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What to Do on the Upper East Side

November 1, 2018 - by City Guide
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As far back as the the 1800s, the stretch of Fifth Avenue along Central Park was known as Millionaire's Row. This nickname could easily be revived today, as The Upper East Side maintains a reputation as home to old money. But there's much more to the neighborhood than the gleam of Park Avenue high-rises and well-dressed doormen. The Upper East Side attracts millions of visitors each year with a long line of cultural institutions known as Museum Mile, which includes the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Guggenheim Museum NYC

Main page photo: Photo: David M. Heald  © The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York

The Upper East Side begins at the southeast corner of Central Park at East 59th Street and extends to about East 96th Street. Central Park, designed by Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted, first opened in 1859. On the east side of the park are the Central Park Zoo and the Loeb Boathouse, open for dining and rowboat rentals on Central Park Lake. Nearby are the Alice in Wonderland Statue and the toy sailboats on Conservatory Water. Farther north is the immaculate Conservatory Garden. Located across from the Museum of the City of New York, these formal gardens are filled with fountains, sculptures, and artful displays of seasonal blossoms, hedges, and trees.

Luxury apartment buildings on Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue account for the reputation of The Upper East Side, which regularly ranks among the most expensive zip codes in the country. Stores on Madison Avenue, which include Barney'sChloe, and Chanel, await shoppers with fine taste and money to spend.

East of Lexington Avenue are less expensive residential areas full of young people and families. The long-awaited Second Avenue Subway (now offering the Q line) has also brought an influx of restaurants and storefronts into the eastern portion of the Upper East Side.

Many of the historical structures on Fifth Avenue have become state embassies and cultural institutions. Antique mansions like Carnegie Mansion and the former home of philanthropist Felix M. Warburg have been converted into the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and the Jewish Museum, respectively. 

Museum Mile begins with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the preeminent art institution in the U.S. With countless works of art spanning nearly 6,000 years of world history, the museum contains multitudes. While you're there, visit the ancient Egyptian Temple of Dendur and the Costume Institute for the wildly popular fashion exhibit each year. One block away, in the Brutalist building once home to the Whitney Museum, the Met shows its modern and contemporary collections at The Met Breuer

Walk north on Fifth Avenue from the Met, and you'll find the rest of Museum Mile. Located in the spiral structure designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is located at 88th Street. Other residents of Museum Mile include Neue Galerie, the The Frick Collection, The Museum of the City of New York, and El Museo del Barrio.  

If you head over to 88th Street and the East River, you can see Gracie Mansion, where the Mayor of New York City resides. This grand structure is surrounded by Carl Schurz Park, an area that stretches out with several blocks of grassy lawns, recreation areas, and benches with waterfront views. Just south of the park at 81st Street is John Finley Walk, which runs along FDR Drive. With playgrounds and enclosed dog runs, this is a lovely place to take the family for an afternoon.

After shopping or an afternoon at the museums, the well-kept homes and parks of the Upper East Side provide much-needed beauty and serenity. For a dessert break, there's always the whimsy of Serendipity 3, famous for its Frrrozen Hot Chocolate.

For our guides on neighborhoods around the Upper East Side, check out Harlem, the culinary gem to the north. South of the Upper East Side is Midtown East, home of Grand Central Station.

Dining on the Upper East Side: For a complete list of restaurants on the Upper East Side, click here.


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