In New York there is so much more to do beyond Time’s Square and seeing the Statue of Liberty. As it was our second time in NYC we wanted to branch out beyond the typical tourist “hot spots” and explore somewhere new. We decided to do a walking tour of Harlem. We arrived on 125th street via subway and met our tour guide. It was winter and raining the whole time, but our tour guide Ryan and the cluster of other internationals with us (mainly Australians) took it on and pushed through what was a great walking tour.
Harlem is an area of Upper Manhattan with a fascinating and long history. Though it is still stigmatised by stereotypes developed in the 1970s, the area has a rich culture and today, has a positively changing atmosphere.
The Abyssinian Baptist Church was one of our first stops on the tour. The church is famous for it’s worship services and has been a long running church in New York since the early 1800s. It’s so famous that there is often a long-running line up outside the church to get in on a Sunday morning. That being said, it is a first come first serve scenario on a Sunday and visitors are reminded that it is a working place of worship.
Next up was Sugar Hill. On our way out to Sugar hill Ryan talked more about the area, discussing the time of affluence during the 1920s. We also saw Alexander Hamilton’s house on the hill. Hamilton Grange National Memorial is the relocated home of U.S Founding Father (and the man who inspired a rather famous musical) Alexander Hamilton. The home has been relocated a few times and now houses a museum and constructed rooms in dedication to the first Secretary of the Treasury.
Next we had a quick stop at the Shrine, a bar that features up-and-coming artists with various music styles. The interior is inspired by Nigerian artist, Fela Kuti, the founder of Afrobeat music. Come night time and the bar is a popular spot with locals and tourists alike, all there to watch newcomer musicians and tuck into what’s on the menu.
Before the end of our tour we had a quick stop and the one and only, Apollo Theatre. The Apollo Theatre. A designated New York City landmark, the Apollo Theatre works to showcase African American acts and through events such as its “amateur night”, help to launch the careers of many successful artists such as Ella Fitzgerald and Thelma Carpenter.
By the tours ending it was lunch time and to say we were ‘hungry’ is an understatement. Thankfully, there were many food places to choose from in close proximity. We chose to go to Sylvia’s.
Sylvia’s restaurant is a famous food destination in Harlem. Sylvia’s was established in 1962 and is an authentic soul food restaurant. Throughout the week there are a variety of specials on the menu and the restaurant is quite popular with both tourists and locals. We were lucky to grab a table rather quickly on a Saturday.
We tucked into a plate of biscuits (scones for Aussies) before having our main meal. Fried chicken, string beans, and potato salad…yum! We also tried candied yams and afterwards I had the urge to call a dentist. Candied yams are yams cooked with sugar and spices, so expect a sugar rush afterwards.
Exploring Harlem was a fantastic experience and I thoroughly enjoyed our tour. I highly recommend going uptown if you are ever in Manhattan and taking a wander before finishing your day at Sylvia’s.