Gentrification came to the Upper West Side—made up of the sub-neighborhoods of Lincoln Square, Upper West Side, and Manhattan Valley—in the late 19th century, which brought residential development to the neighborhood in the form of townhouses and tall apartment buildings. The area, now considered a cultural and intellectual hub (with Lincoln Center to the south and Columbia just outside the northern confines of the neighborhood) offers entertainment, shopping, parks, and playgrounds—everything you could want to enrich your family’s life. Plus, with more than 30 playgrounds, almost 80 different school options, and seeing daily vignettes of family life—kids on scooters, parents pushing strollers, and families picnicking in the park—the Upper West Side couldn’t be more family-friendly.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering moving your family to the Upper West Side.
Schools on the Upper West Side
Public Schools on the Upper West Side
According to the NYC Department of Education website, there are 57 public schools on the Upper West Side, including dedicated preschools; elementary, middle, and high schools; specialized high schools; charter schools; and schools that offer special education services.
Public and charter schools on the Upper West Side include:
- Frank McCourt High School
- P.S. 9 Sarah Anderson
- P.S. 75 Emily Dickinson
- P.S. 87 William Sherman
- P.S. 163 Alfred E. Smith
- P.S. 165 Robert E. Simon
- P.S. 199 Jesse Isador Straus
- P.S. 333 Manhattan School for Children
- P.S. 811 Mickey Mantle School
- Success Academy Charter School
Specialized High Schools on the Upper West Side include:
- Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts
- High School for Law, Advocacy and Community Justice
- High School of Arts and Technology
- Manhattan Hunter Science High School
- The Urban Assembly School for Green Careers
- The Urban Assembly School for Media Studies
Private, Religious, and International Schools on the Upper West Side
The New York State Association on Independent Schools lists more than 20 private and religious schools on the Upper West Side, and that’s only including those schools that are part of the voluntary association.
Private schools on the Upper West Side include:
- Collegiate School
- The IDEAL School & Academy
- The Mandell School
- Robert Louis Stevenson School
- Trevor Day School
- Twin Parks Montessori Schools
- West Side Montessori School
Religious schools on the Upper West Side include:
- The Abraham Joshua Heschel School
- The Geneva School of Manhattan
- Holy Name School
- Manhattan Day School
- Rodeph Sholom School
- Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan
- St. Gregory the Great School
- Trinity School
International schools on the Upper West Side include Dwight School and The International Preschools.
Public Transportation on the Upper West Side
Trains on the Upper West Side
There are three subway lines that run north to south on the Upper West Side: 1-2-3, A-C, and B-D. The 1 makes all local stops along Broadway from the southernmost tip of Manhattan into the west side of the Bronx, while the 2 and 3 run express in Manhattan from Brooklyn into the east side of the Bronx. The A and D lines run express through the Upper West Side from 59th Street to 125th Street, and the B and C lines make all local stops along Central Park West.
Bus Lines on the Upper West Side
If traveling above ground is more your speed, there are five bus routes that travel north-south—M5, M104, M7, M11, M10—and six bus routes that travel east-west across Central Park—M66, M72, M79, M86, M96, and M106.
Things to Do with Kids on the Upper West Side
Museums on the Upper West Side
American Folk Art Museum
This free-admission museum showcases the creativity of individuals whose talents have been refined through experience rather than formal artistic training. Its collection includes more than 7,000 artworks dating from the 18th century to the present, and considers the historical, social, and artistic context of American culture. The museum offers a variety of programs from tours to performances and discussions, as well as Families and Folk Art, which introduces children ages 4-12 to folk art through tours and hands-on activities.
American Museum of Natural History
AMNH is one of the world’s pre-eminent scientific and cultural institutions with the goal of discovering, interpreting, and disseminating information about human cultures, the natural world, and the universe. You can spend a day exploring human origins, dinosaur fossils, mammals of the world, ocean life (don’t forget a picture with the 94-foot blue whale!), rocks and minerals, Earth and space, and more. The institution hosts a variety of programs, special exhibits, and special events, including the popular A Night at the Museum Sleepover for ages 6-13.
The Milstein Hall of Ocean Life at the American Museum of Natural History features this 94-foot-long model of a blue whale suspended from the ceiling.
Children’s Museum of Manhattan
CMOM aims to inspire children and families to learn about themselves and the culturally diverse world through a unique environment of interactive exhibits and programs. The museum’s programs focus on four areas—early childhood, healthy lifestyles, creativity, and world cultures—that will have a lasting impact. It also hosts a variety of art, science, movement, and fitness activities for children and their families.
New-York Historical Society and DiMenna Children’s History Museum
As the oldest museum in New York City, this institute explores the political, cultural, and social history of NYC, New York state, and the nation. The society is home to the DiMenna Children’s History Museum, which presents 350 years of New York and American history through character-based pavilions, interactive exhibits, and digital games. Among the museum’s family programs are events relating to current exhibits, a cross-stitch circle, and Little New-Yorkers, a story and craft time for ages 3-5.
Parks on the Upper West Side
Adjacent to Manhattan’s largest park, the UWS gives New Yorkers easy access to many of Central Park’s attractions. The Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater, located at 79th Street, is home to one of the last public marionette companies in the U.S. and produces shows based on children’s classics. For Beatles fans young and old, Strawberry Fields, the memorial to John Lennon, is located between 71st and 74th Streets. The Central Park Tennis Center, located between 94th and 96th streets near West Drive, offers lessons for adults and children, after-school classes, summer programs, and open-play times. Plus, Central Park has 10 playgrounds located along Central Park West, including Adventure Playground (which has maze-like structures and a water spray feature), Diana Ross Playground (funded by Diana Ross after her concert on Great Lawn in 1983), Tarr-Coyne Wild West Playground (which features wooden play structures that resemble a frontier town), and the Abraham and Joseph Spector Playground (one of the largest in the park).
Strawberry Fields, a memorial to John Lennon named after one of his favorite songs, was officially dedicated on Oct. 9, 1985, what would have been Lennon’s 45th birthday. The mosaic bears the word Imagine, one of Lennon’s popular songs.
Along the Hudson River, Riverside Park stretches from 72nd to 158th streets, and is widely regarded as Manhattan’s most spectacular waterfront park as one of eight officially designated scenic landmarks in the city. The park is a hotbed of physical activity and fitness, featuring dog runs; baseball and soccer fields; basketball, handball, volleyball, and tennis courts; kayak launches; a skate park; and ping pong tables and tetherball. Plus, Riverside Park has eight playgrounds for area children, including the Hippo Playground (which features sculptures of hippopotami), the Dinosaur Playground (home to two fiberglass dinos: a triceratops and a hadrosaur), Neufield Playground (nicknamed the Elephant Playground because of its pachyderm water sprinklers), and the Little Engine Playground (a train-themed play space).
Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park
Surrounds the American Museum of Natural History, this park is named to honor Theodore Roosevelt, who served as the NYC Police Commissioner, Governor of New York state, Vice President under William McKinley, and President after McKinley’s assassination. This park offers a dog run—a large, fenced-in area for dogs to exercise unleashed during park hours—on Central Park West at 81st Street.
Playgrounds on the Upper West Side
In addition to the 10 playgrounds located in Central Park along Central Park West and the eight playgrounds in Riverside Park, there are nine playgrounds on the Upper West Side, plus those attached to schools that are open to the public during non-school hours, including:
- Anibal Aviles Playground: 108th Street, between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues
- Booker T. Washington Playground: 108th Street, between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues
- Bloomingdale Playground: Amsterdam Avenue, between 104th and 105th streets
- Frederick Douglass Playground: Amsterdam Avenue, between 100th and 102nd streets
- Happy Warrior Playground: 97th Street and Amsterdam Avenue
- Matthew P. Sapolin Playground: 70th Street, between Amsterdam and West End avenues
- Samuel N. Bennerson 2nd Playgroud: 64th Street, between Amsterdam and West End avenues
- Sol Bloom Playgroud: 92nd Street, between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue
- Tecumseh Playground: 77th Street and Amsterdam Avenue
Family Entertainment on the Upper West Side
Designated a New York landmark building in 1979, the Beacon Theater has become a rock room for generations of New Yorkers. This is the Upper West Side’s venue for concerts, comedy shows, and the like in an intimate setting. It has hosted everything from Charlie Puth (ask your tweens who he is) and Steely Dan concerts to Jerry Seinfeld and Neil deGrasse Tyson to Wild Kratts—Live!
In addition to its annual performance of The Nutcracker, Lincoln Center offers a variety of family programming throughout the year, including immersive theater pieces, kids’ music performances, workshops with the New York City Ballet, story times, traditional theater for kids, autism-friendly performances, and trick-or-treating for Halloween. Plus, the arts center hosts Lincoln Center Out of Doors each summer, which includes a variety of family-friendly performances and the Lincoln Center Block Party, an outdoor dance party for the whole family.
Lincoln Center hosts a variety of family-friendly activities, including a trick-or-treat event every Halloween.
This pre-eminent multi-disciplinary performing arts center aims to promote innovation, excellence, engagement, and accessibility to artists and audiences, and be a home for established and emerging artists. It offers a diverse array of events for all ages with special programming for families and children. Just Kidding features music, theater, dance, and more on Saturday mornings, and Thalia Kids’ Book Club provides opportunities for discussions between children’s book authors and their fans, as well as creative writing projects and book signings.
Shopping on the Upper West Side
In addition to New York staples, such as Gristedes, Citarella Gourmet Market, and Westside Market, and independent stores and bodegas, the Upper West Side is home to the following grocery stores:
- Fairway Market: Broadway, between 74th and 75th streets
- The Kosher Marketplace: Broadway, between 90th and 91st streets
- Trader Joes: Broadway at 72nd Street and Columbus Avenue at 93rd Street (slated to open in 2017)
- Whole Foods: Columbus Avenue, between 97th and 100th streets, and Columbus Circle (just south of the confines of the UWS)
- Zabar’s: Broadway at 80th Street
79th Street Greenmarket
This farmers’ market (located on Columbus Avenue, between 77th and 81st streets) provides Upper West Siders with a variety of farmers selling grass-fed beef, fish, fowl, fresh flowers, eggs, honey, baked goods, apple cider, and a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. This market also offers cooking demos, seasonal celebrations, and family-friendly activities. It is open Sundays, year-round, 9am-5pm. You can also recycle textiles and bring food scraps for composting from 9am-1pm.
Open since 1983, the 79th Street Greenmarket is one of the larger markets GrowNYC operates. It offers an array of fresh fruits and vegetables, locally caught fish, pasture raised meats, local honey, freshly baked breads, and other farm fresh foods, as well as specialty items such as yarns, herbal tinctures, and rubs.
97th Street Greenmarket
This market (located on 97th Street, between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues) has been running for 25 years. You’ll find a variety of farmers from southern New Jersey, Orange County, and the Hudson Valley selling produce, eggs, grass-fed meat, fish, and cheese. This greenmarket also hosts community activities, cooking demos, and recipe exchanges, as well as bilingual nutrition education workshops and cooking demos. This location is open Fridays, year-round, 8am-2pm. You can recycle textiles and bring food scraps for composting 8am-2pm.
Tucker Square Greenmarket
This twice-a-week greenmarket (located at 66th Street and Columbus Avenue) offers seasonal vegetables and fruit, flowers, and herb pots, plus farmstead cheeses, seafood, grass-fed beef, duck, eggs, artisanal baked goods, and sorghum and maple syrup. It also hosts community activities, cooking demos, and a recipe exchange. This location is open Thursdays and Saturdays, year-round, 8am-5pm. You can also bring food scraps for composting on Thursdays, 8am-3:30pm, and Saturdays, 8am-1pm.
In the Lincoln Center area (60th to 67th street, along Broadway and Columbus Avenue), you’ll find stores such as:
- American Apparel
- Apple Store
- Bed, Bath & Beyond
- Best Buy
- Century 21
- Pottery Barn
- Unleashed by Petco
- West Elm
In the Columbus Square area (Columbus Avenue, between 97th and 100th streets), you’ll find stores such as:
- Home Goods
- TJ Maxx
Scattered throughout the neighborhood, you’ll also find:
- Barnes & Noble
- Banana Republic
- Urban Outfitters
Want to do some good while you shop? GreenFlea, located at 100 W. 77th St., donates its proceeds to benefit four area public schools: P.S. 87, The Computer School, P.S. 334, and P.S. 452. The flea market features vendors selling antiques, vintage, home décor, collectibles, clothing and accessories, jewelry, global goods, kids’ items, and food. GreenFlea is open Sundays, in all weather, from 10am-5:30pm.
In addition to the Shops at Columbus Circle, which houses brands such as Armani Exchange, bebe, Cole Haan, J. Crew, Lucky Brand, Michael Kors, Stuart Weitzman, Sephora, and True Religion, the Upper West Side is home to a slew of luxury brands, including:
- Bloomingdale’s Outlet
- Brooks Brothers
- Club Monaco
- Kate Spade
- Rag and Bone
Luxury Living on the Upper West Side
Along with the townhouses and tall apartment buildings that came with the late-19th-century gentrification, you’ll find a selection of luxury buildings on the Upper West Side that offer rental units for families. There are two major perks to living in a luxury building for families: building quality and amenities. In luxury buildings, you’ll find better appliance packages (hello, dishwasher!), design finishes (such as crown molding, higher-end fixtures, and often granite or marble countertops), and layouts that make the apartment feel more spacious than similar apartments of the same square feet. Luxury building amenities often include a doorman or lobby attendant (which is helpful when receiving deliveries and improves apartment security), in-building spas, pools, or fitness centers (higher-end buildings even offer playrooms for children to play while parents workout), on-site laundry (either on a certain floor or in each unit), and rooftop lounges and outdoor patios for entertaining.
Main image: The Upper West Side is populated with 19th-century townhouses and tall apartment buildings, as well as newer luxury apartment buildings.
Courtesy Windermere West End