Upper West Side
- Physical DifficultyThis is the average user-submitted rating on the physical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
- Technical DifficultyThis is the average user-submitted rating on the technical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
If you’ve ever seen a residential NYC neighborhood in movies or TV, there’s a good chance it was the Upper West Side. This area has it all from delicious food, iconic stages, beautiful parks, ornate architecture, and more. This is a long route beginning at the world-famous Columbia University, heading straight down tree lined (and less flashy) Broadway, and finishing right at Central Park. Stops include the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, Columbus Circle, The Lincoln Center, and Central Park.
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Route Description for Upper West Side
This walk explores the best of the Upper West Side. Founded as King’s College in 1754, Columbia is the oldest college in New York State and only one of nine institutions of higher learning in the US established before the Declaration of Independence. It was renamed Columbia University in 1784. If you have time, we definitely recommend entering the campus and checking out the grounds, such as the panoramic view from the Butler Library.
Exit the campus the way you entered and head left down Broadway. After roughly 200 m Tom’s Restaurant will be on your left-hand side. This place was made famous on the iconic sitcom Seinfeld, but with affordable prices and an extensive menu it’s also a neighborhood favorite. If you’re hungry stop in here for something tasty, they serve breakfast all day, with an added dash of pop culture, of course.
Exit Tom’s and continue left on Broadway. From here, you’re going to head straight down Broadway for roughly 2.0 km. The Upper West Side officially begins on 110th Street, though most of the sights are below 96th Street. During this portion, there aren’t many big sights, so just stroll along. You’ll notice this area is distinctly residential and relaxed. As you head further down, there will more shops, cafes and restaurants.
When you reach 86th Street and if you’re in the mood for an authentic NY deli take a left on 86th and your first left onto Amsterdam Avenue. On your right-hand side will be Barney Greengrass. Founded way back in 1908, the restaurant is now owned by Barney’s grandson Gary, who maintains the same interior and menu as his grandfather first imagined. They specialize in sturgeon, Nova Scotia salmon, and whitefish, and are a very popular for brunch. If you don’t want to detour here, don’t worry we’ve got another iconic NYC Jewish deli coming up in a bit.
Stay on (or get back onto) Broadway and continue heading downtown. A few blocks further, you’ll find the Children’s Museum of Manhattan if you take a left onto 83rd Street. This is a perfect spot to stop if you’re walking with kids, featuring tons of creative, interactive exhibits it is perfect for young children.
Continue on Broadway for roughly 300 m more, until you reach West 80th Street. On your right-hand side you’ll find Zabar’s. No trip to the Upper West Side is complete without a trip to this iconic specialty food shop.
Founded in the early 1920s, Zabar’s is famous for its selection of bagels, smoked fish, olives, and cheeses and has also been featured in a number movies and TV series. They have a place to eat here, but we recommend grabbing a few picnic items to go as we’re heading in the direction of Central Park next.
Continue down Broadway for roughly 400 m more. As you approach West 74th Street, the world-famous Beacon Theatre will be on your left. Initially built in 1929 as a movie palace for motion pictures and vaudeville, this theatre has hosted big name artists such as The Allman Brothers, Michael Jackson, the Rolling Stones, and Mariah Carey. Enter here to take a look if you can. As you exit the theatre, take a left onto West 74th Street in the direction of Central Park.
After about 50 m, the Levain Bakery will be on your left-hand side (with a blue top on the ground floor space). Although founded in 1994 (relatively new for a NYC icon) this place serves up the most delicious chocolate chip cookies you’re ever had the pleasure of tasting. Pick up a few and perhaps some more delectable baked goods to add to your picnic lunch. Continue on West 74th for roughly 200 m more, and take a left onto Columbus Avenue.
Continue on Columbus until you reach West 77th Street. Take a right here. After roughly 100 m, the entrance to the American Museum of Natural History will be on your left. This is one of the largest museums in the world, housing millions of varieties of plants, animals, fossils, minerals, rocks, meteorites, human remains, and cultural artifacts. Definitely worth a visit if you haven’t already gone on our Central Park Route!
Once exiting the museum, head to the left to continue on West 77th towards Central Park. Once you reach the park, find a nice spot for a picnic if you’ve collected a pack of goods. If you haven’t already gone in Central Park, we recommend you check it out with our route listed above.
If you’re continuing on our route, take a left onto Central Park West heading downtown towards West 76th Street. This street is one of the most exclusive addresses in all of New York City, home to the rich and famous, and full of beautiful and historic architecture. Immediately on your right-hand side is the New York Historical Society. Stop in here if you like to check out their many interesting exhibits.
Continue on Central Park West and you’ll pass a few of the most famous luxury co-ops built in the 1930s: first The San Remo at 145 Central Park West, then The Langham at 135 Central Park West, The Dakota (once home to John Lennon) at 1 West 72nd Street and The Majestic at 115 Central Park West. Take a right directly after The Dakota onto West 72nd Street (The Majestic is across the street here).
Follow West 72nd for roughly 600 m, and then turn left onto Broadway. Stay on Broadway (the roads get a little confusing here, with lots of intersections). Continue on Broadway for roughly 1.0 km. Right after West 66th Street the prestigious Julliard School will be on your right-hand side. Continue one more block until Lincoln Center is on your right.
If you’re looking for culture, you’ve come to the right place. The Lincoln Center for Performing Arts is a 6.6 hectare complex comprised of several buildings including the internationally renowned New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera, and the New York City Ballet.
After you’ve spent some time exploring this magnificent space, take a left onto West 64th Street in the direction of Central Park. When you reach Central Park West, either take a right to stay on the street, or head into Central Park and take the first path on the right-hand side. Continue roughly 300 m until you reach Columbus Circle. This ends our route. Hop on the train here to your next destination or spend some more time wandering through the park.
Insider Hints for Upper West Side
- This route is full of walking. If you need a break from traffic and city noise, head left to Central Park or right to Riverside Park for a short break.
- You’ll pass some great delis and bakeries; we recommend picking up stuff to have a picnic lunch in Central Park.
- Save this trip for a nice day as it is a long route outside.
Getting to the Upper West Side Trailhead
Begin this route at the 116th Street - Columbia University subway station (line 1). As you exit the station, the campus will be right next to you.
Upper West Side Elevation Graph
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Upper West Side Reviews
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