Norbert Figueroa a RoamRight Blog Author

Discovering Manhattan Above Central Park

There's no doubt you can spend days exploring the best of Manhattan, including sights like Times Square, the High Line, Rockefeller Center and the Empire State Building, to name a few. But, all of these famous sights are south of Central Park. What happens north of it?

Most travelers don't take their time to venture above Central Parks limits. But as you'll see, this is a region that deserves some exploration to get a different view of Manhattan, its history, and its people.

Apollo Theater

The Apollo Theater is one of the most famous music halls in the United States, and the most famous club associated almost exclusively with African-American performers.

Back in 1913, when it was built, it was named the Hurtig & Seamon's New Burlesque Theater, and it catered only to white people. Then, in 1934, it opened its doors to black patrons and was renamed the Apollo.

The theater has seen its ups and downs throughout its history, but one of its greatest highlights is being the career starter venue for performers like Jimi Hendrix, Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey, and many others.

Today you can tour the theater and see the backstage facilities. If there's a performance happening, don't miss the experience of watching a show in the Apollo!

Cathedral of St. John the Divine

This cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of New York is a unique sight for New York City. Even though it was designed in 1888 and begun construction in 1892, the cathedral is still unfinished. Throughout the decades, it has undergone stylistic changes going from Byzantine Revival to Gothic Revival and construction has been interrupted several times, including the times during the two World Wars. For this reason is has been nicknamed as St. John the Unfinished.

It is disputed that this might be the worlds largest Anglican cathedral and church, but it is certain that this is the fourth largest Christian church in the world. Once you visit its nave, you'll realize how big and tall this cathedral is!

125th Street

This street is the most important center of activity in Harlem and Morningside Heights. As you walk the street from the Hudson River to the Harlem River, you'll find hundreds of stores both international and local restaurants, community centers, and local markets selling items from different influential cultures that have formed the identity of Harlem throughout the decades.

In addition to the Apollo Theater, you'll also find here the Headquarter of Bill Clintons Foundation. While it may not sound like much, the headquarters was the catalyst of the gentrification of Harlem of the early 2000s.

Walk along this long street and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere.

Columbia University

If you're interested in seeing a well-conserved architectural environment, then Columbia's campus is a good option. Located slightly northwest of Central Park, buildings in this campus range from the late 1800s to the early 2000s, all of them conserving their true architectural style that range from Classical to Beaux-Art, to Contemporary. Its open spaces and gardens offer a serene space where you can sit and relax for a while, read a book or just go people watching.

Naturally, many students live near the campus, so if you walk along Broadway Avenue you'll find a varied selection of cafes and restaurants that are not only affordable, but excellent to get a taste of the international flavors that make part of the gentrification of this region.

Striver's Row

Striver's Row, officially known as the St. Nicholas Historic District, are two small, well-conserved streets that consist of the iconic row-houses that now identify part of Harlem's architecture. These are not only a gem of New York City's architecture but also an example of late 19th-century urban design in the city.

These brownstone-style buildings can be found on 138th and 139th streets, between 7th and 8th Ave.

Sylvia's Soul Food Restaurant

If you're craving some African-American food, then you must go to the Queen of Soul Food. Sylvia's Restaurant is now a true icon of Harlem where not only you can get a delicious meal, but also peek into Harlem's religious aura through its fun Sunday gospel brunch.

Since 1962, Sylvia's has offered generously sized plated of southern classics, among them the famous Harlem style waffle and fried chicken. Sylvia has also served personalities like Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Al Sharpton, and Barack Obama, among others.

It's also interesting to see the restaurant selling a line of prepared foods, beauty and skin care products, cookbooks and more.

There's much more to see in Harlem and other neighborhoods above Central Park, but this curated list will keep you busy for a good while. Ready to get out of midtown, escape the crowds and see a different Manhattan?

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Note: Available plans and coverages may have changed since this blog was published.


About the Author

Norbert Figueroa

Norbert Figueroa, a RoamRight Blog Author Norbert Figueroa is an architect who hit the pause button on his career in 2011 to do a round the world trip. He's been blogging for over three years at, where he shares his travel experiences, budget travel tips, and a good dose of world architecture. From hiking Mount Kilimanjaro to diving with great white sharks, he is always on the search of adrenaline and adventure. Norbert is originally from Puerto Rico and he is currently based in Milan, Italy... when not roaming around the world, that is. He has traveled to more than 80 countries in 5 continents and his goal is to travel to all 193 U.N. recognized countries. Follow Norbert on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google Plus.

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