Nonresidents have a tendency to rush their visits to Harlem. They pick a spot (like Sylvia’s or Red Rooster), get in and out, and hustle back to their own corners of the city. But there’s enough to fill a whole day uptown if you know where to look, from delicious chicken and waffles to the Apollo Theater’s famous Amateur Night.
RECOMMENDED: Great days out in New York
RECOMMENDED: Harlem neighborhood guide
Walk one block west from the 145th St 1 stop to Riverbank State Park(Riverside Dr at 145th St, nysparks.com), a massive green space with views of the Hudson River and the George Washington Bridge. Plus, it’s home to basketball courts, a year-round covered skating rink (roller April–October $1.50; ice November–March $5; skate rental $6) and lots more.
On your way inland, amble past the fantastical mansion Wes Anderson used for both exterior and interior shots in The Royal Tenenbaums, located at 339 Convent Avenue(at 144th St). Though it’s partially covered in scaffolding now, you can still see the iconic turret from the film’s opening sequence.Head southeast to the Studio Museum in Harlem(144 W 125th St between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd [Seventh Ave] and Malcolm X Blvd [Lenox Ave]; 212-864-4500, studiomuseum.org; suggested donation $7, Sun free) to check out the work of established and emerging artists of African descent. Current exhibits like “Robert Pruitt: Women” and group show “Body Language” feel modern, vital and accessible (both through Oct 27).
Continue south to Amy Ruth’s(113 W 116th St between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd and Malcolm X Blvd; 212-280-8779, amyruthsharlem.com) for some intensely satisfying comfort food, like “The Rev. Al Sharpton” ($11.45), a golden-brown waffle topped with a generous portion of fried or smothered chicken. If you’ve got room for a side, try baked mac and cheese, buttered corn or collard greens (each $4.50).
Make a reservation at Bill’s Place(148 W 133rd St between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd and Malcolm X Blvd; $20 cover), a BYOB, speakeasy-style jazz club where you can see saxophonist and venue cofounder Bill Saxton and some of the city’s finest jazz musicians play every Friday and Saturday night.
Alternately, catch a show at the legendary Apollo Theater(253 W 125th St between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd and Frederick Douglass Blvd [Eighth Ave], apollotheater.org). The raucous Amateur Night (Wed 7:30pm; $20–$32) features turns by budding musicians, dancers, comedians and poets. You may be pooped, but you’ll be in better shape than the performers who get booed off the stage. Comic Kareem
Green describes the onstage atmosphere as akin to “trying to make friends with a pit bull while trespassing.”
“The Grange(1635 Amsterdam Ave at 141st St) is quickly becoming my favorite spot for a—relatively—upscale dinner. The atmosphere is ‘rustic chic,’ and the bartenders are generous with beer samples.”
—Shannon Deep, thismillenniallife.tumblr.com