New York City: Upper West Side

Tour Creator

Jennifer Young is a historian and writer, with many years of experience in public history and museum education. She is the former Director of Education at the YIVO Institute, and…Read More Bio »

Tour Type:

Historical

Urban

New York City

GPS-directed

Remote Tour Included

2hrs

2km

Welcome to Manhattan’s Upper West Side, a neighborhood so chock-full of quirky architecture and colorful personalities, you would swear it’s twice as big. Featured in movies as different as Ghostbusters, Rosemary’s Baby, and You’ve Got Mail, this neighborhood exudes an offbeat charm that warms the hearts of first-time visitors, and even the most jaded New Yorkers.

Here we will discover the diverse architectural styles, culinary experiences, and colorful personalities that make up this unique neighborhood. On our tour, we will discover a secret legend about George Washington, look at a building modeled after one of Italy’s most famous palaces, see where live seals frolicked in the lobby of an apartment building, see where former Beatle, John Lennon, lived and died, and end at the impressive exterior at one of the largest museums in the world.

Avoid the Crowds

Allows you to explore without having to be shoulder-to-shoulder in a large tour group

Expert-created Tour

Written by a local tour guide with a M. Ed. in Museum Education

GPS Directions

Easy-to-follow GPS directions to get you from one point to the next on your tour

Highlights include:

Zabar's, The Ansonia, and the Dakota Building

Remote Tour Included

As with all our tours, a remote tour is included that can be enjoyed from home

Itinerary

New York City’s Upper West Side

  1. Zabar's - Our tour starts outside Zabar's, a legendary family business and food emporium, and a temple of deliciousness. Zabar’s was founded in 1934, selling high-quality fresh-roasted coffee and smoked fish, and has been on the forefront of culinary fashions ever since. We’ll learn about Murray Klein, a co-owner of Zabar’s who escaped the Soviet gulag to build a gourmet empire.
  2. First Baptist Church -  This church was founded downtown in 1765, and moved uptown in the 1890s. Its first pastor claimed to have secretly baptized George Washington at Valley Forge, as the American General suffered a crisis of faith during the war’s worst winter. The building in front of you was built in 1894, in the Italian Romanesque Revival style. There are two uneven towers, the taller one representing Jesus Christ as the spiritual head of the church, and the other, which deliberately appears unfinished, representing the church’s unfulfilled destiny.
  3. The Apthorp - When the building opened in 1908, it represented the opulence and artistry of Gilded Age New York, and was advertised as the most luxurious apartment building in the world.
  4. The Ansonia - Inspired by the hotels of Paris, this 17-story residential apartment building opened in 1904. Its opulence was unparalleled, boasting immense ballrooms, Turkish baths, and the world’s largest swimming pool.
  5. Levain Bakery - This legendary bakery, found in a tiny brownstone basement, produces what the New York Times calls “the largest, most divine chocolate chip cookies in Manhattan.” For years, cookie-seekers had to wait for hours, with lines at the bakery stretching around the block.
  6. The former Hotel Nobleton - As an "apartment hotel," this building had no kitchens, since residents dined in a common dining room.
  7. Mrs. Ponsie B. Hillman Way - This corner was named after a famous local resident in 2017. Mrs. Ponsie Barclay Hillman, who lived from 1918-2008, was a life member of the famous civil rights organization, the NAACP.
  8. Shearith Israel - Home to the oldest Jewish congregation in the United States, the founding members of Shearith Israel date their history back to the first Jews to arrive in New York. These men and women were refugees from a Dutch colony in Brazil who fled to the then-Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, in 1654. This neo-classical building, built in 1897, was designed by Louis Tiffany, of Tiffany lamp fame, son of the famed jeweler.
  9. The Dakota building - Built in 1884, when few people lived uptown, legend has it that the Dakota was named after the famous US territory because it was located, by New Yorkers’ standards, at the furthest edge of civilization. Several generations of celebrities have called the Dakota home, including Lauren Bacall, Leonard Bernstein, and Judy Garland, but its most famous residents were John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who moved into the building in 1974. Lennon was assassinated in the building’s front archway in 1980.
  10. Strawberry Fields - This portion of Central Park is designed specifically as a memorial to John Lennon, and it was named after the Beatles song written by Lennon, “Strawberry Fields Forever.” The memorial includes a mosaic of stones that spell out the title of another Lennon song, “Imagine.” The landscape design was requested by Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, who still lives in the Dakota building, as a “living memorial.” Thousands of visitors pay tribute here every week.
  11. The San Remo - This 27-floor luxury co-operative apartment building, built in 1930, has two separate lobbies. The building splits into two ten-story towers at the 18th floor, topped by Corinthian columns and copper lanterns.
  12. The New-York Historical Society - This organization is so old, it preserves the antiquated spelling of the city, with the hyphen in the middle. This was the first museum in New York City, founded in 1804 to preserve the history of the American Revolution.
  13. American Museum of Natural History - Welcome to the largest natural history museum in the world! The museum complex houses 28 interconnected buildings, and 33 million specimens and artifacts. Founded just after the American Civil War, the museum opened here in 1877. Over the museum years, the has accumulated a vast and eclectic collection, from T. Rex bones to ancient human remains, meteorites, precious gemstones, a number of elephants, lions, and tigers, and an extremely enormous blue whale.

Check out a free sample of this tour!

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