in Downtown New York as the Explorer in Chief
Living in Downtown New York as the Explorer in Chief

You can recreate my summer in Downtown New York!

The Alliance for Downtown New York, the nonprofit business improvement district for Lower Manhattan, just unveiled today that is seeking one paid content creator to serve as the neighborhood’s first-ever Explorer In Chief this summer, the chance of a lifetime to replicate my inaugural season in New York City, with adventure-filled days and nights, getting VIP entry to everything from the Statue of Liberty to One World Observatory at the World Trade Center to Lower Manhattan’s hottest new bars and restaurants. This dedicated storyteller will live in an extended-stay hotel just off Wall Street and be paid to explore and cover the area, seeking out new experiences in the city’s oldest neighborhood.

Three Perfect Days in New York: Staying at the Plaza Hotel and Eating Our Way Around Manhattan

“From the indigenous Lenape Indians, to Henry Hudson and Herman Melville, to more recently Questlove, countless adventurous souls have explored this island and these streets and made them their own. We are looking for another adventurous soul to discover Lower Manhattan anew,” Downtown Alliance President Jessica Lappin says. “There is so much to see and experience here; we are thrilled to provide a modern explorer and storyteller with the tools they need to share their own tale of discovery.”

What is the Downtown Alliance looking for in an urban explorer? Someone with a knack for storytelling (obviously), who has a camera-ready personality, a distinctive voice, and the vision, drive and curiosity to produce compelling, entertaining content that will pique visitors’ interest in the area. Ideal applicants will know how to do more than just scratch the surface of a place, but really get to its heart and capture its cultural identity.

Living in Downtown New York as the Explorer in Chief

For three months—June 1 through Aug. 30, 2020—the Explorer In Chief will be paid, in addition to put up rent-free in an extended-stay residence at Sonder Stock Exchange and other accommodation partners.

For the winner, it’s a life-changing opportunity to work as a travel ambassador in one of the world’s highest-profile tourism destinations, with the tools and support to create exceptional content. For Lower Manhattan, it’s a game-changing way to showcase the area and why it is and always will be an extraordinary place to visit and live.

How to become the Explorer in Chief

Submit an original video of 60 seconds or less in length to Lower Manhattan’s Explorer in Chief Dream Job Contest page. Submissions for the Lower Manhattan Explorer In Chief contest will be accepted from March 2 to March 15, 2020 (11:59pm EST). The contest winner will become an employee of the Downtown Alliance for the duration of the program. For more information, contact

Three Perfect Days in New York: Staying at the Plaza Hotel and Eating Our Way Around Manhattan

The fine print: The Explorer In Chief will be employed by the Alliance and compensated for his/her work by both a monthly stipend and paid expenses. See the Terms + Conditions for more details.

Going on a photo walk at the Brooklyn waterfront, where you can see all of New York's best bridges in one place.

Have you ever lived in downtown New York? Would you ever want to?



Be Lower Manhattan's First Explorer in Chief
Be Lower Manhattan's First Explorer in Chief
Be Lower Manhattan's First Explorer in Chief
  • March 8, 2020

    This is a great opportunity for a fine young journalist-to-be!
    Great stuff Kristin!

    Now to answer your question – Have I ever lived in downtown New York? I’ve not yet graced the streets of New York!

    Would I ever want to? Probably not! I love my Berlin lifestyle which is sort of like New-York but smaller, cheaper and easier to navigate!

    Having said, if a couple of million quid were to land on my lap: I would buy an apartment in New York, an apartment in Hong Kong, a villa in Tuscany, a tiny ruin in Ireland or Scotland, and spend my winters in Berlin! 😀

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