Unbeatable access to parks, beautiful prewar apartment buildings and the bustle of Broadway (the neighborhood’s main thoroughfare) combine to make the Upper West Side one of Manhattan’s most attractive residential neighborhoods. Broadway is where Upper West Siders go to shop. Stylish boutiques, chain stores, mom-and-pop delis and diners, banks, grocery stores, sidewalk cafés and bars compete for everyone’s dollar. On Sundays, the sidewalks of Broadway, Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues fill with strollers, dogs and brunchers. Central Park West is lined with some of the most iconic architecture in Manhattan: The Dakota (where John Lennon and Yoko Ono lived), Beresford, San Remo and El Dorado apartment houses are interspersed with churches and cultural institutions, such as the American Museum of Natural History. A walk along the park side of Central Park West offers the best views.
The Upper West Side is also known for its delicatessens and diners. Zabar’s, born as a smoked fish counter in 1934, attracts crowds with its huge cheese, fish, bakery and meat counters; shoppers scrum for free samples that are announced over the intercom. Murray’s Sturgeon Shop has been a kosher neighborhood favorite since 1946 for fish and deli meats. Barney Greengrass has been serving up Jewish deli delicacies since in 1908 (it moved to its current location in 1929). There’s always a line on weekends for a seat in the attached diner. The Upper West Side’s restaurant scene has improved over the years, too. Neighborhood standouts include French plates at Boulud Sud, a farmers’ market–oriented menu at Telepan, pasta and wood-fired pizza at Celeste and Greek specialties at Kefi. Nightlife for the post-collegiate crowd revolves around Amsterdam Avenue in the 80s. There are also plenty of neighborhood pubs as well as live music at Smoke Jazz & Supper Club-Lounge.
Some of the city’s top cultural institutions are on the Upper West Side. Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts is home to the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Ballet, the New York Philharmonic, Jazz at Lincoln Center and Lincoln Center Theater. Farther uptown on Broadway, Symphony Space fills its schedule with live theater, dance and classical and jazz music. The Beacon Theater, originally a vaudeville stage opened in 1929, is a historic venue for live music and performances. On Central Park West, dinosaur fossils are favorites among the American Museum of Natural History’s collection of 32 million specimens and artifacts, the universe gets a close-up on the giant dome screen at the Hayden Planetarium and the New-York Historical Society chronicles the city’s complex history and hosts activities for kids.
The Upper West Side is surrounded by beautiful green space. Central Park runs along the neighborhood’s entire eastern border, from 59th to 110th Street. Riverside Park, on its western edge, starts at 72nd Street and continues north. At 72nd Street, the New York City Downtown Boathouse offers free kayaking on weekends and holidays; the West 79th Street Boat Basin Café, overlooking a marina, is a popular spot for sunset drinks and sunny weekend brunching. The Hudson River Greenway, part of the 32-mile Manhattan Waterfront Greenway that circles the island, is great for walking, jogging and biking. The 1, 2 and 3 trains to 72nd Street drop you right on Broadway in the heart of the neighborhood.