The Upper East Side is home to some of the wealthiest individuals and families. There are luxury apartments inhabited by the chicest New Yorkers. But, don’t let the glamour scare you. There’s a lot of things to do in the Upper East Side where there are well-kept restaurants, exclusive designer boutiques and some of the best museums are here. This guide will explain some of the best spots to check out.
Getting to the Upper East Side
Getting to the Upper East Side is pretty easy. There are essentially two train lines that run through the neighborhood. You have the green line and yellow line. The green has the 4 and 5 trains while the yellow has the Q train. The 4 and 5 continue to run north while the Q train stops service at 86th street.
Top 5 Things to do in The Upper East Side
Here are our top 5 things to do in the Upper East Side which is good if you’re limited on time. Later on in the guide, we’ll get to more places and attractions that you can also check out.
- Bethesda Fountain in Central Park – One of the best things to do in the Upper East Side especially when the weather is nice out is to walk around Central Park. While walking around, make sure to check out the Bethesda Fountain.
- Metropolitan Museum of Art (The MET) – Located on Museum Mile in the Upper East Side, The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a great place for all ages. The museum is so popular that even the biggest fashion event is held here, The Met Gala. Tourists and tourists alike come here and check out their amazing exhibitions about various subjects such as fashion, ancient Egypt and many more. If you purchase the New York Pass, you’ll be able to get access to the MET and other attractions. Learn more about the New York Pass here.
Papaya King – There’s nothing like New York hot dogs and arguably one of the best is located in the Upper East Side, called Papaya King. This place opened up in 1932 and still running strong. It combines tropical drinks and hot dogs tourists and locals to enjoy.
- Walk by Gracie Mansion – The mansion is the official residence of the New York Mayor. Not all of the mayors have necessarily lived there, but meetings and conferences are usually held at Gracie Mansion.
- Guggenheim Museum – The Guggenheim Museum is one of the icons in NYC. It has a very distinct architectural look by Frank Lloyd Wright. The museum exhibits contemporary and modern art. If you’d like to learn more, please visit their website here.
Things To Do in the Upper East Side
The Upper East Side is home to the chic and the very rich. You can just tell from the architecture of the buildings, the stores and the attractions that this area is very expensive. In addition, there are a lot of activities and events that go on in the Upper East Side. Here are more things to check out.
Food and Drinks in the Upper East Side
A Trip to Roosevelt Island via the Tramway
If you’re on East 59th Street, you will reach the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge or the 59th Street Bridge. On 2nd Ave and 59th Street, you can visit Roosevelt Island and take a ride on the Roosevelt Island Tramway while enjoying incredible views of Manhattan. The good thing about this is that the ride only costs $2.75 and can be easily paid with one swipe of the Metrocard. Roosevelt Island is an approximately 3km long island is right in between Manhattan and Queens. It’s a great place to walk/bike around as it offers great views of Manhattan.
John Jay Park
If the weather is permitting and it’s a glorious day out, take a walk at John Jay Park in the Upper East Side. This 3.3-acre park is a great place to go to and relax. It’s situated on the East River and the FDR and has a pool, playgrounds, basketball and handball courts, and fitness equipment. (Address: FDR Drive, between E 76th–E 78th St., New York, NY 10021)
The Art Farm NYC
This is one is for the kids and definitely one of the things to do in the Upper East Side. The Art Farm houses New York’s only indoor petting zoo and offers classes and even hosts birthday parties. It’s a place the whole family can enjoy. They help engage children in learning and being compassionate to every living creature. (Address: 419 E 91st St, New York, NY 10128)
If you want to experience the dive bar/diner atmosphere, then the Subway Inn in the Upper East Side is the place to go. It was named one of the eight most authentic dive bars’s in the USA by the Washington Post. It opened up in 1937 and was frequently visited by celebrities such as Anthony Bourdain, Marilyn Monroe, and Joe DiMaggio. Although it has relocated from its original spot, the Subway Inn is still operating in the Upper East Side at 8504, 1140 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10065.
Gossip Girl Tour
Fans of the hit show Gossip Girl will be able to discover many spots because they actually film this series on the Upper East Side. An exciting guided tour will take you to the must-see spots on the Upper East Side. Also, just to note, the Gossip Girl Tour is not just something for fans of the series. The tour also shows the main highlights of the area as well.
Shopping in The Upper East Side
The Upper East Side shopping scene can be very expensive. While there are vintage and thrift stores in the neighborhood, the area is generally mainstream already. There are high-end designer stores such as Michael Kors, Dolce & Gabbana and Kate Spade. People also flock to Barney’s New York on 660 Madison Avenue which is right on the border of Midtown and the Upper East Side. There, shoppers will be able to find designer everything. If you want the latest trends in clothes, then Barney’s is the place to be.
As for thrift and vintage and thrift stores, definitely check out Vintage Twin. They have multiple locations in the city and numerous celebrities and models have shopped from their stores. (Address: 1132 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10065)
The Art and Museum Scenes in the Upper East Side
The art and museum scene shines in this neighborhood making it one of the best things to do in the Upper East Side. Most of the major museums in NYC are located here. There’s even a name for this location because all of the museums are located on the same “strip”, which is famously known as “Museum Mile.”
New York’s Famous “Museum Mile”
- Metropolitan Museum of Art – It’s the largest art museum in the United States and is famous for its unique exhibitions and collections. It’s also home to one of the biggest fashion events, The Met Gala. (Address: 1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028)
- Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum – This museum is 1 of 19 Smithsonian Institutions in the United States and is the only museum in the US that is dedicated to historical and contemporary design. Here’s a fun fact for you all – famous fashion designer, Tory Burch has held her fashion shows here for the past few seasons. (Address: 2 E 91st St, New York, NY 10128)
- El Museo del Barrio – This museum is also known as El Museo and is NYC’s leading Latino cultural institution. The museum welcomes visitors from all backgrounds so they can learn about the artistic background of Latin and Caribbean cultures. (Address: 1230 5th Ave, New York, NY 10029)
- Museum of the City of New York – This museum was originally located where the Gracie House currently is. Here, visitors can experience the historical past of New York. Exhibitions include over 750,000 memorabilia, prints, photographs, and artifacts. (Address: 1220 5th Ave & 103rd Street, New York, NY 10029)
- Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum – Also known as “The Guggenheim Museum” is an architectural masterpiece and was founded in 1939. There are a total of five Guggenheim museums worldwide, but the oldest one in New York’s Upper East Side building. Because of its circular features, The Guggenheim Museum is without a doubt one of the most famous buildings in the city and one of the most popular modern art museums in Manhattan.
- Neue Galerie – If you’d like to witness German and Austrian art Neue Galerie on the Upper East Side. The collection of the gallery is remarkable. Austrian art of the early 20th century features works by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka. German art features work by Paul Klee, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Otto Dix, George Grosz, Lyonel Feininger, and Wassily Kandinsky are just a few of the treasures of the museum.
There are many other museums on “Museum Mile” and definitely one of the best things to do in the Upper East Side. Also, to save money, please take a look at the New York Pass. A lot of the museums are included in this pass.
Hotels in the Upper East Side
- The Bentley Hotel (Address: 500 E 62nd St, New York, NY 10065) – Click here to book.
- Hotel Wales (Address: 1295 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10128) – Click here to book.
- The Mark (25 E 77th St, New York, NY 10075) – Click here to book.
- Lowell Hotel (28 East 63rd Street, at Madison Ave, New York, NY 10065) – Click here to book.
Living in the Upper East Side
The rich and chic live in this neighborhood. TV series, documentaries, and movies are constantly being filmed in this area. The elderly who have enough money make this area their homes and there are many high-end stores in the neighborhood.
Also today, many stars and important figures still live on the Upper East Side. Martin Scorsese, Michael Bloomberg, Woody Allen, Madonna, Mariah Carey, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and Caroline Kennedy are some of the public figures who have or had property here. The chance of embracing a celebrity is well known in New York City anyway, but more likely on the Upper East 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.