The beauty of Marcus Garvey Park is that it centers on a massive and steep outcropping of a schist, making it appear like a massive fort. In the evening, you will have just as much fun in the park as it has a lovely amphitheater that has been host to many jazz and live performance events. A nearby structure, known as the Harlem Fire Watchtower, is the only surviving cast-iron watchtower in New York City. Its cast-iron construction followed the park’s natural elevation, and created a perch to fire monitors in the mid-1800’s (predominantly wooden) New York City.
One of the biggest gifts that Harlem gave to the world – is jazz. The most influential jazz musicians, from Duke Ellington to Louis Armstrong to Charlie Parker to Dizzy Gillespie, played in the jazz clubs around Harlem. Hence, the erection of The National Jazz Museum in Harlem. The museum has become a popular attraction for residents and out-of-towners alike. The most attractive exhibit is from The Savory Collection, featuring more than 1,000 discs of recorded radio broadcasts made by audio engineer William Savory in the 1930’s. The collection also includes rare performances from jazz legends such as Armstrong, Billie Holliday and Benny Goodman. The collection has become so popular among the jazz lovers that the Savory Collection has been made available for purchase on iTunes. If you want to delve deeper into the history of Harlem, pay a visit to Studio Museum Harlem, which preserves the works of African-American artists and the African diaspora of the 19th and 20th centuries.
In the 1930s, the Dunbar Apartments complex was the centerpiece of housing reform and progression. It was the first large garden complex in Manhattan, and the six landmark buildings are still there and functioning. Today, you will get a chance to walk through and explore the many original archways and crests on the buildings. Dunbar Apartments have been the home of many famed members of the Civil Rights Movement such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson and A. Philip Randolph. This is also where actor and tap dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and poet Countee Cullen once lived. If you are interested in finding more famed spots, stop by the Langston Hughes House, a brownstone not too far away at 20 East 127th Street, home of one of the foremost figures of the Harlem Renaissance, poet and author James Langston Hughes.
The amount of homemade food in Harlem is almost overwhelming. There’s Sylvia’s Soul Food that has become a popular dinner choice. But tonight you decide to go new school. The Red Rooster, owned by Food Network chef Marcus Samuelsson, celebrates the history of Harlem, and serves up memorable comfort food. The name itself is a nod to a former Harlem speakeasy that once attracted the likes of Nat King Cole and James Baldwin. But the Red Rooster provides a symbol of progress as Samuelsson aimed to change the culinary landscape of the area. The menu is straightforward soul food such as shrimp and grits, Aunt Maybel’s Dumplings, Crispy Bird Sandwich and crab fritters.
The nightlife in Harlem isn’t like it used to be, as compared to its heyday in the 1960s, not by a long shot. But it’s slowly regaining its luster. That’s because of bars like Shrine Bar, which mixes great cocktails, live music and an ode to the past (the signage reads: Black United Fun Plaza). But there’s one other bar that’s begun to gain serious recognition for its international beer selection. The Bier International is Harlem’s first beer garden that houses 18 international drafts with another 20 by the bottle. The beer garden pays tribute to local brews as it carries beers made in the Bronx, Harlem and Brooklyn.