Upper West Side & Morningside Heights
The Upper West Side (stretching from Columbus Circle at 59th Street to 110th Street, between Central Park and Riverside Drive/the Hudson River) is affluent and family-friendly, with a vibe that is a bit more relaxed than that found immediately across the park. Its lucky residents live in beautiful brownstones on quiet, tree-lined streets, as well as apartment buildings such as the famous Dakota, at 72nd Street and Central Park West (where former resident John Lennon was shot by a deranged fan in 1980) and Beaux-Arts treasures like the Ansonia, on Broadway between 73rd and 74th Streets.
With easy access to both Central Park and Riverside Park, the neighborhood has long been a center for artists, writers and intellectuals (Columbia University is just to the north) and families. It's also famous for its many appearances in movies, including Nora Ephron's "You've Got Mail" and classic Woody Allen films like "Annie Hall" and "Manhattan." Try the UWS for gourmet markets (Fairway, Citarella, Zabar's on Broadway), iconic NYC food spots like Barney Greengrass (The Sturgeon King) and Gray's Papaya, and a host of other restaurants and bars, though nightlife is not what the area is known for. Come for daytime dining and/or shopping, but watch out for the strollers and expect a wait on the weekends for brunch.
The Upper West Side is also a big cultural destination, thanks to Lincoln Center (home to the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, the New York City Opera and New York City Ballet and the American Ballet Theater, among others). The American Museum of Natural History, with its Rose Center for Earth and Space (containing the famous Hayden Planetarium) is also a top attraction.
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