New York Buzz: What to See and Do in Harlem & Washington Heights

NYC & Co. has been promoting neighborhoods off the beaten path for the past several months—and for August, the tourism board is shining the spotlight on Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood. 

Located in northern Manhattan, these neighborhoods are home to historic New York City landmarks, great restaurants and plenty of hidden gems. Bonus: New York Yankees second baseman (and Washington Heights enthusiast) Robinson Canó shares a few of his recommendations in theneighborhood.  

Harlem Roundup

Located minutes away from popular neighborhood attractions, the Aloft Harlem offers guests modern style in historic Harlem. Visitors should be sure to try the hotel’s W XYZ Bar, a lounge complete with a pool table, bar and snack menu, and live music.  

The legendary Apollo Theater is famous for its Amateur Night, which started the careers of such performers as Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. The historic venue hosts concerts, performing arts and education and community outreach programs throughout the year.

Harlem resident Adriane Ferguson opened Billie’s Black in 2006, serving gourmet soul food including catfish, oxtail and mac and cheese, Billie’s Black. The restaurant also has live entertainment several nights a week.

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que has some of the best barbecue in the City. From traditional pork and brisket plates to turkey and vegetarian smoked portobello burgers, barbecue lovers and vegetarians alike will find something at the bustling neighborhood spot.

Lido specializes in classic Northern Italian cuisine by James Beard Award–winning chef Serena Bass. The restaurant serves everything from eggplant parmesan and lasagna bolognese to scallops and lamb chops.

Started in 1964, Harlem School of the Arts offers dance, music, theater and visual arts classes for more than 3,000 students. Throughout the year, both children and adults can enjoy dynamic performances that showcase the students’ talents.  

The annual month-long festival, HARLEM WEEK, includes free concerts, seminars and festivities through August 24. This year’s highlights include Summer in the City children’s events on Saturday, August 17th, and HARLEM DAY street festival on Sunday, August 18th.  

A destination for all things jazz, The National Jazz Museum in Harlem pays tribute to the neighborhood’s jazz community and offers jazz education and entertainment to its visitors. Popular events include Jazz in the Parks and Harlem Swings concert series, as well as a lecture series, Jazz for Curious Listeners.

Dedicated to artwork inspired and influenced by black culture, The Studio Museum in Harlem showcases both local and worldwide artists of African descent. The museum’s vibrant exhibitions include modern and contemporary art.

Robinson Canó’s Washington Heights & Inwood:

For a taste of Washington Height’s Dominican community, visit Guadalupe. The local favorite serves traditional Dominican food including Canó’s favorites, churrasco and langosta rellena de camarones.

A favorite among Washington Heights residents, Mamajuana Cafe serves Nuevo Latino cuisine, which includes everything from paella and ceviche to aprepas and empandas. When Canó dines at Mamajuana Cafe, he always orders the empandas guayaba con queso—empanadas with guava and cheese.

Complete with live music ranging from hip-hop to jazz, Apt. 78, is a café, bar and lounge with a relaxed atmosphere. The restaurant offers promotions like Sangria Sundays, eight-hour happy hours, Teacher Thursday’s and Sunday Brunch.

Located atop a hill in Fort Tryon Park, The Cloisters Museum and Gardens is devoted to medieval art and architecture. In addition to the collection of approximately 2,000 works of art, visitors enjoy the building and gardens designed to emulate medieval European abbeys.

A neighborhood restaurant and karaoke bar, Coogan’s, is a popular after work spot among locals. Their four sided bar, classic comfort food and Italian-American specialties are all worth trying.

The Hispanic Society of America is a free museum whose library and collections of paintings, sculptures, textiles, archaeological finds and other historical relics provide an unparalleled resource for visitors interested in the art and culture of Spain, Portugal, and Latin America.

Located along the Hudson River with top views of the George Washington Bridge and Palisades, La Marina has three spaces—a restaurant, bar and a separate lounge for cocktails, brunch or dinner.  

There is plenty of history and heritage in the area, too: The 18th-century Morris-Jumel Mansion was originally a country retreat, and served George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War. It later became an inn and rural residence before becoming a museum in 1904. Each room of the museum re-creates a different phase of the mansion’s history.

Considered a must-shop in the sneaker culture, Nostylgia sells both hard-to-find classics as well as their own designs. Nostylgia also offers a tea bar and chess lounge for shoppers looking to take a break.  

A neighborhood institution, Piper’s Kilt reportedly has the “Best Burger in Town.” (We've tried them, and the burgers really are impressive.) The bar and restaurant hosts live entertainment, karaoke and trivia throughout the week.