The nearly 4.3 mile stretch between the western part of Central Park and the Hudson River is one of Manhattan’s most cosmopolitan and culturally rich districts and there are many things to do in the Upper West Side. In the late 19th century, with the completion of Central Park, beautiful homes with breathtaking views of the green space were built right next to the park. In the 20th century, immigrants who arrived in New York in masses provided NYC with cultural diversity through restaurants and shops.
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Getting to the Upper West Side
Multiple train lines lead you to the Upper West Side, therefore getting there isn’t a problem. The ACB and D lines run along Central Park West. You can get off at the 59th Street / Columbus Circle stop and walk north. The 1 train goes along Broadway and also runs on the west side of Central Park. You can get off the subway at 66th Street/Lincoln Center station.
Top 5 Things To Do in the Upper West Side
There are a lot of things to do in the Upper West Side and we understand that sometimes people don’t have a lot of time to see the whole neighborhood. With that being said, we compiled our top 5 things to do in the Upper West Side so you know exactly where to go. Later on in the guide, we’ll get to more places and attractions that you can also check out.
- Central Park – If you want to get away from the skyscrapers and the buildings, then head on over to Central Park. Tourists and locals alike come here just to take a stroll and enjoy mother nature. It’s a nice place to just relax and perfect for families. (Address: Columbus Circle Entrance, Subway ACBD 59th Street/Columbus Circle Station)
- Columbia University Campus – Columbia University is an Ivy League school which means it’s one of the most prestigious schools not just in the US, but in the world as well. People like to check out the campus as some of the brightest minds have attended school here. (Address: 116th St & Broadway, New York, NY 10027, Subway 1 116th Street/Columbia University)
- Columbus Circle – This area is pretty much the beginning of the Upper West Side and is right on the border of Midtown, Manhattan. The Time Warner Center is located here and inside has shops like Whole Foods, J. Crew and H&M. Also, the entrance to Central Park West is located here as well. (Address: Columbus Circle Entrance, Subway ACBD 59th Street/Columbus Circle Station)
- Lincoln Center – The venue is home to some of the best opera, film, theater and more. It’s an iconic spot in the Upper West Side and used to be the home of New York Fashion Week. There’s always something amazing playing at the Lincoln Center and is definitely one of the best things to do in the Upper West Side. (Address:
- American Museum of Natural History – If you’ve ever seen the movie “Night at the Museum” featuring Ben Stiller, then this place will look very familiar to you. As a matter of fact, the museum sometimes holds a special exhibition where you do get to actually stay overnight at the museum. If you want to save money, make sure to check out the New York Pass as it gives you access to this museum and many others as well. Click here to purchase the New York Pass. (Address: Central Park West & 79th St, New York, NY 10024, Subway ACB 81st Street/American Museum of Natural History)
Things To Do in the Upper West Side
If you have more time to stroll around the Upper West Side, here are some more spots we definitely recommend.
Food and Drinks in the Upper West Side
Time Warner Center
Situated right on Columbus Circle, Time Warner Center attracts many tourists and locals alike and is one of the things to do in the Upper West Side. It features amazing views of Central Park and some of the Manhattan skyline. It also features a bunch of restaurants and shops (We’ll get to the shopping portion in this guide later on). One of the most prominent restaurants in the world is located here. The venue, Per Se was founded by the famous chef Thomas Keller who also started the famous restaurant, French Laundry.
We realize that Central Park is right in the neighborhood and while it is the most popular park, people sometimes forget about another beautiful greenery in Riverside Park. It’s also right next to the water making it perfect for a long walk, run or bike ride. The park starts in the Upper West Side (72nd St.) and ends in Harlem (158th St.).
General Grant National Memorial
Riverside Park has another landmark on the Upper West Side. The General Grant National Memorial is the resting place of Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885), War of Secession General, and 18th President of the United States. His wife is also buried in the mausoleum.
Go Watch a Show at Beacon Theatre
The theater opened up in 1929 and is an iconic piece of architecture in the neighborhood. Some of the best things to do in the Upper West Side is to catch a show at Beacon Theatre where world class talent come here to perform. Former performers include David Bowie, Duran Duran and Mariah Carey.
Relax at Boat Basin Cafe
Situated right next to the Hudson on 79th street, Boat Basin Cafe is a great place to take a break. On days with really great weather, the weekend tends to get packed with tourists and locals day-drinking or just relaxing and enjoying the view. If you’re not looking for a really busy crowd, make sure to stop by during the week in the morning.
Enjoy the Architecture the Upper West Side Has to Offer
NYC is filled with numerous and unique architecture and the Upper West Side is no different. The San Remo is another iconic building in this particular area. It opened in 1930 and is a two tower luxury apartment that can be seen from Central Park. Famous figures have and still occupy the building. Former and present occupants included the likes of Tiger Woods, Steven Spielberg and many more.
One of Manhattan’s famous campuses is Columbia University and is located in the Upper West Side. It’s an Ivy League school and has an outstanding reputation that’s globally recognized. Present and former leaders have attended this school. With a recognized name, tourists and locals view the campus daily.
Shopping on The Upper West Side
The area around Columbus Circle is considered a popular shopping area and rightly so. The Shops inside Time Warner Center offers a range of retail chains, such as H&M, Michael Kors, J.Crew and many more, as well as a Whole Foods Supermarket. For the running fanatics out there, the New York Running Company has a store in the Time Warner Center also. Here, runners can store their valuables here and go out and run around Central Park as well as purchase the the latest collections of popular sports labels and a huge selection of running shoes. The staff here is highly-qualified as well and knows their stuff when it comes to running.
Century 21 Department Store
For the people that LOVE designer clothes but are on a budget, then Century 21 is for you. Here you’ll find great deals on high-end clothing such as Off-White, Yohji Yamamoto and many more. The prices can still be a little steep but it’s better than paying full price. Definitely take your chances because you never know what kind of deals you can find.
The Art and Museums in the Upper West Side
The Upper West Side provides tons of cultural highlights. In addition to the events and shows offered by Lincoln Center alone, it is the museums that makes this neighborhood shine culturally making it one of the best things to do in the Upper West Side.
The American Folk Art Museum
The American Folk Art Museum offers its visitors over 5,000 attractive exhibits of folk arts and crafts. Here you’ll discover American Indian chiefs’ quilts, elaborate blankets made from hundreds of cotton patches from early American settlers and many other decorative exhibits. (Address: 2 Lincoln Square / 66th Street corner).
American Museum of Natural History
If you really wanted to, a full day can be spent at the famous American Museum of Natural History. Many of you may know it from the hit movie, “Night at the Museum”. On five floors, the history of the planet as we know it is exhibited. From the Stone Age to the Space Age, from dinosaur bones to distant galaxies, it’s an interesting journey on an incredible 111,483 square feet of space. The museum gives you a lesson on the past and our lives on planet Earth. The American Museum of Natural History opened in 1869 and spans four blocks on Central Park West. (Address: Central Park West & 79th St). With the New York Pass you even have free entrance to the museum and you can also just walk past the often long lines.
The Museum of Arts & Design
The Museum of Arts & Design, located on Columbus Circle, is dedicated to contemporary crafts and design. It is considered the best of its kind in the US. The museum shop is great and offers a large selection of various articles. Also, definitely make a stop in the café because you’ll be able to enjoy a fabulous view of Central Park (address: 2 Columbus Circle).
New York Historical Society
Founded in 1804, the New York Historical Society Museum is the oldest museum in New York City. Re-opened in April 2011 after a three-year refurbishment, the museum attracts many visitors with its collection of 500,000 photographs from 1850 to the present day, a variety of everyday items, newspapers, letters and an impressive collection of glass lamps by Louis C. Tiffany (address: 170 Central Park West). The New York Pass also offers you free admission here.
Living in the Upper West Side
The Upper West Side stretches from Columbus Circle on 59th Street all the way north to 110th Street. Central Park West is on the eastern side and Riverside Park on the Hudson River is on the west. It is no secret that money just like its counterpart on the eastern side of Central Park, the Upper East Side, plays a big role. Well-kept brownstone houses and immaculate facades gives the the Upper West Side a village charm. The West and the East Side are equally attractive to rich families. The difference, however, is that the west side has far fewer real estate in direct comparison.
Hotels in the Upper West Side
- The Lucerne Hotel (Address: 201 W 79th St, New York, NY 10024) – Click here to book.
- ArtHouse Hotel (Address: 2178 Broadway, W 77th St, New York, NY 10024) – Click here to book.
- Hotel Belleclaire (Address: 250 W 77th St, New York, NY 10024) – Click here to book.
- The Empire Hotel (Address: 44 W 63rd St, New York, NY 10023) – Click here to book.
- Hotel Beacon (Address: 2130 Broadway, New York, NY 10023) – Click here to book.
Neighborhoods Right Next to the Upper West Side
There are a lot of things to do in the Upper West Side and if you enjoyed the neighborhood make sure to check out the surrounding neighborhoods as well.
Things To Do in Harlem
The 29 Best Things to Do in Midtown Manhattan
29 Amazing Things To Do in the Upper East Side
Neighborhoods that are Similar to the Upper West Side
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Being a photographer and creative in general, New York City, I think is the perfect place to be. I moved to NYC from Boston in 2013 and never looked back. Loving New York has given me the opportunity to do what I love and share those images with you all.