Upper West Side


Photo: Thomas Rafael

Stretching between Central Park and the Hudson River, the Upper West Side, like the Upper East Side, is largely a residential and shopping area. Who calls the Upper West Side home? It's that it's home to many of Manhattan's intellectuals, and liberal cultural and artistic workers. Much of this reputation is likely due to the number of educational institutions in the area, including Columbia University, Bank Street College of Education, Teachers College, Barnard College, a Fordham University Campus, and many arts schools, including the La Guardia High School for the Performing Arts (on which the movie Fame was based). Due to the artistic and intellectual influences, many parts of the Upper West Side maintain a progressive attitude, and you'll find many residents at grassroots levels of area civic action and intellectual thought. This shared spirit also makes the Upper West Side a true neighborhood - unlike many parts of Manhattan, people here often greet their neighbors and stop to chat as they meet at the corner deli, or at the newstand.

As a neighborhood of Old New York, the Upper West Side is also known for its favorites foods. The Fairway Market is considered by many to be the best grocery store in Manhattan, although a camp of other residents will loudly insist that Zabar's Gourmet Grocery holds that title. H&H Bagels makes perhaps the most famous bagel in the city, and even the less famous markets, delis, and bakeries seem to offer picture-perfect fruit and delicacies. Find yourself with a craving for a muffin? You're not the only one -- and that's why the windows are full of gorgeous specimens, just waiting to be eaten.

If you're seeking culture, be sure to stop and admire the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, a breathtaking Gothic Cathedral, notwithstanding the damage caused to it by a 2001 fire. If pop culture is more your style, you'll find that this neighborhood certainly isn't lacking in that area either. The Dakota apartment building at W. 72nd Street has been home to numerous celebrities over the years, most famously John Lennon. You'll also recognize the area from its countless appearances on TV--from Seinfeld to Sex & the City to Law & Order--and in movies, perhaps most famously You've Got Mail, Spiderman, and many of Woody Allen's movies. Grab a bagel, take a walk, and enjoy an afternoon as the New Yorkers do!

Molly O'Neill