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So you want to know what to do in Harlem when it’s not Amateur Night or Showtime at the Apollo? Sure we now have big named retailers like Target, Mac, H&M and American Apparel and well known cultural institutions like the Studio Museum and the Schomburg Center for Research in BlackCulture but what about the off the radar spots? Let’s talk grooming, shopping, culture, education, nourishment, romance and nature. For the best nightlife and where to eat in Harlem, please check out the other articles in this series.

1. Bebenoir.

2164 Frederick Douglass Boulevard Harlem, NY

Best Place to Buy A Dress No One Else Has On.

The Bebenoir boutique sells a mix of stylish women’s clothing, unique accessories and haute imported shoes to die for. They even have a selection of looks for men. Owners Fatima and Ibrahima Doukoure have brought to life their dream of beautiful and fun to wear African inspired clothing. Tell them about your event and Fatima will help you to pick out the perfect look. The best part? If you try on something that is not flattering Fatima will actually suggest something else. We love an honest retailer.

2. Renaissance Fine Art

2075 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard Harlem, NY

Best Gallery to Learn About Art From Artists.

If you are an art collector or desire to be one there’s nothing like visiting the Renaissance Gallery. You’ll find powerful new works from emerging and established artists curated by Director Paula Coleman. This is an accessible community art gallery where questions and impromptu visits are encouraged. If you’re looking to buy you will definitely find something special in your price range; and chances are that upon request you can meet the artist as well. Showcasing artists from across the diaspora, the Renaissance Fine Art Gallery is a culturally significant experience.

3. Carol’s Daughter Back Room

24 West 125th Street Harlem, NY 10027

Best Place to Get Kissable Hands and Feet.

The Carol’s Daughter Back Room Hand and Foot Spa is a jewel box in the midst of the hustle and flow of Harlem’s fabled 125th Street. Owner Lisa Price outdid herself. The nurturing yet glam spa decor, incredible customer service, and nail artist’s attention to detail is unparalleled. The Carol’s Daughter Back Room is perfect for showers, Girl’s Afternoons Out, or solo spoiling. Give a gift certificate to someone you adore.

4. Uptown Juice Bar.

54 West 125th Street Harlem, NY

Best Place To Eat Tofu Without Realizing It.

This is not just any juice bar. In fact, I hesitated about including the Uptown Juice Bar on this list because the lines are long enough already. You can indulge in freshly made apple carrot juice for your health or meatless jerk “chicken” for your belly. We’ve spotted everyone here from your favorite PETA supporter to your favorite rapper. This vegan take out spot serves Guyanese, West Indian, and African American soul food favorites that even carnivores can enjoy. Fax in your order to skip the crazy line and be sure to have the pine tarts for desert. They’re almost as good as my mom’s recipe.

5. Hue-Man Bookstore & Cafe

2319 Frederick Douglass Boulevard Harlem, NY

Best Place to Mingle With Writers or Flirt with Intellectuals.

The past couple of years of recession coupled with the digital reading revolution have not been kind to bookstores. Thankfully the Hue-Man Bookstore in Harlem USA is still standing. Hue-Man is part book store, part culture center. As a new author this writer found the Hue Man to be incredibly supportive. Managing partner Marva Allen loves books, authors, readers and she loves Harlem. Please support this independent book store where intellectuals and celebrity authors come to share.

6. Citarella

461 West 125th Street Harlem, NY

Best Place for Gourmet Food Shopping.

If you want to express your inner foodie you’ll find all of the ingredients you need here. Citarella is the ultimate gourmet market. You’ll find specialized cheeses, olives, jams and herbs in addition to quality produce, a variety of oils, fish steaks and much more. Fresh food plus helpful service. Warning: Citarella is only for specialty items. You can shop Fresh Direct or your local supermarket for your standard staples.

7. The Winery

257 West 116th Street Harlem, NY

Best Place to Find A Decent Wine Selection For Any Budget.

Harlem now has several wineries like Lenox Wines and Harlem Vintage but it’s not hard to see why The Winery bills itself as a “wine boutique.” Except for one never-smiling sourpuss the people behind the counter at The Winery are generally very helpful. Ask about their open wine education tastings and events. The Winery also delivers and they will document your purchases on their computer for future visits.

8. The Cloisters & Fort Tryon Park Gardens

99 Margaret Corbin Drive Washington Heights, NY

Best Place for Romantic Moments.

I’m not into medieval art to put it mildly. However, a visit to Fort Tryon Park and The Cloisters is a must-have New York City experience. Yeah, yeah, we know that it’s far north but the Cloisters Museum and gardens are worth the hike. Of course there’s incredible architecture, ornate ceilings and those famous unicorn tapestries but Fort Tryon Park is truly the star with its wild flowers and Hudson River views. Bring someone cute to wander around with or take the free guided tour. You’ll feel lost in time.

9. Dwyer Cultural Center

258 Saint Nicholas Avenue Harlem, NY

Best Place to Learn Something While Being Entertained.

The multimedia, interactive Dwyer Cultural Center brings an explosion of culture with exciting public programs such as art exhibits, festivals, independent films, theater and dance. Check the website for schedules and head right over. There are events for children and adults. You won’t even realize that you’re learning something.

10. Dance Theater of Harlem

466 West 152nd Street Harlem, NY

Best Place to Enhance Your Classical Dance Skills.

The motto for the esteemed Dance Theater of Harlem is “Transforming Lives Through Classical Dance.” If you ever get the opportunity to see a gravity defying, beautifully poetic Dance Theater of Harlem performance go for it. DTH is home to the best dancers in the world and guess what? Now you can become one of them. Well, you can at least learn a few moves in the same rooms. Open classes include the Adult Ballet Stretch and if you have a toddler sign up for Dance With Me, the inexpensive weekly dance class for you and your little one.

Honorable Mention:

The Faison Firehouse Theatre for cultural events curated by original For Colored Girls director George Faison.


Author and Multimedia Personality Abiola Abrams, the Lifestyle Passionista, writes and makes TV and web series about living your best life.

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