An Off-The-Beaten-Path Guide to the Upper East Side, New York City

Courtesy of The Frick Collection, credit: Michael Bodycomb
Courtesy of The Frick Collection, credit: Michael Bodycomb
Photo of Julia Goicochea
26 September 2017

Step aside, Central Park, and move over, Museum Mile: we’re sharing a new way to experience Manhattan’s Upper East Side. From old-school eateries to aerial entertainment, this New York City neighborhood offers more than mere tourist traps. Here is our off-the-beaten-path guide to New York’s Upper East Side.

The Lexington Candy Shop

Diner, Ice Cream Parlour, Candy Store, American, $$$
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Oldest Food Businesses-New York-USA
© Cayla Zahoran / Culture Trip
At the Lexington Candy Shop, a taste of times gone by is what’s on the menu. Using handmade bread from an early 20th-century bakery and ice cream from a company started in 1861, this retro restaurant cooks up classic “American Luncheonette” cuisine. Tuna melts, hamburgers, and ice cream fountain concoctions are just a sampling of the spot’s old-school offerings.

The Ziegfield Head

On an ordinary block in Manhattan’s Upper East Side lies a piece (literally) of history dating back to New York City’s Roaring Twenties. At its peak, the Ziegfeld Theatre was considered a design marvel, complete with an enormous mural, 10-foot-wide (three meters) classical columns, and twin female figures standing guard outside its entrance. While the Art Deco triumph was torn down in 1966, the Ziegfield Head, once belonging to one of the building’s limestone ladies, now surprisingly stands guard outside a townhouse stoop.

The Ziegfeld Head | © Tim Buchman / WikiCommons

The Frick Collection

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Move beyond the Met to discover one of the area’s most internationally recognized institutions you may have never heard of. Housed in a Gilded Age mansion, The Frick Collection counts creations by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and more amongst its full-time residents. Since opening its doors in 1935, Old Master paintings, European sculpture, and decorative arts have always had a home at the Frick.

The Roosevelt Island Tram

Building, Hiking Trail
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The Roosevelt Island Tram | © m01229 / Flickr
Say “no” to sightseeing tours: the best way to witness Manhattan’s Upper East Side is not the way you’d expect. For great views of the neighborhood—and of New York City’s East River—climb aboard the Roosevelt Island Tram, the local’s choice for aerial entertainment. The tram, which provides a passage from Manhattan’s East Side to Roosevelt Island, offers priceless city sights, all for a single swipe of your MetroCard.

Café Sabarsky

Restaurant, Cafe, Austrian, $$$
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Cafe Sabarsky, New York
Cafe Sabarsky, New York | Courtesy of Café Sabarsky

Enjoy an authentic taste of Old Vienna without leaving the city (or entering a time machine) at Café Sabarsky. Situated inside the Neue Gallery, this elegant eatery specializes in edible works of art. Turn-of-the-century Vienna serves as the inspiration at this café, where people of all ages can enjoy classic Viennese cuisine, including hot spiced red wine, cheese-stuffed bratwurst with riesling sauerkraut, and chestnut cream soup with Viennese melange.

Carl Schurz Park

Bridge, Park
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Attention, outdoors enthusiasts: there’s more to Manhattan’s Upper East Side than Central Park. Leave the tourists behind at Carl Schurz Park, home to two popular dog runs, a waterfront promenade, and beautiful views of the Roosevelt Island Lighthouse, the East River, an 18th-century mansion, and more.


Restaurant, Italian, $$$
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Don’t tell Nonna: Sfoglia is our pick for authentic Italian cuisine this side of Sicily—or Brooklyn. Here, clouds of homemade ricotta, spaghetti with egg yolk and Pecorino, and fresh corn pesto fusilli are cooked the same way Ma makes it. Most delicious of all? The restaurant’s strict “no electronics” policy, which helps diners focus on flavor, not Facebook.

Park Avenue Armory

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Think Brooklyn has a monopoly on unconventional entertainment? With its commitment to non-traditional visual and performing arts, Park Avenue Armory invites you to think again. Billing itself as “part American palace, part industrial shed,” this 55,000-square-foot venue is a unique space for unique artists dealing in film, live action, music, and more.

Creel and Gow

Shop, Store
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If a treasure map of Manhattan existed, it would end at Creel and Gow. Housed in the former stables of a historic Lexington Avenue townhouse, this self-described “cabinet de curiosities” combs the globe for taxidermy, antiques, jewelry, and other unique finds. It’s the perfect place to add to your collection (or inspire you to start one), as Creel and Gow makes acquiring objects feel like an adventure.