If you don't live nearby, not to worry - the F train will drop you off at 2nd Avenue and you will be in the mix of it all.
Any good walkabout for me starts with making sure I have a delicious cup of coffee in hand. My new favorite spot is "The National" on Rivington between Bowery and Chrystie. Julie Dickstein is the proprietress and is a fierce coffee perfectionist. She "pulls" amazing blends by Counter Culture and will make them up hot or cold.
Info: 8 Rivington (between Bowery and Chrystie)
Sara Roosevelt Park
Coffee in hand, walk East to Chrystie Street and you are smack in the middle of serious soccer action. The soccer field at Sara Roosevelt Park is always buzzing. Take a seat on one of the park benches that line Chrystie and Forsyth and relax. Even if you aren't a soccer fan, it is great fun people watching.
Also in SR Park is a public garden with a great history. M'Finda Kalunga Garden ("Garden at the Edge of the Other Side of the World" in the Kikongo language) was named to honor an African American burial ground petitioned for by the "Sunday Black Men" in 1794. The park keeps funky hours - Thursday afternoons, Saturdays and Sundays. However, here's the good news - you can work your way toward a set of keys and your own plot. Through an apprenticeship program (show up, ask for Bob, begin weeding) and by showing your dedication to the garden's upkeep, you can earn your spot.
Sara Roosevelt Park at Rivington (between Chrystie and Forsyth)
After getting your hands dirty - or just sitting in the garden - round out your LES afternoon with a trip to a neighborhood landmark. Bluestockings Bookstore was founded 10 years ago this June by a dear friend of mine, Kathryn Welsh. Fresh from Tulane with a vision to change the world, Kat and an army of volunteers dug out a store front on Allen Street and turned it into Bluestockings, then a woman's bookstore - a rarity even for NYC at the time. Bluestockings is under new ownership, but still carries on that fierce, indie spirit. You can find radical reading or a best seller, vegan cookbooks and indie-zines. They also have a fair trade cafe. There is such a good vibe here: sit, read, chat, snack, plan to take over the world.
172 Allen Street (between Stanton and Rivington)
F train to 2nd Ave.