Things to do on the Upper East Side of NYC

City Travel — By on August 17, 2011 at 6:37 am

By Kayleigh Minicozzi
LG Contributor

Brooklyn Bridge ImageAfter living in New York City for a few years, there are many things that fascinate me about this concrete jungle. The people, the food, the freedom of expression all captivating but one unmistakable trait that constantly intrigues me is that Manhattan has a self-diagnosed case of functioning multiple personality disorder.

The island has no continuity, no central identity but instead is a collage of neighborhoods, vibes and cultural havens. I find jetting across a few avenues and streets is like twisting a kaleidoscope. It instantly transforms my experience, presenting an array of new colors, shapes and vibrant images. For the past few years I’ve unknowingly played the part of a voyeur, sampling different sections of Gotham City for their obvious resources. I pop to the lower east side to see a show, sip on unlimited cocktails at an upper east side brunch spot or browse the vintage shops of the west village but haven’t honestly immersed myself into each area fully. I’ve coyly tried to forge the stamp of a seasoned New Yorker on my resident passport but like a 16 year old with a bad fake ID, it becomes painfully obvious that I don’t navigate the streets of alphabet city enough when I need to secretly consult my pocket map for reassurance.

I explain all of this as a lead up to my most recent and unexpected travel experience. I’ve spent the past 3.5 years as a resident of Hell’s Kitchen. I’ve explored ever nook and cranny of the area between west 36th and 53rd twice. It was my home, complete with a laundry list of favorite restaurants, a go to nail salon, after work watering hole, grocery store and late night munchie dives. Once my lease was up this June, I reluctantly took on the logistical nightmare of relocation all New Yorkers hate and eventually moved into a new apartment on the Upper East Side. It was in the first few days of this experience that I realized I knew nothing about this section of Manhattan. I obviously thought I did before because I knew a girl who lived on 88th and 3rd or I frequented a restaurant on 77th near the park.

Once I was waking up in this area every day, doing things like buying groceries and commuting to work, I was hit with an uneasy feeling of being an outsider. I didn’t in fact know this area at all and decided to take on the exciting role of a tourist. I embraced similar steps I’d take if I were preparing for a trip or exploring an exotic location. I looked in the guide books, yelped for the best restaurants, studied the transportation system and eventually put foot to the pavement and explored. Almost 2 weeks into my “stay-cation” I’ve discovered a few characteristics about my new home that tickle my fancy and decided to share a few for visitors and Manhattanites alike.

East River and Jackie-O Reservoir Serenity

Central Park ReservoirAfter living in midtown for years and not enjoying the race across the West Side Highway for a glimpse of water, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the easy access points in my new neighborhood. One early morning I escaped the cities towering buildings for a long walk on the East River Promenade. It was a pleasant and tranquil break from the normal hustle and bustle. I was able to stroll along the waters edge and even linger on a park bench for a few book chapters. Similarly a weekend visit to the Reservoir provided air that felt a little fresher and time for quiet reflection. Who knows? With options like these, I just might channel my inner jogger.

Space and a Free Outlet

Starbucks NYCAs simple as it may sound, I was instantly excited by the opportunity to spread out on the Upper East Side. When I am in restaurants I don’t feel like I’m packed in like a sardine, I can browse the grocery store isles without playing bumper cars. Even at Starbucks I can find an open chair and an open outlet, believe it or not. This simple luxury of space is in abundance on the UES and for me truly provided a different New York experience.

Brunch a Whole Bunch

SarabethsSo I obviously brunched on occasion on the UES before but upon moving up here I really think this neighborhood might take the award for the most brunchable area. I’ve really loved the number of affordable options at my finger tips from Alice Tea Cup to the Barking Dog and did I mention there’s not just one but two Sarabeth locations? Score! In addition I’ve found the availability of outdoor seating drastically higher and I have yet felt like I was in a breakfast factory, being quickly ushered out the door.

Some of Central Park’s Best Attractions

The glory of Central Park is not reserved strictly for the residents of the Upper East Side but after my relocation I’ve discovered that it’s a whole different play ground from this perspective. I typically stayed around the southern tip of the park closest to Central Park West and the Pond for my leisurely strolls when I lived in midtown. From my new address I can quickly get to some of the best spots in the park like the Boat House, the Summer Stage (home to free concerts) and the Central Park Zoo.

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    1 Comment

  • KN says:

    There’s so much written about NYC and it’s just one of the places on Earth that you’ve got to visit at least once in your life.