A Perfect Family Day in Harlem

Thursday, December 6, 2018
In New York City, it's easy to spend an entire weekend (or life, really) within a five-block radius of your home. While that's one of the wonderful things about raising kids here—we have an entire world at our fingertips—it's great to get out of our own neighborhoods and explore other NYC microcosms, as well. The problem is that every time my family ventures to a different nabe, it's always the same ones: Greenwich Village to play pickup chess in Washington Square Park; Sunset Park to hang out at Industry City; and Williamsburg for the BMX pump track and parkour classes at the Brooklyn Zoo. So this Saturday, we are headed to an area we don't get to often enough, mostly because it's an hour's train ride away from our South Slope, Brooklyn, apartment: Harlem. But no pain, no gain, right? The WSWD experience planners helped me put together a whole day's schedule in the culturally rich neighborhood with plenty of gains, from a Founding Father's home and an old-school toy store to modern art and vegan ice cream. Ready to go?

First Stop: A Tour of the Historic Hamilton Grange

Start your day with a guided tour of the early-1800s period rooms inside the only home that Alexander Hamilton ever owned and where much of the country-founding drama unfolded. (I wonder how many of the visitors hum "My Shot" as they roam the hallways?) Get there on the early side to sign up for one of the first-come, first-served tours at 10 a.m., 11 a.m, 2 p.m., and 4 p.m. 409 West 141st Street (at Hamilton Terrace)
hamilton grange Photo by Sayaka Ueno

Second Stop: Lunch at Benyam

My kids have never tried Ethiopian food (I know, I know, what kind of New Yorkers are we?), so I'm excited for them to eat with their hands—soaking up curried lentils and spiced cabbage with spongy injera bread—at this local favorite spot, less than a 15-minute walk from the Grange. 2795 Frederick Douglass Boulevard (between West 148th and 149th Streets)
Benyam-Veggie-Sampler-with-Awaze-Tibs-and-Kitfo ethiopian restaurant Harlem NYC Photo by Efrain Duenas Ezzys/Courtesy of Benyam
Third Stop: Art and Inspiration at Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling
On the other side of Jackie Robinson Park from Benyam is this bright, welcoming haven for creative children. At 11, my kids may be a bit too old for the daily performances and art workshops that are held every weekend, but I'm excited to see the installation work of Yuken Teruya, an artist who has cut up paper bags into tiny pieces and fashioned them into intricate dioramas of trees. Art project for home? We have paper bags! 898 St. Nicholas Avenue (at West 155th Street)
Sugar-Hill-Childrens-Museum-of-Art-Storytelling-Harlem NYC Family Weekend Photo courtesy of Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling/Facebook

Fourth Stop: Ice Cream at Sugar Hill Creamery

No family day is complete without an ice cream break or two, and this place—with its charming storefront and handmade, small-batch flavors (including vegan options)—is a goodie. I already know what I'm ordering: a waffle cone with Chairman of the Board, a cream cheese–based ice cream mashed up with graham crackers and blueberry jam. 184 Lenox Avenue (between West 119th and 120th Streets)

Fifth Stop: Browsing and Shopping Local at Grandma’s Place

You're never too old for toys. A staple in Harlem since 1984, Grandma's Place—owned by a gem of a lady and actual grandparent, Dawn Harris-Martine—has an incredible collection of black dolls and children's books by black authors. 84 West 120th Street (at Lenox Avenue)
Grandmas-place toys Harlem NYC Photo courtesy of Grandma's Place

Last Stop: Dinner at Sylvia’s or Lolo’s

No trip to Harlem is complete without a visit to the legendary soul food spot Sylvia's, founded in 1962 by Sylvia Woods. After a long day of stomping around the neighborhood, a filling dinner of fried chicken, ribs, and peach cobbler sounds just right. 328 Malcolm X Boulevard (between West 126th and 127th Streets) If you've been to Sylvia's before and want to try something new, surf on over to the lively Lolo's Seafood Shack, which advertises its cuisine as a mashup of Carribbean barbecue and Cape Cod seafood. Order crabby dip with plantain chips and a basket of "pom pom" shrimp and garlic fries for the table. 303 West 116th Street (between Frederick Douglass Boulevard and Manhattan Avenue) So, where to next weekend?

Find the best things to eat, drink, and do—no matter where in they city you are—on the WSWD app.