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When it comes to Harlem, New York City's most iconic borough, visitors and locals alike know there is more to experience than meets the eye.  With a multitude of historic landmarks, cultural hotspots, and vibrant neighborhoods, Harlem completes a true NYC trip.

If you are planning to visit Harlem this year, then here are some Harlem tourist spots you should think of visiting.

Mount Morris Park

Marcus Garvey Park in NYC, between 120th and 124th Streets, holds a significant place in the city's landscape. It opened in 1840 as Mount Morris Park. In 1973, the park was renamed to honor Marcus Garvey, a remarkable figure who was a publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, and advocate for Black Nationalism. Garvey's influential contributions now grace the park's name.

Marcus Garvey Park's fire watchtower, designed by Julius Kroehl and built in 1855-57, is the sole surviving one of its kind. Its post-and-lintel cast-iron construction earned it landmark status in 1967. This groundbreaking design influenced skyscraper architecture worldwide. Recognizing its historical significance, the tower was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. It serves as a tangible reminder of the city's fire containment efforts, including the Croton Aqueduct reservoir system. Marcus Garvey Park has a rich history and modern amenities, including the Pelham Fritz Recreation Center with a state-of-the-art fitness center. The park also has a 1,700-seat amphitheater, a gift from Richard Rodgers, a famous Broadway musical icon. The Harlem Little League, winners of the Mid-Atlantic Championship in 2002, play here.

With its expansive amphitheater, Marcus Garvey Park has become a hub for vibrant annual events. In late August, the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival takes center stage, captivating audiences with mesmerizing performances. In September, the park comes alive with the two-day Dance Harlem Festival, a celebration of movement and expression that showcases the diversity and creativity of the Harlem community.

Lastly, it is worth noting a notable documentary that pays homage to the park's historical significance and the cultural impact it has had. This groundbreaking film chronicles the legendary 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, an event that not only celebrated African-American music and culture but also served as a platform for promoting Black pride and unity. Through this documentary, we are invited to relive a transformative moment in history and appreciate the park's enduring legacy as a symbol of resilience and artistic expression.

Apollo Theater

The Apollo Theater, built in 1914 as "Hurtig and Seamon's New Burlesque Theatre," underwent a transformation in 1934 when it was purchased and renamed the 125th Street Apollo, making history. Apollo's Amateur Night is a cherished tradition where aspiring performers from all backgrounds perform to launch successful careers. Over the years, it has nurtured incredible talent, giving rise to influential artists. The Apollo's success stories are truly remarkable and inspiring. This iconic stage has been graced by jazz legends like Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and Billie Holiday, all leaving an unforgettable impression. The King of Soul, James Brown, mesmerized audiences with his electrifying performances, leaving an indelible mark. R&B sensations Jackie Wilson and Luther Vandross also found their place at the Apollo, cementing their names in music history. And let's not overlook the hip-hop luminaries like Lauryn Hill and Blu Cantrell, who only add to the testament of the Apollo's timeless legacy.

American Legion Post #398

Colonel Charles Young Post #398 in Harlem celebrates the legacy of Colonel Charles Young and is known for hosting exceptional jazz entertainment. The Post's jazz jam sessions on Sundays are considered one of the best in New York City, and visitors can also enjoy a soul food meal for $13. With its welcoming atmosphere and affordable drinks, the Legion provides a unique experience reminiscent of an old-style house party rather than a typical club.

Abyssinian Baptist Church

Although Harlem has been the home of the Abyssinian Baptist Church for over a century, the church's history dates back to 1808. It was founded by a group of African-Americans and Ethiopian merchants who refused to accept racially segregated seating at the First Baptist Church of New York City. From its humble beginnings in a small wooden structure on Worth Street in lower Manhattan, Abyssinian has grown into an impressive neo-Gothic complex in Harlem. The church was designed by the renowned Philadelphia-based firm Charles W. Bolton & Son in 1922-23 and is known for its Protestant church design. In 1993, the church was recognized as a landmark.

The Reverend Adam Clayton Powell Sr., a social activist and key figure in the migration to Harlem and the construction of the church in 1923, passed the torch to his son, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., in 1937. The younger Powell continued his father's legacy of dynamic and charismatic leadership until 1971. During his tenure, he made history by becoming the first Black person from New York elected to Congress in 1944, serving until 1972. Under the guidance of the late Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts, Abyssinian Baptist Church remained a beacon of social justice and economic development in Harlem until his passing in 2022. Through its not-for-profit development corporation, the church has played a vital role in the transformation of Central Harlem into the vibrant community we see today.

Welcome to Harlem

Now that you have a list of Harlem tourist spots, it's time to make the most out of your trip. For a unique and immersive experience, book your tour with Welcome to Harlem. This locally-owned and operated boutique tour company specializes in showcasing the rich history and cultural diversity of this iconic borough. Some of their tour offerings are:

Visit their website to see more tour options, or call + 212-662-7779 to book your tour today.

About the Author:

Welcome to Harlem is a tour company that is both locally owned and operated and dedicated to showcasing the vibrancy of Harlem's history and cultural diversity. Established in 2004, we are a certified minority and women-owned business in New York City. As a full-service company, we are attuned to Harlem's heartbeat and its distinctive neighborhoods. Our tours immerse you in the area's rich history and cultural tapestry through experiences in music, dance, theater, shopping, and dining. We also offer customized tours, educational journeys, and music programs, catering to groups of any size. Whether solo or in a group, we offer an unforgettable Harlem experience.