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The Upper West Side is one of the greenest sections of Manhattan. Bordered by Central Park on one side and Hudson River to the other, the Upper West Side is an affluent, mostly residential area. It’s a place where some of Manhattan’s elite look for a place to raise their families away from the hustle and bustle of Midtown and Lower Manhattan.
Today, the Upper West Side is also known as being the city’s intellectual and cultural hub, as it is home to the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the American Museum of Natural History and The Children’s Museum of Manhattan. Just to the north of the neighborhood are Columbia University as well as Barnard College.
In the early days of colonization, the Upper West Side remained mostly untouched land. In the 19th century, some of the city’s most ambitious homes were built here, on Bloomingdale Road. By later that century, the riverfront section of the neighborhood was home to a variety of industries that took advantage of the geography – manufacturing, shipping and transportation.
New York City’s first subway line created quite the boom in development in the Upper West Side, particularly with residential apartment buildings and townhouses. In the early- to mid-20th century, the neighborhood was home to a large portion of the gay population until the AIDS epidemic began. In fact, white gay men who moved into the neighborhood in the 1950s and 1960s are often cited as one of the main catalysts the Upper West Side began to gentrify.
Today, the Upper West Side is known more for its residents than as a place for people to hang out, although there are famous places to shop, such as Fairway and Zabar’s. In fact, the neighborhood is where many celebrities decide to call home so that they can live in as much anonymity as possible.
Those who call the Upper West Side home are wealthy people who love culture, making it a great place for writers, filmmakers, professors and artists, for example. With both Central Park and Riverside Park nearby, it’s a great place for people to get inspired and get their creative juices flowing.
Parts of the Upper West Side feel more like high-end suburbs than they do a part of the most populous city in the country. As such, the entertainment and nightlife scenes are more akin to relaxed atmospheres than they are to crowded and noisy bars. You’ll often see people relaxing at a lounge, coffee shop or upscale restaurant in the Upper West Side.
Still, there are many hot spots for locals to hang out, grab a drink (either a morning or nighttime version), relax and socialize. If you have the money to afford it, the Upper West Side has it all.