I have a major soft spot for the Upper East Side.

I have made some of my favorite New York memories while living there over the past ten years in my tiny rent controlled 5 floor walk-up apartment.

Besides the cliche rich families in the area, the neighborhood’s got plenty of young professionals and students. 

The neighborhood is one of the most up-and-coming areas in NYC thanks to the recent addition of the 2nd Avenue Subway. 

There are plenty of museums, cool bars, chic boutiques, and trendy coffee shops to hang out at.

Plus, there’s Central Park and the smaller Carl Schurz Park found along the East River.

Seriously, this neighborhood has something for everyone. 

If you don’t believe me, keep reading for my local’s guide to the best things to do on the Upper East Side.

1. Check Out Park Avenue Armory

I can’t believe it took me a few years to discover this cool artist’s venue. 

You can find the Armory on Park Avenue in a historic National Guard Armory from the 1880s.

Today this gothic revival style building is a cultural institution.

It hosts plays, exhibits, interactive artwork, recitals, and concerts.


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2. Go to Lexington Candy Shop

Stepping into this luncheonette is like stepping into a 1920s time warp. 

They even serve homemade soda by mixing caramel syrup with seltzer water. 

Because everything is homemade the old-fashioned way, it’s all delicious (though not diet-friendly). 

The best part about Lexington Candy Shop is that it’s basically a UES landmark, having been in the same location since 1925.

3. Stop by the MET

If you grew up a Girl Girl fan like me, then I guarantee you’ll want to take at least one photo on the iconic MET steps. 

This is my favorite museum in the city.

I love visiting their special rooftop exhibits every summer, along with the special exhibits based on the MET Gala’s most recent theme.

If fashion isn’t your thing, I suggest you check out the Egyptian Wing.

It’s got the largest collection of Egyptian art outside of Cairo!

Don’t wait ages in the admission line, buy your tickets for the MET ahead of time!

4. Enjoy Central Park 

I could spend every day in Central Park, and do when the weather is nice.

I always bring a book and layout during the summer on The Great Lawn. 

My favorite thing to do is snag tickets to Shakespeare in the Park during the summer. You can get free tickets thanks to the Public Theater

Just enter the lottery or go super early in the morning to wait in the large line of theater fanatics.

From Strawberry Fields to Bethesda Fountain, it’s easy to understand why this park is so iconic.

I suggest planning and picking up food for a picnic in the park, assuming the weather is nice.

5. Indulge at Dylan’s Candy Bar

This is every candy lovers’ dream store and a must for anyone craving a sweet treat.

Entering the store feels like stepping into a life-sized version of Candy Land, thanks to the unique candy-themed decor. 

Dylan’s serves up a selection of candies from all over the world, plus has an epic candy-inspired menu at their cafe upstairs. 

Local’s Tip: Head downstairs to check out a wall of candy chosen and signed by celebrities who have stopped by the store over the years. 

6. Visit the Neue Galerie

Okay, so truthfully I stop by here all the time, but not for the art.

Don’t get me wrong, their German and Austrian art collection is stunning, but it’s always the pastries at the Neue Galerie’s Café Sabarsky that call out to me. 

Michelin-star chef Kurt Gutenbrunner offers his take on a traditional Viennese café menu. 

The result makes it the perfect spot for an afternoon coffee and pastry.  

Oh, and while you’re there, check out the world-famous “The Lady in Gold.” 

If you’ve seen the movie Woman in Gold, then you already know the story of this world-famous painting. 

If you haven’t seen it, then you should know it was only recently recovered after being stolen from her family when they fled from the Nazis. 

7. Shop at Bloomingdales

Though it’s always crowded, there’s something almost therapeutic about wandering the many floors of Bloomingdales

Their flagship store has plenty of high-end fashion mixed with more affordable up-and-coming brands. 

Plus, their shoe floor is a low-key heaven for Carrie Bradshaw wannabes.

Local’s Tip: Head to the 7th floor to pick up some fro-yo at Forty Carrots. You can browse while you enjoy your delicious treat! 

8. Marvel at the Guggenheim

This funky looking museum on 5th Avenue is home to all sorts of modern art masterpieces. 

The Guggenheim is a work of art on its own. Famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright built it and it’s part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  

Spend the afternoon getting lost in all the cool art, and maybe even taking an IG photo of the epic spiderweb design on the glass ceiling. 

Plan for any special exhibitions that may go on while you’re in town. 

Book your tickets early for guaranteed entry!

9. Catch a Show at 59E59

This under-the-radar small non-profit theater brings some of the best American and international Off-Broadway productions to New York. 

I can’t count the number of unique and well-acted shows that I’ve caught here over the years. 

The best part is that they have three theaters, allowing for multiple productions to play easily throughout the week.

If you’re a fan of theater and wishing to see something unique, I highly suggest booking yourself a ticket to one of 59E59’s shows. 

10. Check Out The Frick

In case you haven’t noticed, the Upper East Side has a ton of museums.

They have so many that there’s even a small strip of 5th Avenue that’s called Museum Mile. 

Along this area is where you’ll find The Frick, a museum in a gilded age mansion. 

It boasts works by Goya, Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Bellini. 

Plus hosts lectures, special exhibitions, and an acclaimed concert series. 

11. Visit the Society of Illustrators

Since 1901, the Society of Illustrators has been promoting the art of illustration. 

You can stop by their NYC headquarters to view annual exhibitions and check out special events.

It’s one of the more unique spots that I’ve ever visited on the Upper East Side, and a must visit for any artists.

12. Grab Some Ice Cream

One of my favorite things about the UES is the amount of ice cream shops.

I swear there’s one on almost every block.

My favorite one to stop at is Van Leeuwen. They’ve got tons of artisanal flavors to choose from, including my favorite flavor, Earl Grey.

I know it sounds weird, but trust me, it’s incredible!

If you’re looking for a unique ice cream experience, check out UES

It looks like your typical ice cream shop from the front, but if you head straight in and through the fake wall to the “storage room”.

There you’ll find an ice cream themed speakeasy offering cocktails a la mode. 

13. Visit the Jewish Museum

This museum has lots of artwork and cultural artifacts on display spanning 4,000 years.

The Jewish Museum is dedicated to the preservation of the artistic and cultural heritage of Jewish people. 

I went for the first time a few years ago and was seriously blown away by the amount of work inside.

14. Stroll Around Carl Schurz Park

I’ve spent countless afternoons running along the promenade and sunning and picnicking in on one of the many grass knolls. 

It’s a public park on the East River where you can enjoy multiple gardens, catch free movie nights, concerts, and community events. 

You can even see Gracie Mansion, the 18th-century mansion that’s the official residence of New York’s Mayor. 

Carl Schurz Park will always hold a special place in my heart, no matter where I’m living. 

Local’s Tip: The promenade in this park has prime viewing of the 4th of July fireworks anytime they’re being done on the East River.

15. Visit 92Y

I can’t believe it took me almost a decade to find out that the 92nd Street Y hosts some world-class cultural and community events.

Seriously, do a little YouTube search and some of the famous speakers, concerts, and interviews that have happened there will shock you. 

Trust me on this one, book well ahead of time, as the events at 92Y always sell fast out. 


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16. Go to Brunch

NYC does brunch better than any city in the world, mainly because they have brunch hours that extend into the late afternoon. 

The Upper East Side has tons of delicious options to choose from.

These are the places that I’m already craving as I write this:

17. Get Cozy at Serendipity 3

I think everyone secretly wants to grab one of Serendipity 3’s famous (and Oprah approved) frozen hot chocolates anytime they’re on the UES. 

Movie fanatics may also remember Serendipity 3 from the well-known rom-com Serendipity.

It’s the cute cafe where the lead characters have their first “date” before going ice-skating.

18. Grab a Bite to Eat

The UES has no shortage of delicious restaurants, with choices ranging from Michelin starred places to small family run spots.

These are the spots that I can’t wait to eat at again soon:

19. Check out Cooper-Hewitt

With a collection of over 210,000 works, the Smithsonian Design museum is a place you’ll want to spend a few hours. 

It’s the nation’s only museum dedicated to historic and contemporary design.

Basically, it’s Mecca for anyone who’s into design. 

Besides their permanent collection, Cooper-Hewitt also hosts several exhibits and events throughout the year. 

20. Get a Sweet Treat

21. Visit the Grolier Club

You likely wouldn’t guess it from the name, but the Grolier Club is a society of New York bibliophiles (book lovers). 

It’s technically a private club, but they host public events and lectures throughout the year.  

I know this won’t be up everyone’s alley, but I think it’s seriously cool to see and learn about historic works of literature. 

Past exhibitions have included works by William Blake, Kipling, and even Homer. 

22. Hit Up a Dive Bar

Sure, people know the UES for being fancy, but we’ve also got plenty of dive bars to hang out in. 

I love ending my night in one of these local dives:

23. Grab a Cocktail (or two)

If dive bars aren’t your thing, or you’re just craving a delicious cocktail, then look no further than this list of favorites in the area:

24. Shop on Madison Avenue

Given it’s the neighborhood Sex and the City and Gossip Girl were set in, it’s no wonder most people associate the UES with fashion. 

Local fashionista’s skip shopping with the tourists downtown on 5th Avenue and favor shopping on the Upper East Side’s Madison Avenue. 

There’s still all the classics, like Chanel, Celine, and Louboutin, mixed with spots like Theory, Intermix, and even J. Crew. 

26. Chill out at a Piano Bar

The Upper East Side has two piano bars to choose from for a night out.

If you want something fancy, head to The Carlyle’s famous Bemelmans Bar.

Everyone knows it for it’s upscale vibes and Ludwig Bemelmans’ famed murals decorating the walls. 

If you want something a bit more casual, check out Brandy’s Piano Bar.

It’s a bit divey, but a wonderful time!

XOXO, Gossip Girl


Writing this has me missing New York and especially my old apartment on the UES so much. 

I never got homesick when I was little, growing up in PA. 

Now, with New York as my home, I’ve finally discovered what it feels like to get homesick while traveling.

I’m looking forward to the adventures to come, as I travel over the next year or so.

Though, a part of me can’t wait until my travels are over, so that I can return to my home in the city.

I hope you fall in love with this neighborhood as much as I have over the past ten years. 

The Upper East Side is a special place, with fashion, fun, and lots of businesses and locals that make the neighborhood special.

Let me know in the comments below what you’re most looking forward to doing while on the Upper East Side!

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