Photo: Thomas Rafael

Contrary to the belief of many, Soho was not named after the shopping district in London that bears the same name. Instead, the title is an acronym for "South of Houston Street." This was the first of what became a series of acronyms for neighborhood names in New York - after Soho became a familiar term, other areas of town gained labels such as Noho, Tribeca, and Dumbo. Before Soho was labeled as such, it was once considered the Cast Iron District, for the architecture of its buildings.

For a number of years, the buildings in the area were extremely popular as for artists to buy and rent lofts - combining their work areas and living areas. Today lofts in Soho are still popular, but their rents have risen astronomically, and it's not an area in which a poor artist could even dream of living. Gentrification took over the area about thirty years ago, and today it is a popular shopping and tourist destination.

If you're planning a day of shopping delights in Manhattan, be sure not to miss Soho! You can start in Chinatown, where cheap imitations abound, and travel upward to Soho, where you'll appreciate the fine craftsmanship and one-of-a-kind boutiques all the more for not being cheaply-made, mass-produced counterfeits. Or, you can start your shopping extravaganza in Soho, and when you've run out of money (without having purchased all the requistite gifts for family and friends), head to Chinatown, where the bargains will be extremely welcome. You can also combine a day's shopping in Soho with an enjoyable meal in Little Italy or Chinatown, making it a day full to the top of New York experiences!

Molly O'Neill