A Day Out in NYC's Upper West Side

by Stephanie Ogozalek
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To a non-New Yorker, Manhattan's Upper West Side neighborhood probably conjures up visions of the New York City created by the likes of Woody Allen and Jerry Seinfeld -- one filled with colorful and quirky characters. To someone who has spent any amount of time in the city, a different picture comes to mind, one of an established residential neighborhood with block after block of four- and five-story residences, bound by lavish parks on the east and west, Columbia University to the north and dotted with world class cultural intuitions. In short, it's a perfect family-friendly neighborhood to explore on a day out in Manhattan with children.

Reviewers:

Stephanie and her 5-year-old son, Sebastian

Why families love it:

Like most of Manhattan, the Upper West Side packs a lot into a small area, so it is easily walked, even with children. Since it is mostly residential it doesn't have the foot or car traffic that other neighborhoods do. Families flock to the almost limitless green, open spaces of Central and Riverside Parks. The neighborhood is also rich with museums, kid-friendly eateries and gourmet shops to grab a snack.

How to get there:

Besides walking, the subway is the best way to get around Manhattan. Take the 1, 2, 3, B or C train uptown from most places in Manhattan; 72nd Street is the most central stop. If you must drive, take Broadway north and find a parking lot that suits your budget.

Stephanie's Upper West Side picks:

1. American Museum of Natural History

Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, NY 10024

A trip to the hallowed halls of the American Museum of Natural History should be on the top of the list for anyone visiting New York City with children. The immense museum houses everything -- the largest dinosaurs, the smallest insects, the oldest artifacts and the newest technology all reside happily in the museum. Don't try to see it all on one trip -- pick one or two halls that interest your family and when your feet are aching get a ticket to the planetarium. 

2. Diana Ross Playground

81st Street and Central Park West
New York, NY 10024

Named after it's benefactor and neighbor, Diana Ross, this playground is a fun place for kids to run, jump, slide and swing. There are two main play structures, one for big kids and one for toddlers. There are 3 slides: a corkscrew, a really high one, and a "great and kind of scary" shiny metal tube slide. The playground itself is beautiful, the structures are made of wood and the ground cover underneath is a giant sandbox, allowing it to blend seamlessly into the natural environment in this area of Central Park. 

3. Grom

2165 Broadway
New York, NY 10024

When the Italian gelato masters of Grom opened their first store stateside the lines were hours long just to get a taste. Now that the fervor has died down and the lines are mostly gone we love to take the quick walk from the museum or the park to indulge in this amazing gelato. Grom, leaders in the slow food movement, use the finest ingredients and even own their own fruit farm! 

4. Belvedere Castle

79th Street, Mid-Central Park
New York, NY 10024

Perched high above the park on Vista Rock's craggy outcropping is the fantastical Belvedere Castle holding its own among the high rises and skyscrapers of Manhattan. Climb the skinny medieval-esque spiral staircase that leads to the top terrace for an amazing view of the park below. Inside the castle, check out the Henry Luce Nature Observatory or step outside to experience a popular activity at the castle, bird watching. 

Stephanie Ogozalek is a freelance writer who enjoys exploring the nooks and crannies of New York City with her husband and 5-year-old son.

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