Although world famous, Harlem may be New York’s best kept secret with some of the city’s most interesting architecture, food, music and people. Harlem’s history is also one of the city’s most dramatic, having gone through many ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic changes over the past roughly 400 years, which have resulted in a diverse array of places of worship, theaters, homes and eating establishments.
I took a Free Tours by Foot two hour tour and discovered the streets where Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and other cutting edge Harlem Renaissance players put American music on the world map, where Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali and where Fidel Castro slept after being kicked out of a midtown hotel for having chickens in his room.
I had a great time on the tour. But be cautious with Free Tours by Foot. If you choose to cancel a tour (which I did once due to illness) they bump you off the rest of the tours you may have booked with them on your trip. I’ll be honest I found this very punitive even after I sent a text and email with an explanation. Ah well. Even though I wasn’t ‘technically’ on the Harlem tour, I tipped the Tour Guide Derrick well and thanked him for a passionate tour. It was truly memorable.