Whether it is museums and culture you strive for, locations from endless films and television shows, or just beautiful streets and architecture that make a walk around here that much more visually fulfilling; the Upper West and East Sides (and surrounds) are some of the nicest neighbourhoods to explore on foot in New York City.
This guide offers various highlights above 59th Street, although it does not feature Central Park as this landmark truly deserves its own guide altogether, and will be the next one in the series. I love this part of the city and hopefully you will too once you see the type of places you can visit up this end. However, whether you make the following stops or not, these neighbourhoods are definitely worth exploring.
NYC Neighbourhood #1 – Morningside Heights
Morningside Heights is sandwiched right between Harlem and the Upper West Side. It is not a very big neighbourhood, sitting between West 110th and West 125th Streets; but it does have a few key stops: The Riverside Church, Columbia University and Tom’s Restaurant.
The Riverside Church, is located near W 120th at 490 Riverside Drive and was first established in 1841. It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. So why visit? Well, it has had its fair share of notable speakers in its more modern day history, from Martin Luther King Jr. in 1967 with his ‘Beyond Vietnam’ speech opposing the Vietnam War; as well as Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan and Nelson Mandela to name just a few. Visually, this gothic-style church is quite lovely to look at too.
Not far from here is Columbia University which can be found at W 116th Street and Broadway. This is an Ivy League University, (with past alumni like Barack Obama), so it’s always worth a wander around just to see how extravagant the campus is. Columbia has also been used in many film and television productions, however one of its most notable appearances was in Spider-man(2002) which used the Low Library steps as a filming location.
NYC Neighbourhood #2 – Upper West Side
The neighbourhood down from Morningside Heights is the Upper West Side. This neighbourhood is remarkably big comprising of everything from W 59th to W 110th Street. The Upper West Side is very upscale, with many beautiful brownstones and other interesting buildings situated right in here, so it is definitely worth a look!
Walking down Central Park West, which is an Avenue that borders the west side of Central Park, (and is actually 8th Avenue), there are two important stops to make as a start: The American Museum of Natural History and The Dakota Building.
The American Museum of Natural History is one of my favourite museums in New York City. It is located at Central Park West and W 79th Street. This museum caters to all ages, (though it makes anyone feel like a kid again when you get to tour the Dinosaur Halls!) There is so much to see here, that a few hours will only just scratch the surface of it all, so be sure you decide what you want to see once you arrive if you are short on time.
The Dakota Building, which is a few blocks down from the Museum can be found on Central Park West and W 72nd Street. This building is one of the city’s most recognised structures, since its construction in the late 1880s. It has been home for many celebrities over the years including Hollywood royalty such as Judy Garland and Rosemary Clooney.
However, tragedy truly put this place on the map with the murder of The Beatles singer/songwriter, John Lennon right outside the W 72nd Street entrance; after he was shot by crazed fan Mark David Chapman on the night of December 8th, 1980. This is a meaningful stop for any fan of music, but especially if you loved The Beatles and were alive when it actually happened.
NYC Neighbourhood #3 – Upper East Side
One of the most famous neighbourhoods of New York City, is where the richest of the rich can be found: the Upper East Side. Once known as the ‘Silk Stocking’ neighbourhood, the Upper East Side is quite large basically beginning from E 59th Street all the way up to E 96th Street.
There is an endless amount of things to see for any traveler here; with some of the world’s most famous museums on offer right here, including The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art standing within blocks of each other. This is also a great neighbourhood to track down certain film and television locations, if you are into that kind of thing. (I sure am!)
The Guggenheim is located on 5th Ave and E 89th Street, housing art collections of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern and Contemporary Art. The building alone is a cultural icon with its white cylindrical structure, which is wider at the top than it is at the bottom. Tickets for the Guggenheim are also set at $22US.
The Met is also best known through popular culture as being the ‘steps’ from the television series, ‘Gossip Girl’ (2007-2012) where Blair Waldorf and her posse would spend their lunchtime break at school. In another side note as well, right across the street from the Met’s entrance at E 82nd Street, is the exterior of the penthouse apartment (and opening scene) where Carrie and Mr Big look for an apartment in the ‘Sex and the City’ (2008) film. This is officially found at 1010 5th Ave.
NYC Neighbourhood #4 – Lenox Hill
The neighbourhood Lenox Hill actually forms the lower section of the Upper East Side from E 59th to E 77th Streets. Whilst some class it as belonging to the Upper East Side completely, it is a standalone neighbourhood within this area.
Lenox Hill is one of my all-time favourite neighbourhoods in New York City because it has some really cool places to visit: Serendipity3, Dylan’s Candy Bar, and The Baker Street Pub. I am just in love with this part of town!
Serendipity 3 is many things: dessert heaven; a celebrity haunt from the likes of Katie Holmes to Bill Clinton to Andy Warhol, as well as being a backdrop for many famous films over the years. Serendipity 3 is the home of the famous ‘Frrrozen Hot Chocolate’ which is a must for anyone’s first time here! This drink is a dessert in itself, but if you are feeling even sweeter go for the Hot Fudge Sundae – 3 scoops of ice cream deliciousness (and more) right there! But, if you have $1000US to spare, why not order the
Serendipity 3 is located at 225 E 60th Street right between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. Any fan of romantic comedies especially, will recognise this place from its many appearances in fan favourites like, One Fine Day (1996) with Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney and Serendipity (2001) starring Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack, both of which featured the ‘Frrrozen Hot Chocolate’!
Dylan’s Candy Bar is a stone’s throw from Serendipity 3, found at 1011 3rd Avenue right on the intersection of 60th Street. If there is a wait for Serendipity 3, I always head over there for a browse. Dylan’s is a candy store with pretty much everything…over 3 floors! They have thousands of international goodies, even from Australia, and old fashioned favourites to modern day delights. My personal favourite involves filling up my own bag of sweets so I get a little bit of everything…why not right?
Dylan’s was established by Ralph Lauren’s daughter Dylan in 2001 and although there are 4 stores across the US, the New York store is the main attraction for tourists and celebrities alike. It is a really fun stop to make that will have any of us feeling like a kid once again. It truly is a modern day version of ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’, and has also been featured in television shows, such as ‘The Mindy Project’ and ‘The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ to name just a few!
The Baker Street Pub has had a pretty interesting history since the 1960s, being the location of the very first T.G.I Friday’s restaurant in 1965, and remaining as such until the mid 1990s, when it became the British-themed Baker Street Pub. This pub was named in reference to the home of Sherlock Holmes, whose residence was 221b Baker Street, London between 1881-1904, according to the classic stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The Baker Street Pub is located at 1152 1st Avenue on the intersection of E 63rd Street. This pub has become even more well-known since the late 1980s, when the hit Tom Cruise film ‘Cocktail’(1988) used this location as the bar Brian Flanagan would begin his career as a talented bartender, under the wing of Bryan Brown’s Doug Coughlin. This bar was just as much a character in the film as its stars were. Even today, it still looks exactly the same as it did in the movie; so if you are a fan of the film, make sure you stop on by for a Cocktail, Beer…or even a Red Eye.
So there’s the Morningside Heights, Upper West Side, Upper East Side and Lenox Hill neighbourhoods of New York City. I hope something in this article has inspired you to want to visit!
Stay tuned for the next installment: Central Park.