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The 10 Best Things To Do in Harlem, New York

Harlem was at the center of a key African American artistic movement in the 1920s
Harlem was at the center of a key African American artistic movement in the 1920s | © Peter Horree / Alamy Stock Photo
Located north of Central Park in Manhattan, Harlem has served as an influential part of American history, particularly in the arts, music and fashion during the 1920s. While the area might have changed slightly in recent times, its lifeblood still pulsates.

Catch the next big thing at the Apollo Theater

Concert Hall, Theater
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Many legendary artists begin their careers at the Apollo Theater
Many legendary artists begin their careers at the Apollo Theater | © E.Westmacott / Alamy Stock Photo
This legendary theater has played an integral role in the emergence and popularity of jazz, swing, R&B, gospel, blues and soul, and is one of the top things to do in New York. Opening its doors in 1914, the Apollo Theater first introduced its famous Amateur Nights in 1934. Influential artists including James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis Jr, Billie Holiday and Lauryn Hill began their road to stardom on Apollo’s stage.
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Grab a chocolate-chip cookie from Levain Bakery

Bakery, American, $$$
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Founded in 1994 by best friends Constance McDonald and Pamela Weekes, Levain Bakery has become a destination for its massive, warm cookies. Visit the Harlem location for delectable treats, including chocolate-chip cookies, oatmeal raisin scones and blueberry muffins.
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Feast on soul food at Red Rooster

Bar, Restaurant, American, Soul Food
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Marcus Samuelsson is the head chef at Red Rooster
Marcus Samuelsson is the head chef at Red Rooster | © Matt Dutile
Headlined by celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, Red Rooster celebrates the roots of American cuisine and the diversity of the neighborhood with its soul food menu. The restaurant, which opened in 2010, is named after the now-shuttered legendary Harlem speakeasy. Red Rooster has its own speakeasy (Ginny’s Supper Club), tucked in the basement, where visitors can enjoy dishes such as cornbread slick with apple butter and waffles crowned with fried chicken, all while listening to local musicians.
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Atmosphere:

Modern, Traditional, Nightlife, Cosy
Mon - Thu:
11:30 am - 10:30 pm
Fri:
11:30 am - 11:30 pm
Sat:
10:00 am - 11:30 pm
Sun:
10:00 am - 10:00 pm

El Museo del Barrio’s exhibits spotlight Latin artists

Art Museum
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El Museo del Barrio specializes in Latin American and Caribbean art and culture
El Museo del Barrio specializes in Latin American and Caribbean art and culture | © Sergi Reboredo / Alamy Stock Photo
El Museo del Barrio strives to educate visitors about Latino culture and its contributions to North America. Through its extensive collections and array of exhibits, El Museo del Barrio aims to preserve the cultural richness of the Caribbean and Latin population in America. Founded in 1969 by a large group of Puerto Rican artists, educators and activists, this museum showcases the work of creatives who veer away from the dominant European art forms.
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Accessibility & Audience:

Accessible (Wheelchair)
Wed - Sat:
11:00 am - 6:00 pm
Sun:
12:00 pm - 5:00 pm

For an insight into African American art, head to The Studio Museum in Harlem

Art Museum
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The Studio Museum in Harlem is dedicated to African American artists
The Studio Museum in Harlem is dedicated to African American artists | © White House Photo / Alamy Stock Photo
Dedicated to African American artists, the Studio Museum in Harlem offers collections of vibrant and inspiring artworks of the 19th and 20th centuries. Around 2,000 photographs, paintings and sculptures are displayed throughout the museum, along with the permanent archival collection of work from renowned Harlem Renaissance photographer James Van Der Zee.
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Dine on Southern classics at Sylvia’s Restaurant

Restaurant, American, $$$
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Sylvia’s Restaurant serves up Southern-fried chicken, barbecue ribs and peach cobbler
Sylvia’s Restaurant serves up Southern-fried chicken, barbecue ribs and peach cobbler | © S. Popovic RM / Alamy Stock Photo
Sylvia’s Restaurant has been delighting the neighborhood with its Southern comfort food for over 50 years. Dine on classics such as Southern-fried chicken and waffles, barbecue short ribs, catfish and peach cobbler at this restaurant while enjoying weekly events including Gospel Brunch Sundays and Live Music Wednesdays.
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Meal service:

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Mon - Sat:
8:00 am - 10:30 pm
Sun:
11:00 am - 8:00 pm

See world-class jazz at Bill’s Place

Music Venue
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Bill’s Place is located on the bottom floor of a brownstone in Harlem
Bill’s Place is located on the bottom floor of a brownstone in Harlem | © Douglas Landler / Alamy Stock Photo
Opened in 2006 by musician Bill Saxton, Bill’s Place traces its roots to the Prohibition era. Visitors take a trip back in time to the Harlem Renaissance with its cozy, elbow-touching speakeasy space. Saxton, a world-renowned saxophonist, leads the Harlem All Stars on Friday nights here. Legendary performers including Billie Holiday, Fats Waller and Willie ‘The Lion’ Smith all graced this parlor.
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Harlem Haberdashery’s threads will have you looking sharp

Store
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Harlem Haberdashery is a family-run boutique that is the retail extension of 5001 Flavors, a custom clothing company that began more than 25 years ago. Celebrities including DJ Khaled, The Notorious BIG, Jay-Z and LeBron James have all worn pieces from 5001 Flavors. The shop, which celebrates the spirit of Harlem in the 1970s and 1980s, isn’t just for celebrities, offering ready-to-wear options, and the place encourages all patrons to turn the showroom into their own private club.
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Take a yoga class in Marcus Garvey Park

Park
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There are loads of activities to do in Marcus Garvey Park
There are loads of activities to do in Marcus Garvey Park | © Sergi Reboredo / Alamy Stock Photo
Named for the politician and advocate, Marcus Garvey Park spans from East 120th Street to East 124th Street. There are two playgrounds, where children can romp around on the park’s slides, fountains and drawbridges. Swim lessons are offered in the summer, while classes including kickboxing, yoga and karate run throughout the year.
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Read up on African American history at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Library
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The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture houses over 11 million items
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture houses over 11 million items | © Douglas Lander / Alamy Stock Photo
This branch of the New York Public Library (NYPL) is devoted to the preservation, research and the exhibition of African American, African diaspora and African experiences. Founded in 1926 by historian Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, the center hosts jazz concerts, films, lectures and more. The research division of the NYPL features collections and programming that span more than 11 million items.
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Michael LoRé contributed additional reporting to this article.