Harlem first rose to fame as the birthplace of the 1920s renaissance and is now a thriving mix of cultural traditions and creativity. Generations of art, food, and demographic shifts mean that newcomers and life-long residents continue to redefine one of the city’s most iconic culture hubs.
Life in Harlem is as rooted in cultural tradition as is it energized and diverse. In the last decade, restaurants like Red Rooster, Harlem Tavern, and Harlem Shake have reinvented a dining scene traditionally defined by soul food icons like Sylvia’s and Amy Ruth’s.
Music is another of Harlem’s greatest uniting and has left a legacy that is preserved proudly throughout the neighborhood.
The music scene spans from huge, iconic jazz lounges to small neighborhood bars. Burgeoning hip-hop artists are known for making occasional appearances at dance clubs where they grew up.
Harlem’s flair for the performing arts is best represented by the Apollo Theater, which originally opened as a dance hall and ballroom in 1913. Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, and The Jackson 5 played their “Amateur Nights”, while Showtime at the Apollo and musicians such as James Brown, B.B. King, and Paul McCartney solidified the venue as a timeless entertainment landmark.
Outside of entertainment, church-lined streets and a pervasive sense of spirituality and activism continue to speak to Harlem’s reputation for community awareness.
The community feels most alive during the summer, when Harlem’s many parks are abuzz with children, picnics, and live music festivals.
Baseball diamonds, an open bandshell, and local music acts make Jackie Robinson Park a natural gathering spot, while Marcus Garvey swimming pool, St. Nicholas Park, and other public plazas are beloved by athletes of all ages.
In Harlem, weekend dining and coffee culture are as significant as the nightlife scene. Live jazz brunches at venues like Harlem Tavern and Ginny’s Supper Club attract diners with an inventive cocktail menu and music mix.
Locals appreciate the abundance of cozy dining spots and lowkey lounges and wine bars that are popular here.
Charming, historic brownstones and walk-ups are relatively abundant, especially from 125th to 145th streets.
Those in search of more modern digs will find them closer to major avenues such as Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Malcolm X Blvd.
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