things to do in Harlem things to do in Harlem

10 Fun Things to Do in Harlem

Harlem is popularly known for its musical, cultural history, and African American culture. It’s the neighborhood of Manhattan and has been a major attraction when talking about New York City.

Harlem resides stunning hotels and Airbnb. Full of vibrant energy, Harlem never disappoints its visitors. Famous dance moves such as toe wop, Harlem shake, and chicken noodle soup originated from Harlem. In the early 20s, Harlem was the center focus of the Harlem renaissance. When talking about things to do in Harlem, the list goes on and on.

Before experiencing all of the activities in the city of Harlem, it’s useful to observe and learn about its unique neighborhoods.

About Harlem

The central region of Harlem is the place where the Harlem Renaissance began, and it is the most famous neighborhood of Harlem. Central Harlem is situated among hundred and tenth Street, Fifth to St. Nicholas Avenues, and Harlem River.

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by: alexapro/Depositphotos

East Harlem also called Spanish Harlem or El Barrio, as it resides the NYC’s Hispanic Community. You can locate it among 96th Street, the Harlem River, FDR Drive, and Fifth Avenue. Spanish Harlem is an excellent region to discover the Hispanic lifestyle. El Museo del Barrio is likewise in this location and an excellent place to stroll along the Boulevard.

West Harlem is known as one of the most stunning neighborhoods of NYC, and it’s discovered among 96th and 155th, Hudson River, and Fredrick Douglass Boulevard. West Harlem consists of neighborhoods like Manhattanville, Hamilton Heights-Sugar Hill, and Morningside Heights. West Harlem is a great region to discover African American culture and Harlem restaurants.

Now let’s make a checklist of things to do in Harlem that you could complete during your visit.

10 Fun Things to Do in Harlem

1. Apollo Theater

A music hall hosting live music concerts, dance performances, film screenings, theatrical performances, and a place filled with the magic of the creative mind: The Apollo Theater should be a must-visit on your list of things to do in Harlem.

Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York City
Editorial credit: Federico Rostagno /

1.1. History of Apollo Theater

The Apollo became the primary theatre on Harlem’s major street, and its role displays its primary function in Harlem’s culture. Designed by New York architect George Keister, the construction became leased by Jules Hurtig and Harry Seamon and opened as Hurtig and Seamon’s New (Burlesque) Theater.

After some years, it was bought by a competitor and renamed Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street Apollo Theater. The district around the building opened in the 1910s to African Americans, making the Great Migration out of the south, and withinside the Nineteen Twenties, Harlem became a Black residential and business area.

1.2. Amateur Night at the Apollo

The theater was opened in 1914 and has been a nucleus for launching careers of great minds and popularizing genres throughout the generations. One of the most stunning presents Of the Apollo theater has been Amateur night, which started in 1934.

Apollo Theater is a platform that has popularized different forms of jazz and gospel. Over the years, this Amateur Night has lent the stage to great personalities like Sammy Davis Jr, Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown, and Lauryn Hill. Amateur Night is hosted each Wednesday even now.

1.3. Musical and Cultural Significance of Apollo Theater

The theater resumes hosting educational, musical, and comedic events. Buy a ticket to watch excellent performances of stunning artists and African Americans performers. Apollo Theatres is home to Showtime, which is a national television show.

2. The Red Rooster

Marcus Samuelsson started the American cuisine red rooster in 2010. Every household knows the red rooster’s menu; the menu features dishes such as shrimp, chicken, grits, and waffles.

A trip to Harlem's Red Rooster

Located in the basement of Ginny’s Supper Club, the Red rooster also hosts DJ performances, gives musicians a stage to showcase their talent, and gives the customers a chance to spend a great evening.

2.1. Interior Design

As one steps inside the restaurant, the interior radiates a cozy environment. The wall inside consists of artworks from famous artists such as David Hammons and Brandon Cox.

2.2. Food and Ingredients

The restaurant makes mouth-watering dishes with ingredients taken from local farmers and food makers. One can always visit here to have a warm evening. The red rooster should be a must on your things to do In Harlem checklist.

3. Harlem Meer

The water body Harlem Meer is situated at the Northeast corner, central park. The word “Meer” stands for small sea, which is reflected around the park, as the park consists of water bodies.

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By: Appalachian view/Depositphotos

The Harlem Meer is a popular destination for the number of activities that take place around it and its picturesque beauty.

3.1. Activities

The Harlem Meer is filled with multiple areas for picnicking, appreciating wildlife, relaxing, sunbathing, and strolling around rocky bluffs; the area is called Fort Landscape.

The area is popular among people as they can spend a reasonable amount of time with their loved ones by doing various activities such as skating, playing in playgrounds, and fishing.

3.2. Community Programs and Exhibitions

The visitor center, The Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, runs the Central Park Conservancy. The park also includes community programs and exhibitions. The conservancy conducted a major reservation of the Harlem Meer.

4. Graffiti Hall of Fame

Once a year, in the street, the artwork is accumulated for two days in August for paint and play. The track is loud, spirits are high, and superb works of art are created.

The Graffiti Hall of Fame stretches among 106th and 107th Streets, along with the expanded Metro-North education on Park Avenue in El Barrio. Known as a street artist since 1980 and now a vacation destination, it’s far not often open (besides through personal tour) to the public.

4.1. The History of Graffiti Wall in Jackie Robinson Schoolyard

Harlem Community leader Ray Rodriguez converted the concrete walls of Jackie Robinson Schoolyard into the Graffiti Wall, situated in East Harlem. The wall has been a major attraction for all street artists around the world for around 30 Years and continues.

4.2. Embracing the Graf Artists

Primarily Ray Rodriguez created a semi-unauthorized gallery, where Ray and their supporters wanted to make space for every Graf artist to come and practice their skills. The Graffiti Hall of Fame embraces all the artists, local fans, and photographers interested.

5. Marcus Garvey Park

Welcome To Marcus Garvey Park In Harlem

Marcus Garvey Park is spread over a 20.2-acre area; it is famous for outdoor activities. The park consists of two playgrounds which include Richard Rogers Amphitheater, Harlem fire Watchtower, Fritz Recreation Centre, and a Baseball field; also, one can take swimming lessons with a certified coach at the swimming pool.

5.1. Activities in Marcus Garvey Park

The playgrounds are filled with slides, drawbridges, and fountains. Classes such as kickboxing, computer skills, and karate are offered to all those interested. It’s one of the best options if one wants to figure out things to do in Harlem.

6. Historic and Cultural Destinations in Harlem

6.1 El Museo Del Barrio

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By: YaseminOlgunozBerber/Depositphotos

If you like the arts, you’ll visit El Museo del Barrio, majorly known as El Museo. It is on Fifth Avenue; El Museo is New York’s primary Latino cultural institution.

As you stroll via the museum, you’ll see wide-ranging collections and exhibitions covered by Latino, Caribbean, and Latin American artists. El Museo celebrates Latino film, literature, culture, and performing arts.

6.2 Studio Museum

You must go to The Studio Museum in Harlem to discover artwork from African American artists. The series inside the museum concludes two hundred years of records and has more than 2,500 artworks from seven hundred artists.

Every piece withinside has been stimulated and inspired by Black culture, encouraging travelers to suppose and trade thoughts about the artwork. It gives a perception into the results of gentrification of the region and Black culture as a whole.

Visiting the studio museum is one of the best things to do in Harlem.

6.3 Langston Hughes (Supporter of Harlem Renaissance)

Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance: Crash Course Literature 215

Langston Hughes was a famous African American poet as well as an activist who was a supporter of the Harlem Renaissance. He was known as the Poet Laureate of Harlem. He arrived in New York City in 1921 and studied at Columbia University.

He was an LGBTQA icon, and it has been acknowledged that he stayed inside during his lifetime to make a living being a black writer. Langston Hughes’s brownstone house has been empowered as a New York City landmark since 1981.

6.4 Jackie Robinson Park

Jackie Robinson Park is situated in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood of the culturally Black enclave of the Sugar Hill Historic District. The Jackie Robinson Park edges through 145th Street to the south and 155th to the north, and then Bradhurst Avenue to the East and Edgecombe to the west.

It covers about ten metropolis blocks. Jackie Robinson Park, previously referred to as Colonial Park, sits on land that changed into a part of the Bradhurst Estate set up by wealthy businessman and author Samuel Bradhurst.

Today, Harlem citizens within the location experience park facilities, including basketball courts, baseball fields, entertainment, and the famous swimming pool.

6.5 Spanish Harlem

Spanish Harlem is situated East of Fifth Avenue and north of 96th Street toward the Harlem and East Rivers. It is also referred El Barrio; Spanish Harlem is bounded via way of means of the Harlem and East Rivers,96th Street, Fifth Avenue.

HARLEM - OCT 11:A streed scene in Harlem on October 11 2009 in Harlem Manhattan, New York.The area suffers from the highest violent crime rate in New York since 1920s.
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The Community was predominantly Puerto Rican with an enormous number of Dominican, Cuban, and Mexican multi-generational residents, further to a fast-developing Chinese populace and remnants of being a preceding enclave for Italians.

There are records to discover in Spanish Harlem, including the Young Lords Organization, a Puerto Rican (and different Hispanic cultures) activist collective stimulated by the Black Panther Party based in 1968. Other must-attempt locations encompass the sector’s famed El Museo Museum, offering artists of Latin descent, and more recent eating places like Contento, featuring the area’s wealthy culinary scene.

6.6 Striver’s Row

One of the most visited regions in Harlem is the Mount Morris Historical District (119th to 124th among MalcolmXBlvd, Lenox Avenue, and Mount Morris Park West). Here you, a visitor, get knowledge regarding the structure of the time and spot the stunning brownstone homes. The intersection of West 116th Street among Nicholas Avenue and Morningside Park is called Little Senegal.

One of the unusual activities in Harlem is to check Strivers’ Row. Here you may discover proper African culture. The Malcolm Shabazz Harlem Market is especially famous here. Jewelry and Clothing from elements of West Africa are offered at this weekly market.

It’s also referred to as the St. Nicholas Historic District (138th to 139th Street), which is a well-preserved set of row houses from 1891. This area of Harlem is so pristine that one authentic road signal continues to say, “Private Road, Walk Your Horses.”

6.7 The Cloister’s

Glories of Medieval Art:  The Cloisters

The Cloisters are located north of Harlem; it’s been constructed withinside the center of Fort Tryon Park, overlooking the New Jersey-owned, the wooded bluff of the Hudson River and the George Washington Bridge.

Built from 1934 to 1938, with elements of 4 French and Spanish monasteries integrated, with the collection of medieval artwork from the Metropolitan Museum.

The museum resides more than 5000 works of artwork, which include remarkable sculptures, illuminated manuscripts, stained glass, and the well-known unicorn tapestry. The following historical sites should definitely be on the list of things to do in Harlem.

6.8 The Hamilton Grange

It was a rural area of Manhattan. The area was very special to Alexander Hamilton, who is regarded as the greatest founding father of our country, and in 1802 he made the decision to build a summer residence there. It still exists today in St. Nicholas Park under the name Hamilton Grange, which was inspired by his grandfather’s Scottish estate.

Visitors can explore the house and take advantage of its typically realistic features while also learning about Alexander Hamilton’s life and contributions to history.

6.9 Jazz Museum

Kansas City, Missouri August 13, 2022 - Record Cover Design at American Jazz Museum in Kansas City Missouri
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Situated at fifty-eight West 129th St. at Malcolm X Blvd. This Smithsonian-affiliated Museum is located near the streets north of Sylvia’s. It is a small museum; however, for Jazz fans, you will leave the place feeling very satisfied.

While they’ve got the right of entry to the Smithsonian’s Jazz collection, this museum prefers jazz thriving via lectures, discussions, and stay performances.

You can pay attention to loads of ancient recordings of early jazz pioneers, including uncommon recordings that are not available in the entire world except in this place.

Take the time to speak to the docents, and you’ll have a far more profound experience. Visiting the jazz museum is one of the best things to do in Harlem.

7. Sylvia’s Restaurant

How Sylvia's Dishes Out Harlem's Most Legendary Soul Food | Legendary Eats

Present at Blvdx328 Malcolm After a complete stroll of Harlem city, there’s the best option to seize the day by having a meal at Sylvia’s, the mouthwatering soul meals of Sylvia Woods which was founded in 1962.

7.1. The Menu

After almost 60 years, Sylvia Restaurant maintains to feed, nourish, and love its customers with its well-known international dishes such as fried chicken, peach cobbler, and cornbread; however, additionally, as an epicenter for Black culture, social existence, and justice that stays famous with celebrities, artists, and politician.

7.2. Famous People Who’ve Visited Sylvia’s Restaurant

Among others, a few well-known faces who’ve dined right here consist of President Barack Obama, Whoopi Goldberg, Nelson Mandela, and lots more. Sylvia Restaurant is a must on the list of things to do in Harlem.

8. Harlem Haberdashery

Harlem Haberdashery boutique celebrates 10th anniversary

Harlem Haberdashery is a boutique run by a family. With 5001 flavors in Retail extensions, this custom clothing has been running for 25 years. The boutique styles amazing three-piece suits, oversized hats, and much more.

Celebrities including Lebron James, Jay z, and Dj Khaled have worn pieces from 5001 flavors. The Harlem Haberdashery is not just known for celebrities’ outfits; they also offer clothing options in men’s and women’s designs.

9. Walking Tour Harlem

Harlem New York Walking Tour

Explore the streets of Harlem and get to know about its history. Explore the uptown region of Harlem via the eyes of residents living there on the two-hour walking tour. Join everybody at Schomburg Center for Research in the field of Black Culture, where the walking tour starts.

9.1. Apollo Theatre – Highlights

See highlights along with Apollo Theatre, Headquarters of William J, Abyssinian Baptist Church, Headquarters of William J. Clinton Foundation, and Strivers’ Row. Remember that this walking tour does not allow visitors to enter the halls of the buildings.

The walking tour then ends at Apollo Theater. After a lengthy walk, take a meal at a few scrumptious soul meals at Sylvia’s Restaurant. This is one of the greatest ways to know about the city and a must in your list of things to do in Harlem.

10. Central Park

Do not forget to explore this well-known city park with several people and a very prominent place while visiting Harlem. It is spread over 843 acres. Within the forested areas and lawns, as well as The Ramble, Sheep Meadow, Hallett Nature Sanctuary, and Central Park Zoo, visitors can see a variety of plant life and fauna.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir the Central Park Reservoir
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Unwind amidst the calm and tranquility surrounded by man-made water bodies, such as the lake and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. Enjoy yourself at Central Park’s Carousel and Wollman Rink.

The area has 6.1 miles that can be utilized for biking, skating, running, and walking. The park also features athletic facilities and a variety of games like basketball, soccer, baseball, volleyball, and tennis.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is There a Well-Known Restaurant in Harlem?

Sylvia’s Restaurant, Amy Ruth’s, Marcus Samuelsson’s Streetbird Rotisserie, and Red Rooster Harlem are among the most popular.

Jazz, gospel, and hip-hop are some of the most well-known genres associated with Harlem.

3. When is the Best Time to Visit Harlem?

Summer months are typically the busiest, with many outdoor events and activities, whereas winter months seem to be quieter but can be extremely cold. Spring and autumn provide mild weather and fewer crowds.

Concluding Thoughts

So, the above list mentions numerous places one can visit while their trip to Harlem, which is full of vibrant, historical, and cultural energy; Harlem is for people of all ages.

There are many things to do in Harlem, from the amateur night at apollo theater, eating soul food at Sylvia’s restaurant and at famous red roosters, visiting EL Museo Del Barrio, taking a walking tour, and visiting Central park, knowing African American culture, visiting the Hamilton Grange or Marcus Garvey Park and much more.

This city never disappoints its travelers and visitors. An individual can never get bored here as there are lots of things to do in Harlem.

Suggested reading: Things to do in Queens

5 Fun Things to do in Harlem

Last Updated on June 14, 2023 by somya909