The elm and oak trees along Seventh Avenue and West 116th Street are looking green, rich, and lush. That can only mean one thing. It’s springtime in Harlem, and as your official Harlem It Girl, I need to let you in on the latest happenings for local visitors and tourists alike.
Have you ever been on a walking tour? I don’t mean just wandering aimlessly in Central Park, although that’s fun to do as well. Whenever I visit a new area, I like to get acclimated by having some historical context for what I’m looking at. Harlem has long been regarded as the Mecca and epicenter of African American culture. Everyone knows about the world-famous Apollo Theater, but then what?
Just for you, I found a really cool company appropriately called “Welcome to Harlem.” They’ve declared themselves to be the “premier visitor’s center” in Harlem. Since I can’t locate many other visitor’s centers besides the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, let’s assume that they’re right!
Welcome to Harlem has created a walking tour that leads guests through a thoughtful and eclectic mix of architecture, restored brownstones, universities, and other landmarks. In other words, they take this Harlem tour beyond the churches, soul music, and jazz music, although they include that as well.
Harlem Walking Tour Hot Spots and Uptown Landmarks
The Theresa Hotel is where Fidel Castro once stayed and Malcolm X once spoke. The legendary location is now an office building, but this close to 125th Street, you can feel the pulse of Harlem if you close your eyes and feel the energy. Find the site of the former Theresa Hotel at West 125th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard.
Sandman is not there any longer, but everyone should be a part of the Apollo’s Amateur Night judging system at least once. This is the place where stars were born long before the era of “American Idol.” The Apollo is located at 253 W. 125th St. For more info, call 212-531-5300.
Other landmarks include the Julia de Burgos Cultural Arts Center, Marcus Garvey Park, the Fire Watchtower, and Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church. If you’re recreating this tour yourself, you may miss out on the facts that professional tour guides share, but bring your iPhone with Siri and Wikipedia and you’ll be fine. You should also visit the legendary cathedrals such as the Abyssinian Baptist Church, Riverside Church, Mother A.M.E. Zion Church, and the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine.
The Welcome to Harlem walking tours are held on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 11 a.m. all year. Organizers ask participants to arrive 15 minutes early.
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