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Visit Harlem

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I don’t know about you, but although some of the technological popularity of the day seems to lean toward electronic book formats, I still love the look and feel of a traditional print book—one that I can thumb through and feel the paper, delve into the photography, curl up with in a chair, airline seat, hotel lobby or patio, and enjoy as a wonderful addition to my coffee table at home.

One of the latest I have received is the  Harlem Travel Guide   composed by Carolyn Johnson, president, writer and CEO of  Welcome to Harlem,  and editor and writer Valerie Jo Bradley. The book has been described by some as “the definitive bible to one of New York’s most fascinating places.” Whether you are visiting Harlem for the first time or are a long-time resident, the Harlem Travel Guide highlights and celebrates “all things Harlem.”

This beautiful book is conveniently organized into well defined, easily accessible sections and directions for each of Harlem’s distinct Central, East and West neighborhoods, leading readers to everything from nightlife and entertainment such as jazz, Latin salsa and classical music, to parks and free recreational activities, wonderful accommodations, walking and bus tours, museums that celebrate New York’s multifarious cultures, culinary adventures from soul food to French historic landmarks and so much more.

One of the things that makes the Harlem Travel Guide so unique in its exploration of people and places is that it delves further than the typical New York travel guide with no more than two to three pages devoted to sites in Harlem, or a bus tour that offers only a passing glance at some of the more well-known sights from inside the bus.

Historic Harlem

The 350-year history of Harlem alone is a testament to all of the cultural richness it possesses. Originally inhabited by Native Americans, followed by the British, Dutch, Jewish, people of African descent, Irish, Latinos and other ethnic groups, Harlem is an incredible amalgamation of culture, music, gastronomy, entrepreneurship, politics, art and more, which deserves more than a passing nod.

For example, did you know that every August the Dance of the Giglio and Feast is celebrated in East Harlem, which used to be a primarily Italian neighborhood? Founded in the late 1880s in Brusciano, Italy to honor Saint Antonio, this tradition draws throngs of Italian families back to celebrate the feast that includes 125 men carrying a 5-ton, five-story, hand-sculpted tower and 12-piece brass band on their shoulders while dancing through the neighborhood to Italian folk songs.

How about that, in Central Harlem, families can enjoy catch-and-release fishing at the Harlem Meer—Dutch for “lake”—located in the northern portion of Central Park? Harlem Meer was established in part as a tribute to the 17th century European settlers who first inhabited Harlem. Today it is a thriving wildlife habitat chock full of fish, waterfowl, turtles and other water creatures.

This is just the beginning of all of the wonderful treasures featured in the  Harlem Travel Guide.

As the third most visited tourist destination in New York City, Harlem has rightfully earned, and deserves, a resource that explores and celebrates everything from its early roots to its perseverance and the revitalization that has made it a vibrant destination for residents and tourists alike.

“Our 250-page book is the first of its kind to focus exclusively on Harlem,” says Bradley. “We recognize that for years people have visited Harlem, but primarily on tour buses of which they rarely get off. We want people’s feet to hit the ground to explore Guide” does mention many of the iconic, world-renowned sites and attractions such as the Apollo Theater, Abyssinian Baptist Church and Sylvia’s restaurant, it includes so much more of the city’s rich history that is largely unknown and, as a result, unexplored.

“Harlem has been reinvigorated with the addition of new and exciting restaurants, shops, fine art galleries, revitalized parks that offer free recreational activities, unrivaled cultural events, guest accommodations and much more,” Bradley says. “Due to preservation efforts that have saved historic buildings from being razed, and to the housing and economic development renaissance that has transformed vacant buildings and lots, Harlem has become a more exciting place for people to live and visit.”

The “Harlem Travel Guide” has received rave reviews from readers around the world who are amazed at all that Harlem has to offer. Bradley remembers one response she and Johnson received from visitors from Brussels in particular. “[They had] purchased the book [and] enjoyed telling us about the places they visited in Harlem like Billie’s Black and Amy Ruth’s restaurants, and the legendary Apollo Amateur Night. This was not their first visit to New York, but it was their first time staying in Harlem. They had such a good experience that they plan to recommend a visit to Harlem to friends. Even long-time residents have told us that they learned new things about Harlem after reading [it].”

For those who do enjoy or prefer digital book formats, the “Harlem Travel Guide” has been formatted for use on the Kindle, iPad and Android devices. ”We feel it is important to reach out to younger audiences, and we consider it part of the market we are pursuing,” Bradley explains. “However, we recognize that not everyone has access to the hardware or possesses the know-how to access information by using the new technology. For that population, there is the traditional print book.

“Many older readers and [others] still prefer the print book format, and this market travels because they have more time and resources. Also, the print book is a marketing tool. Numerous people have told us that when they refer to the book when they are on the street, people stop them to ask where they purchased the book. To us, that’s a good thing!”

In addition to the information and photographs included in each section of the book, Johnson and Bradley have featured user-friendly maps, easy to understand directions, individual restaurant, retail, accommodation and attraction locations, annual events, useful information about walking and bus tours, where to post letters, hail a cab and how to locate the nearest Internet cafe.

The Harlem Travel Guide is available online at,  (in print and electronic format) and at the Welcome to Harlem Visitor Center, located at 2360 Frederick Douglass Blvd., between 126th and 127th streets. A less expensive version of the book (printed in black and white) is also available at Barnes and Nobles stores and at  For more information, you can also contact Welcome to Harlem at (212) 662-7779 or (888) 391-7480.

Written by Lysa Allman-Baldwin

Check out these other exciting Ebony Escapes!:

African American Adventure Travel

Black History Past and Present

National Parks Speak to All Cultures

On the Civil Rights Trail

Soul Food Stops

What are Ebony Escapes?

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