Rewatching all of Gossip Girl and desperately seeking out some of the best things to do on the Upper East Side NYC?
If so then THIS is the super handy post for you! After all, I’ve been living in NYC for well over 30 years and know all the ins and outs of some of the city’s most famous neighborhoods, like the Upper East Side.
And the first thing you need to know about the ultra-posh and super famous Upper East Side? Yeah, it’s generally referred to by locals as the UES.
It’s also filled with a ton of picturesque parks, awe-inspiring museums, and stunning streets that are brimming over with gorgeous, next-level awesome mansions.
A glorious place that you 110% need to visit as you plan the perfect NYC itinerary.
Which is why I’m here as your local, impromptu tour guide. I’m gonna share all of my insider tips with you and introduce you to some of this neighborhood’s greatest hidden gems.
So, get ready to frolic with me through the awesomeness that is the Upper East Side! Because we’re about to learn all about how to get to the upper east side, where to stay on the upper east side and all of the best things to do on the Upper East Side NYC.
Also, be sure to see to check out this New York Pass review and see if it’s worth it for you!
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How to get to the Upper East Side NYC
What you may not know about the Upper East Side of NYC is that it’s actually a giant part of Manhattan that sits on the east side of Central Park, hence the name.
Generally speaking, the Upper East Side of NYC is defined as the area that stretches from 5th Avenue all the way to the East River, from 59th Street in the South, all the way to 96th Street in the north – near Harlem.
Now, because the Upper East Side of NYC is so big, it can be broken down into smaller neighborhoods that are known as:
- Lenox Hill
- Carnegie Hill
In general, though, this is one of the best neighborhoods in NYC to travel in since it’s super safe. In fact, at the time of writing this article, it’s said to be:
- Safer than 77% of cities in New York
- Have a crime rate 20% lower than the rest of the USA
- Have a violent crime rate 34% lower than the rest of the USA
So, you can absolutely walk around safely all alone after dark. Just use common sense and you should be totally fine (i.e. avoid super dark streets, don’t wear your headphones at night, be aware of your surroundings, etc.)
And while you can totally spend your time soaking up the next-level opulence of the McMansions on Fifth Avenue – you know, the uber-glam ones overlooking Central Park – you can also venture closer to the East River and find slightly more affordable neighborhoods where real-life locals actually live.
That’s why, if you want to get a taste of what life is really like for locals and want to plan a slightly more affordable Upper East Side itinerary, then definitely head towards the East River and explore more of this beautiful area.
Additionally, you’ll love that life here moves at a much slower pace than in midtown Manhattan. Therefore, take some time exploring all of the best Upper East Side attractions listed here.
Trust me, you can easily get to all of the attractions in this Upper East Side neighborhood guide by taking the 4 or 5 express subway lines or the 6 local line,
They all run under Lexington Avenue and go all the way uptown, to the Bronx, and all the way downtown, into Brooklyn. Additionally, you can also use the new Q local line, which runs beneath 2nd Avenue and makes all major stops except for the one at 63rd Street and Lex station.
However, many bus lines also service the Upper East Side of NYC too. Some of the major ones that you might want to use include the:
- M1 – This bus runs north on Madison Avenue and goes all the way up to 147th Street and then south on Fifth Avenue to Broadway and SoHo.
- M66 – This is a crosstown bus that will shuttle you through Central Park and in between the Upper East and West Sides of NYC.
- M15 – This bus starts at 126th Street, runs down 1st Avenue, crosses 2nd Avenue and then hits the Upper East Side NYC. It then goes through Midtown and eventually ends at Battery Park, making it a great option if you want to travel downtown.
Where to Stay on the Upper East Side NYC
I’m gonna be real with you, the Upper East Side is a safe but pretty dang fancy neighborhood in NYC (read pricey AF). Therefore, you won’t find a ton of super cheap hotel options when looking for a home base from which to explore some of the best things to do on the Upper East Side NYC.
However, if you do a bit of research, you can definitely find some great places to stay. And there are my picks for some of the best hotels on the Upper East Side NYC.
- The Lowell Hotel – This exquisite, 5-star boutique hotel on the Upper East Side sits just one block away from Central Park and is known for refined rooms that feature luxurious things like marble bathrooms, full kitchens, wood-burning fireplaces. Service here is also stellar and guests can enjoy access to a gym, as well as a delightful on-site restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner, and afternoon tea,
- The Carlyle – Just off Madison Avenue is this world-renowned, art-deco-inspired hotel. It’s filled with decadent rooms that include premium amenities like iPod docks, skyline views, full sitting rooms, soaking tubs, rainfall showers, and private patios. There’s also a spa, hair salon, gym, bar, restaurant, and cafe on-site that guests are welcome to use.
- The Pierre, A Taj Hotel – Rounding out this list of some of the best hotels in NYC is this epic accommodation, which has been around since 1930. And with a history like that, you know this place is awesome since it features rooms that include Turkish Marble baths, Bose sound systems, soaking tubs, park-side views, and designer toiletries. There’s also a nice up-scale American restaurant here that serves a stellar afternoon tea if you’re looking for a bit of a splurge.
- Gardens Suites Hotel by Affinia – Ideal for prolonged stays, this swank hotel is right near Madison Avenue and is home to chic, minimalist-style rooms with full kitchens, private patios, and large sitting areas. Guests also enjoy grocery delivery services as well as the use of an on-site gym.
Best Things to do on the Upper East Side NYC
You’ll be delighted to know that there are absolutely tons of fun things to do on the Upper East Side of NYC. Because this extra special NYC neighborhood is absolutely brimming over with gorgeous parks, world-class museums, and awesome waterside activities that everyone will love.
So, check out some of my fave Upper East Side attractions and some of the best things to do on the Upper East Side below.
1. Roosevelt Island Tram
Home to one of the best views in NYC, the Roosevelt Island Tram is a must-do for anyone creating a list of the best things to do on the Upper East Side of NYC.
Not only will this amazing ride treat you to epic views of the East River and Manhattan, but it’s one of those insanely cheap Upper East Side attractions that will cost you just $2.75 each way or $4 round trip.
So, for a mere swipe of a Metrocard, you’ll get to experience the glory of Roosevelt Island, a tiny little island in the center of the East River that sits just under the Queensboro Bridge
Simply visit the station at 59th street and 2md avenue and take a tram to this lovely hidden gem. Once there you can explore amazing places like Blackwell house and the North Point Lighthouse, just to name a few.
Pro Tip: Lots of people live on Roosevelt Island. So, try to avoid the tram at rush hour since it can get quite crowded.
Address: 59th St and 2nd Ave, Tramway Plaza, New York, New York 10022
Hours: Runs every 15 minutes, between 6:00 am and 2:30 am.
How to Get There: Take the 4,5 or 6 train to 59th Street and Lexington Avenue station and walk from there.
Price: $2.75 each way or $4.00 round trip
2. Frick Collection
Easily one of the coolest museums in NYC, the Frick Collection is semi-hidden away on Fifth Avenue’s iconic Museum Mile and features a wealth of stunning, French ceramic ware that is truly unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
And yes, I’ve been to France multiple times. So, your mind really will be blown if you visit.
So, if you do eventually decide to add this museum to your list of the best things to do on the Upper East Side of NYC, be sure to check out the basement level before cruising through all of the stunning art galleries that now occupy the beaux-arts style building that was once Henry Clay Frick’s private home.
Also, keep your eyes peeled for a dizzying collection of sculptures, furniture, paintings, and porcelain items that all pay homage to one of the all-time best art collectors of recent history.
You’ll also love that this museum isn’t a stark and soulless collection of bland, white rooms.
Instead, it’s almost as though you’re stepping into Frick’s home to visit him and admire some of the recent work’s that he’s added to his collection – making it feel like you’re popping in to visit a friend for a brief respite from the chaos of the city.
Therefore, check out all of the twelve galleries tucked away here, which feature works from heavy hitters of the art world like Vermeer, El Greco, Van Dyck, and Rembrandt, just to name a few.
Also, be sure to relax on a bench by the serene, centrally located indoor courtyard and fountain that sit at the very heart of the building.
Pro Tip: Stop by for some live violin and piano music on Sunday evenings. Also, be sure to use the awesome free audio tour that is included with admission. And if you visit on the first Friday of the month, between 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm, you’ll receive free admission to the museum (minus January and September).
Address: 1 E 70th St, New York, NY 10021
Price: Tickets are $22 for adults, $17 for. seniors 65+ and disabled visitors, and $12 for students and kids between 10 and 17.
Hours: Open Thursday through Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.
How to Get There; Take the 6 train here, get off at 68th street station, and walk to the museum from here.
3. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Oh, look, another world-class museum that made it on this list of the best things to do on the Upper East Side NYC. Something that is not really all that surprising since the UES is home to the aptly named, Museum Mile.
So, if you’re part of the unofficial museum-loving, nerd herd like me, then deffo add a stop at the Guggenheim to your Upper East Side itinerary.
It’s basically one of the most famous modern art museums in the entire world that sits inside a stunning, modern-art masterpiece that was designed by no less than Frank Lloyd Wright himself.
Yeah, not gonna lie, the central rotunda here is a total show stopper and perfectly compliments the wealth of galleries that feature works from masters like Kandinsky, Picasso, Pollock, Monet, Van Gogh, and Degas.
And if you want to see the museum like the famous architect intended, start at the top and work your way down the series of ramps here. Afterward, you can grab a bite to eat at the restaurant on the ground level or a coffee at Cafe 3 with its lovely views of nearby Central Park.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget to use the free audio guide included with admission. And, be sure to visit on Saturdays between 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm for “pay what you wish” ticket prices.
Address: 1071 5th Ave, New York, NY 10128
Price: Tickets are $25 for adults, $18 for students and seniors 65+ and visitors with disabilities, and free for members/kids 12 and under (Get your tickets in advance now).
Hours: Open Thursday through Monday from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm.
How to Get There: Take the 4,5,6 or Q train to 86th street station and walk from there.
4. Go Shopping at Bloomingdale’s
Definitely not for the budget-conscious, a stop at the iconic retail giant is an absolute must for anyone who loves shopping and is looking for the best things to do on the Upper East Side of NYC.
I mean, it’s not like you actually have to BUY something. You can always just walk around and admire everything since Bloomies (as locals refer to it) is essentially like the MET – except that it’s for anyone in desperate need of a bit of retail therapy.
Plus, after all, this is the iconic flagship store, so there really is a lot of history here.
You can also do well here if you scour the discount racks for designer clothes and shoes from some of the world’s top designers.
And if you’re in desperate need of a snack, you can always stop by the Magnolia Bakery output here and grab some banana pudding (so much better than the cupcakes).
Address: 1000 Third Avenue 59th Street and, Lexington Ave, New York, 10022
Price: Varies but free to look.
Hours: Open daily from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm and closes at 7:00 pm on Sundays.
How to Get There; Take the N/R/4/5/6 train to Lex and 59th Street Station and walk from there.
5. Neue Galerie
This criminally underrated art museum is a relatively recent addition to the Upper East Side’s famed Museum Mile and displays a wealth of pieces from iconic, German and Austrian artists from the 20th century.
No, it’s not a big museum. But it is impressive with a second-floor collection dedicated to Austrian artists and a third-floor collection dedicated to German artists.
In particular, the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (otherwise known as the lady in gold) by Gustav Klimt is a true highlight of any visit here since this piece alone is worth a solid $135 million.
However, pieces from Paul Klee, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and Egon Schiele are also worth seeing too, especially since they are all housed inside the glamorous William Starr Miller House at the corner of 86th street and 5th avenue.
Address: 1048 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10028
Hours: Open Thursday through Monday from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm and closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Price: Tickets are $25 for adults, $16 for seniors, and $12 for students and educators (steep but
How to Get There: Take the 4,5, or 6 train to the 86th Street station and walk from there.
6. Explore Carl Schurz Park
Calling all outdoor enthusiasts because this is one of the best things to do on the Upper East Side of NYC for you!
Yup, this enchanting little 14.9-acre park sits right on the water and is a great little spot to picnic if you should feel so inclined.
And while you’re here, you can also enjoy impressive views of the East River, the Roosevelt Island Lighthouse, the Triborough Bridge, Randall’s Island, Wards island, and, of course, Gracie Mansion, and Gracie Mansion. You know, that giant, historic, 18th-century mansion that the mayor calls home.
Well, Carl Schurz Park is basically attached to the mansion – a fantastic Upper East Side attraction in its own right that offers tours and even has historic exhibits for you to explore.
You’ll also love exploring the well-manicured gardens here and can even walk along a well-paved, waterfront promenade for the full, Upper East Side experience.
Pro Tip: This is the perfect place to bring your pup since there are two awesome dog runs here.
Address: East 86th Street &, East End Ave, New York, NY 10028
Hours: Open daily from 6:00 am to 12:00 am.
How to Get There: Take the Q train to 86th street station and walk to the park from there.
7. The Jewish Museum
Another one of the supremely underrated museums in NYC, the Jewish Museum is tucked away inside a historic French, Gothic-style mansion that was originally built in 1908.
Since then though, the former residence has been converted into a stunning museum that is home to 30,000 different artifacts of Jewish history and culture, including Torahs, paintings, sculptures, Hannukkah lamps, and more.
That being said though, you’ll really only find historic antiquities and art here since this is more of a cultural repository and art museum. So, no exhibits are here that detail the extensive history of the Jewish community in NYC.
However, temporary exhibits do pop up quite regularly, like concerts, retrospectives from prominent members of the Jewish community, lectures, world-class shows, and the New York Jewish Film Festival (held annually in January).
Pro Tip: Before you leave, head to the basement and sit down at the Russ and Daughters Cafe. They are known for their amazing bagels and you should 100% order the nova smoked salmon with chive cream cheese on an everything bagel with tomato, onion, and capers. Yup, you’re welcome since this is easily one of the best things to do on the Upper East Side NYC. The museum is also FREE on Saturdays.
Address: 1109 5th Ave, New York, NY 10128
Hours: Open Thursday through Monday from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Price: $18 for adults, $12 for seniors 65+, $8 for students. and free for children 18 and under.
How to Get There: Take the 4/5/6 train to 86th street station and walk to the museum from there.
8. Ride a Local Ferry
If you’re looking for cheap and almost FREE things to do in NYC then this is one of the best things to do on the Upper East Side NYC for you!
Because believe it or not, there is actually a Soundview route of the NYC Ferry system that departs from East 90th Street and that will take you to Soundview in the Bronx (Clason Point Park specifically) and to Manhattan (East 34th street and Wall Street to be precise).
Plus, this ferry costs just $2.75 per ride (so the swipe of a Metrocard). And, because it’s a Hornblower Ferry, there’s an open-air top deck that sells snacks as well as alcoholic/non-alcoholic beverages.
Just be aware that this ferry is for transit only and not a glorified pleasure cruise. So, pick a final destination, and be sure to get off once you reach that stop.
Address: E. 90th Street and F.D.R. Drive, Manhattan, NY 10128
Hours: Ferries run daily from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm and depart every 45-minutes. It will take about half an hour to get from 90th street to Pier 11 and Wall Street.
Price: $2.75 per ride.
How to Get There: Take the W train to 86th Street and then walk 15-minutes to the ferry terminal from there.
9. Cooper Hewitt Design Museum
Oh how I love the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, let me count the ways. But seriously, this place is awesome and easily one of the best things to do on the Upper East Side NYC.
Not only does this Smithsonian-affiliated institution lack the intense crowds of nearby icons like the Guggenheim and the MET, but there are some seriously cool exhibits here that are truly unlike anything you’ve ever seen and/or experienced before.
So, step inside and enjoy a wealth of interactive installations that look at the amazing ways that modern design enhances people’s lives and makes the world an inherently better place to live.
Because this is definitely a place that anyone who traditionally hates museums will enjoy since all of the installations here are super quirky and include neat things like furry walls you can touch, vibrating chairs that you can sit on that recreate everyday activities, and full-on scratch and sniff walls.
Yeah, this place is less like a museum than it is a very adult version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
However, as you might expect, many of the exhibitions here are temporary and routinely rotate in and out of the museum. So, deffo visit their website for all the latest info.
And while I personally wouldn’t buy anything from the over-priced gift shop, save some time to look around since there is some cool stuff inside like kitchenware, home textiles, clothing, stationery, etc.
Pro Tip: Try and visit on Tuesdays between 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm when they offer “pay what you wish” admission prices.
Address: 2 E 91st St, New York, NY
Hours: Open daily from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, with extended hours on Tuesdays.
Price: Tickets are $18 for adults, $10 for visitors with disabilities, $12 for seniors over 62, $9 for students, and free for children under 18.
How to Get There: Take the 4/5 to the 86th street station and walk from there.
10. Grab a Cookie at LeVain Bakery
If you only have time to visit one bakery while in NYC, then let this be it. Because LeVain Bakery really is as good as everyone says and is one of the very few places I’ve been to that totally lives up to all the hype.
Because, no joke, this place definitely serves up one of the best cookies that I’ve ever had. Period. And that says a lot coming from someone who is as addicted to cookies as I am.
And that’s mostly because they’re huge AF (so they’re good for sharing since they’re 6 ounces) chocolate chip walnut cookies that are crispy on the outside but ooey and gooey on the inside – making them the best cookie in the city IMHO.
And although LeVain Bakery now has locations all across the city, their store on the UES is something special and one of the best things to do on the Upper East Side NYC.
This place is popular though so do expect a line, although it generally moves pretty quickly. You can also choose between flavors like dark chocolate chocolate chip, dark chocolate peanut butter chip, and oatmeal raisin, but the chocolate chip walnut cookies are my personal fave.
Pro Tip: Stop by later in the day when the line isn’t quite as long since they bake cookies all day long and won’t run out. Other great bakeries in the area are:
- Magnolia Bakery
- Lady M Cake Boutique
- Two Little Red Hens – great pies
- Le Maison du Chocolat Madison
Address: 1484 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10028
Hours: Open daily from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm.
Price: $4.00 per cookie.
How to Get There: Take the 4/5/6 to 86th Street station and walk from there.
11. Check out Albertine Bookstore
Whenever I visit the MET I always drop into this next-level stunning bookstore on Fifth Avenue since it’s basically right across the street.
I mean, not only is part of the second-floor ceiling covered with blue and gold constellations and stars (a la Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night). but the entranceway here more closely resembles a palace than it does a bookstore (You have to walk through a metal detector to get inside. Need I say more?).
Something that sounds about right since this building was once home to the Cultural Services sector of the US-French Embassy.
And now? Well, it’s a fly like a G-6 French/American bookstore on Fifth Avenue that is easily one of the best bookstores in NYC and one of the best things to do on the Upper East Side NYC.
That’s also why all of the books you’ll find here are either in French or connected to this stunning European country in some way.
However. there are plenty of books in English here too if you’re a diehard, fluent French-speaking francophile. So, feel free to do super fun things like buy French travel memoirs and read French literature translated into English while you’re here.
If you’re lucky, you can even attend one of their many special events, which are usually related to French books and culture.
Address: 972 5th Ave, New York, NY 10075
Hours: Open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Price: Free, unless you want to buy a book.
How to Get There: Take the 4, 5, or 6 train to 86th Street Station or 77th Street Station and walk to the store from there.
12. Central Park
No trip to the UES would ever be complete without a stop at NYC’s one and only, Central Park. Easily one of the best parks in NYC, Central Park is a stunning, 843-acre park that is home to some of the very best things to do on the Upper East Side – fun Upper East Side attractions you need to add to your Upper East Side itinerary.
And while you could easily spend several days here. highlights include:
- The Balto Statue – around E. 67th street
- Central Park Zoo – around E. 64th street
- The Mall and Literary Walk
- Belvedere Castle and The Obellisk- Right behind The MET. You can picnic here near Turtle Pond and admire the castle in the background.
- Bethesda Fountain/Terrace – Great photo opp around E. 72nd Street
- The Alice in Wonderland Statue – Near E. 75th Street
- Untermeyer Fountain/Huddlestone Arch – near E. 106th street
- Charles A Dana Discovery Center – at E. 110th street
- Shakespeare Garden – On 79th street. right near Belvedere Castle and showcases plants references by the famous author.
- And more
Plus, Central Park is home to no less than three different woodland areas (Hallett Nature Sanctuary, the Ramble, and the North Woods) that allow you to get your upstate New York fix right here in NYC.
The Central Park Conservancy also offers amazing themed tours of the park – most of which are free or under $15 per person – that include guided walks centered around art, wildlife, and various kid-approved topics.
Address: Central Park, New York, NY
Hours: Open daily from 6:00 am to 1:00 am.
How to Get There: Take the 6 train to 68th street and Hunter College of the 4/5 train to 86th street station and walk to the park from there.
13. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Hands down of the best museums in the entire world, The Metropolitan Museum of Art – or The MET as locals refer to it – is basically the one place you should go if you can only do one thing on this list of the best things to do on the Upper East Side NYC.
Founded more than 150 years ago, the museum now contains a massive collection of more than two million pieces of art that span an insane, 5,000 years of history and that occupy more than 17-acres of prime, NYC real estate.
Therefore, you really and truly can see everything here, including armor that belonged to Henry VIII, the oldest piano in history, Washington Crossing the Delaware, and more.
And although you could easily spend multiple days in this one museum, collection highlights include:
- 1st floor Egyptian Collection – The Temple of Dendur is a real highlight.
- Arms and Armor – Love the 18th century samurai swords from Japan.
- Islamic Art – Iranian mosaics, gold containers from Goa, the Astrolabe of ‘Umar ibn Yusuf ibn ‘Umar ibn ‘Ali ibn Rasul al-Muzaffari, and more.
- Near Eastern Art – Assyrian stone reliefs, cuneiform tablets, Iranian pottery, lamassu) statues, etc.
- 2nd Floor European Paintings – Duccio di Buoninsegna Madonna, Juan de Pareja portrait painted by Velázquez, Mäda Primavesi by Gustav Klimpt, etc.
- Asian Art – Ming-era vases, kimonos embroidered with scenes from The Tale of Genji, Korean Buddhist sutras, Indian crowns, etc.
- American Wing – Tsimshian headdresses, Victorian portraits, Federal-style furniture, etc.
Pro Tip: To avoid long waits, be sure to pre-book your skip-the-line ticket to the MET before you visit. If you have time, also visit the Cloisters while you’re here. And for more tips, read my insider’s guide to the MET now.
Address: 1000 5th Avenue, New York, New York (Between East 80th and East 84th Street),
Hours: Open Sunday through Thursday from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm and Friday and Saturday from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm.
Price: Pay what you wish for NJ, NY, and PA residents with a valid ID. Otherwise, $25 for adults, $17 for seniors, $12 for students, and free for children under 12.
How to Get There: Take the 4,5, or 6 train to the 86th Street station and walk from here.
14. Gracie Mansion
Known as the official residence of the Mayor of New York City, Gracie Manson is a gorgeous, Federal-style home that was originally built in 1799 as the private home of a merchant by the name of Archibald Gracie – guess we now know why it’s called Gracie Mansion.
However, since ye olde 1942, the mayor’s of NYC have all lived here, with the exception of Mike Bloomberg who preferred to stay inside his swank, Upper East Side apartment.
And, believe it or not, you can actually visit the inside of this home, making this one of the best things to do on the Upper East Side. It’s basically a one-hour, docent-led tour that details the history of this unique place.
However, tours are only offered one day a week (even less frequently during the holidays) and you must make a reservation online, in advance.
You can also see exciting exhibits like “New York 1942”, “New Yorkers at Work and Play”, “She Persists: A Century of Women Artists in NY”, and “Windows on the City: Looking Out at Gracie’s New York”.
And afterward, check out another item on this list, Carl Schurz Park, which is basically the 11-acre grounds that surround this home and that sit right on the river.
Please Note: Tours of the mansion are currently virtual and conducted through Zoom only.
Address: E 88th St. & East End Ave, New York, NY 10028
Hours: One-hour public tours are held once a month at 5:30 pm on a Thursday. Group tours are also held on Mondays and Wednesdays at 2:30 pm, on select Thursdays at 5:30 pm, and on Fridays at 2:30 pm and 5:30 pm.
How to Get There: Take the Q train to 86th street station and walk to the park from there.
15. Explore the East River Greenway
If you’re either not a fan of museums or really just want to get outside to experience all the botanical bliss that NYC has to offer then this is one of the best free things to do on the Upper East Side NYC for you.
After all, the East River Greenway is an enchanting place that stretches out for 9.44 miles along the East River, from Battery Park in the south all the way to 125th street in Harlem.
Also, because of the United Nations, there is a 1.2 mile-long gap between 34th Street and 60th Street where First and Second Avenues are needed to get around the United Nations.
And because the East River Greenway is long, it’s actually divided into two sections: Battery Park to East 34th Street and East 34th Street to East 125th Street.
Personally, I think the latter is better since it’s less crowded, brings you through Carl Schurz Park, and is an area that is mostly frequented by locals. Therefore, you’ll see tons of residents jogging, listening to music, fishing, hanging out, biking, and running by the water.
You’ll also marvel at the beautiful views of Roosevelt Island and its lighthouse, Randall’s Island, the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, and the Willis Avenue Bridge.
In particular, the portion that snakes through the UES is exceptionally lovely and will take you to the one and only, Randall’s Island (it’s usually under construction through).
Address: 304 E 62nd St, New York, NY 10065
Hours: All day, every day.
How to Get There: Take the N/R train to the Lex/59th street station and walk to the park from there.
16. Visit Randall’s Island
One of many Upper East Side hidden gems, Randall’s Island is a 516-acre island that is separated from Manhattan by the Harlem River and from Queens by the East River and Hell Gate.
Truth be told, it’s a really beautiful place that is home to Randall’s Island Park – a veritable oasis of greenery where you can run, hike, bike and walk to your heart’s content as you explore the area’s many woodlands and gardens along the East/Harlem Rivers.
There are also tons of waterside pathways from which you can admire Manhattan and six different bridges that connect Randall’s Island to various boroughs.
Additionally, there are several art installations on display here that you can visit, including two sculptures by artist Rubem Robierb; Peace Makers and Dream Machine II.
So, if you’d like to check it out for yourself, use the pedestrian bridge at 103rd street and then turn right. Continue until you hit a large green area where you can picnic, relax by a small beach, and admire sweeping panoramas of Lower Manhattan.
Pro Tip: Be super careful since this bridge is typically under construction.
Address: 20 Randalls Island Park, New York, NY 10035
Hours: Open daily from 5:00 am to 12:00 am.
How to Get There: Take the 4 train to 125th street and then hop on the M35 bus and take that to Main Roadway/Icahn Stadium.
17. Enjoy a Scoop of Van Leeuwen Ice Cream
Definitely, one of the best ice cream shops in NYC, Van Leeuwen Ice Cream is an artisanal ice cream shop that is known for using fresh, simple, high-quality ingredients to create nothing but the most exciting and innovative flavors possible.
I mean, they have a Kraft Macaroni and Cheese flavor, need I say more? But if you’re looking for something a bit more traditional, you can always opt for either the Earl Grey or the Salted Caramel – my fave out of their 32+ flavors.
And while they do have outposts all across the city. I like the green exterior and chill vibe of their store on the Upper East Side (it’s also right near LeVain Bakery).
Added bonus? They serve both dairy and non-dairy ice cream varieties that are made with either cashew milk or oat milk.
Therefore, if you have a sweet tooth of even the smallest measure then a trip to Van Leeuwen Ice Cream is easily one of the best things to do on the Upper East Side NYC.
Pro Tip: For a more “adult” ice cream experience head to UES. It looks like a regular neighborhood ice cream shop but if you ask to visit the “storage room” you’ll get taken to a secret speakeasy bar that serves ice cream-themed cocktails with fun names like “Gossip Girl on the East” and “Absolutely Bradshaw.”
Address: 1625 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10028
Hours: Open daily from 11:00 am to 12:00 am.
How to Get There: Take the Q/W to 86th Street station and walk to the store from there.
18. Lexington Candy Shop
Hidden away on the corner of Lex and 83rd Street is the aptly named, Lexington Candy Shop. It’s a thin slice of vintage nirvana that serves up some well-priced, totally delicious food that you and your brother’s sister’s cousin will love.
After all, they’ve been in business since 1925 and are now considered to be the oldest, family-run luncheonette in NYC. And while this city has changed quite a bit since they first opened, the menu and decor here sure hasn’t.
So, be sure to stop by and order a New York-style egg cream with french toast, a bacon egg and cheese, or some strawberry pancakes.
I also love that breakfast is served here all day long. Something that is awesome for an anti-morning person like me who hates getting up first thing in the AM.
Pro Tip: Other great restaurants that you might want to try include Uva, Sojourn, Daniel, Sushi Seki, JoJo, Elio’s, and The Mark.
Address: 1226 Lexington Avenue, New York, New York
Hours: Open Monday through Friday from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm, Saturday from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm, and Sunday from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Price: Dishes start at around $14.00 each.
How to Get There: Take the 4, 5, or 6 train to 86th street station and walk to the shop from here.
19. Enjoy Afternoon Tea at King’s Carriage House
Pinkies up homies because I’m about to introduce you to one of the best afternoon teas in NYC. And trust me, you won’t have to shell out a small fortune for mediocre service and tepid tea at this amazing place on the Upper East Side.
Because this Upper East Side hidden gem is none other than King’s Carriage House and they are known for delicious but exceptionally well-priced, classic, three-tiered tea service.
So, step inside this old-world eatery, admire the chandeliers and vintage decor of this historic townhouse and enjoy afternoon tea packages that start at $29.95 per person.
Services that feature things like sesame chicken salad, goat cheese tartlets, fresh scones with jam/clotted cream, raspberry ginger tartlets, apricot coconut tea cakes, lemon curd squares, and, of course, a wide selection of premium teas!
Pro Tip: Another popular place for afternoon tea on the Upper East Side is Alice’s Tea Cup. As the name suggests, this tea house features Alice in Wonderland inspired-decor that appeals to children. And while everything here is pretty reasonably priced, I thought the food was kind of meh. It’s also pretty popular so definitely prepare for a wait.
Address: 251 E 82nd St, New York, NY 10028
Price: Starts at $29.95 per person for afternoon tea. Although, they do have a great High Tea service for $39.95 per person that includes things like truffled grilled cheese (so good).
Hours: Open Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm and Thursday through Saturday from 12:00 pm to 9:00 pm.
How to Get There: Take the Q to 57th street station or the 4/5/6 train to 86th street station and walk from there.
20. The Grollier Club
Known for being the oldest club for bibliophiles in the USA, the Grollier Club is home to a wealth of fascinating exhibits on books and graphic arts that the nerdiest and most well-read among us will love.
See, this institution was originally founded in 1884 and was designed to pay homage to the artistry of books and bookmaking. And although this private organization has been around since 1884, they’ve only been at its current digs since 1917.
So, if you want to step inside and see one of the best things to do on the Upper East Side for yourself, then feel free to attend one of their many public events, which include things like literary-inclined exhibits that detail the artistic nature of books.
Additionally, their on-site exhibition hall was recently renovated in 2018 and now has primo storage facilities that allow the club to show off some of the rarest books from their 100,000+ volume collection.
Address: 47 East 60th Street, New York, New York, 10065
Hours: The exhibition hall is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.
How to Get There: Take the N/R train to Fifth Avenue or the 6 train to 59th and Lex and walk to the club from there.
21. Grab a Burger at J.G. Melon
This fine purveyor of meaty goodness has been around since 1972 and is known for serving up some next-level, super juicy burgers.
So, if you decide to give this place a try while checking out all of the best things to do on the Upper East Side NYC, then make sure to order a burger, cottage fries, and a wickedly wonderful bloody mary.
Trust me, these are some of the best burgers in town since they come out supremely juicy on the inside and are served with red onions, pickles, and an assortment of amazing sauces on the side.
Yeah, this place is nothing fancy but it’s got an old-world, yesteryear charm about it that is very inviting. Heck, there’s even an old-school jukebox, a vintage cash register, and an outdoor dining area that you can use throughout the warmer months.
Just come prepared since they are cash only, don’t accept reservations (there will be a line), and have a “preppy” dress code.
Address: 1291 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10021
Price: A cheeseburger here is a reasonable $13.00.
Hours: Open Monday through Saturday from 11:30 am to 3:00 am and on Sundays from 11:30 am to 1:00 am.
How to Get There: Take the Q train to 72nd Street station or the 6 train to 77th Street station and walk to the. restaurant from there.
22. Park Avenue Armory
This gem of a cultural institution on the Upper East Side sits inside the Seventh Regiment Armory, a historic National Guard Armory that was first built in 1880.
Made of brick and using the Gothic-Revival designs of Charles Clinton, this structure now serves as a non-profit, fly AF venue for the arts that hosts a variety of different plays, interactive art shows recitals, and concerts.
So, if you’re looking for one of the best things to do on the Upper East Side NYC that is a real hidden gem, then this is the place for you.
However, if you can’t attend an actual performance here then you can always opt for a guided tour of this historic place instead!
Because knowledgable guides will spend 75-minutes with you explore the enormous Drill Hall, the vast interiors (designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, Stanford White, Candace Wheeler, and the Herter Brothers), the stunning Board of Officers Room, the Veterans Room, and two rooms on the second floor that have been fully refurbished with Herzog & de Meuron designs – with opulent period decor that makes you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time.
Along the way, you’ll learn about the complex military and social history of this local landmark and get in-depth info about the entire restoration process.
Address: 643 Park Ave, New York, NY 10065
Price: Tickets must be purchased in advance and tours are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors/students/military, and free for members.
Hours: Tours are offered Monday through Friday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.
How to Get There: You can take the 6 train at 68th Street/Hunter College or the F/Q trains at 63rd Street and Lex and walk from there.
23. Shop Til You Drop on Madison Avenue
If you’re a diehard fashionista and want to live out all of your Sex and the City/ Gossip Girl fantasies for real, then mosey on over to Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side.
It’s basically an uber-swank avenue where you can find duds from all the super-high-end retailers that the cool kids crave. Especially the rich AF locals who skip the crowds of Fifth Avenue and opt for infinitely quieter, Madison Avenue instead.
Trust me, you’ll find tons of iconic stores here like Chanel, Celine, and Louboutin. Places where you can shop until you drop if you have a small offshore bank account to call your own.
Otherwise, you can always try slightly more reasonably priced, upscale stores like Theory, Intermix, and J. Crew that are geared more towards regular people like me.
So what are you waiting for? Shop like all the uber-cool locals and try one of the best things to do on the Upper East Side.
24. Enjoy a Show at 59E59
If you want an epic theatrical experience but don’t have quite enough cash to see a Broadway show – or are just awesome and want to support a small, local theater – then try 59E59 on the Upper East Side of NYC.
It’s a relatively unknown, award-winning theater that has been around since 2004 and that treats patrons to totally unique, American and international, off-broadway productions.
This is also a non-for-profit theater so the goal here is really to support emerging theater companies and give them exposure to the greater New York City community.
Also, even though this is an off-broadway show, the performances are still really good and extremely well-done and a whole hell of a lot cheaper than Broadway.
Because remember, off-Broadway just means the performance is in a smaller theater and not that it’s of any lower quality.
And added bonus? They actually run three different, enabling you to see a ton of different, super cool performances all week long.
Address: 59 E 59th St, New York, NY 10022
Hours: The ticket office is open from 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm daily.
Price: Varies but way less than anything on Broadway.
How to Get There: Take the 4/5/6 train to 59th and Lex and walk from there.
25. Visit The Explorers Club Headquarters
Channel your inner Indiana Jones and check out one of the many super cool, totally off-beat things to do on the Upper East Side of NYC.
Because the ever-awesome Explorers Club was first started in 1904 and eventually came to this super snazzy building on East 70th street in 1965. A place that just happens to be a Jacobean Revival Mansion from 1910 (feel free to be duly impressed).
So, if you get a chance to step inside you’ll discover turn-of-the-century stained glass windows, heavy wooden doors, and an enormous polar bear named Percy waiting to greet you as you make your way to the second floor.
Yeah, apparently the club was formed by seven polar explorers who wanted to encourage others to participate in scientific exploration all across the globe.
Anyway, visitors will enjoy seeing cases filled with all sorts of exploration-related artifacts like a globe used by Thor Heyerdahl to plan a Kon-Tiki expedition (on the second floor), a sled from an expedition to the North Pole in 1909 (in the Clark Room), and a “yeti scalp” (in the Gallery on the top floor with a buffet of other taxidermied animals).
If you have time, you could also check out the library and stop by the research archives with its13,000+ books, maps, films, etc.
Address: 46 E 70th Street, New York, New York, 10021
Hours: The club is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, with docent-led tours conducted on Mondays during the public lecture.
How to Get There: Take the 6 train to 68th street station and walk from there.
26. Have a drink at the Penrose
If you’re looking to get your drinky drank on in the UES then run, don’t walk, to The Penrose.
Believe it or not, it’s actually named after the neighborhood that the owners grew up in when they were in Cork, Ireland, and has an indie, chic vibe about that means It’s always crowded.
And for good reason since this is one of the only bars in the area where you can grab a good craft cocktail and chat your neighbor up.
So, expect to find reclaimed wood interiors, craft pours, upscale pub grub, old-world wallpaper, and a fairly extensive beer/whiskey/old-school cocktail list.
Just be prepared though since it’s usually packed with people on the weekends, making decent seats hard to come by. And if you’re not sure what to get, try the pickle martinis (epic but they make a good old-fashioned too), fries, Brussel sprouts, artichoke ricotta dip, and mac and cheese.
Pro Tip: If you really like beer then the Pony Bar will be one of the best things to do on the Upper East Side for you! They serve exclusively American craft beers at their fifty-person bar and also have some great double-fried wings, loaded fries, and soft baked pretzels to go with your drinks.
Address: 1590 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10028
Hours: Open Monday through Wednesday from 11:00 am to 2:00 am, Thursday and Friday from 11:00 am to 3:00 am, and Saturday and Sunday from 9:30 am to 2:00 am.
Price: Cocktails start at $14 each while beers start at around $9 each.
How to Get There: Take the Q train to 86th street station and walk from there.
Map of the Best Things to do on the Upper East Side NYC
Amazing NYC Travel Resources You’ll Love
There you have it! That just about wraps up this epic list of some of the best things to do on the Upper East Side of NYC.
Tell me, did your fave activities make the list? If not then let me know in the comments below and I’ll be sure to check it out.
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