Posh neighborhoods, gorgeous green spaces, upscale high rises and world-renowned museums—welcome to the Upper East Side. Bordering Central Park, this district offers an escape from the hustle of NYC. Prepare to explore iconic art at the Guggenheim, embrace your inner foodie with lemon ricotta pancakes and experience the backdrop of the hit CW show Gossip Girl. The Upper East Side whisks you away to a dream environment with designer shops and beautiful intricate architecture.
Once you’ve set your sights on the Upper East Side, book your housing with Educational Housing Services (EHS). They offer stress-free student intern housing. The 1760 Third Avenue residence is only a 12-minute walk to Central Park. Living in the Upper East Side means access to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the East River waterfront, the Guggenheim Museum and Gracie Mansion. Meet new friends through EHS and explore the Upper East Side together!
Keep reading to find out the 24 best things to do in the Upper East Side.
1. Delight Yourself with a Birch Coffee
Head to Birch Coffee for friendly service, divine pastries and a delicious cup o’ joe. This two-story coffee house draws in guests with a black and white, simple exterior and the smell of fresh espresso wafting into the street. Sit on the top floor to look over the city greenery while reading a book from Birch’s “take-one, leave-one” library. This cozy shop never disappoints its customers with fast service and a worldly mission. Its coffee comes from countries like Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil, Ethiopia and Colombia. Birch strives to make sure every bean is fresh to deliver the most flavorful drinks to every customer.
2. Go for a Swim at John Jay Park
Start your day with some fresh air. John Jay Park is a welcoming oasis to visitors in the middle of a hectic city. Take a refreshing swim at the indoor or outdoor pool, open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Jog down one of the trails or show off your dribbling skills on the basketball courts in a pick-up game. Don’t worry about getting burnt by the bright sun; this park provides free sunscreen dispensers around the pool area. No wrinkles here—only bronze, glowing summer skin.
3. Drool for Lemon Ricotta Pancakes at Sarabeth’s East
Stop by Sarabeth’s on the Upper East Side, conveniently located by the MET, Central Park and The Jewish Museum for the most important meal of the day. Sip on Sarabeth’s most popular breakfast drink, the Pickled Bloody Mary, garnished with pickled vegetables, lemon, lime and a stalk of celery. Pair that with the lemon ricotta pancakes, dusted with powdered sugar and juicy blackberries on the side. Is your mouth watering just thinking about it? Thought so.
4. Get Healthy with Juice Generation
Juice Generation serves healthy, hip options to all New Yorkers. Their menu consists of, obviously, juices and smoothies, but also acai bowls, nutrient-packed salads and pastries. Juice Generation prioritizes supplying organic ingredients and practicing sustainability. They give back to the community with every customer, donating a portion of sales to local charities like Harlem Grown and Catskill Animal Sanctuary. Even actress Salma Hayek goes to Juice Generation. If you’re not convinced yet, try the Almond Butter Bliss acai bowl or a Purple Pineapple smoothie.
5. Get Familiar with the Architecture at Guggenheim Museum
On the corner of East 89th Street lies a historical treasure for the people of Manhattan. The Guggenheim, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, opened to the public in 1959. The museum welcomes visitors to enjoy the unique architecture and featured art exhibits. Current exhibits include paintings by R.H. Quaytman, Sculptures by Constantin Brancusi and French artwork from Picasso and Degas. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, the organization that founded this museum, works to preserve old art and explore new, diverse pieces.
6. Live Like Blair Waldorf on a Gossip Girl Tour
Walk in the footsteps of Blair and Serena because you know you love them—XOXO, Gossip Girl. We’ve all been there, binge watching and falling in love with the characters and their lavish lifestyles. “I think it would be so cool to see where they actually filmed because you can apply the TV show to reality,” said Ohio State University junior Colleen Bradley. “I love seeing TV shows and movies come to life.” The tour takes you to sites like Vera Wang (where Blair tried on her wedding dress), The Empire Hotel (Chuck Bass’s home and business) and Dylan’s Candy Bar (where Dan helped Vanessa shop for Nate).
7. Experience NYC’s Best Hot Dog at Papaya King
A small, bright yellow corner shop with limited seating brings customers running in for a quick, delicious meal in the middle of the chaos of New York City. This hot dog stand is the talk of the town with chili dogs and slaw dogs smothered in coleslaw and pickle chips. The food is never frozen and always fresh-made with no preservatives, fillers or gluten. Stick to an original dog or go crazy with the Hula Hula Dog topped with jalapenos, pineapple, sweet peppers, sautéed onion and pepper flakes. Make your way to East 86th Street for an unforgettable lunch.
8. Take a Picture at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Do you recognize The MET stairs from Gossip Girl? Climb up these iconic steps and into the building to explore the largest art museum in the United States. Opened in 1880, the exhibits bring over 5,000 years of art to life. “There are always cool exhibits like the jewelry exhibit recently that showed the timeline of jewelry throughout history,” said University of Cincinnati junior McKenzie Lowry. “There are cafes inside where you can get coffee and you can make it a whole day experience.” Even if you’ve never visited the MET, you’ve probably heard of The MET Gala. This annual fundraiser’s proceeds benefit the MET’s Costume Institute in NYC, inviting hundreds of celebrities to dress to the theme and make bold fashion statements. While in Central Park, make sure to walk the block over to The MET.
9. Relax in Central Park
Put a visit to Central Park on the top of your “to-do in the Upper East Side” list. You can look forward to long walks on wide concrete paths that get swallowed by up all the greenery. People buzz by on bicycles and families sit in the grass for picnics and photo ops. If you prefer to travel in style, take a tour via horse-drawn carriage. “I like to go take long walks in Central Park and plan photoshoots there. It’s a nice public spot but big enough to find some quiet time,” said recent UC grad Caroline Eyer. This upcoming summer will bring concerts from artists like Mac DeMarco, Liam Gallagher and Richard Ashcroft and Jason Mraz.
10. Live Like a King at Carnegie Mansion
You first heard of the name Andrew Carnegie, the industrialist who led the expansion of the American steel industry, in a U.S. History class. If you thought highly of Carnegie’s steel-sales skills, just wait until you see his mansion. To give perspective on the extent of Carnegie’s money, in today’s dollars he has an estimated net worth of $310 billion. The 64-room castle Carnegie called home now stands as the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. It features historic and contemporary art and different seasonal exhibitions. Currently the museum displays an immersion room where visitors can select wallpapers or sketch their own and see it come to life on the walls. Now if only we could figure out how to reach Carnegie’s level where your house gets converted into a museum…
11. Explore Culture at the Jewish Museum
Traveling to new cities means immersing yourself in a diverse culture. New York City has a museum dedicated to Judaism with collection exhibitions, lectures and performances. “We exhibit works of art from antiquity through the present-day exploring issues of identity, community and self-reflection in thought-provoking ways,” said Nelly Silagy Benedek, Senior Director of Education of the Jewish Museum. “We hope college students visiting will feel welcome, engage with the art on view, and leave the Jewish Museum inspired.” This month, an exhibit about Leonard Cohen, a Jewish singer, poet and novelist, will debut. Visit on free Saturdays or pay-what-you-wish Thursdays where guests donate any amount they choose.
Explore Upper East Side culture all summer long. Educational Housing Services (EHS) creates an awesome community for students interning in NYC. Their 1760 Third Avenue building features an on-site fitness center, study rooms, game rooms and flat screen TVs. Plus the on-site laundry room texts you when your clothes are done! All of these amenities await at EHS’s Upper East Side residence.
12. Treat Yo’ Self on Madison Avenue
Splurge a little while in NYC. For the past 100 years, this strip of shops makes it hard for visitors to resist pulling out their wallets, known by many as the most luxurious retail street in America. You’ll find high-end brands like Gucci, Versace, Louis Vuitton and Valentino. Prepare your bank account for major retail therapy on the Upper East Side.
13. See a Premiere at The Beekman Theatre
You can already smell it: the buttery popcorn lingering in the lobby and the slurping of soda in the theatre. Spend a lazy day escaping reality with a film at The Beekman Theatre. This charming local theatre removes visitors from the typical huge, grimy theatre we’re used to in the city. It only shows movies on two screens, making it a hidden gem in NYC. People of all ages run in to see the latest blockbusters or smaller indie films. Opening in 1952, this theatre gives all customers a homey, laidback feel.
14. Live like the Italians at Uva
Sip slowly on a rich glass of wine at Uva. With a patio and a private wine cellar, the building itself makes visitors feel like they transported to a historic Italian city. Decadent menu items include gnocchi di ricotta in a creamy black truffle and chive sauce, and penne gratinate baked in tomato, mushroom and cheese. Lucky for you, Uva stays open until 2 a.m. every night other than Sunday and Monday, so no need to rush your sommelier experience.
15. Experience luxury at The Bentley Hotel
Looking for a place for your parents to stay on their visit? The Bentley Hotel offers incredible views of the city, fine dining and proximity to landmarks like Central Park and 5th Avenue. This sophisticated hotel is one of New York’s top-rated and allows guests to travel to a new era with their luxurious, retro interior. Sit back and relax to mellow tunes on the piano patio. Or take in the views overlooking the East River and the 59th Street Bridge.
16. Get Your Sushi Fix at Tanoshi
Tanoshi will make you crave sushi for every meal. The menu is omakase style, which means the chef selects the food for you. The meal includes crispy fluke, 10 pieces of sushi, one hand roll and miso soup. The best part? BYO alcohol. That means no overpriced wine or cocktails along with incredible food. Seating is limited so secure your reservation a few days in advance. Then sit back in awe as you watch a skilled sushi chef prepare a one-of-a-kind meal in front of your eyes.
17. Get Energized at Bluestone Lane
Don’t be fooled—Bluestone Lane is a coffee shop, not a church. The location sits inside a beautiful church next to Central Park and the Carnegie Mansion. This coffee empire has locations in many other cities like Washington, D.C., Beverly Hills and Toronto. But the Upper East Side setting stands out among the rest. This shop draws in visitors with lots of seating outdoors, delicious coffee and scrumptious brunch. Don’t miss out on the infamous smashed avocado toast topped with smoked salmon.
18. Sing a Tune at Brandy’s Piano Bar
Get clued in on one of the Upper East Side’s best-kept secrets: a small, hole-in-the-wall called Brandy’s Piano Bar. With red walls and a dark mysterious vibe, expect to experience all kinds of characters here drinking and singing along to classics played on the piano. You’ll hear everything from Broadway hits from Hamilton to Disney classics from The Little Mermaid. The pianist lets you choose whatever song as long as he knows how to play it. With no cover charge, happy hour from 4–8 p.m. and live music from 9:30 p.m.–3 a.m., you can begin or end your evening at Brandy’s Piano Bar, or both.
19. Open Your Mind with Albertine
Albertine is the only bookshop in New York devoted to selling French and English work. It focuses on sparking an intellectual exchange between French and U.S. culture and writing. Albertine hosts events where guests discuss different novels, plus parties and readings that open visitors up to new literature. If book readings aren’t up your alley, the interior design is enough to make you want to stay and explore. The bright blue ceiling with horoscope signs and stars encompasses the room, making it feel like you traveled to a bookstore into space. Experience it for yourself at Albertine.
20. Satisfy your Sweet Tooth at La Maison du Chocolat
If your mouth waters at the mere thought of chocolate, you need to check out La Maison du Chocolat. In 1977, Robert Linxe, a top French chocolatier, founded La Maison du Chocolat. Linxe also opened boutiques in major cities like Tokyo, Paris, London, all selling handmade artisan chocolate. The gourmet chocolate boutique only uses fresh ingredients to make dark and milk chocolate pralines and ganaches.
21. Learn NYC’s History at the Gracie Mansion
This mansion was built over 200 years ago by Archibald Gracie, a writer, soldier and survivor of the Titanic sinking. The house passed on to a few others until the taxes became too much to handle. The city of New York bought it to use as a concession stand and restroom for the Carl Schurz Park. For a time, the city used this mansion as the mayor’s residence. This tradition continued until 2002 when Mayor Michael Bloomberg decided to live elsewhere and make Gracie Mansion into the “people’s house.” Now a museum, Gracie Mansion is open to the public to take tours of the decadent home. The artwork currently on display includes pieces by powerful women like Florine Stettheimer and Ana Mendieta. Spaces for the tour are extremely limited, so plan ahead. You’ll learn which Founding Father died in its ballroom, how at one point it became an ice cream stand for 28 years and more secrets.
22. Raise up Your Auction Paddle at Sotheby’s
Going once, going twice, SOLD. Watch people bid on fine art at Sotheby’s. This auction house and gallery opens the public up to the world of fine art with their daily auctions selling vintage watches, modern African art and diamonds. Anyone can attend the auction for free, and you’re not required to bid.
23. Jones Wood Foundry
Welcome to the coziest pub in New York City. The British vibe, reminiscent of 1900s New York, makes the space just as pleasing as the food. Entrées go for around $15, which is unfortunately affordable in the city and fitting for a college budget. The menu includes appetizers like homemade ricotta served with sourdough and the British cheese tray with cheddar, stilton and aged goat cheeses. Not to mention, they have happy hour throughout the week with British Fizz, a fancy way to say champagne. If a Salmon Burger, Shepherd’s Pie or Sunday Roast have your mouth watering, head over to Jones Wood Foundry ASAP.
24. Sit in on an Organ Concert at The Church of Saint Ignatius Loyola
The Church of Saint Ignatius Loyola holds the largest organ ever built and busts out Phantom of the Opera-esque sounds inspiring the public with its beauty and unique melody. With free organ concerts weekly, people boast that these concerts change lives after audiences hear the booming, echoing sound produced by the instrument. Open to the Manhattan public since 1851, Catholics and non-Catholics alike visit this church to admire its beauty and history. Saint Ignatius Loyola, who the church is named after, founded the Society of Jesus, also known as Jesuits. The interior is made of gorgeous marble that makes the building shine.
Ready to live the cultured life of the Upper East Side? Get the best student and intern housing with Educational Housing Services. EHS gives you more than student and intern housing—it gives you a chance to truly immerse yourself in the Big Apple. Apply and save your spot!