Broadway, brownstones, books, and some of the city’s best bagels… the Upper West Side extends north from Columbus Circle at 59th Street up to 110th Street, and is bordered by Central Park West and Riverside Park. The Upper West Side is separated from the Upper East Side by Central Park. This is the traditional stronghold of the city’s intellectual, creative, and moneyed community, but the atmosphere is not as upper crust as the Upper East Side. Did You Know?
The world’s largest gothic cathedral is the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine and it’s still under construction. Its first stone was laid in 1892.
Elegant, pre-war buildings along the boulevards of Broadway, West End Avenue, Riverside Drive, and Central Park West meet shady, quiet streets lined with brownstones. Much of the area is protected by landmark status, and the neighborhood’s restored townhouses and high-priced co-op apartments are coveted by actors, young professionals, and young families.
The Upper West Side boasts an impressive list of “firsts”: The oldest Baptist congregation in the U.S. (founded 1753; First Baptist Church, Broadway and 79th St.); the oldest Spanish and Portuguese Jewish congregation in New York (established 1654; Congregation Shearith Israel, Central Park West and 70th St.); the world’s largest bible collection (American Bible Society, with 37,000 items); the first fireproof building in NYC (122 West 78th St., built by Rafael Guastavino in 1883); the oldest school in the U.S. (Collegiate School, West End Avenue and 77th St.; founded 1628); and the world’s largest carillon (the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Carillon, in Riverside Church, and the largest tuned bell, the “Bourdon”).
The famous Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts sits between 61st and 66th Streets on Broadway. It is home to the New York State Theater, New York City Ballet, the New York City Opera, the Metropolitan Opera House, Avery Fisher Hall, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, the Vivian Beaumont Theater, Jazz At Lincoln Center, the Library and Museum of the Performing Arts, Alice Tully Hall for chamber music, and the world-famous Julliard School of Music. The Walter Reade Theater is the home of the center’s film society. Its central plaza is the focus of summer outdoor performances of all kinds and dance nights (free salsa, tango or swing lessons, anyone?). In early winter, the Big Apple Circus pitches its tents here.
Sidewalks in this neighborhood are always crowded during the day with performers rushing to auditions and families pushing their babies in imported strollers. In the evenings, however, the action moves inside, where singles mingle in myriad restaurants and bars. Stroll along Columbus Avenue to investigate the glitzy boutique-and-restaurant strip; walk along Amsterdam Avenue with its mix of bodegas, bars, and boutiques. Along Central Park West are such titanic habitats as the buff colored, castle-like Dakota, where John Lennon was killed and Yoko Ono still lives (respects may be paid across the street in Central Park’s Strawberry Fields memorial). Other interesting architectural jewels along the avenue include The Lanhgam (a 1920s Italian Renaissance-style high rise); the twin-towered San Remo (home sweet home over the years to such luminaries as Rita Hayworth, Dustin Hoffman, Paul Simon, and Diane Keaton); and The Kenilworth, with its impressive pair of ornate front columns, once the home of Michael Douglas.
Cultural attractions include the dinosaur-filled American Museum of Natural History and Rose Center for Earth and Space, the New-York Historical Society (whose collection reaches from the 1600s to today), and the Children’s Museum of Manhattan.
Dining choices include two of the city’s most beautiful restaurants – the romantic Café des Artistes and fantastical Tavern on the Green, plus a mind-boggling variety of cafés and restaurants along Columbus Avenue, serving everything from deli sandwiches to burritos to haute cuisine.
Venturing further uptown one finds the world’s largest gothic Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, Columbia University, Grant’s Tomb, Riverside Church, Audubon Terrace (home of the Hispanic Society), Symphony Space and the Morris-Jumel Mansion, a colonial treasure. For greenery, Riverside Park is a real haven. The only state park situated on Manhattan Island, this 28-acre multi-level park rises 69 feet above the Hudson. Keep going, just past the George Washington Bridge, to the very tip of the island, and you will discover the Cloisters, which houses the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s medieval art collection. In Fort Tryon Park, the Cloisters displays the famous unicorn tapestries and other 12th-16th century treasures.