When you are drawing up a list of must-see attractions for your holiday in New York, a visit to Harlem probably won’t be in your thinking – but head to the vibrant neighbourhood during Harlem Week and you will soon change your view.
Harlem once earned a reputation as one of the toughest districts in Manhattan, with the talents of its artists and musicians overshadowed by problems with crime and poverty.
Things are very different now, as you will discover if you take the time to travel from the hostels in New York to visit the thriving community during August.
That is when most of the events associated with Harlem Week are held, although the cultural festival is now so big that it spreads across the whole summer.
It began in 1974 as Harlem Day, as local people tried to organise a celebration of everything which was good about the neighbourhood.
The event proved to be such a success that it became Harlem Week and carried on growing. It has even attracted world leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Robert Mugabe.
So what began as a small-scale festival is now one of the biggest arts events in the US and celebrates a host of cultures, including African-American, European-American and Latino.
Harlem Week includes tributes to the groundbreaking people and institutions who helped the black community in New York, so you are likely to learn plenty about the area’s history.
Other events are more focused on entertainment and the many talented performers from Harlem.
There are a host of outdoor performances by rappers, reggae singers, jazz musicians and R’n’B stars, while street markets selling exotic crafts and food are accompanied by the sound of gospel choirs.
Even if your visit to New York doesn’t coincide with the Harlem Week celebrations, it is worth making the effort to travel from the city’s hostels to the neighbourhood to see the architecture of Mount Morris Park Historic District and the fascinating Studio Museum.
They will certainly be interesting additions to the Empire State Building, Ground Zero, the Statue of Liberty and Bloomingdale’s on your New York itinerary.