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Things to Do in Upper Manhattan

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New York City tourists usually visit Midtown Manhattan and Lower Manhattan, and maybe a handful of attractions in Upper Manhattan. 

Yet there are dozens and dozens of great things to do there!

This post lists the best attractions and activities to do in Upper Manhattan.


Uptown vs. Midtown vs. Downtown

Upper Manhattan is the northern part of Manhattan above 59th Street until the border with the Bronx, one of NYC’s five boroughs.

There are about ten main neighborhoods in Upper Manhattan, the most well-known being the Upper West Side, the Upper East Side, and Harlem.

You won't hear many people use the term Upper Manhattan often. Rather they will say “Uptown”.

Planets
Midtown Manhattan High Line Union Square

Midtown Manhattan spans the area from the Hudson River to the East River between 14th Street to 59th Street.

This is where you will find many major attractions like Times Square, Grand Central Terminal and Rockefeller Center.

Lower Manhattan is the area below 14th Street to the very tip of Manhattan. But no one says “I’m going to Lower Manhattan”. They say “I’m heading Downtown''.

Popular neighborhoods in Lower Manhattan are Greenwich Village, SoHo, Chinatown, Lower East Side and the Financial District.


Things to Do in Upper Manhattan

1. Explore Central Park

Perhaps the very best thing to do uptown is to explore Central Park! 

Gapstow Bridge Central Park

Located in the ‘center’ of Upper Manhattan (hence the name!), Central Park should be on everyone’s list of must-see places in NYC.

There are so many things to see and do in Central Park it would take you more than a day to enjoy it all.


2. See World-Class Art At The Met

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the most famous museums in the world. The Met’s permanent collection has an astounding 2 million objects and works of art.

Sculpture garden at the metropolitan museum of art

The museum is simply too big to see all in one day. We recommend that you pick out a few wings to see them in depth. 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is at 1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street.


3. Attend a Gospel Brunch and Services

There’s nothing quite like an uplifting Gospel service. 

For many locals and tourists, going to a gospel service is the highlight of their trip.

Harlem is the most well-known place to attend a gospel service, though there are other options.

Read our post to find out about seeing a Harlem gospel service


4. Enjoy the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center

It’s one-stop-shopping at Lincoln Center! This world-famous venue has opera, ballet, film, theater, and live music.

It’s an amazing complex and Lincoln Center offers behind-the-scenes tours.

Lincoln Center

If you are in NYC during the summer, you can catch free opera recitals and learn to swing dance at the free Midsummer Night Swing outdoor dance series.

During the winter holidays, there are some wonderful Christmas performances at Lincoln Center.

Lincoln Center is at 70 Lincoln Center Plaza (Columbus Avenue between W. 62nd and W. 63rd Street).


5. Ride The Roosevelt Island Tram

The Roosevelt Island Tram crosses over the East River and offers breathtaking views of New York City.

It’s the same price as the subway, $2.75, but worth so much more!

The tram connects Uptown Manhattan to Roosevelt Island, a small, primarily residential island, but there are some interesting sights to see.

Check out our post on taking the tram.


6. See the Dinosaurs at the American Museum of Natural History

The American Museum of Natural History is one of the most significant museums in the world. 

Visiting this museum is one of the best things to do with kids in NYC. (Adults love it too!)

Dinosaur skeleton

The dinosaur wing is a must, as is the Wall of Biodiversity and the museum’s beloved blue whale.

The American Museum of Natural History is at Central Park West between W. 77th and W. 81st streets.


7. Stop by Strawberry Fields and the Dakota Building 

This small, peaceful area of Central Park was created in honor of John Lennon who lived across the street at the Dakota Building.

The Imagine Circle mosaic, designed by Italian mosaic artists, is the centerpiece. 

Strawberry Fields and Imagine Mosaic

Across the street is the Dakota building where Lennon lived, which was built in 1884 and is one of several gorgeous apartment buildings on the Upper West Side.

Strawberry Fields is located in the park at the W. 72nd Street entrance. The Dakota Building is at W. 72nd St.


8. Discover Harlem

One of the most interesting things to do Uptown is to visit Harlem. 

The best way to learn about Harlem's culture and history, while seeing the main sights, is to take a guided tour.

We offer a pay-what-you-like Harlem Walking Tour. If you prefer to explore on your own, try our  GPS-led audio tour.

Find out about the top things to do in Harlem.


9. Get a Bagel and Lox at Zabar's

Zabar’s Delicatessen on the Upper West Side has been a New York City institution since 1934.

This family-owned store has great bagels which are even better when you have them with a schmear of cream cheese and lox on top. 

bagel-and-lox

Zabars also has great baked goods, homemade roasted coffee and a marvelous assortment of cheeses from around the world.

Zabars is at 2245 Broadway at W. 80th Street.


10. See The Lady In Gold At The Neue Galerie

This art gallery is dedicated exclusively to 20th-century German and Austrian art and design. 

Here you can see the masterpiece painting, The Lady in Gold by Gustav Klimt. 

Lady in Gold

The gallery’s collection includes paintings, furniture, sculpture, and more.

Neue Galerie is at 1048 5th Avenue at 86th Street.


11. Have a Frozen Hot Chocolate at Serendipity 3

This decadent dessert shop opened in 1954 and has been serving up its signature drink, Frozen Hot Chocolate, ever since.

Serendipity 3

Serendipity 3 has been featured in movies and TV shows like the 2001 comedy Serendipity and the TV series Gossip Girl.

Serendipity 3 is at 225 East 60th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues.


12. Admire the Architecture of St. John the Divine

At 601 feet, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine is the world's largest Gothic-style cathedral. 

Its 40 feet Great Rose Window is the third-largest rose window in the world.

st john the divine

The cathedral is stunning inside and out, with huge vaulted ceilings, carved limestone and loads of stained glass.

St. John the Divine is at the corner of W. 112th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. 


13. See Free American Folk Art

The American Folk Art Museum includes only artwork created by individuals without formal artistic training.

The museum's collection includes over 8,000 pieces of art from six continents and spans four centuries.

american folk art museum's enterance

The museum is free to visit. Read about other free museums in NYC.

The American Folk Art Museum on Columbus Avenue at W. 66th Street.


14. Discover the Frick

The Frick’s collection has a wonderful mix of distinguished Old Master paintings and superb examples of European sculpture and decorative arts.

The Frick

Tucked away in an elegant 18th-century mansion, the Museum itself is as beautiful as the art that it houses.

The Frick is at 1 E. 70th Street (closed for renovation) * Temporary location 945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street.


15. Walk Along The East River In Carl Schurz Park

This quaint Upper Manhattan park runs alongside the East River and has lovely landscaping managed by a neighborhood gardening association. 

Carl Schurz Park

Inside the park is Gracie Mansion, a magnificent 18th-century house that has been the official residence of the Mayor of New York City since 1942. 

Carl Schurz Park is located at East End Avenue between E. 84th and E. 90th Streets.


16. See the Ghostbusters Building

In the 1984 movie Ghostbusters, Dana Barrett (played by Sigourney Weaver) and Louis Tully (played by Rick Moranis) live on the 22nd floor of a building known as "Spook Central".

Ghostbusters Building

You can find Spook Central at 55 Central Park West at 66th Street.

See our post on Ghostbusters Movie Locations to see more of the other movie locations like the Firehouse.


17. Go to MoMA

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is one of the very best, if not the best, modern art museums in the world. 

With over 150,000 paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculptures, architectural models and drawings, and design objects, its collection is unrivaled.

Starry Night

Their holdings are not just plentiful, but also magical. Its walls are graced with Van Gogh’s Starry Night, Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, and Monet’s Water Lilies.

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is at 11 West 53rd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues.


18. Have Some Soul Food at Sylvia's Restaurant

Serving up soul food since 1962, Sylvia's Restaurant is the place to go for an amazing Harlem dining experience.

Sylvias Restaurant

A must-try is the waffles with fried smothered chicken. The collard greens and mac ‘n’ cheese should not be missed!

Sylvia's Restaurant is at 328 Malcolm X Blvd. at 127th St.


19. Learn About NYC’s Roots

The New-York Historical Society was founded in 1804, making this the oldest museum in NYC.

New-York Historical Society

It has been in the current building since 1908 and has an impressive collection of artifacts and objects, some as old as four centuries.

The New-York Historical Society Museum and Library is at 170 Central Park West at 77th Street.


20. Go Shopping Underground

Turnstyle Underground is a market located beneath 8th Avenue between 57th and 58th Street.

There are shops and kiosks with niche items as well as 19 food vendors with international foods.

Turnstyle at Columbus Circle Station

Access the market by the 59th Street-Columbus Avenue subway station - you don't have to enter the subway so you can stop by the market for free.

21. See Where Alexander Hamilton Lived  

Head to the Hamilton Heights section of Upper Manhattan to see where Alexander Hamilton, one of America's Founding Fathers, lived in 1802. 

His house is part of the Alexander Hamilton Grange National Memorial.

Alexander Hamilton Grange National Memorial

It's free to visit the Grange where you can see historically furnished rooms either on a ranger-guided tour or on your own. 

Alexander Hamilton Grange National Memorial is at 414 W. 141st bet. Convent and St Nicholas Avenues.


22. Eat an Iconic NYC Food 

Before or after your visit to The Met, stop by the nearby William Greenberg Desserts, for a Black and White cookie, the unofficial cookie of New York City.

black and white cookie

Black and White cookies have a light cake-like texture and are frosted with a very light coat of chocolate icing on one half and vanilla icing on the other.

William Greenburg Desserts is at 1100 Madison Avenue at 82nd Street.


23. Catch a Performance at the Apollo Theater 

The Apollo Theater has been showcasing musical performers in Harlem since 1934. 

Just a few of the musical greats who have played here over the years are Duke Ellington, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, and Stevie Wonder.

The Apollo Theater

Today, the Apollo’s concerts include a wide range of musical styles from rap, K-pop, blues and more.

The Apollo Theater is at 253 West 125th St bet. Frederick Douglass Blvd. and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.


24. Visit Grant’s Tomb

Grant's Tomb (officially General Ulysses S. Grant National Memorial) is the largest mausoleum in the United States.

On a free visit, you can explore the inside of this impressive stone monument that sometimes offers access to the crypt.

There are also rooms with Civil War artifacts, a visitors center, a gift shop and a public restroom.

The General Ulysses S. Grant National Memorial is at W. 122nd St and Riverside Drive.


25. Guggenheim Museum

Housed inside one of the most recognizable buildings in the world, the Guggenheim Museum is one of the best museums in New York City.

The collection contains masterpieces of Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, and early modern and contemporary art. 

Guggenheim museum

You can visit this museum for free on Saturdays from 6 pm–8 pm. There is a mandatory $1 donation and you must reserve in advance. 

Also, this museum is included for free with most tourist discount passes.

The Guggenheim Museum is at 1071 5th Avenue. 


26. Take a Central Park Movie Tour

See the most famous filming sights in and around Central Park on our pay-what-you-like Central Park Movie and TV Tour.

Walk through The Mall in Central Park, where scenes were filmed from the 1979 Academy Award-winning film Kramer vs. Kramer and also When Harry Met Sally.

Stop at the Plaza Hotel of the film Eloise at the Plaza and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

Visit Wollman Rink, where the final scene of the 2001 rom-com Serendipity was shot.


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About The Author

Courtney

Courtney is a lifelong New Yorker fascinated with the city’s history, culture and cuisine. She loves exploring the world, as well as sharing her travel expertise with others. She joined the Free Tours by Foot team in 2011, first as a guide and then as a writer. She has a law degree, a teaching degree and a worn-out passport. Her motto is “Have backpack, will travel”.
Updated: January 16th, 2023
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