A lot of my friends ask me what they should do or check out in Harlem, since I have now been living here for over a year and a half. There are countless things to see around this neighborhood in Manhattan so it's hard for me to condense it into a day... but here is my best shot at how one can spend a fun day strolling up and down Lenox Ave.
First stop: North Central Park, duh!
Get off of the 2/3 subway line at the Central Park North 110th St stop or the A/B/C Cathedral Parkway 110 St stop. I personally adore this section of Central as I feel that is highly underutilized and as such makes for such a peaceful and beautiful morning stroll. You will rarely get any tourists here as they tend to flock towards the bottom of Central Park and along the major museums on both 5th Ave and Central Park West below the 90s. In the winter time, Lasker Pool becomes Lasker Rink and open to recreational skiing and frequent hockey games on the weekends. In the summer time, it is a huge shallow pool that lies next to the (mostly) beautiful Harlem Meer. The reason I say mostly here is because it can get pretty mucky around the rainy season but the ducks, flowers and tons of turtles nevertheless make up for it. After taking a walk around the Harlem Meer and through part of the North Woods, one will likely have worked up an appetite....so onto the next destination!
Third stop: Mt. Olivet Baptist Church
I stumbled into this church after hearing amazing gospel music one day while walking down the street. After peering through the doors and being captivated by the songs, I was invited in by the friendly church organizers and seated in a pew. I must admit, I am far from being religious in any sense but do respect other's beliefs. It was an interesting experience as one could see the clear divide between actual churchgoers and tourists/drop-ins like myself. Most of the people who looked like they commonly attended this church each Sunday was dressed to the nines, sat closer to the front, and readily donating money each time the silver pans came around. Whereas, visitors like myself sat towards the back in more of an observation mode. Be warned, you are not allowed to take photos at all during any time of the service as it can be perceived as extremely rude. Unfortunately, some of the tourists did not heed this advice and were quickly called out for their disrespect. Black gospel church is beautiful and is such a large part of Harlem culture. Fun fact: one of the pivotal scenes in Marvel's Luke Cage was shot here - FYI: Service begins at 11am on Sunday.
Fourth Stop: Studio Museum Harlem
This super quaint museum is hidden between shop buildings on the bustling 125th Street. Great news for the cheapos out there: it's free admission on Sundays! This museum generally focuses on art produced by artists of African descent and showcases a wide genre and media types. Here's a shot I took of one of their pieces - featuring a live person in the exhibit! To be honest, it was weird but weird in the best kind of way. When I went, there were many art pieces contrasting the Harlem of 20-30 years ago versus the Harlem of today and I found the juxtaposition especially fascinating in light of the rapid gentrification I've witnessed in Harlem in just the 1.5 years I have lived here now.
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