Who could fail to recognize the American Museum of Natural History’s larger-than-life blue whale, the beckoning lights of Lincoln Center, or historic city architecture? What’s more, who could recognize these Upper West Side attractions and still resist the neighborhood’s pull? Here are 11 reasons to see the Upper West Side for yourself.
Even strangers to the Upper West Side are familiar with the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH)’s larger-than-life dinosaur and iconic blue whale. Come and visit these attractions in person, along with buzz-worthy temporary exhibitions covering everything from Cuban culture to rarely unveiled mummies. Whether you’re young or just young at heart, this historic purveyor of all-ages fun will speak to your sense of wonder.
Satisfy upscale appetites at one of the area’s high-end eateries. At the three Michelin-starred Per Se, an award-winning wine list featuring over 2,000 bottles is served alongside neighborhood-inspired plates, such as pumpernickel blinis with beet “tartare” and white sturgeon caviar. Meanwhile, at Jean-Georges (another recipient of three Michelin stars), fine fusion cuisine is what’s on the menu.
Offering up-close vistas of New York’s famous Hudson River, Riverside Park boasts the honor of being “Manhattan’s most spectacular waterfront park.” The 86-block stretch hosts cafés, running paths, art installations, numerous outdoor sports facilities, and more. Explore the offerings of this urban oasis (including the West 91st Street promenade as seen in beloved New York City film You’ve Got Mail), and you’ll understand why Riverside Park is one of the city’s eight official scenic landmarks.
Since opening its doors in 1929, the Beacon Theatre has hosted talents such as Michael Jackson, the Rolling Stones, and Broadway’s Tony Awards. As if these performances weren’t enough, the theater boasts a breathtaking Art Deco design that makes even intermissions memorable. Today, the nearly 90-year-old music hall is still going strong, with all-stars including Pat Benatar and Ringo Starr gracing its stage.
For its bagel-and-lox, pastrami, and smoked fish needs, New York turns to the Upper West Side’s Barney Greengrass and Zabar’s. Not much has changed since the spots opened their doors in 1908 and 1934 respectively, and that’s just how locals like it. Whether you’re looking to cater Seder dinner or enjoy classic home cooking in public, this neighborhood will satisfy your wish—and your cravings.
Think AMNH owns the area? These Upper West Side institutions invite you to think again. At the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, kids-friendly culture is what’s on the program. Meanwhile, the nearby American Folk Art Museum showcases the work of the nation’s top self-taught artists.
In a city full of bakeries, one Upper West Side establishment has earned over 5,400 Yelp reviews. One bite of the cult-favorite offerings at Levain Bakery will tell you why. The hot spot’s crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside cookies, which come in chocolate chip, dark chocolate-peanut butter, and oatmeal raisin varieties, may just be better than how Mom used to make. (Sorry, Mom).
It makes sense that an institution dedicated to exploring history happens to be New York City’s oldest museum. Since 1804, New-York Historical Society has committed itself to “making history matter.” Through its collection of over 1.6 million artworks, 500,000 photographs, and timely exhibitions such as Alexander Hamilton: The Man Who Made Modern America, the museum and library succeed in making the past pertinent.
There’s a reason the Upper West Side is the dwelling of choice for so many New York television icons, such as Seinfeld’s Jerry Seinfeld and 30 Rock’s Liz Lemon. Contemporary contractors haven’t gotten their hands on this neighborhood, which retains the charm of Old New York. On the area’s multiple landmarked stretches, you’ll find the historic Eldorado and the Dakota apartments, charming row houses, and Art Nouveau architecture.
A largely residential area, the Upper West Side boasts a quality missing from most Manhattan neighborhoods: a sense of community. Here, locals-only mainstays such as the beloved 79th Street Greenmarket and GreenFlea promote community pride on the Upper West Side.