Harlem with Kids: 50 Things to Do for NYC Families

Harlem Activities, Events, Attractions and Culture for Children and Families

NYC is constantly changing, but one neighborhood that's undergone a particularly striking transformation is Harlem. Like most residents who have lived here for a while (or all their lives), I have mixed feelings about the influx of luxury condos, chain stores and high-priced restaurants. But one thing I don't feel conflicted about is raising my kid here. In many ways, Harlem reminds me of my youth on the Upper West Side: beautiful tree-lined brownstone blocks next to big apartment buildings, lots of parks to play in, and a multicultural community where neighbors stop and chat with you even if they don't know your name. Of course back in my day, we didn't have online groups like Harlem4Kids, where local families trade parenting info, kids' items and passionate messages. (Such is life on lively listservs.)

Throughout March, we'll be focusing on all that Harlem has to offer families, both residents and visitors. For the purposes of our posts, our geographical boundaries are 110th to 160th Streets from Manhattan to Fifth Avenues, and 125th to 160th Streets from Riverside Drive to Fifth Avenue. (Sorry East Harlem! We'll get you next time.) We have lots of posts about Harlem coming up that will go more in depth on specific topics, like places to play, family-friendly restaurants, cool kids' classes and other local fun. But we're kicking off our month-long focus on Harlem with the top 50 things to do with kids in the neighborhood.

  1. Shake your booty at Sundae Sermon, a free outdoor dance party in Morningside Park
  2. Hoot, holler and boo at Amateur Night at the Apollo
  3. Go fishing in Central Park's Harlem Meer or West Harlem Piers Park
  4. Skip the chain stores and buy funky wares from the vendors on 125th Street
  5. Sign up for a wide variety of high-energy classes at My Gym of Harlem
  6. Take a family yoga class at Land Yoga
  7. Go skating or swimming in Riverbank State Park
  8. Watch the talented students of Dance Theatre of Harlem in action at monthly Sunday matinees
  9. Take a spin on the kid-designed Totally Kid Carousel
  10. Learn about the culture, traditions and history of Harlem at the Dwyer Cultural Center
  11. Catch a SummerStage performance at the recently renovated Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park
  12. Take an amazing drop-in kids' art class at the LeRoy Neiman Art Center
  13. Have the wait staff sing your kid "Happy Birthday" on the big day at Sylvia's
  14. Cheer on the players at a Harlem RBI or Harlem Little League game
  15. Search for treasures at the well stocked Harlem Goodwill Store, which has an extensive kids' section in the basement
  16. Go ice-skating at Central Park's Lasker Rink
  17. Attend a Sunday service at Abyssinian Baptist Church
  18. Share a plate of succulent samplers at the always packed Dinosaur Bar-B-Que
  19. See a CityParks PuppetMobile performance in the summer at Jackie Robinson Park
  20. Make art at one of the Studio Museum's free family Sundays
  21. Get your hair done with extensions at a local salon
  22. Enjoy a family night at the Harlem YMCA
  23. Try your hand at colonial crafts at Morris-Jumel Mansion, Manhattan's oldest house
  24. Enroll in a class at The Harlem School of the Arts
  25. Romp in the gorgeous, recently renovated East 110th Street Playground in Central Park, which boasts cool equipment and breathtaking views of the Harlem Meer
  26. Marvel at the landmarked town houses on Strivers' Row
  27. Bring your preschooler to a Harlem4Kids storytime
  28. Explore Hamilton Grange, the home of founding father Alexander Hamilton in St. Nicholas Park
  29. Shop for toys at old-fashioned store Grandma's Place
  30. Enjoy a free family program at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
  31. Try collard greens, corn bread, bread pudding and other soul food staples at Miss Maude's or Amy Ruth's
  32. Got a stir-crazy toddler? Drop in for indoor open play at Pono
  33. Have a picnic in southern Morningside Park and enjoy the view of the waterfall and the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine
  34. Peruse African art, crafts, wears and jewelry at the Malcolm Shabazz Harlem Market
  35. See free kid-friendly Shakespeare in Riverbank State Park courtesy of Pulse Ensemble Theatre
  36. Groove to jazz, gospel, Latin and blues concerts at the free Harlem Meer Festival on summer Sundays
  37. Learn all about the history of the nabe's signature music genre at the National Museum of Jazz in Harlem
  38. Check out a Saturday night drum circle in Marcus Garvey Park
  39. Enjoy games, giveaways and activities at Harlem Week's annual Children's Festival
  40. Enter the lottery for free swimming lessons at the Hansborough Recreation Center
  41. Go on a DIY black history tour by visiting statues of Adam Clayton Powell, Frederick Douglass, Duke Ellington and Harriet Tubman
  42. Get your kid's picture on a red velvet birthday cake at Make My Cake
  43. Take your teen cinephiles to the Mayles Institute, an independent movie theater founded by renown documentarian Albert Maysles
  44. Book a birthday party for your kid at Chuck E. Cheese's (you'll hate it, but they'll love it and it's the only Manhattan location)
  45. Hear the Church of the Intercession's annual reading of Clement Clarke Moore's Twas the Night Before Christmas—it's a century-old tradition
  46. Take a free family art workshop at the Cooper-Hewitt Design Center
  47. Top your fro-yo with Fruity Pebbles and coconut at Harlem Yo
  48. Sadly this store has closed See if Grandma Done Gone Totally Nuts Old Fashioned Candy Store is open—it's often closed, but if you catch it open, the kindly owner serves you through the window and rarely charges
  49. Head to Marcus Garvey Park for the first annual Harlem Arts Festival, which debuts this June
  50. Explore the Museum for African Art, which is scheduled to open in 2015

Read all of our posts about what to do with kids in Harlem.

Area/Neighborhood: 
location: 
Apollo Theater
253 West 125th Street
10027 New York , NY 40° 48' 35.154" N, 73° 56' 59.784" W
New York
Dana Discovery Center
110th Street and Lenox Avenue
10026 New York , NY 40° 47' 53.8008" N, 73° 57' 9.0108" W
New York
Land Yoga
2116 Frederick Douglass Blvd
10026 New York , NY 40° 48' 11.8152" N, 73° 57' 21.6" W
New York
Riverbank State Park
145th Street and Riverside Drive
10031 New York , NY 40° 49' 37.6284" N, 73° 57' 7.3656" W
New York
Dance Theatre of Harlem
466 West 152nd Street Everett Center for Performing Arts
10031 New York , NY 40° 49' 45.2604" N, 73° 56' 37.1148" W
New York
Dwyer Cultural Center
258 St. Nicholas Avenue
10027 New York , NY 40° 48' 33.3972" N, 73° 57' 10.1916" W
New York
Marcus Garvey Park
18 Mount Morris Park West
10035 New York , NY 40° 48' 16.0848" N, 73° 56' 37.1472" W
New York
LeRoy Neiman Art Center
2785 Frederick Douglass Boulevard
10039 New York , NY 40° 49' 28.9776" N, 73° 56' 26.6172" W
New York
Sylvia's
328 Lenox Avenue
10027 New York , NY 40° 48' 31.3056" N, 73° 56' 40.3872" W
New York
Harlem Goodwill Store
2196 Fifth Avenue
10037 New York , NY 40° 48' 44.9892" N, 73° 56' 17.3904" W
New York
Lasker Ice Rink‎
110th Street and Lenox Avenue
10026 New York , NY 40° 47' 53.8008" N, 73° 57' 9.0108" W
New York
Abyssinian Baptist Church
132 Odell Clark Place
10030 New York , NY 40° 49' 0.4476" N, 73° 56' 29.0868" W
New York
Jackie Robinson Park
145th Street and Edgecombe Avenue
10030 New York , NY 40° 49' 25.0824" N, 73° 56' 37.77" W
New York
Studio Museum
144 West 125th Street
10027 New York , NY 40° 48' 29.8224" N, 73° 56' 51.6588" W
New York
Grandma Done Gone Totally Nuts Old Fashioned Candy Store
135th Street and Fifth Avenue
10037 New York , NY 40° 48' 45.8928" N, 73° 56' 15.486" W
New York
Harlem YMCA
180 W 135th Street
10030 New York , NY 40° 48' 53.514" N, 73° 56' 34.3716" W
New York
Morris-Jumel Mansion
65 Jumel Terrace
10032 New York , NY 40° 50' 4.308" N, 73° 56' 19.9104" W
New York
Harlem School of the Arts
645 Saint Nicholas Avenue
10030 New York , NY 40° 49' 19.632" N, 73° 56' 44.4948" W
New York
Pono
2002 Fifth Avenue
10037 New York , NY 40° 48' 21.2796" N, 73° 56' 34.3536" W
New York
Strivers' Row
138th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard
10030 New York , NY 40° 49' 2.19" N, 73° 56' 32.5896" W
New York
Harlem4Kids Storytime
441 Manhattan Avenue PAL Harlem Center
10026 New York , NY 40° 48' 25.002" N, 73° 57' 21.4272" W
New York
Hamilton Grange
414 West 141st Street St. Nicholas Park
10032 New York , NY 40° 49' 17.3748" N, 73° 56' 48.0228" W
New York
Grandma's Place
84 West 120th Street
10027 New York , NY 40° 48' 15.6204" N, 73° 56' 50.6148" W
New York
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
515 Malcolm X Boulevard
10037 New York , NY 40° 49' 6.0348" N, 73° 56' 16.4292" W
New York
Miss Maude's Spoonbread Too
547 Lenox Avenue
10030 New York , NY 40° 48' 56.7036" N, 73° 56' 23.2224" W
New York
Amy Ruth's
113 West 116th Street
10026 New York , NY 40° 48' 8.982" N, 73° 57' 1.4436" W
New York
Harlem Lanes
2116 Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard Third Floor
10027 New York , NY 40° 48' 34.6392" N, 73° 56' 52.782" W
New York
Morningside Park
Manhattan Avenue and 114th Street
10026 New York , NY 40° 48' 13.3992" N, 73° 57' 27.9108" W
New York
Malcolm Shabazz Harlem Market
52 W 115th Street
10026 New York , NY 40° 48' 4.7844" N, 73° 57' 0.702" W
New York
National Jazz Museum of Harlem
104 East 126th Street
10035 New York , NY 40° 48' 19.2564" N, 73° 56' 16.638" W
New York
Harlem Week
Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd and 135th Street
10030 New York , NY 40° 48' 55.2672" N, 73° 56' 37.626" W
New York
Hansborough Recreation Center
35 West 134th Street
10037 New York , NY 40° 48' 46.1772" N, 73° 56' 21.5268" W
New York
Make My Cake
121 St. Nicholas Avenue
10026 New York , NY 40° 48' 13.4316" N, 73° 57' 11.1024" W
New York
Make My Cake
2380 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Boulevard
10030 New York , NY 40° 49' 5.2032" N, 73° 56' 31.2" W
New York
Chuck E. Cheese's
280 St. Nicholas Avenue
10027 New York , NY 40° 48' 36.378" N, 73° 57' 7.7004" W
New York
The Church of the Intercession
550 West 155th Street
10032 New York , NY 40° 49' 55.884" N, 73° 56' 43.2744" W
New York
Cooper-Hewitt Design Center
111 Central Park North
10026 New York , NY 40° 47' 54.3048" N, 73° 57' 10.044" W
New York
Museum of African Art
1280 Fifth Avenue
10029 New York , NY 40° 47' 46.5972" N, 73° 56' 57.2676" W
New York
Dinosaur Bar-B-Que
700 West 125th Street
10027 New York , NY 40° 49' 5.25" N, 73° 57' 38.9952" W
New York
Harlem Yo
2121 Frederick Douglass Blvd
10026 New York , NY 40° 48' 13.1328" N, 73° 57' 22.8276" W
New York
The Maysles Cinema and Maysles Institute
343 Lenox Avenue
10027 New York , NY 40° 48' 33.9336" N, 73° 56' 41.262" W
New York
Harriet Tubman Statue
Frederick Douglass Blvd and 122nd Street
10027 New York , NY 40° 48' 29.6712" N, 73° 57' 9.2628" W
New York
Duke Ellington Statue
110th Street and Fifth Avenue
10029 New York , NY 40° 47' 40.6536" N, 73° 57' 3.1104" W
New York
Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Statue
125th Street and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard
10027 New York , NY 40° 48' 32.166" N, 73° 56' 53.6604" W
New York
Frederick Douglass Statue
110th Street and Frederick Douglass Bouelvard
10026 New York , NY 40° 48' 2.412" N, 73° 57' 30.5532" W
New York
My Gym of Harlem
258 St Nicholas Avenue
10027 New York , NY 40° 48' 33.5016" N, 73° 57' 9.54" W
New York