Things To See and Do in Harlem

Are you thinking about visiting Harlem when you come to New York City? In addition to our Harlem Visitors Guide, we've put together this helpful list of Harlem attractions to help you plan what you'd like to see and do when you visit.

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    Abyssinian Baptist Church
    ••• Abyssinian Baptist Church. Photo by Julienne Schaer © NYC & Company

    The first African-American Baptist Church in New York state, Abyssinian began in downtown Manhattan in 1808. Their home in Harlem was opened in 1923, under the ministry of Dr. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. (Please note: Due to its popularity with tourists, particularly its Gospel Worship Services, they have established a strictly enforced Tourist Policy (PDF) that allows tourists only to the 11 a.m. service (not the 9 a.m. service) on Sunday on a first come, first-served basis.)

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    ••• Cindy Ord/Getty Images

    Perhaps one of Harlem's most famous icons, the Apollo Theater offers a wide variety of programming, including family-friendly shows and their famous Amateur Night every Wednesday that first began in 1934. Groups and individuals can also take Historic Tours of the Apollo Theater.

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    The Cathedral of St. John the Divine
    ••• The Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Photo by Kara Flannery, used with permission of The Cathedral.

    The largest church in the United States, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine is famously incomplete despite over a hundred years of construction and it features a Romanesque sanctuary and choir with a Gothic nave, due to changing architects after the project was first started in 1891. Built as a "house of prayer for all nations," it is welcoming to visitors and even has interesting tours for those who want to learn about its history and architecture.

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    A research branch of the NYPL focused on materials documenting black life and the history and culture of people of African descent, features changing exhibitions that highlight the collections. Admission is free and the Galleries and Gift Shop are open Monday - Saturday (Collections are closed on Monday).

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
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    Striver’s Row

    Landmark Harlem rowhouses
    ••• Landmark Harlem rowhouses. Barry Winiker/Getty Images

    Originally called the King Model Homes, these 130-row houses were built between 1891-93 on four blocks in Harlem on West 138th and 139th Streets between 7th and 8th Avenues. Three different architecture firms designed different blocks: McKim, Mead, and White designed the houses on the north side of West 139th; Bruce Price and Clarence S. Luce designed the south side of West 139th Street and the north side of West 138th Street; James Brown Lord designed the south side of West 138th Street. Although the original residents were white, when blacks started moving into Harlem after the First World War, these houses were renamed Strivers' Row and became home to many successful professionals, including lawyers, doctors and administrators, as well as famous Harlem residents such as composer W. C. Handy, comedian Stepin Fetchit, prizefighter Harry Wills, bandleader Fletcher Henderson, architect Vertner Tandy, Dr. Louis T. Wright, dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and pianist Eubie Blake.

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    Studio Museum in Harlem
    ••• Studio Museum in Harlem. Photo by Jen Davis © NYC & Company

    First opened in 1968, the Studio Museum in Harlem focuses on the work of local, national and international artists of African descent, as well as art that is influenced and inspired by black culture. Open Thursday - Sunday, suggested admission is just $7 (students & seniors are just $3 and children 12 and under are always free), and admission for all is free on Sunday. They often have family programs on the weekends, both gallery tours and also hands-on workshops suited for children of all ages and their families. To ensure your ability to participate, check their events page and reserve your ticket in advance.