Some people become hooked on New York and it is easy to see why. It is a city with a host of attractions and it never closes. Whatever your tastes whether cultural, the nightlife of Broadway and the clubs, or just the vibrancy of a city, New York has it all.
It is important however to move out from Manhattan to get a real understanding of the whole of the City, to see the neighbourhoods and how New Yorkers live their everyday lives.
One interesting area to visit is Harlem, an ethnic area with a rich history, and there are daily trips with local guides who can give you an insight into the area.
The Harlem Civil Rights Day is well worth experiencing, learning about the struggles through the 1960s and how Harlem made a major contribution to the National struggle for equality. The trip combines walking with a bus tour visiting many sites from the struggles; the Canaan Baptist Church and the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building are examples.
Everyone knows Martin Luther King and Malcolm X; you will learn many more names. The tour finishes with lunch of home cooked soul food. After lunch you will go to one of the many cultural institutions that were part of the Movement where you will learn about its history.
There is an equally interesting tour which focuses on Harlem in the 1920s. This was an artists’ area, musical that is. Duke Ellington, Langston Hughes and Aaron Douglass are just a few of the names you will hear about.
Once again you take a bus but also walk visiting Pods & Jerry’s where Billie Holliday began her career, the Dark Tower, Sugar Hill where Duke Ellington lived, the Apollo and Savoy Ballrooms.
After the tour, there is a delicious soul food meal at one of the community’s fine restaurants. You will eat fried chicken, fish, yams and other dishes while you listen to Harlem Renaissance tunes by the likes of Lena Horne, Alberta Hunter, Roland Hayes and Duke Ellington.
The Spanish Harlem trip looks at the Latino roots in Harlem, based primarily on the East side. Italian immigrants came in the 1880s, the Puerto Ricans after the Second World War. The area now has a most diverse population and is a real cultural experience.
There are public markets, beautiful street murals representing the history of the neighbourhood but let us not forget the delicious food that can be enjoyed here as well. Once again music plays its part in any day involving a trip to Harlem in this case the rhythms of the Latin music such as the salsa.
There are many neighbourhoods in the boroughs of New York which will give the visitor further insight into this great city. A little research and you may find others you wish to visit. To know New York is to know more than just the famous landmarks, it is to learn about the people and the districts.
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Images by MR.119th. STREET