One of my favorite things about New York City is that it’s so easy to keep the spirit of travel alive, even in my fixed life: new neighborhoods to explore, new restaurants to try, new shows to see. Even though it’s easy to fall into a Brooklyn rut–especially when the weather gets chilly–I crossed the river on a weekend (an increasingly rare occurrence!) and headed to the Upper West Side for a day of adventure.
My friend Kate and I woke up early for a #ProductiveSaturday (pretty sure she is the only friend who would be up for an 8am meet-up time on a weekend!) and headed uptown. My boyfriend grew up on the Upper West Side, and his parents still live here, so I’ve spent a good amount of time in the neighborhood–but this was the first time that Kate had explored the area. We had a loose itinerary of places we wanted to see–namely, our first priority was a cup of hot coffee and a bagel–but we spent the day chatting as we wandered through the crisp, clean, well-kept streets. It was the first COLD day of the year, so our only totally unplanned stop was to pop into a store to buy matching mittens! Chilly or not, the leaves were changing and it was a such a magical day–I adore living in Williamsburg, but there’s something special about this neighborhood nestled between Central Park and the Hudson River.
One of the best things about the Upper West Side is the myriad parks. Morningside is one of my favorites because of how it’s built on an angle: the towering trees almost make it feel like a fortress, and the big grassy hills are made for frolicking. It was even more beautiful with all of the changing leaves!
Isn’t it crazy how sometimes stepping onto a college campus feels like stepping into another world? When you walk through the gates of Columbia University, it no longer feels like you’re in a city of skyscrapers and brownstones: it’s world of high-brow, fancy-schmancy academia.
Oren’s Daily Roast
Even though there seems to be a Starbucks on every block on the Upper West Side, I’m basically still boycotting its entry into Williamsburg. So! We popped into Oren’s Daily Roast for a hot cup of coffee–partly for the caffeine, but mostly for something warm to hold in the very cold weather.
Cathedral of St John the Divine
The largest Anglican cathedral and church in the world, St John the Divine is a stunning example of Gothic Revival architecture in the heart of Manhattan. Right now, there is a giant art installation under the soaring ceilings–a little research, and I found out it’s one of the biggest pieces of sculpture ever displayed in the United States. Kate and I were both duly impressed by how the church made creative use of the space! Bonus: don’t miss the gorgeous sculpture garden next door.
I have eaten many, many everything bagels with plain cream cheese since moving to New York City, and I must say: nothing compares with Absolute. Without a doubt, one of the best bagels I’ve ever eaten–it’s no wonder the line goes out the door.
My ultimate goal on the Upper West Side was to sneak into the private Pomander Walk and take the most glorious #HousePortrait Instagram ever. Alas–we missed our opportunity, and I had to content myself with peeking through the (very secure) gate and taking a photo of the outer entry. However, I promise that I’ll be going back to try again!
My boyfriend grew up across the street from Riverside Park, and it’s one of my favorite places to walk/bike ride/throw the football or kick the soccer ball around when we staycation at his parents’ place. Not only does it overlook the Hudson River, but there’s a gorgeous leafy promenade and plenty of grassy knolls filled with dogs and children and flowers.
Whenever we borrow my boyfriend’s parents’ car, we always pop into Zabar’s cafe to pick up coffee and a ham and cheese croissant–but the corner outpost has nothing on the iconic gourmet food emporium next door. The grocery store specializes in smoked fish and other kosher specialities, but it seems like they have just about anything and everything–we even spotted a basket of 59-cent snail shells!
When Banksy came to New York City last year, he completed this “Boy with Hammer” piece on 79th Street. It’s not my favorite Banksy piece and I’m not a huge fan of protecting street art–the whole thrilling joy is that it’s temporary–but still, it’s an interesting piece of current street art culture. (Side note: just got so stoked to learn about the new Banksy HBO documentary!)
The best chocolate chip walnut cookie in all of the world: six ounces of warm, gooey deliciousness. Levain Bakery, you are worth the wait.
After wandering down to Lincoln Center and soaking up a bit of chilly sunshine on the lawn overhang, we were inspired to buy tickets for a Julliard dance performance in December. The next girls’ night of adventure is on the books!
Note: some of our stops were inspired by taza’s new york city guide: upper west side and morning side heights, others were from friends’ recommendations and a few we stumbled upon! What would you most like to visit on the Upper West Side?