9 things to do in Harlem

By Kirsten McCroskrie

We love Harlem. It's definitely one of New York's most vibrant neighborhoods. But what makes it so great? We're glad you asked!

It’s historically been home to a large percentage of New York’s African-American community, whose heritage and culture are still abundantly celebrated here. It's also home to some of the best music spots in town, plenty of restaurants to feed the soul and a smattering of historical spots that are definitely worth checking out.

Wondering where to hit first? Take a look at our top picks for things to do in Harlem.

Take a tour of the neighborhood

What better way to get acquainted with Harlem than by taking a guided tour? You’ll gain local insight from your guide and learn things you would definitely never have discovered on your own. Harlem Walking Tour’s Cultural Heritage Tour takes in many of Harlem's historic attractions, including legendary jazz clubs, historic mansions and sites from the Revolutionary War.

Or, if you’d rather explore on two wheels, Unlimited Biking’s Harlem Highlights Tour will take you on a journey (both figuratively and literally) of Harlem's historical and cultural hotspots, giving you an understanding of how New York’s various economic booms and busts have shaped the neighborhood.

And what’s more, both tours can be found on the New York Pass®.

Visit a jazz club

Although New Orleans has the claim to fame of being the birthplace of jazz, Harlem is certainly where many of the genre’s most famous musicians made a name for themselves. It is also known as the birthplace of bebop – the improvisational musical style known for its chord and key changes. You can see where it all began at Minton’s Playhouse, once a playground for the scene’s biggest acts. Catch a show there whilst enjoying dinner and a drink.

Another good option is Bill’s Place, a venue that dates back to Prohibition-era, where you can catch live jazz on Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM and 10PM.

If you’re not a jazz aficionado and don’t know where to start when choosing a show (or you are and just want to see another great performance), you can use your New York Pass to attend the Harlem Jazz Series. Every Tuesday afternoon and Friday evening, you’ll be able to watch some of today's most talented jazz musicians. The show is artistically directed by Craig Harris, a trombonist, composer, and longtime Harlem resident who has been part of the Harlem jazz scene since 1976. So you know you’re in for a treat.

Apollo Theater

Sticking with the theme of jazz, be sure to make a stop at one of the area’s most cherished buildings, the Apollo Theater. This old vaudeville theater is famous for its legendary Amateur Nights, which began in 1934. The likes of James Brown and Ella Fitzgerald launched their careers here and you can still attend on Wednesday evenings to check out new talent

Experience a gospel choir

Although Harlem’s music scene is synonymous with jazz, it’s also famed for its gospel choirs and highly spirited church services. A visit to one of these joyous services will have even the most ardent atheist tapping their toes.

Inside Out Tours offer a Harlem Gospel Tour, which will give you an understanding of the cultural roots of gospel music and its importance in the Christian community in Harlem today. You’ll visit the famous Abyssinian Baptist Church and the tour will end with a performance from a local choir

Museo del barrio

Harlem’s diverse Latinx community is celebrated at the Museo del Barrio. It hosts a collection of art showcasing predominantly Puerto Rican artists from its founding community. Over the years, the collection has grown to also include over 6,500 works by Caribbean and Latin-American artists.

Studio Museum of Harlem

The Studio Museum of Harlem was the first black fine-arts museum in the country and is central to the thriving artistic community in Harlem today. Here, you can view works of African Americans, members of the African diaspora and artists from the African continent, plus you can check out a variety of temporary exhibitions. The museum is also the home of an archive of works by James Van Der Zee, the famous Harlem Renaissance photographer.

Hamilton Grange

We’re going to hazard a guess and say that your trip to New York may include tickets to see Hamilton. We’re right, right? Once you’ve seen the musical, you can head to Hamilton Grange, the preserved home of Alexander Hamilton himself. Here, you can explore an exhibit that covers some of the major events in Alexander Hamilton's life and you can take a guided tour of some of the historically furnished rooms.

Malcolm Shabazz Harlem Market

This colorful market will transport you to the bazaars of West Africa, with an array of stalls selling a variety of African textiles, cosmetics, foods, sculptures and clothing. It’s a good spot to pick up some unique souvenirs and get a feel for the West African community that thrives in Harlem.

Try some soul food

There’s nowhere better to get your fill of soul food than in Harlem. The best spot has to be Sylvia’s, which has been serving up Southern comfort stables since 1962. Another popular choice is Charles’ Country Pan Fried Chicken, the no-frills, buffet-style eatery, specializing in old-school skillet-fried chicken.

Ready to explore Harlem? Get some of the best tours as part of the The New York Pass®. You’ll also be able to visit attractions all over New York for one low price.

Continue reading

nyc hero

Tips to make the most of Christmas in New York

Tips for preparing for your Christmas trip to New York It'll be around 40 degrees or lower, so make sure you pack warm clothes and a jacket. If you plan to make the most of the Christmas markets or take a walking tour, wear a pair of shoes that will be kind to your feet – stilettos need not apply. If you're planning on loading up on artisanal gifts, make sure you take a bag to ensure you're an eco-conscious traveler. There are a number of camera-catching moments during the holiday season in New York, so don't forget to bring your camera! If you choose to be dazzled by the high kicks and the glamor of New York's Christmas shows, polish your dress shoes and iron your shirt. Ice-skating at the Rockefeller Center is perhaps the city's most famous seasonal spot. The lines can drag on for hours, so reserve your ice time at Bryant Parks winter village. Bring your Christmas wish list – you never know when you might bump into Santa. If you're scared of not bumping into Santa, visit Macy's Santaland to see the big guy himself. If you only have a few days in New York it can be overwhelming when thinking about what to see and do. Plan your trip and experience the top attractions – The New York Pass can help you decide which attractions to explore. Our favorite Christmas attractions in New York Holiday shopping in Bryant Park The holiday shops at Bryant Park are on pretty much everyone's list of must-do holiday experiences in the city. Inspired by open-air European Crafts fairs, the market features vendors from literally all around the world. The little kiosks offer the same kind of choice as full-sized shops and feature goods ranging from African baskets to one-of-a-kind jewelry handcrafted in Brooklyn. Columbus Circle Holiday Market With its festive, candy-striped booths, the Columbus Circle Market is visually one of the most appealing holiday markets. Located right across from the Time Warner Center and nestled into the entrance to Central Park, it's also in an ideal location, easily accessed by public transportation. Browse jewelry, home goods, crafts, and food to find something for just about everyone on your list. Take a tour There's no better way to get into the holiday spirit than by taking a guided tour of New York's best traditional markets. Learn about the city's Christmas traditions. Take in the holiday lights. Wander around movie locations of your favorite festive movies. You'll also have the opportunity to browse artisanal goods, local art and winter attire stalls while enjoying traditional foods and indulgent desserts. With your New York Pass, you'll be able to enjoy this tour without paying more than the pass price. Journey down Fifth Avenue to see the department stores lit up before hitting up markets from Bryant Park's Winter Village where you can also use your pass to get in a spot of ice skating. For more things to do in New York, check out what attractions you can get with The New York Pass: you'll pay nothing but the pass price.
Kirsten McCroskrie

Holiday Markets in New York

Shopping at the holiday markets in New York should be on everyone's holiday must-do list. From soaps to stationery, they're the place to find goodies for just about everyone in your list. Holiday Shops at Winter Village in Bryant Park The holiday shops at Bryant Park are on pretty much everyone’s list of must-do holiday experiences in the city. And why not? Inspired by open-air European Crafts fairs, the market features vendors from literally around the world. The little kiosks are like tiny shops, and feature goods ranging from African baskets to one-of-a-kind-jewelry handcrafted in Brooklyn and made from materials like copper and bronze. (Through Dec. 24.) Columbus Circle Holiday Market With its festive striped booths, the Columbus Circle Market is visually one of the most appealing holiday markets. Located right across from the Time Warner Center and nestled into the entrance to Central Park, it’s also one of the most well-located (easily accessible by public transportation.) Here, you’ll be able to browse jewelry, home goods, crafts and food—ensuring that you’ll find something for just about everyone on your list. (Through Dec. 24) Renegade Crafts Fair The Renegade Crafts Fair offers up everything from jewelry to paper goods to poultry (yes, poultry)—it’s kind of one-stop shopping. The fair focuses particularly on up-and-coming makers (Dec. 21 and Dec. 22 at the Brooklyn Expo, but check for dates at other locations.) Since one of those places is Brooklyn, it’s probably not surprising that you can also expect to find live DJ sets, various food offerings, and “creative installations” -- we’ll just let you wonder about that one. Grand Central Terminal Holiday Fair The holiday market at Grand Central is something of an unexpected pleasure—it’s a nice surprise to find artisan crafts nestled inside one of the country’s busiest train stations. The focus is on American and locally made products; it’s one of the longest running indoor crafts fairs in the city. Half of Vanderbilt Hall is taken over with clothing, artwork, toys, and home goods. You’ll also find holiday ornaments, jewelry, bath products, and even pet accessories. After all, Fido deserves a nice handmade holiday, too. (Through Dec. 24) Union Square Holiday Market The Union Square Market is great all year round (that produce! those jams!) but it’s especially great at the holidays. Through Dec. 24, you’ll find 150 festive artisan booths that feature works of local craftsmen and artisans. The market always has a nice community feel, which is amped up during the holidays. In addition to crafts and food, you’ll also find a Kid’s Art Studio; live music; and a warming station. It’s also got a stellar vendor selection-- check out ones like Little Brooklyn and Urbanspace Provisions. (Through Dec. 24) Crafts at St. John the Divine Cathedral From Dec. 6-8, the world’s largest Gothic Cathedral plays host to a crafts fair just in time for the holidays; it’s actually inspired by Medieval crafts fairs. You’ll find gorgeous jewelry, textiles, leather goods, ceramics, metalwork, wooden pieces, and more, all displayed in one of the world’s most magnificent buildings. You’ll be supporting both the cathedral as well as local artists; the very shopping experience will be uplifting. (Dec. 6-8) Want more tips? Check out a fun way to use the New York Pass!
Go City Expert

Have a 5% discount, on us!

More savings? You're welcome. Sign up to our newsletter and receive exclusive discounts, vacation inspiration and much more.

  • Thick check Icon