Living in the Upper East Side
Upper East Side living means having it all in your own backyard. Enjoy afternoons at the Central Park Zoo, linger over collections and exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, indulge luxury shopping fantasies at Barneys, and sip cocktails at the Penrose.
Families with names like Rockefeller and Kennedy aren’t the only ones who can partake of its charms. June’s Museum Mile Festival is New York’s biggest block party, when Fifth Avenue shuts down and the museums open to all.
Quotidian life is quieter. The Upper East Side is a clean and safe neighborhood whose inhabitants range from retirees to young professionals on the go. And the area is easily accessible, with public transportation including buses and the 4, 5 and 6 subway lines.
Upper East Side history
This area’s architectural gems serve as signposts for the area’s narrative. In 1799, wealthy merchant Archibald Grace began construction on the landmark Gracie Mansion. This Federal-style dwelling served as Gracie’s private residence until the aftermath of the War of 1812 bankrupted him. For decades it housed a succession of museums until 1942, when it became the ‘Little White House’ designated for New York City mayors.
Through the early 1900s, gilded age mansions sat comfortably near the Queen Anne style row houses constructed for the middle class. Then they were torn down, replaced by townhomes and apartments row houses crafted with great attention to detail. Iron and glass entrance hoods and Renaissance-inspired carvings on façades still stand sentry. Architectural history flourishes, thanks in part to conservation efforts.
Upper East Side real estate
Buyers with conservative budgets as well as those with more to spend will find treasure troves of real estate offerings in the Upper East Side. Walk-ups and high-rises mix easily with stately townhomes, while co-ops, exposed-brick studios and modern high-end apartments present abundant housing options. Upper East Side real estate encapsulates the hip yet established atmosphere and sophisticated style still in demand today. Georgian, Victorian, Neo-Federal and Art Deco styles abound, and genteel, friendly living reigns.
Upper East Side shopping
Madison Avenue has well earned its moniker as the ‘Gold Coast’ of high-end Upper East Side shopping. Whether it’s animal print skinny pants at Roberto Cavalli, hip chunky boots at Chloé, handbags from Prada or jewelry from Cartier, boutique shopping abounds. Or for a variety of big designer labels all under one roof, look no further than the legendary Bloomingdale’s.
Even bargain-hunting is an event in this neighborhood. The Society Boutique thrift store, which sells Gucci, Valentino, Armani and more, raises funds for Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital. Here, designer wear and accessories go for prices unheard of at any flagship store.
Upper East Side nightlife
Upper East Side nightlife is dynamic. For a Roaring Twenties feel, the Mark Restaurant and Bar in the Mark Hotel echoes the building’s 1927 Art Deco design. Or you can catch a glimpse of comedians like Conan O’Brien and cast members from “Saturday Night Live” performing at Comic Strip Live.
For a low-key ambience, visit the rustic Bondurants, a brick-walled bar featuring craft beer, a rotating draft list, bourbon, handcrafted cocktails and good old Southern fare. Alternatively, the Auction House’s baroque decor makes for an ideal intimate atmosphere.
Sugary pick-me-ups at delightful bakery Two Little Red Hens or a nightcap at the Carlyle Hotel’s Bemelmans Bar are both appealing options for rounding out the evening.
Upper East Side parks
The Upper East Side teems with magnificent green spaces, not least of which is Central Park. Here you can enjoy a free walking tour or visit the zoo. It’s easy to spend entire days exploring everything Central Park has to offer, from the Shakespeare Garden to the vintage carousel, iterations of which have been in operation since 1871. Almost 60 hand-carved and hand-painted wooden horses make up this ride, one of the largest merry-go-rounds in the country.
Though considerably smaller than Central Park, Carl Schurtz Park, John Jay Park, and Riverside Park are no less enjoyable. With two dog runs, Carl Schurtz Park is the perfect playground for canine friends, while John Jay’s two pools entice swimmers. Meanwhile, Riverside Park’s lush four-mile promenade stretching along the Hudson River beckons bikers and walkers.
Upper East Side restaurants
Upper East Side dining is as simple or elaborate as you want it to be, and the ambience is just as much a part of the dining experience as the food itself. Romantic dinners in the Pierre Hotel’s Rotunda Room are feasts for the palate and the eyes alike. Meticulously restored murals line the oval-shaped room, and clouds meandering across the blue-sky ceiling make for exquisite views from any seat.
For a burger or a hearty breakfast, old time diners have you covered. Comfy locales like Neil’s Coffee Shop, near Hunter College, serve up eggs and coffee just as they did fifty years ago.
Upper East Side events
There is seemingly no end to the array of events happening at any given time in the Upper East Side. Street fairs and festivals abound, and many are budget-friendly, if not free. Annual events include the Halloween Howl and Healthy Hound Fair at Carl Schurtz Park, where dog lovers are invited to enjoy a parade of pooches decked out for the costume competition.
Summer Streets happens from 7am to 1pm on the first three Saturdays in August. Similar to the Museum Mile Festival, streets close down to traffic and open up to everyone else. And the famous New York City Marathon is yet another annual event that provides Upper East Siders a prime front row seat.
Upper East Side attractions
The prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of myriad exciting museums in the Upper East Side. Lesser known are the Neue Galerie, which concentrates on early 20th Century German and Austrian art and design, and El Museo del Barrio, which exhibits pre-Columbian through modern Latino art and culture from South America.
Housed in a Fifth Avenue mansion, the Frick Collection showcases a number of masterworks and hosts seasonal concert series and educational programs.
You can also participate in events for all ages at the 92nd Street Y. This 140-year-old Jewish organization enriches lives through the visual and performing arts, literature, culture and education.
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Local tips and information for going out in the Upper East Side from The Corcoran Group. Explore dining, shopping and nightlife.All Upper East Side tips