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Harlem remains one of New York's most diverse neighborhoods, with the area around West 125th Street boasting an especially vibrant mix of cultural institutions, shops and historic spots. Start your tour at Levain Bakery(2167 Frederick Douglass Blvd [Eighth Ave] between 116th and 117th Sts; 646-455-0952, levainbakery.com), famous for its enormous cookies ($4). Try the oatmeal-raisin variety—it counts as breakfast, right?—and a cup of coffee ($1.25--$2), which will give you the energy you need to power through the next few hours. Perch on a bench at Coventry Garden(Frederick Douglass Blvd [Eighth Ave] at 122nd St) as you eat your snack. Then, make a pit stop next door at Harlem Flo Boutique(2276 Frederick Douglass Blvd [Eighth Ave] at 122nd St; 212-316-1525, harlemflo.com), whose owners are responsible for fixing up the garden (they also own a flower shop a few doors down). Peruse photo books such as Harlem: Lost and Found ($65) and the street-style classic Back in the Days Remix ($35).
You'll find even more locally focused tomes at Hue-Man Bookstore & Cafe(2319 Frederick Douglass Blvd [Eighth Ave] between 124th and 125th Sts; 212-665-7400, huemanbookstore.com). Flip through Harlem: A Century in Images ($55) to see snapshots of the neighborhood's past. Bust out some James Brown--inspired moves as you pass the legendary Apollo Theater(253 W 125th St between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd [Seventh Ave] and Frederick Douglass Blvd [Eighth Ave]) before stopping at sneaker-head emporium Atmos NYC(203 W 125th St at Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd [Seventh Ave]; 212-666-2242, atmosnyc.com). The newest limited-release Air Jordans ($150) might be out of your price range, but you can pick up one of the store's Mitchell & Ness vintage snap-back hats ($24--$28). Try on a blue-and-orange Knicks cap to prep for Melo and Amar'e's championship run next season (right?).
Continue down 125th Street 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; Thu, Fri noon--9pm; Sat 10am--6pm; Sun noon--6pm; $7, seniors and students $3; Sundays free), a pioneering institution devoted to artists of African descent, which opened in 1968. Check out its exhibits to learn more about the area; in "Harlem Postcards Summer 2011," contemporary artists were asked to submit photos that represent the neighborhood. Make sure to pop into the museum's shop, where you'll find swag like T-shirts ($25) and mugs ($12) emblazoned with the slogan BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL. Relax at the museum's Atrium Caf (Thu, Fri noon--7:30pm), and wash down a sandwich ($7) with a Harlem Brewing Company Sugar Hill Golden Ale ($5).
Enough walking—plant yourself at the National Black Theater(2033 Fifth Ave between 125th and 126th Sts; 212-722-3800, thenationalblacktheatre.org; Sat 13 4--10pm; suggested donation $10) for the Black August Film Showcase, organized by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. The program consists of shorts (such as "Black Womyn Griots," about female poets in Toronto) and full-length docs, including Hip Hop Is Bigger than the Occupation, which follows artists—including M1 of Dead Prez—on a ten-day tour through Palestine.
By now, you should be ready for some food. Grab a bite at Red Rooster Harlem(310 Malcolm X Blvd [Lenox Ave] at 125th St; 212-792-9001, redroosterharlem.com), the latest eatery from celeb chef Marcus Samuelsson. The restaurant can get packed, so pass the time at the bar and sample an inventive cocktail, such as the Earl of Harlem ($13), a mix of bourbon, Earl Grey tea and coriander syrup. As for the food, you can't go wrong with the fried "yard bird" ($21), a platter of crispy fried chicken smothered in mace gravy, hot sauce and a top-secret blend of spices.
Walk off your meal by sauntering up to Marcus Garvey Park(Fifth Ave at 124th St, nycgovparks.org), and head to the upper level, where you'll find a great view of the surrounding environs. Take a seat at the recently revamped Richard Rodgers Amphitheater, which plays host to SummerStage shows. On Saturday 13, you can see a performance by Cecilia Marta Dance Company and Francine E. Ott/The Walk(212-360-2756, summerstage.org; Sat 13 at 8pm; free).
Round out the day by stopping for a drink at the recently opened Harlem Tavern(2153 Frederick Douglass Blvd [Eighth Ave] at 116th St; 212-866-4500, harlemtavern.com). Sample one of the 20 brews on tap, such as 21st Amendment's hoppy IPA ($7), at one of the numerous patio tables. If you need a bite to eat, the kitchen's hefty American fare is available until midnight. Still thirsty? Make your way to Nectar Wine Bar(2235 Frederick Douglass Blvd [Eighth Ave] between 120th and 121st Sts; 212-961-9622, nectarwinenyc.com) for a nightcap. Sip a chilled glass of Seven Sisters Bukettraube ($11) before you hop on the subway back home.
How to get there
A, C to 125th St; C to 116th St
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