Want to get away from the guidebook and see the Upper West Side like a REAL New Yorker? Umm, heck yeah you do!
After all, locals know all about some of the coolest – and most secret – spots in the City. A ton of amazing places that you’ll deffo want to add to your list of the best things to do on the Upper West Side.
And guess what? I’m just the local for the job! I’ve lived in NYC for well over thirty years and know all about the architectural and cultural awesomeness that is the Upper West Side.
And I want to share all of my insider tips with you so that you can experience the true beauty and charm of the Upper West Side. This way, you’ll fall hardcore head over heels in love with this neighborhood, just like I did!
That’s why in this super snazzy post right here, you’ll learn all about:
- Where is the Upper West Side
- How to Get to the Upper West Side
- Where to Stay on the Upper West Side
- 15 Best Things to do on the Upper West Side NYC
- Map of the Best Things to do on the Upper West Side NYC
- And so much more!
Who knows, by the end of this post on what to do on the upper west side, you might be doing guided tours and looking for rent-controlled apartments.
You know so that you can shop at Zabar’s and live out the proverbial NYC dream on the Upper West Side. But, enough shit chat. Let’s swan dive into this epic post on what to do on the Upper West Side.
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Where is the Upper West Side Anyway?
I know, it can be a bit confusing trying to figure out exactly where the Upper West Side of NYC is since we have SO many different neighborhoods in this expansive metropolis that I call home.
But, this mostly residential, high-end neighborhood sits right in between Central Park in the east and Riverside Park on the west.
It also extends all the way up to West 110th Street in the north and down to Columbus Circle and West 59th Street in the south.
So yeah, it’s a fairly large neighborhood. And that’s just one of the many reasons why there are so many fun things to do on the Upper West Side NYC.
It’s also a really well-connected neighborhood that has a ton of different subway lines running in and out of it. Therefore, if you need help getting into and out of the Upper West Side, continue on to the section below.
This way, you’ll know exactly how to get to some of the best things to do on the Upper West Side NYC.
How to Get to the Best Things to do on the Upper West Side NYC
Okay, before I even begin to tell you how to get to the Upper West Side of NYC, I implore you to walk around this neighborhood as much as possible!
Not only is it a super safe place to walk, but there is a ton of stunning architecture scattered all throughout the area.
Places that you won’t really be able to appreciate unless you go for a walk through this supremely scenic section of the city and appreciate all the stunning brownstones and townhouses that surround you.
Plus, it will really only take you about 40 minutes to walk from Midtown (around Times Square) to the Upper West Side. So yeah, it’s definitely doable.
Pro Tip: Must-see buildings on the Upper West Side for anyone who loves architecture include The Dakota, The Ansonia, and The Apthorp, just to name a few.
Now, once you’ve walked around and are completely tired AF, you can use the B, C, 1, 2, or 3 trains to make your way into and out of the area.
Essentially, the B and C trains will make local stops along Central Park after leaving from Columbus Circle while the 1,2, and 3 trains run both uptown and downtown along Broadway.
Of the 1, 2, and 3 trains, the 1 is a local train and will make all the stops along the line.
In contrast, the 2 and 3 trains are convenient express trains that make stops at 96th Street, 72nd Street, 59th Street/Columbus Circle, and then Times Square.
Where to Stay on the Upper West Side
As you probably already guessed, there are a ton of great places for you to stay in this neighborhood while you’re experiencing all the fun things to do in the Upper West Side (for more info, you can check out my guide to the best areas to stay in NYC now).
On the whole, they are, sadly, very much anti-cheap. Luckily for you though, your girl over here is a 30+ year local who knows all about the best accommodations on the Upper West Side for EVERY budget.
So, here are my picks for the best places to stay on NYC’s iconic Upper West Side.
HI NYC Hostel (Budget) – If you want to visit NYC on a budget then this is the perfect hostel for you! I mean, I’m not usually a fan of staying in hostels when I travel, but this one is pretty rad with a CAPITAL “R”.
Not only is HI NYC Hostel a quick, 10-minute walk from Central Park, but rooms here are tucked away inside an enchanting, Victorian-style home.
Dorm rooms here are also light, bright, clean, and airy and provide guests with access to spacious bathrooms and free WIFI.
Heck, there’s even an amazing garden patio on-site for you to use, in addition to a game room/tv room, full kitchen, and nightly happy hours. Staff also organize group nights out and allow guests to rent bikes right from the hostel.
Arthouse Hotel New York City (Mid-range) – This uber-fashionable hotel sits a mere two blocks from the subway.
It features sleek, well-priced, contemporary rooms that include hardwood floors, flat-screen TVs, WIFI, desks, coffee makers, and custom art from local artists.
Some rooms even include private balconies with exceptional panoramic views.
And when you’re not living la vida loca in your plush AF digs, you can make use of the hotel’s on-site Italian restaurant, two rooftop terraces, a speakeasy-inspired bar, and a lounge with a charming piano, fireplace, and library.
Hotel Beacon (Luxury) – This stunning, 4-star hotel on the Upper West Side sits right next door to the historic Beacon Theatre and is a short 10-minute walk from the Natural History Museum.
It’s also a mere 4 minutes away from the nearest subway station and offers guests lavish accommodations that include marble floors, kitchenettes, chic modern decor, flat-screen TVs, and free WIFI.
Some rooms even come with private, furnished terraces that feature exquisite views of the surrounding neighborhood. Other on-site amenities include a posh bar, a seasonal terrace with seating, and a coin-operated laundry.
21 Best Things to do on the Upper West Side NYC
I’ve lived in NYC for WELL over thirty years and I consider the Upper West Side to be one of my all-time fave neighborhoods.
In fact, I recently moved to Harlem and want to share my undying love of this neighborhood with you by revealing my picks for the best things to do on the Upper West Side NYC.
Because this super snazzy neighborhood is overflowing with tons of cool things to do in NYC’s Upper West Side that should definitely be a part of any 4 day NYC itinerary.
This neighborhood is also packed with tons of charm, features stunning pre-war architecture, and is super safe – easily making it an amazing stop for anyone visiting NYC for the first time.
1. American Museum of Natural History
This is easily one of the most famous and coolest museums in NYC. I mean, there was a whole movie done about this museum so yeah, clearly it’s pretty damn awesome.
It’s also located right across Central Park from the MET and is home to its very own planetarium and library, in addition to an expansive museum that lies within.
Plus, with a grand total of twenty-eight interconnected buildings and forty-five permanent exhibition halls that contain upwards of 33 million specimens, it’s also one of the largest museums in the WORLD.
So yeah, this amazing institution obviously had to make it on this list of the best things to do in the Upper West Side NYC.
However, the real magic of this place lies not in its size but in its ability to make science come alive right before your eyes (psst..get your tickets now since advance reservations are required).
It’s also one of those exceptionally rare places where you can see, touch, taste (sometimes but don’t go around licking all the displays. LoL), and hear the processes that helped create the world we know today.
Therefore, step inside, experience one of the many things to do in NYC’s Upper West Side, and marvel at dinosaur skeletons, meteorites, gems, cultural artifacts, and giant blue whale skeletons.
And, just in case you falsely assume that this place is only for kids, One Step Beyond will make you think otherwise
Because each month (not right now but in the future when things go back to normal), One Step Beyond presents a different DJ performing in the Museum’s Rose Center for Earth and Space.
Plus, after this wicked awesome dance party, attendees can stroll up the Cosmic Pathway to the Hayden Big Bang Theater.
Here, journey through the virtual universe, to the always awesome voice of Liam Neeson himself (It’s $25 per person, from 9:00 pm to 1:00 am).
Just do yourself a huge favor and book tickets way in advance since this event is supremely popular.
Pro Tip: Be sure to stop by the Hayden Planetarium while you’re here since it’s in the Rose Center for Earth and is easily one of the best planetariums in the world.
Definitely watch “Dark Universe” and skip the on-site cafeteria since it’s lame AF.
Address: 200 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024
Hours: Currently open Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm.
Price: Tickets are $28 for adults, $22.50 for seniors (60+) and students with a valid ID (discount tickets are available for residents of NY, NJ, and CT with valid ID), and $16.50 for children between 3 and 12, Like most places in NYC, you need to reserve your tickets in advance..like now.
How to Get There: Take the B (weekdays only) or C train to 81st Street station and walk to the museum there. You can also take the 1 train to Broadway and West 79th Street and walk from there.
2. The New York Historical Society
I know a historical society might sound kind of lame but I swear that the New York Historical Society is easily one of the best things to do on the Upper West Side NYC.
I mean, not only was this museum founded way back in 1804 inside a pre-war mansion – giving it the title of the city’s oldest museum – but it sits right on Central Park and is home to 60,000+ cool cultural and historic artifacts from the city’s not-so-distant past.
You know, things like:
- George Washington’s inauguration chair
- A leg brace that was worn by President Franklin D Roosevelt
- A door from Jack Stewart’s house that is covered in graffiti
- A ceiling mural, right above the admissions desk, that was done by Keith Haring
I also love that the entire interior was totally redesigned to include a ton of interactive kiosks that help make the learning process infinitely more enjoyable.
Pro Tip: Be sure to visit the Immersive Center for Women’s History on the fourth floor before you go! And if you have kiddos, hit up the on-site children’s museum too. T
he museum also has super-nifty “pay what you wish” admission on Fridays from 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm.
Address: 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024
Hours: Open Friday from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm and Saturday/Sunday from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Price: Tickets are $22 for adults, $17 for seniors/military personnel, $13 for students, $6 for kids (5-13), and free for children under four (You can also save a bit of money by getting a New York Explorer Pass now, which includes admission to this museum. But if you’re not sure about the pass, you can read my full review here).
How to Get Here: Take either the B or C train to 81st Street Station or the 1 train to 79th Street station and walk from there.
3. Lincoln Center
Honestly, Lincoln Center isn’t just one of the best things to do on the Upper West Side, it’s one of my all-time fave things to do in the city.
And that’s basically because there is just SOO much to do here. Especially since Lincoln Center is pretty much the unofficial mecca for the performing arts here in NYC.
After all, this vast complex occupies a solid 16 acres of real estate.
It is home to a wealth of world-renowned companies that are connected to theater, music, dance, and any other performing art you can think of.
That’s why this is THE place to see the New York Philharmonic, the New York City Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera, and any performances associated with the Julliard School of Music.
FYI, many of these performances are free to attend since they are done by students).
Plus, as if Lincoln Center wasn’t awesome enough already, it’s also home to The Vivian Beaumont Theater where you can see live Broadway shows.
I’ve personally seen War Horse and South Pacific here and both were great since the theater is relatively small. So, even though I was in the last row, I still enjoyed a stellar view of the show.
However, if you can’t afford a performance, one of the best things to do on the Upper West Side is to relax in the vast outdoor courtyard, enjoy the central fountain, and people-watch like a total champ.
Pro Tip: A lot of people like to catch dinner either before or after a show at Lincoln Center.
Therefore, there are a ton of amazing places to eat in the surrounding area, including P.J. Clarke’s (delicious comfort food and burgers), The Smith, Lincoln Restaurante (Italian place right in Lincoln Center), Cafe Fiorello (great pizza bolognese), Boulud Sud (Daniel Balloud’s fancy Mediterranean place), and Rosa’s Mexicana (get the guac and the queso fundido).
Address: Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023
Hours: Varies by performance.
Price: Depends on the show/performance. You could also just walk around the plaza for free.
How to Get There: Take the 1 train to 66th street and Lincoln Center station or the A/C train to Columbus Circle and walk to the complex from there.
4. Central Park
Ahh, good old Central Park. Basically the single most famous park in all of NYC and easily one of the most amazing things to do on the Upper West Side NYC.
Just do yourself a favor and don’t try to see it all in one day since this iconic NYC green space totally puts the mass back in massive. I mean, you could easily spend several days exploring attractions like:
- The MET
- Museum of Natural History
- Central Park Zoo
- Belvedere Castle
- Strawberry Fields (the famous memorial to John Lenon)
- Sheep Meadow
- Bethesda Terrace
- The Mall
- Alice and Wonderland statue
- Literary Walk
- Ther Conservatory Garden
- The Ramble
- The Shakespeare Garden (It’s on the west side between 79th and 80th Street)
- The Boathouse
Yeah, that’s not even a full list of everything you could do here but you get what I’m trying to say. This place is large and in charge since it occupies an astounding 843 acres of land.
An impressive area filled with vast meadows, delightful European-style gardens, stunning lakes, awe-inspiring castles, tree-lined walkways, and vast outdoor theaters.
And many of these features were designed by none other than architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who developed the park throughout the 1860s and 70s.
Yup, their goal was to create a stunning natural area that was available to ALL New Yorkers, regardless of race, socio-economic status, and religion.
Now, to achieve this lofty goal, they eventually created an intricate labyrinth of roads and footpaths that were developed to completely separate foot and road traffic.
This helps maintain the fantasy that park-goers were actually in a natural oasis far away from the hustle and bustle of NYC.
Not surprisingly though, with great fame comes great crowds.
So, if you want to avoid large hordes of people, visit less popular areas of the park on a weekday afternoon. Places like the Harlem Meer and the North Meadow – both of which are above 72nd street.
Pro Tip: The Central Park Conservancy runs awesome-themed tours of the park that center around topics like art, wildlife viewing, and various kid-friendly topics.
Feel free to check their website for more info but it’s a great deal since most are either free or under $15 per person.
Otherwise, you could always take a guided 2-hour walking tour of NYC’s most famous park. Y
eah, If you’re in a bit of a time crunch and want to quickly see many of the park’s most famous attractions then a guided tour of the park for $24 per person is perfect.
Address: Central Park, New York, NY
Hours: Open daily from 6:00 am to 1:00 am.
How to Get There: Take the 1 train to Columbus Circle or the N/R train to 57th Street Station and walk to the park from there.
5. American Folk Art Museum
If you hate crowds and love history then this is one of the best things to do on the Upper West Side for you!
It’s one of those awesome hidden gems in NYC that was first founded way back in 1962 and that gives you an up-close and personal look at some of America’s oldest known works of art.
It’s also not a super large museum (like the MET) and is one of those places that you could easily enjoy one quiet morning or afternoon.
However, in spite of the museum’s less-than-behemoth size, it’s still home to an impressive seven thousand different pieces of art.
Although they won’t all be on display at the same time, each item is truly one-of-a-kind and can date as far back as the 18th century.
Thats why, dare to step inside and you’ll uncover an eclectic collection of wood carvings, quilts, stone statues, ceramics, and carousel animals.
These pieces were mainly designed by total novices with no formal training.
And collection highlights that you cannot miss include a series of illustrations from Henry Darger, in addition to a pretty sweet gift shop with some super funky items for sale.
Pro Tip: The museum usually has free music on Wednesdays at 2:00 pm and on Fridays at 5:30 pm.
Address: 2 Lincoln Square (Columbus Avenue between 65th and 66th Streets), New York, NY 10023
Price: Free but you’ll need to reserve a ticket online prior to your visit.
Hours: Open Wednesday through Sunday from 11:30 am to 6:00 pm.
How to Get There: Take the 1 train to 66th Street and Lincoln Center and walk to the museum from there.
6. Children’s Museum of Manhattan
Since I personally don’t have kids, I typically steer clear of children’s museums. However, my friends with kids swear that the Children’s Museum of Manhattan is amazing and easily one of the many great things to do on the Upper West Side NYC.
Now, is it kind of on the smallish side? Yeah, especially when compared with institutions like the Museum of Natural History.
But, what it lacks in size it for sure makes up for with amazing, interactive exhibits that stimulate the imagination and that are perfect for kids up to ten years of age.
So, stop by today and experience fan faves like the Dora the Explorer-themed rooms, the Talking Dragon, an 8-foot-tall mural designed for fingerpainting, an outdoor Dynamic H20 water exhibit (it explains NYC’s watershed), and several great toddler discovery programs.
Pro Tip: This museum is really meant for younger kids and is perfect if you’re not sure what to do in NYC on a rainy day with your toddler. The afterward, enjoy the best afternoon tea in NYC with kids at Alice’s Tea Cup.
Address: 212 W 83rd St, New York, NY 10024
Hours: Open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:30 am to 4:45 pm.
Price: Tickets for adults and children are $15.00 each while seniors/disabled visitors are $12.00 and infants under one are free.
How to Get There: Take the 1 train to 79th Street station and walk to the museum from there.
7. Riverside Park
Easily one of the best parks in NYC, Riverside Park is an amazing green space on the Upper West Side that stretches out for four miles, along the Huson River, from 72nd street all the way to 156th street.
In fact, this park is so awesome that is an official scenic landmark where you can admire beautiful flowering trees in the spring and vibrant foliage all throughout fall in NYC.
Highlights include taking a stroll along the Hudson River path, a visit to the Grant National Memorial (it’s free and is the final resting place of Ulysses S. Grant at 122nd Street and Riverside Drive), the Firemen’s Memorial (at 100th Street), and the Soldiers and Sailor’s Monument (at 89th Street).
Also, if you have time and visit at the right time of year (aka between March and October), you can check out some of the cool, waterfront eateries that pop up all along the park, including St. Pier i Cafe too.
Pro Tip: If you can, try to time your visit for sunset so that you can watch the sun descend beneath the horizon along the Hudson.
Address: Riverside Park, New York, NY
Hours: Open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
How to Get There: Take the 1 train to 79th street station and walk to the park from there.
8. Cathedral of St. John the Divine
Easily one of the best churches in NYC, St. John the Divine is the perfect place to go if you’re looking for fun things to do on the Upper West Side NYC.
It’s a stunning, Episcopal church that was built using a variety of architectural styles. including Romanesque, Gothic, and neo-Gothic design.
Yup, a bizarre conglomeration of design elements that make this church look like it should be somewhere in Europe, not Harlem.
Highlights include super snazzy, church-erific things like 17th-century Barberini tapestries from Itlay, Gothic-style sculptures by Simon Verity, the single biggest stained glass window in the country, and contemporary works from Tom Otterness and Keith Haring (his sculpture is in the Chapel of St. Columbia.
You’ll also love the fact that this church sits on a whopping 11-acre plot of land that is home to a lovely little Children’s Sculpture Garden and a Biblical Garden that features a multitude of plants mentioned in the Bible.
So, stop by today and take a fascinating highlights tour of the facility at either 11:00 am or 1:00 pm, Monday through Friday, and at 11:00 am Saturday.
Otherwise, if you’re in relatively decent shape, you could always go on a vertical tour (available at 10:00 am on Mondays, 12:00 pm on Wednesdays/Fridays, and at 2:00 pm on Saturdays) to the top of the building. Just bring a flashlight since it’s more than a little dark at the tippy top.
Regardless of how you decide to visit though, do pre-book your $10.00 admission tickets now. to avoid long lines and get a free self-guided tour with the price of your admission ticket.
Pro Tip: You can also attend a special prayer service while you’re here, which is held three times a day throughout the week and four-time a day on Saturdays. There is also a special Blessing of the Animals service on the first Sunday of October and a Blessing of the Bikes service on the first Saturday of May.
Address: 1047 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10025, United States
Hours: Open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and on Sundays from 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm.
Price: Tickets are $10.00 per person and include a self-guided tour.
How to Get There: You can take the 1 train to 116th Street and Columbia station or the A/B.C train to 110 street station and walk to the church from here.
9. Eat All the Cookies at LeVain Bakery
I choose to live my life by the slightly unhealthy, but always satisfying motto, “Life’s Uncertain, Eat Dessert First”. And you can do just that at this iconic bakery on the Upper West Side.
Because yes my friends, this is one of those rare places you must eat in NYC that really does live up to all the hype. Especially since, no joke, they serve one of the best cookies I’ve ever had in my life. Period.
And trust me, that’s saying something since I’m a total dessert addict who has definitely eaten her weight (and then some) in delicious cookies.
But, if you’re planning on doing all the best things to do on the Upper West Side, then what should you order during your culinary tour de force as it were?
Well, I’m so glad you asked. I’d personally order the chocolate chip walnut cookies.
They’re crunchy on the outside, warm and gooey on the inside, about as big as your face (not an exaggeration since they are 6 ounces), and worth every stickin’ calorie.
However, if you’re not a fan of the chocolate chip, then they also sell dark chocolate chocolate chip, dark chocolate peanut butter chip, and oatmeal raisin flavored cookies.
You should also be prepared to devour your cookie elsewhere since there is no indoor seating. There also will be a line out the door since this place is uber-popular.
Don’t worry though because it moves pretty quickly.
Pro Tip: Stop by later in the day when the line dies down since they perpetually bake cookies and never run out at one of the best dessert spots in NYC.
Address: 351 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024 (they have other locations all across the city)
Hours: Open daily from 7:30 am to 9:00 pm.
Price: $4.00 per cookie (so worth it)
How to Get There: Take the 1 train to 79th Street station or the B train to 81st/Natural History Museum station and walk to the bakery from there.
10. Columbus Circle
In case you’re not totally in the know, Columbus Circle sits on the southwestern edge of Central Park and is basically where Manhattan ends and the Upper West Side begins.
It’s also a pretty happening spot that is home to a Christmas Market in the winter and the ever-awesome, Turnstyle underground food market – a place where you can sample cheap eats from EZ Paella, Daa Dumplings, and Boil Boil Ramen, just to name a few.
Although, if you’re looking to live the luxe life for a hot minute, then head on over to the massive, Time Warner Center to enjoy sweeping views of Columbus Circle and nearby Central Park.
However, in addition to the delightful panoramas, this complex also has a ton of:
- Restaurants like Momofuku Noodle Bar, Bluebird, and Porterhouse (all are good)
- Grocery stores (yes, they have a Whole Foods)
- A five-star hotel
- Dizzy’s Club – a late-night jazz club with stellar views of the city (easily one of the best things to do on the Upper West Side)
Pro Tip: This is a great place to use the bathroom and escape the cold in the winter and the heat in the summer. You can also head to Whole Foods and grab a little something for a picnic in Central Park.
Address: Columbus Circle, New York, NY
Hours: Open twenty-four hours a day.
Price: Free (unless you buy something)
How to Get There: Take the A/C/1/D train to Columbus Circle and you’re there.
11. Nice Matin
Located inside the lavish Lucerne Hotel, this delightful French bistro on Amsterdam Avenue is posh beyond belief and makes you feel as though you’re in the suave and sophisticated, French Riviera.
It’s also a great place to just sit outside, people-watch, and relax beneath a shady overhang throughout the summer.
And when you’re not people-watching it up, sip on a delicious Sauvignon Blanc or du Rhone red since this eatery is a proud Wine Spectator Champion.
Yes my friends, Nice Matin really is a BIG deal.
FYI, you’ll also want to pair that wine with a petite pissaladière tart or my personal fave, the Socca Crepes (ratatouille, goat cheese, basil, sauce vierge).
A lot of my friends also like to order the Steak Frties (or the salad nicoise since the tuna is great) since the steak is epic and their fries are some of the best in NYC.
And the only thing better than the food? The service since staff here is next level attentive. Like, to the point where your water glass will never be empty – easily making this one of the best things to do on the Upper West Side NYC.
Pro Tip: I’m not sure if they still have it but if they do, go for their pre-fixe menu which was a pretty solid deal at $38 per person.
Address: 201 W 79th St, New York, NY 10024
Hours: Open Monday through Thursday from 11:30 am to 3:30 pm and then again from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm. Also, open Friday from 11:30 am to 3:30 pm and then from 5:00 pm to 11:00 pm, Saturday from 10:00 am to 3:30 pm and then from 5:00 pm to 11:00 pm, and Sunday from 10:00 am to 3:30 pm and then from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm.
Price: Entrees start at $24 each.
How to Get There: Take the 1 train to 79th Street Station and walk to the restaurant from there.
12. The Rooftop of the Empire Hotel
NYC is home to A LOT of rooftops that offer visitors sublime views of the city’s always mesmerizing skyline. And the Empire Hotel on the Upper West Side is absolutely one of them.
So, make your way inside this posh, modern, supremely sophisticated hotel and head to the 12th floor. Once there, you can snap a photo with the immortal, red, “Hotel Empire” sign and enjoy a selection of premium cocktails, appetizers, and entrees.
It’s also a fairly large space that can provide 350+ guests with stellar panoramas of NYC below since it includes East and West Terraces that feature two bars, a working fireplace, and a retractable roof on the West Terrace.
Now, I’d personally skip the apps and order a craft cocktail like the XOXO-Gossip Girl (Vodka, peach puree, and topped with Prosecco) or the Mango Mule (Earl grey tea-infused mango vodka, fresh lime, ginger beer, and Peychaud’s bitters).
Otherwise, you can stop by for brunch and get something special like an Empire Benedict with poached eggs, country ham, sea salt focaccia, and hollandaise sauce.
Pro Tip: If you want, you can also make use of the hotel’s fabulous pool deck during the summer.
Address: 44 W 63rd St., New York, NY 10023
Hours: Open Monday through Wednesday from 3:00 pm to 1:00 am, Thursday/Friday from 3:00 pm to 2:00am, Saturday from 11:00 am to 2:00 am, and Sunday from 11:00 am to 1:00 am (they also open daily for breakfast from 7:00 am to 10:30 pm).
Price: Cocktails start at $16 each.
How to Get There: Take the 1 train to Lincoln Center and walk to the hotel from there.
13. 79th Street Boat Basin
Looking for primo outdoor dining space in NYC? If so then mosey on back to Riverside Park. Because it’s there that you’ll find NYC’s epic 79th Street Boat Basin.
Yup, it’s the perfect place to go for epic happy hour drink specials that come complete with sick views of the Hudson River.
If you can though, grab a seat on the deck that faces the river so that you can enjoy some tasty hamburgers along with your sweet view.
Per usual though, this spot is NOT a well-kept secret. So, try to stop by during the week and preferably early in the afternoon to avoid the crowds.
Afterward, go for a stroll on The Hudson River Greenway which is a picturesque, 5-mile long path that takes you up and down the Hudson River.
Otherwise, you could always head to the marina and catch a ride aboard one of the many water taxis or local cruises that regularly depart from the area. T
ruth be told, there really is nothing like seeing the NYC skyline from the water.
Pro Tip: While the Boat Basin Cafe closed in 2019, you can still try delicious French food at La Sirene, amazing Italian food at Bettola NYC, and awesome seafood at Crave Fishbar.
Address: W 79th St, New York, NY 10024
Hours: Open Twenty-four hours a day.
How to Get There: Take the Take the 1 train to 79th Street station and walk 10 minutes to the Boat Basin from there.
14. Jacob’s Pickles
I love Jacob’s Pickles yes I do, I love Jacob’s Pickles, how about you? No really, I’m not lying since dining here is without a doubt one of the best things to do on the Upper West Side NYC.
It’s also a total brunch hot spot since this place is known for its over-the-top, super delicious, Southern comfort food.
It also doesn’t hurt that they have a ridiculous 20+ craft beers on tap that are all made in-house and that are absolutely delish.
So, rest your weary feet here for a while and enjoy buttermilk fried chicken, mac and cheese, and homemade biscuits amidst stunning, country-chic decor that makes this the perfect place to hang out Sunday brunch on the Upper West Side.
Also, because this place is aptly named Jacob’s Pickles, you CANNOT leave without, DUH, sampling their homemade pickles.
You’ll also love that this place is super affordable, with most entrees being well-priced at under $20 each.
Sadly though, Jacob’s Pickles only accepts reservations for parties of 6 or more. As a result, waits can regularly exceed 2+ hours on the weekends for the best brunch in NYC.
Local Tip: I come here for brunch often and the portions are HUGE. But, personal faves are the French toast, the Deviled Eggs, the biscuits, and the Oreo Ice Box Cake.
We tried this all during Restaurant Week and it was awesome.
Address: 509 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024
Hours: Open Monday through Thursday from 10:00 am to 2:00 am, Friday from 10:00 am to 4:00 am, Saturday from 9:00 am to 4:00 am, and Sunday from 9:00 am to 2:00 am.
Price: Most entrees here are around $14.00 each.
How to Get There: Take the 1 train to 86th Street station and walk to the restaurant from there.
15. Shop Til You Drop at Zabar’s
Want to food shop like a REAL local on the Upper West Side? If so then hit up Zabar’s, one of the best grocery stores in Manhattan.
It’s basically where all the locals go to do a bit of food shopping since this place has been around for 80+ years.
After all, it was originally founded by Lillian and Louis Zabar way back in 1934 and has been providing the local area with fresh and delicious food ever since.
The store also sits at the corner of W. 80th Street and Broadway and is an enormous 20,000 square feet in size.
Therefore, you’ll have no problem finding a fantastic assortment of freshly roasted coffee, smoked fish, homemade baked goods, and premium cheeses.
Personally, though, I’d opt for a fresh cup of coffee and then pair it with a bagel with lox and cream cheese. Grab it to go and then you can have the breakfast of Champions in nearby Central Park.
Yup, now that’s what I call doing things like a local on the Upper West Side.
Address: 2245 Broadway, New York, NY 10024
Hours: Open daily from 8:00 am to 7:30 pm, except on Sundays when the store is open from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Price: Depends on what you get.
How to Get There: Take the 1 train to 79th Street Station and walk to the store from there.
16. Go Shopping at Turnstyle Underground Market
Located just beneath Columbus Circle, this is one of the best things to do on the Upper West Side NYC that is also one of the best things to do this Christmas in NYC.
I mean, not only is this market completely underground and open all year round, but it’s one of those Upper West Side attractions that turns into a full-on extravaganza every holiday season.
So, stop by today since it’s conveniently located right near the Columbus Circle subway station and has 39 different eateries and boutiques for you to stroll through.
Pro Tip: There are seven different entrances so just follow the signs. You also don’t need a MetroCard to visit.
Address: 1000 S 8th Ave, New York, NY 10019
Hours: Varies by store.
How to Get Here: Take the 1 train to Columbus Circle and walk from here.
17. Shop at the Strand
Everyone knows about this iconic used bookstore in NYC. But what many people DON’T know is that there is a branch on the Upper West Side – making this one of the best Upper West Side things to do.
So, if you’re not sure what to do in NYC, definitely give this place a look.
Because even though it’s not as behemoth as its downtown cousin, it sits right across the street from the Museum of Natural History, between 81st and 82nd Street.
Therefore, it’s a great place to shop for a wide variety of books while exploring some Upper West Side’s hidden gems.
Address: 450 Columbus Ave, New York, NY 10024
Hours: Open Monday through Thursday from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm, Friday and Saturday from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm, and Sunday from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Price: Free to look.
How to Get There: Take the 1 train to 79th Street station and walk from there.
18. See “Hammer Boy” – A Banksy Mural
If you’re familiar with street art even a little bit, then you’ll know all about Banksy and his ionic murals.
So, if you want to see some of the best NYC street art for yourself, then beeline it on over to the wall of a DSW on 79th Street and Broadway.
It’s here that you’ll find “Hammer Boy” – a piece that was created way back in 2013 when the famous artist was in the city.
Yeah, this piece has managed to withstand the tests of time only because the owner of the store actually put protective glass around this work of art.
So, if you visit one of the best things to do on the Upper West Side NYC, you’ll see a painted boy swinging a hammer at a real fire hydrant.
Pretty cool huh? Also one of the best Upper West Side hidden gems…at least if you love street art almost as much as I do.
Pro Tip: This mural is right near Zabar’s so you can easily do both top things to do on the Upper West Side NYC while you’re here.
Address: 2220 Broadway, New York, NY 10024
Hours: All day.
How to Get There: Take the 1 train to 79th Street station and walk from there.
19. Take a Peak at the Pomander Walk
Want to see the UWS at its swankiest? If so then visit this cooperative apartment complex between West 94th Street and West 95th Street – with four buildings facing 94th Street and seven facing 95th Street.
It’s one of many Upper West hidden gems that I’ve visited a bunch of times since this historic place is known for its charming, Tudor-style architecture.
Sadly, it’s a private walkway, so you can’t go in. But, you can take pictures through the gate that 100% reminds me of the charming mews streets that you’ll find in London.
So, stop by one of the best things to do on the Upper West Side NYC for some sweet, sweet photo ops.
Pro Tip: For the best photos, walk by the gate on West 94th Street between Broadway and West End.
That being said, the photos are not great since you have to take them through a tiny triangle hole in the gate.
Address: 260-274 West 95th Street west of Broadway, New York, NY 10025
How to Get There: Take the 1/2/3 train to 96th Street station and walk from there.
20. Stop by Absolute Bagels
Easily one of the best bagel places in NYC, Absolute Bagels is the place to go for an iconic, New York bagels.
Yes, there will be a line out the door. But you know what? It’ll be totally worth it since this is one of the best things to do on the Upper West Side NYC.
The line also moves pretty quickly and the staff is SUPER helpful, making the wait a non-issue.
So, what are you waiting for? Stop by TODAY and order an everything bagel with cream cheese or an onion bagel with scallion cream cheese. Pair it with a Thai iced tea and you have the perfect meal on the go.
Just do yourself a favor and have cash handy since they do NOT accept credit cards.
Address: 2788 Broadway, New York, NY 10025
Hours: Open daily from 6:00 am to 7:00 pm.
Price: Around $5 but it depends on what you order.
How to Get There: Take the 1 train to Cathedral Parkway/110th Street and walk from there.
21. Enjoy a Boozy Brunch at Playa Betty’s
If you want to chase your delicious coastal Californian food with some superbly delicious cocktails on a not-so-quiet Sunday afternoon, then hit up Playa Betty’s.
After all, the vibrant, beachy-themed decor of this place is truly divine, as are the menu items – which include things like tacos, veggie bowls, and stunning craft cocktails (Try their Margaritas. So good!).
Just be prepared for Mexican-American food as opposed to true Mexican cuisine. Also, expect a line since this place is pretty popular.
Pro Tip: If you’re here for brunch, try the breakfast burrito or a breakfast bowl. Brunch is also served 7 days a week so avoid the crowds by visiting between opening and 3:30 pm on a weekday.
Also, ask about their bottomless brunch.
Address: 320 Amsterdam Ave (NW Corner 75th), New York, NY, 10023
Hours: Open Monday through Thursday from 12:00 pm to 10:00 pm, Friday from 12:00 pm to 11:00 pm, Saturday from 11:00 am to 11:00 pm, and Sunday from 11:00 am to 10:00 pm.
Price: Entrees start at $12 each.
How to Get There: Take the 1/2/3 train to 72nd Street station and walk from there.
22. Go Shopping at Tucker Square Green Market
Looking for something extra fun to do on Thursdays and Saturdays after you grab some hummus at Miriam?
Then head to Tucker Square Greenmarket at the intersection of 66th Street and Columbus Avenue.
This bustling market is a treasure trove for foodies, brimming with fresh produce and artisanal treats from a variety of local vendors.
Highlights include the irresistibly sweet honey from Ballard’s Honey, delectably flaky pastries from Bakers Bounty, and tangy pickled vegetables from Kimchee Harvest.
It’s a local hotspot and a visit here is one of the many things locals like to do in NYC!
23. Try a 24-layer Cake at Maison Pickle
Maison Pickle has firmly established itself as a culinary staple in the bustling heart of New York City.
Renowned for its tantalizing pull-apart bread, decadent French Toast, and mouthwatering French Dip sandwiches, this brunch hotspot is a must-visit for any foodie.
However, your Maison Pickle experience wouldn’t be complete without ordering their famous 24-layer cake.
Costing around $15.00 a slice, this dessert masterpiece is available in Funfetti (Vanilla) and chocolate flavors and is one of the most Instgrammable foods in NYC.
Though some may find the Funfetti Vanilla slightly on the dry side (like me), its perfectly balanced sweetness is sure to delight.
In fact, my partner loved the Funfetti cake and gobbled the whole thing up before we could take it home.
24. Visit NYC’s Grand Bazaar
Did you know that New York City’s oldest and largest flea market is located on the Upper West Side?
Well, if you didn’t then you do now since Grand Bazaar NYC is a weekly indoor/outdoor market situated on 100 West 77th Street.
It opens its doors on Sundays from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (all year long) and is filled with more than 100 vendors selling a wide variety of goods.
Highlights include antiques, art, vintage clothing, crafts, and artisanal food/drinks, making this one of the coolest flea markets in NYC.
Afterward, take a walk through Central Park or explore the Museum of Natural History since both NYC landmarks are right down the street.
25. Enjoy an Event at St. Paul & St. Andrew United Methodist Church
Normally I’m not one to sit around and attend church events. However, St. Paul & St. Andrew United Methodist Church has earned a reputation for its progressive views and welcoming atmosphere.
So, diverse crowds gather here to partake in uplifting sermons and moving prayers, accompanied by the harmonious melodies of a talented choir.
Visitors are encouraged to attend these services since they provide much-needed inspiration and unity.
In addition to these spiritual gatherings, the church also hosts a myriad of events that foster community and camaraderie.
These include serene ‘Pajama Prayers’ and more lively family-friendly baseball games, art classes, and cookouts.
Just check their event calendar and stay up to date on the best things to do on the Upper West Side of NYC.
26. Visit the Diner from Seinfeld
Located right down the street from St. John the Divine, you’ll probably recognize Tom’s Restaurant from its distinct exterior.
It’s a place that may not offer a gourmet dining experience. But, it carries rich cultural significance since it was featured in Seinfeld, one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time.
So, from the moment you step in, you’re greeted by a large portrait of Kramer, instantly transporting you to the world of Jerry, Elaine, Kramer, and George.
The reasonably priced food and friendly/efficient staff add to the overall charm of the place.
Whether you’re a fan of the sitcom or simply appreciate all-day breakfast (the pancakes and omelets were both epic) Tom’s Restaurant delivers.
27. See a Comedy Show
If you’re looking for laughter and entertainment on the Upper West Side then attending a comedy show is one of the best things to do in NYC at night.
In particular, West Side Comedy Club is a renowned spot in the area that has had top comedians like Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Burr, and Jessica Kirson perform on-stage.
Another epic comic club is Stand Up NY. It is known for its lively atmosphere and talented performers.
Both establishments have a busy calendar filled with events that you can enjoy on most nights of the week.
These shows include everything from stand-up comedy to open mic nights and improv shows.
28. Enjoy the West Side Community Garden
While the Upper West Side is renowned for its proximity to expansive green spaces like Central Park and Riverside Park, another gem that deserves the spotlight is the West Side Community Garden.
Nestled discreetly in between two typical city blocks, this garden was established in 1976 on a lot that was once littered with garbage.
Today, it stands as a beautifully landscaped greenspace that is open to all, where you can quietly watch the changing of the seasons.
Situated on West 89th Street, between Amsterdam Avenue and Columbus Avenue, the West Side Community Garden is a testament to the transformative power of the community.
29. Grab a Slice of Carrot Cake at Peacefood
Peacefood is not just another vegan cafe. It is a must-visit for anyone who loves desserts since they have the best carrot cake I have ever tasted.
Additionally, the cafe’s relaxed atmosphere provides you with a tranquil escape from the bustling city, making it a perfect place for family outings.
Plus, their menu is a delightful mix of hearty sandwiches, refreshing teas, and mouthwatering vegan desserts that will leave you begging for more.
Among their standout dishes are the chickpea fries, a unique fusion of flavors that encapsulates the innovative spirit of the cafe.
They pack a punch with their distinctive Indian spice and pair splendidly with the accompanying sauce.
But it is their carrot cake that always has me coming back for more. With its rich, moist texture and creamy icing that melts in your mouth, it is a dessert experience unlike any other.
There is a perfect balance of sweetness to the cake that isn’t overpowering, allowing you to savor every last bite of your generous slice.
Their food is a testament to the fact that vegan cuisine doesn’t have to compromise on taste, even appealing to the palates of meat lovers.
So, if you love carrot cake then this is one of the best things to do on the Upper West Side of NYC for you.
30. Visit the Former Home of John Lennon
The Dakota, a majestic apartment building that sits at the intersection of West 72nd Street and Central Park West.
It is steeped in history and continues to enthrall casual and hardcore Beatles fans alike.
This structure has the tragic distinction of being the last residence of John Lennon, as well as the site of his untimely death in 1980.
So, following your visit to the Dakota, be sure to explore Strawberry Fields in Central Park. It is a serene place where Yoko Ono, Lennon’s widow, installed an exquisite mosaic in honor of his memory.
Fans from all corners of the globe routinely come here to pay homage to the legendary musician by laying flowers on the mosaic while tunes like “Imagine” echo in the backdrop.
31. Explore Columbia University’s Gorgeous Campus
As you continue to the northern edge of the Upper West Side, you’ll encounter the grand architecture and sprawling lawns of Columbia University.
This Ivy League institution, renowned across the world for its academic excellence, dates back to 1754 and has a rich history that you can see in its architecture.
This university has also welcomed numerous celebrities as students like former President Barack Obama, actress Julia Stiles, and novelist Jack Kerouac.
So, take time to wander through the campus, absorbing the intellectual energy that permeates throughout the area.
While the campus open spaces are accessible to the public, you may want to consider booking a guided historical tour for a more insightful experience.
Map of the Best Things to do on the Upper West Side NYC
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