I’ve written blog posts about our first year in New York ranging from the West Village, the Upper West Side, Central Park, Midtown East, the Lower East Side, Long Island City, Coney Island, the Rockaways, Williamsburg, Red Hook, and FiDi…Even Governor’s Island and Little Island get some Toast the Moon love. It seems that I’ve purposefully left out one vital neighborhood on the east side and near the park that everyone has heard about in Manhattan.
(Yes, Harlem will also be coming soon…but, not yet. There is a lot to unravel and understand about that historic, cultural, and vital area – and I don’t want to mess it up.)
The truth is, The Upper East Side has been on my list since last June…
But, there’s always been something keeping me from diving in to write about it.
Coming to New York City as a tourist, it was where I longed to stay…to visit…to shop…to dream.
I think that the Upper East Side became the American Dream for many Millennials.
Someday, I would work hard enough to enjoy an UES penthouse. Someday, the shopkeepers on Madison would all know me by name. Someday, I would have a corner Italian bistro booth that felt like home. Someday, I might be the next Serena or Blaire or, better still, Lily…
Times have changed. I’ve changed. The Upper East Side has changed.
And, that’s kept me from telling it’s story. I’ve had to wrap my head around the “New” New York City. And, I wasn’t sure I was ready to let go of the past.
But, that’s what New York City does.
The one constant is that this skyline, the opportunities, and the people here are always changing. And that’s why it stays relevant as long as its been settled.
So, New York moves ahead and forges new paths. Our attitudes about what we want in life, and what life is willing to offer us have to change, and neighborhoods come and go. Even Gossip Girl has moved to the Upper West Side and Brooklyn.
So, what is the Upper East Side today? What remains and what has changed?
Hi History, I’m Present
The Upper West Side houses the Natural History Museum. And, that area facing the park is absolutely stunning. But, alongside the museum, the Upper West Side has a certain je ne sais quoi in the architecture – Neo-classical mixes with Parisian and Dutch, and so many blocks can make you feel like you’ve stepped into a quaint European city. Architecture locked in time…
The Upper East Side houses museum mile, a collection of New York City’s finest museums, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, El Museo del Barrio, The Jewish Museum, the Museum of the City of New York, the National Academy Museum, Neue Galerie, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum. History thrives here.
Once you leave the museums, you’re greeted with Central Park and white stone skyscrapers that feel like the government quarters of London. The architecture is decidedly more stark, strong, and cold than the Upper West Side. These are not the homes of artists and performers. These are the homes of bankers, founders, ambassadors, and old-money. And, it’s abundantly clear.
The trouble is, old-money, although still as spendable (or savable) as ever before, doesn’t bear the same weight that it did in the 90s and early 2000s. Luxury isn’t valued in the same way.
Look at our current climate… We care more about the label saying that an item is ethically sourced rather than the name of who designed it. We want to spend our money helping people in the world who need it rather than keeping up with the Kardashians…(ahem..Joneses?) And, those old-money families are crumbling before our eyes. Not because they’re losing their fortunes, but they’re losing their secrets, and their lives are unraveling.
The pandemic only accelerated this trend.
The Upper East Side is for sale…And, only time will tell what the neighborhood will become when the affluent fall or move on…
Anthony Bourdain lived his later years on the Upper East Side. He would often criticize the neighborhood for lacking in good restaurants (save for his beloved Papaya King and Subway Inn dive bar). Other pop-culture references discuss the monotony of the Upper East Side establishments by mentioning that there’s an Italian restaurant on every block, each one as lackluster as the last.
How true are the references?
There are 68 Michelin-Star restaurants in New York City in 2021. Oddly…considering this is where the upper-crest lives, the Upper East Side (north of 60th) hosts only three of them…
There are a strange amount of Italian eateries, paired oddly with taco take-out and a deli on every corner. You can find almost anything, but it will be a more generic approach to what you find downtown. Most of the restaurants are unoffensive and unoriginal.
If you’re looking for shopping more luxurious than 5th Avenue, Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side should be your first stop. If Armani and Cartier are cheap and beneath your status, shopping the Upper East Side will be your last resort. They definitely have that covered better than anywhere else in the city. They also have Bloomingdale’s and Dylans Candy Bar.
Aside from museums, you won’t find a lot of culture or events happening here. Nightlife is quiet. Sidewalks are clear. It’s a lovely place for an evening stroll, but not one that will include live music, drinking, or dancing.
Because of all of these cultural comforts that top-tier New Yorkers have enjoyed, it has also become a hotspot for families. The sidewalks are wide, strollers exist comfortably, and with easy access to top-tier schools, parks, shopping, and apartments – growing families are the top market for the Upper East Side these days.
And, surprisingly, the rates for rents and purchases on the UES have plummeted, meaning that middle class New Yorkers are able to come into the area. Only time will tell what that will mean for its future.
Visiting the Upper East Side
So, should you go there?
Go to Museum Mile, go to Serendipity 3, go to Bloomingdale’s and Dylan’s and window shop Madison Avenue. Have some pasta at Serafina or Tony’s. Dress up and grab tea and macarons at Ladurée. Enjoy the space and the stately architecture. See New York from old-money’s perspective. It’s lovely.
Maybe during your visit, you’ll get to see history happening before your eyes as well. Old New York money and style still existing, but becoming smaller in the wake of New New York revolution and evolution.
Let me know what you think!
More Posts About New York
- Where to Stay in New York City: Top 10 Neighborhoods
- Toasting Governor’s Island
- What to Pack for Your First Trip to New York City
- Toasting the New York Yankees
- Toasting Summer Vibes on Pier 17 and the North River Lobster Boat
- Toasting New York City’s Upper West Side
- Toasting Beacon and the Hudson River Valley
- Toasting the Top 10 Best of Spring in NYC
- Toasting Brooklyn’s Western Waterfront
- Toasting Coney Island, Brooklyn
- Toasting Gardens and Green Spaces in New York City
- Toasting Spring 2021
- Pizzas, Parties and Poetry in Greenwich Village
- The American Museum of Natural History
- Christmas in Midtown, Manhattan
- Holiday Spirit in NYC
- The NYC Zoos
- Tea Tasting in Soho and the Lower East Side
- The New York Botanical Gardens
- Halloween in New York City
- Exploring Queens: Long Island City
- Exploring Downtown Manhattan: FiDi
- Exploring Brooklyn: Red Hook
- The Best Observation Decks in NYC
- Exploring Queens: Rockaway Beach
- Exploring Our Neighborhood: Midtown East
- Exploring Central Park
Should I Come to New York in 2021?
So, we’re back on the fence for this again due to the Delta Variant. I’ll keep you posted as things change. For now, if you’re coming, make sure to bring your proof of vaccination! This will be REQUIRED for most places you will want visit.
As of April 1, quarantine and testing will no longer be mandated. Quarantining for a few days is still recommended, but we are reaching the end of the formal testing, paperwork, and quarantines for domestic travelers! Huzzah!
***UPDATE*** On May 17th the MTA Subway System will resume 24/7 service!
***UPADTE***On August 16th restaurants, attractions, and venues will REQUIRE proof of vaccination. They will accept your vaccination card, a photo of the front and back of your vaccination card, or a QR code from your state’s vaccination app – like the New York Excelsior Pass.
***UPDATE*** On September 14th Broadway will be allowed to re-open at 100% capacity. The shows scheduled to resume in September are The Lion King, Wicked, and Ain’t Too Proud.
As always, don’t forget to Toast The Moon to all of your international travels by visiting our store, and make sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and the ‘gram to catch all of our latest posts and adventures!