New York, NYC, USA

40 Fun Things to do on the Upper East Side, NYC! Our favorite picks!

October 17, 2022

Are you looking for the best things to do on the Upper East Side, NYC? If so, this list will give you loads of ideas!

NYC is full of so many amazing activities, and there are plenty of fun things to do on the Upper East Side.

So, if you don’t plan on venturing into Midtown or Downtown, and instead want to explore the gorgeous neighborhood of the Upper East Side, this list will give you lots of ideas.

In our list of things to do on the Upper East Side we’ve included ideas for all interests and budgets – so you’ll have plenty of options to choose from!

But first of all, it’s worth knowing about the different neighborhoods in the Upper East Side. These include:

  • Lenox Hill
  • Yorkville
  • Carnegie Hill
  • East Harlem (not technically the ‘Upper East Side’, but close enough for us to include it in this list!)

So now you know… let’s get into it!


Here are our favorite things to do on the Upper East Side!


Carl Schurz Park

To kick off our list of the best things to do on the Upper East Side, we have the glorious Carl Schurz Park!

This beautiful spot is tucked away by the waterfront and it boasts a promenade, several relaxing picnic spots, and tons of vantage points over Roosevelt Island and Queens.

So, if you’re looking for things to do on the Upper East Side that’ll boost your Instagram feed – this is the place to be!

Although there are several great things to do in this area, we suggest heading to Gracie Mansion which is an 18th-century manor with stunning gardens and impressive architecture.

Believe it or not, it’s one of the oldest surviving wood structures in the city. So, it’s a must-visit for architecture buffs and history nerds alike!

Despite being one of the most popular things to do on the Upper East Side, Carl Schurz Park is never overly crowded.


The East River Greenway

Next on our list of amazing things to do on the Upper East Side, we have The East River Greenway!

We highly recommend tacking this walk on to a visit to Carl Schurz Park, as the two intersect along the massive 9.44-mile walk along the East River.

It’s a stunning place to walk for the afternoon, but you can also bike, run, or skate along this beautiful stretch of land.

As you walk, you’ll pass through Lower Manhattan and parts of Harlem. 

The views of the neighborhoods are fabulous, but don’t miss the panoramas over Brooklyn, Queens, and NYC’s most famous bridges!

Regardless of whether you tackle the entire trail or just cover a couple of miles, this is totally one of the most relaxing things to do on the Upper East Side.


Roosevelt Island Tramway

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The Roosevelt Island Tramway is technically a method of transportation for locals, but it’s also one of the best things to do on the Upper East Side for tourists.

Although it only costs a few dollars to ride, it offers incredible views of Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens.

It only lasts for 5 minutes or so, but it’s an unforgettable trip that you’ll want to ride at least twice – trust us.

You’ll be pleased to know that this is one of the things to do on the Upper East Side that easily slots into any schedule as trams run every 15 minutes.

So, don’t worry about missing out!


Things to do on the Upper East Side: The Museum Mile

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Believe it or not, the Upper East Side is home to a ridiculous number of museums. Which is why the Museum Mile is next on our list of things to do on the Upper East Side.

Although you can spend a few days exploring them all the museums on the miracle mile, we suggest narrowing things down to the Jewish Museum, Neue Galerie, The Frick, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

We don’t want to be biased, but we’d say that the Neue Gallery is one of our all-time favorite things to do on the Upper East Side.

If you’re wondering why, it’s because the onsite Café Sabarsky is literally run by a Michelin-star chef (Kurt Gutenbrunner!). And you’ve got to admit – that’s cool.


Visit Roosevelt Island

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Next on our list of things to do on the Upper East Side, it’s visiting Roosevelt Island.

Now, you can get over to the island by the tramway (mentioned earlier on this list), or you can get the subway over.

It’s a really interesting place to explore (it was once home to a notorious insane asylum, a prison, and an abandoned smallpox hospital!) but now it’s more of a unique city viewpoint and a lovely green area of the city.

A great choice for the best things to do on the Upper East Side.

Read more NYC recommendations: 50 amazing places to grab breakfast in NYC


Iris and B Gerald Cantor Roof Garden

Image credit: https://www.metmuseum.org/

If you’re on the hunt for unique things to do on the Upper East Side, then it’s worth sashaying over to the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden.

It’s tucked away on 5th Avenue at the Met Museum and is one of NYC’s lesser-known gems.

Not only does this beautiful spot offer incredible views over the city, but you’ll be able to check out everything from twisted metal trees to giant balloon animals as you explore the garden.

This interesting garden is a bizarre place to visit but it’s absolutely one of the best things to do on the Upper East Side by a mile.


Central Park

We get that this isn’t one of the most original things to do on the Upper East Side, but no trip to NYC is complete without a stroll through Central Park.

The park is large and you’ll be able to walk through the North Woods, Hallett Nature Sanctuary, and the Ramble while you’re around the Upper East Side.

Sure, people usually visit NYC for its urban feel and amazing atmosphere. But one of the best things to do on the Upper East Side is stroll around Central Park.

But there’s nothing wrong with taking a few moments away from the hustle and bustle by appreciating the city’s glorious green spaces.

If you have a couple of hours to spare, we highly recommend adding a picnic around Turtle Pond to your list of things to do on the Upper East Side.

Hey, it’s right inside Central Park – so why not!


Do a Gossip Girl Tour

Next on our list of things to do on the Upper East Side, it’s doing a Gossip Girl filming locations tour.

If you didn’t already know, many of the filming locations for Gossip Girl are located on the Upper East Side, so this is a great choice for things to do on the Upper East Side.

You’ll get to see many familiar sights from the TV show, and have a guided tour too!

You can book tickets by clicking here!


Visit the Guggenheim

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Listen up art and culture lovers, as you’re going to love the next spot on our list of things to do on the Upper East Side.

The Guggenheim is one of the most popular museums in the city, and it’s a serious feat of architecture that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Although it may not look like the most attractive structure in the world, its fascinating spiral ramp is a must-see feature that leads you up to an excellent display of modern art.

You can easily spend a few hours here, so don’t be afraid to take your time before ticking off other things to do on the Upper East Side!


Ride the NYC public ferry

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One of the best things to do on the Upper East Side (and one of the cheapest!) is to ride the NYC ferry!

This is a public transportation ferry, and it leaves from East 90th St (on the river) and can take you down Manhattan and to Brooklyn, via the water.

It’s a fantastic way to see the city from the water, and it’s just a really fun activity too.

A great choice for things to do on the Upper East Side! Especially on a sunny day!


Things to do on the Upper East Side: Corner Bookstore

If you’re looking for relaxing things to do on the Upper East Side, why not stop by Corner Bookstore for a couple of hours?

This incredible bookstore has been around since 1978 and it’s possibly the most charming place in NYC.

It might be small, but don’t think that it’s devoid of amazing titles.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite!

This is one of our top things to do on the Upper East Side as the book collection is carefully curated and the small space makes everything feel cozy and otherworldly.

You can spend a couple of hours browsing, but we suggest grabbing a book and heading to Central Park to make a real day of it. It’s a great choice for things to do on the Upper East Side.


Check out the Balto Statue

Editorial credit: Ravenash / Shutterstock.com

Next on our list of things to do on the Upper East Side, it’s checking out the Balto statue!

If you don’t know the story behind Balto, we recommend watching the animated movie (prepare to cry though, it’s very sad!).

It’s an unlikely tale of a heroic dog, and it’s a great choice for things to do on the Upper East Side.


Walk along 62nd street

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Next on our list of things to do on the Upper East Side, it’s taking a stroll along 62nd street.

Why this particular street? Well 62nd street is just a great example of historic NYC. And the buildings along this particular street are really beautiful.

Take your camera and enjoy those views! It’s the perfect place to soak in the NYC atmosphere. A great choice for things to do on the Upper East Side.

Read more NYC food recommendations: Where to find the best bagels in NYC


Things to do on the Upper East Side: Levain Bakery

Next on our list of the best things to do on the Upper East Side, we have Levain (otherwise known as one of the top places for cookies in NYC!).

Levain is among our favorite bakeries in NYC, and we’ll usually stop by for breakfast or a quick afternoon pick-me-up.

But it’s honestly the cookies that are worth the trip.

They’re HUGE and are usually oozing with delicious chocolates or packed with nuts for the ultimate crunch.

Whatever you order, you certainly won’t regret adding Levain to your list of things to do on the Upper East Side.

To be honest, you’ll probably find yourself returning for seconds!

Read more NYC food recommendations: 15 places to find the best cookies in NYC!


Madison Avenue

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If you’re even remotely interested in shopping, then you’ll appreciate the next idea on our list of things to do on the Upper East Side.

Madison Avenue is an extremely bougie shopping street in New York City, and it’s regarded for its upscale designer boutiques and general Gossip Girl feel.

So, if you’ve ever wanted to channel your inner Blair Waldorf while strutting your stuff in a pair of Louboutin shoes, you’ll have your wish here.

If the designer shops aren’t quite in your budget, you’ll be able to check out shops like J. Crew and Intermix which are far more affordable.

In short, a trip to Madison Avenue is one of the things to do on the Upper East Side that offers something for everyone!

Read more NYC food inspiration: What is the best pizza in New York City


Grab brunch

We’ve already written an entire post on the best brunch in NYC, so we couldn’t write a list of the best things to do on the Upper East Side without bringing it up!

There are several incredible places to grab a breakfast bite in NYC. 

But you can’t beat Siena, Uva, or The Penrose if you’re looking for a crave-worthy meal.

At each spot, you’ll find a selection of brunch favorites alongside a couple of regional picks that’ll have you living like a real New Yorker. It’s a great pick for things to do on the Upper East Side.

Read more about NYC food: The best brunch in NYC – 15 places to try!


Hex & Co

If you’re on the hunt for things to do on the Upper East Side that are slightly nerdy, then you’ll appreciate everything that Hex & Co has to offer.

There are a few locations dotted around Manhattan, but the Upper East Side location is fabulous. Which is why it makes our list of things to do on the Upper East Side.

Tucked inside the unassuming building, you’ll find over 1,000 different board games to choose from (and plenty of cocktails too!).

We’re a fan of Dungeons and Dragons, but there’s a whole host of games here that will probably be new to most people.

So, why not add this to your list of things to do on the Upper East Side and push the boat out a little?

Read more about drinking in NYC: Top 20 outdoor rooftop bars in NYC


Visit Butterfield Market

Image credit: https://www.instagram.com/butterfieldnyc/

Next on our list of things to do on the Upper East Side, it’s visiting Butterfield Market!

Now, the reason we love Butterfield Market for an option of things to do on the Upper East Side, is because it is filled with SO MUCH delicious food!

We would plan a stop at Butterfield Market to stock up on the best picnic goodies imaginable, and then head over to Central Park to enjoy them all!

Read more about NYC shopping: Top 14 grocery stores in NYC


92Y

Next on our list of things to do on the Upper East Side, it’s visiting 92Y.

The 92Y has been part of Manhattan’s cultural landscape for years, and it offers tons of interesting classes, talks, and performances throughout the year.

Not only is it one of the best things to do on the Upper East Side for anyone who craves education, but you can experiment with art, shake your stuff at a salsa class, or take a writing workshop!

Anything goes!


Walk around Little Mexico

Next on our list of things to do on the Upper East Side in NYC, it’s checking out Little Mexico.

Didn’t know NYC had a Little Mexico? Well they do, and it’s well worth checking out!

You’ll find the neighborhood around 116st Station, and it’s lovely to just stroll around, pop into shops and pick a delicious restaurant to eat at! There’s no shortage here!

Another great pick for fun things to do on the Upper East Side!

Read more about exploring NYC: A guide to Little Tokyo in NYC


Try some incredible beers

Next on our epic list of things to do on the Upper East Side, it’s visiting City Swiggers.

If you haven’t heard of City Swiggers, let us tell you about it! This place has over 8000 beers you can choose from (like WOW!).

This is the ultimate drinking location for beer lovers. And it’s a great choice for things to do on the Upper East Side.


Visit the 2nd Ave Deli

Next on our list of things to do on the Upper East Side, it’s visiting the 2nd Ave Deli.

If you want to eat somewhere super traditional and very ‘New York’ then we can’t recommend the 2nd Ave Deli enough!

It’s a great find, and a lovely place to enjoy lunch! A great option for things to do on the Upper East Side.


Enjoy a few cocktails

Okay, we couldn’t write a list of the best things to do on the Upper East Side without mentioning a few hotspots for cocktails!

Bar Pleiades is a gorgeous spot for upscale cocktails, and it’s run by the famed chef Daniel Boulud.

If you’re feeling something slightly more relaxed, Sfoglia or The East Pole are both fantastic places to visit for shaken (or stirred!) drinks.

Another great choice for things to do on the Upper East Side, and a great way to relax too!

Read more NYC recommendations: 18 best happy hours on the upper west side!


Visit Bloomingdales

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Bloomingdales (known affectionately as Bloomies!) is definitely one of the best things to do on the Upper East Side.

This enormous department store is on 59th Street, and it’s essentially an upscale department store that’s packed with all the clothes, accessories, and cosmetics that you could ever hope to find.

It’s usually open until 8 pm, but we recommend heading along as soon as they open at 10 am to get your shopping in before heading to the glorious Magnolia Bakery which is right by the store!

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Enjoy some stand-up comedy

Next up on our list of things to do on the Upper East Side, it’s enjoying some stand-up comedy at Comic Strip Live.

Actually, one of the best stand-up comedy clubs in the city is located on the Upper East Side, and we really recommend visiting if you can!

This place has made many famous comics, so we know the quality of the acts will be great! Which makes it a perfect pick for things to do on the Upper East Side.


Asia Society and Museum

Next on our list of things to do on the Upper East Side, it’s the Asia Society and Museum. If you’re looking to learn more about Asian culture, then this is a great place to visit.

The Asia Society and Museum is essentially an Asian cultural center, and they offer a wide range of seasonal events, professional talks, cultural performances and art exhibitions too!

It’s a really diverse museum and it’s a fantastic choice for things to do on the Upper East Side.


Visit the St. Jean Baptiste Church

Next on our list of things to do on the Upper East Side, it’s visiting the St. Jean Baptiste Church.

You don’t need to be religious to visit St. Jean Baptiste Church, anyone with an appreciation for beautiful buildings will enjoy it!


Visit Yorkville

Next up on our list of things to do on the Upper East Side, it’s visiting Yorkville!

Yorkville is a sub-neighborhood located in the Upper East Side, and it’s a great choice for things to do on the Upper East Side.

This German-inspired neighborhood used to be known as Kleindeutschland (or Little Germany) and it’s well worth a visit!

This is a perfect pick for things to do on the Upper East Side, especially if you enjoy German food, and German beer!


Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden

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The Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden is our next pick for things to do on the Upper East Side.

The Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden is a historic stone former carriage house (and also a hotel!) which offers a unique look into 19th-century New York life.

If you loved TV shows like ‘The Gilded Age’ and ‘Downton Abbey’, you’ll likely be fascinated by this place and this glimpse into history.

It’s a fantastic choice for things to do on the Upper East Side.


Have a blow dry

Next on our list of things to do on the Upper East Side, it’s visiting Blo Blow Dry Bar.

If you’ve got an evening out planned, then there’s nothing like treating yourself to a fresh blow dry beforehand!

Blo Blow Dry Bar offer up amazing blow dry services and it’s an ideal place to unwind for a few hours before your big night out!


Check out some historical buildings / houses

The Upper East Side is one of the oldest neighborhoods in NYC, and so plenty of things to do on the Upper East Side are focused on history.

Visiting some of the Upper East Side’s historic buildings can be a really nice way to spend an afternoon.

Here are some to look out for that Google Maps has pinned as historically interesting:

  • Percy R. Pyne House
  • Emily Vanderbuilt Sloan White mansion
  • Gertrude Rhinelander Waldo House
  • Upper East Side Historic District
  • Vanderbilt Mansion
  • The Sheffields’ House (The Nanny)
  • Edward S. Harkness House

Read more NYC recommendations: Where to find the best oysters in NYC!


Watch a movie

watching a movie is our next suggestion for things to do on the Upper East Side. Sometimes on a rainy day, nothing is as cozy and lovely as watching a movie.

The best place to do this? It has to be the Cinema 123 by Angelika!


Book a private photographer

Next on our list of things to do on the Upper East Side, it’s booking a private photographer, for a fun photo tour!

If you fancy getting some cute photos during your trip, you can arrange for a private photographer to follow you for the day and help you get some amazing vacation shots!

Read more about NYC: 22 Romantic anniversary ideas in NYC


We hope this list of things to do on the Upper East Side in NYC has given you loads of ideas!

Which of these things to do on the Upper East Side in NYC will you be trying first? Let us know!

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