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Central Park | © JodesJ / Pixabay
Central Park | © JodesJ / Pixabay
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12 Reasons Why You Should Get Lost in Manhattan’s Upper East Side

Picture of Julia Goicochea
Updated: 31 August 2017
Home to Central Park, renowned cultural institutions, and world-famous shopping, Manhattan’s Upper East Side is one thing tourists and locals can agree on. Look past the brochure staples, though, and you’ll find the area houses ethnic establishments, quirky cocktails, and more off-beat offerings you may not expect. Read on to discover 12 reasons to get lost on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Central Park

One of the most famous parks in the world, Central Park welcomes 25 million visitors each year. Here, bird-watching, kayaking, and man-made wonders await outdoors-loving people, while waterfront dining, free theater, and iconic landmarks appeal to New York cosmopolitans. Share a cup of tea with Alice, philosophize in Shakespeare Garden, or simply sunbathe in the grass at this international attraction.

Central Park
Central Park | © tpsdave / Pixabay

Visit world-renowned art institutions

Some of the top art destinations in the world call Manhattan’s Upper East Side home. The next time you’re in the area, explore 5,000 years worth of world cultures at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, savor sophisticated finds at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, or marvel at Renaissance works at The Frick Collection.

The Fragonard Room at The Frick Collection, New York
The Fragonard Room at The Frick Collection, New York | Courtesy of Michael Bodycomb / The Frick Collection

Fifth Avenue

Whether you’re searching for designer duds or deals and steals, Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue has a store for you. Offering everything from Prada and Gucci to the Gap and Payless, this global shopping destination caters to all aesthetics and budgets; however, this avenue-cum-attraction is not just for shopping. Fuel your Fifth Avenue adventure at one of the many cafés, restaurants, and bars lining the street.

Dig in at culinary hot spots

From Cajun and Japanese to fast-casual and fine dining, the Upper East Side is home to both high- and lower-end eateries. Decadent diners are sure to savor their experience at Daniel, a two-star Michelin-rated restaurant serving vodka-flambéed foie gras, roasted cocoa crêpes, and more contemporary French fare. Meanwhile, late-night noshers flock to Earl’s Beer and Cheese for beer-poached franks, pork belly and kimchi grilled cheese sandwiches, and some of the borough’s best craft brews.

Image courtesy of Earl's Beer and Cheese
Image courtesy of Earl's Beer and Cheese | Courtesy of Earl’s Beer and Cheese

Toast to the neighborhood’s most curious cocktails

Cocktails have a special spot on the menus of Upper East Side eateries. At your next happy hour, say “no” to your go-to Negroni and sample a more off-beat offering, such as The Penrose’s bacon-infused bloody mary, Dirty Pickle Martini, and rosé sangria. Craving cross-cultural flavors? The Drunken Munkey’s Indian-inspired cocktails, featuring black tea-infused gin and crispy okra garnishes, are sure to satisfy.

The Penrose’s Baby Zombie
The Penrose’s Baby Zombie | Courtesy of Noah Fecks/The Penrose

Explore ethnic museums

As it’s home to Museum Mile, a Fifth Avenue stretch spotted with cultural organizations, as well as an array of art establishments, the area attracts art enthusiasts from all over the world. Fittingly, various ethnically organized institutions call this area home as well, including the Jewish Museum, Asia Society Museum, and the Puerto Rican-focused El Museo del Barrio.

Celebrate world cultures with Fifth Ave festivities

During New York’s warmer seasons, fans of festivities can enjoy multiple parades each month. A popular parade site, the Upper East Side’s Fifth Avenue hosts various locally beloved blowouts such as the NYC Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, National Puerto Rican Day Parade, and Celebrate Israel. Whether you’re representing your own culture or supporting another, this area is a perfect place to celebrate.

Enjoy kid-friendly fun

One of New York City’s most family-friendly neighborhoods, the Upper East Side is a favorite destination amongst kid-toting tourists and locals alike. Spots such as the Met-adjacent Ancient Playground, Heckscher Playground, and the Central Park Carousel are popular with both children and parents.

Open-air entertainment

Whether in the heart of winter or all throughout summer, Manhattan’s Upper East Side offers open-air entertainment. A picturesque outdoor ice skating venue in Central Park, a warm-weather festival along Museum Mile, and many more neighborhood events invite you to celebrate seasons in the city.

Central Park’s Wollman Rink
Central Park’s Wollman Rink | © Tomás Fano / WikiCommons

Relish the city views from aboard the Roosevelt Island Tram

The best way to enjoy Manhattan’s Upper East Side? Hovering 250 feet (76.2 meters) above it. With a swipe of your MetroCard, you can board the Roosevelt Island Tram, New York City’s only aerial public transportation option. The journey (which deposits passengers on favorite summertime destination Roosevelt Island) provides dramatic views of Manhattan’s East Side, the East River, and beyond.

Roosevelt Island Tramway
Roosevelt Island Tramway | © Jörg Schubert / Flickr

The newly opened Second Avenue Subway

In 1919, New York City promised its residents a subway line along the East Side’s Second Avenue. Nearly 90 years later, it delivered. Servicing the Upper East Side and its adjacent areas, this historic subway line (the product of 10 years of construction and $4.4 billion) needs to be seen to be believed. There’s plenty to see too; since its debut, the Second Avenue Subway’s surprisingly stunning public art has captured the attention of many.

It’s the city’s top sushi hub

Local sushi seekers should run, not walk, to the Upper East Side, Manhattan’s surprising hub for Japanese cuisine. Culinary hot spots (where it’s common to find elite New York chefs dining) Sushi Seki, Sasabune, and Sushi of Gari make up the city’s most upscale food crawl.

Image courtesy of Sushi of Gari
Image courtesy of Sushi of Gari | Courtesy of Sushi of Gari