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© 2020 by The Curious Uptowner

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Last-minute Halloween fun: a secret City College tunnel tour, a Harry Potter-themed party, scary-goo

Still no Halloween plans? Here are some fun events taking place tonight–no reservations needed: Halloween Scarefest at City College 6pm-10pm For the first time ever, City College is offering free-to-the-public guided tours of its secret tunnels. The school is a neo-Gothic gem, making it a perfect backdrop on Halloween. Tours start from the North Academic Center (NAC) building lobby at 160 Convent Avenue. Harlem bars with themed Halloween parties Some of Harlem's best bars are throwing themed parties tonight, so take your pick and throw on a costume. Will it be the Harry Potter-themed bash at Hogshead Tavern, the '70s-themed "Shakedown" at The Honeywell, or the "Good Ole Fashion Costume Party

The best spots in East Harlem to celebrate the Day of the Dead

Unlike Halloween, Día de los Muertos–Mexico's famous holiday that honors the dead–is celebrated over three days and includes colorful altars, offerings of sweet bread, and festive skeletons. This year it begins on Wednesday, October 31 and runs until Friday, November 2. To sample the holiday's fun traditions, head on over to these five spots in East Harlem, home to one of the city's most vibrant Mexican communities. East Harlem's Mexican bakeries Pan de muerto–literally, bread of the dead–is a sweet loaf that's eaten only during Día de los Muertos. Decorated with shapes meant to resemble bones, the orange-infused treat is nevertheless more cute than scary. While tradition calls for leaving t

Trinity Church Cemetery: come for the Halloween spirit, stay for the baby name ideas

Looking for real Halloween spirit–something involving, you know, actual dead people? You can't go wrong with Trinity Church Cemetery, Manhattan's only remaining active cemetery, located on the northern edge of Hamilton Heights. Founded in 1842, the graveyard's atmospheric tombstones rise up a peaceful wooded hill that's open to the public every day. And because it's filled with almost two centuries' worth of graves, this final resting place for countless New Yorkers (including Mayor Ed Koch) is also a great spot for an entirely different activity: searching for unexpected baby name ideas. It's true, countless Marys and Johns dot the cemetery. But you don't have to look far to find the graves

Weekend wish list: spooky Halloween edition

​Halloween falls on a Wednesday this year, which means the weekend is jammed with holiday celebrations. If you're not sure where to start, here are three biggies in Harlem and beyond oozing with spooky spirit: Halloween Extravaganza at St. John the Divine: Screening of "Nosferatu" and the Procession of the Ghouls Friday, October 26, 7pm and 10pm Few things set the Halloween mood better than gothic architecture, and this cathedral has it in spades. Making things even creepier is tonight's screening of the 1922 silent horror film "Nosferatu," accompanied by live organ music. The nave then welcomes a parade of goblins and ghouls courtesy of Ralph Lee and the Mettawee River Theatre Company. The

Uptown links: Riverbank State Park's performance space gets a $1 million gift (plus a new name),

• Businessman and philanthropist Robert F. Smith donated a million dollars to the Cultural Performance Center at Riverbank State Park, which will receive new lighting, sound equipment, seating, flooring–and a new name: the Robert Frederick Smith Center for the Performing Arts. “Music and artistic expression have a unique power to unite families and communities,” Smith said in a statement. “Few places embody that more than Harlem. I’m humbled by the opportunity to contribute to a center where people of all ages can come together in appreciation of the arts.” [NY Times] • Music mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs pledged $1 million to his Harlem charter school network–existing spots include Capital Prep

Put a bird on it: 3 Audubon-inspired uptown art projects you should go see right now

Upper Manhattan–once home to famed ornithologist John James Audubon–is becoming quite the place to find amazing bird-themed art. Much of that is thanks to local gallery owner Avi Gitler, who a few years ago began collaborating with the National Audubon Society on a series of public murals devoted to birds threatened by climate change. Recently Gitler embarked on a similarly-themed sculpture project with the local chapter of Audubon, part of which is taking shape in his gallery right this month. To introduce the artist behind the work, Gitler is holding a special open house this Saturday. Using that as a jumping off point, now is the perfect time to get better acquainted with both collaborati

Treasures by Manet, Matisse and others debut uptown in "Posing Modernity," a show tracing

It's not every day you see priceless works of art by Manet, Matisse, and other modernist masters above 100th Street, but for the next three and a half months they'll be on full display in "Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today" at the Wallach Art Gallery in West Harlem. Tracing the evolution of the black female figure in modern art from Edouard Manet to the present, this new exhibition was co-organized by the Musée d'Orsay in Paris–and will be headed there in March after its uptown run. The show is the latest in a string of impressive–and free–exhibits at the Wallach, which relocated to a new space on Columbia University's Renzo Piano-designed Manhattanville campu

These Harlem streets have major Halloween spirit

Now that Halloween is just about a week away, it's the perfect time to take a walk through some of Harlem's prettiest neighborhoods and get into the holiday spirit. Choose one–or all–and take in not just the gorgeous architecture, but the creatively spooky decor while you're at it. 1. Sugar Hill The landmarked brownstones between Convent and St. Nicholas Avenues above West 145th Street are some of Harlem's most beautiful, but make sure you don't skip Convent itself: there's a coven of witches on the northwest corner of 148th Street. A skeleton shrouded in black lace greets visitors by the front door of the same grand house. 2. Hamilton Heights For a glimpse of some of the most impressive hom

Weekend wish list: El Museo's Day of the Dead kick-off, Justin Favela's piñata-like murals,

From a Day-of-the-Dead-inspired musical procession in El Barrio to artist Justin Favela's amazing tissue-paper murals in Sugar Hill, there's lots of great stuff to check out this weekend. Start at these three standout events: Super Sábado: Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Saturday, October 20, 11am-5pm El Museo del Barrio is kicking off its Day of the Dead celebrations with a musical procession by Danza Azteca Chichimeca, starting at Central Park’s Dana Discovery Center (at 110th Street) and ending in El Museo's courtyard. There's also a sugar skull decorating workshop right after. And don't forget to stop by the museum's cafe to see the magical community altar installed by artist Tlisza

Uptown links: pushing for a ferry at West Harlem Piers, a Harlem sidewalk shed makes news, and more

• Council Member Mark Levine is calling for an NYC Ferry route from West Harlem Piers on 125th Street to New Jersey. “There's a glaring omission in the growing NYC ferry network: w.125th St., where a modern $30m pier sits unused. Just 8 mins across river from NJ. Good connections up and down West Side," he wrote on Twitter earlier this week. [Metro] • A sidewalk shed on the corner of Lenox and West 123rd that had stood there since 2004 has finally been taken down. [Curbed NY] • Harlem's Fashion Row and Harlem Fashion Week are two organizations that are shining a spotlight on fashion in Harlem. [Ozy] • Talk about more is more: a new-to-market Harlem penthouse has five bedrooms, six-plus bathr

Here's how you can celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance, kicking off this F

The Harlem Renaissance–the famous flowering of African-American music, art, literature, and thought–had its start about 100 years ago, right as World War I was coming to a close. Now Harlem Renaissance 100, a project led by Harlem-based tour operator Harlem One Stop, is marking the period's one-hundred-year anniversary by launching a multi-year neighborhood celebration. William H. Johnson, Portrait of a Woman with Blue and White Striped Blouse, courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum For the next two years, more than 20 cultural and community-based organizations–many of them true Harlem icons–will help commemorate the centennial with art exhibitions, concerts, dance workshops, talks, and

Friendly reminder: NYC farmers markets are still bursting with produce–and open for another month

​Walking through East Harlem last week, I stumbled upon the PS 57 Youthmarket–one of about 16 special farm stands in the city that teach the kids who run them small-business skills while increasing access to farm-fresh food in the community. There I found a gorgeous assortment of produce, including a small crate of plums. Recalling a famous plum torte recipe I once read about in The New York Times–it was so popular, the paper had published it every September for seven years (it now lives online)–I bought a small bag's worth of the fruit and decided to try making it. While paying for the plums and admiring the lovely carrots and radishes and grapes displayed across the table, it suddenly hit

Weekend wish list: a redlining tour by bike, a recreated historical boxing match, and more

There's finally a chill in the air, so grab a scarf and explore some of the city's coolest architecture, learn more about the lasting effects of redlining in New York (particularly in Harlem), or go see a recreated 19th-century boxing match. Open House New York Friday, October 12-Sunday, October 14 This weekend is your once-a-year chance to explore city architecture that isn't always accessible to the public, and uptown's got its fair share of amazing spots. Here's just a taste: the Solar Rooftop & Harlem Garden for Urban Food atop City College's Spitzer School of Architecture designed by Vinõly Architects, the landmarked Great Hall, also at City College, and the 1908 Fort Tryon Park Cottage

Uptown links: the U.S. premiere of "If Beale Street Could Talk" by Barry Jenkins "had

• The glittering U.S. premiere of "If Beale Street Could Talk"–director Barry Jenkins' film adaptation of the James Baldwin novel–was held at the Apollo Theater on Tuesday night. "James Baldwin was born and raised in Harlem, this book is set in Harlem, it was filmed in Harlem,” said Jenkins, whose movie "Moonlight" won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2017. “The first time it shows in the U.S. had to be in damn Harlem!” The Tomatometer is giving the film, which hits theaters on November 30, a 93%. [The Atlantic] • New York City Parks commissioner Mitchell Silver has been training for his first New York City Marathon, and chose five favorite routes around town. For the best views, he rec

This under-the-radar Harlem track is the perfect spot for a fall run

Even if you're not training for the upcoming marathon, fall in New York is for running. Sunny days accompanied by cooler temperatures mean that conditions are practically ideal for putting sneaker to pavement. Still, it's not always easy to find a route where you won't have to dodge fellow New Yorkers, excitable dogs, and everything else that defines city sidewalks. That's where the runner's track at Riverbank State Park comes in. This under-the-radar spot has everything a jogger could want. Looping around a pristine football field, the quarter-mile track–you won't need a gadget to monitor your mileage, imagine that!–has seven surfaced lanes you can access almost any time (the park is open s

Uptown's secret gardens (updated)

The charm of a secret garden isn't that it's unknown–usually plenty of people can pass through one–but that it tends to be surrounded by walls or is somewhat hidden from view. Ideally, it requires you to open a gate or walk under an arch, leading to a peaceful space filled with beautiful flowers, small trees and maybe even a magical creature or two. Luckily, uptown has three that truly fit the bill and make perfect spots for reflection on a sunny afternoon. Schedule an escape to these oases while the days are still warm and bright–your frazzled self will thank you. The sunken garden at Roger Morris Park ​Now that the end of the season is approaching, the sunken garden behind the Morris-Jumel

Foodfest Depot: the best international-food-store-meets-warehouse-club you've never heard of

A mere two stops past Manhattan on the 6 line (or a 15-minute cab ride from Harlem) stands Foodfest Depot, a 98,000-square-foot space in the industrial Port Morris section of the South Bronx that's the international grocery store of your dreams. Catering to mom-and-pop restaurant owners and adventurous-but-savvy food shoppers alike, the store is members-only by only the loosest of standards: it takes less than a minute to fill out the membership form and costs nothing to join. You read that right: zilch. And because products are sold in bulk, prices are much lower than at your typical New York City grocery store. Plus, there are always specials. Inside you'll find an astonishing variety of g

Weekend wish list: a parade of creatures at the Blessing of the Animals, a peek at the work of three

Fall is truly underway, so warm up with a chai latte at the new Callie's Cafe on Lenox, then go peek at the work of three up-and-coming artists at the Studio Museum's new satellite space, buy a locally-made product at the Harlem Harvest Festival, and more.​​​​ Callie's Cafe ​You could almost hear the collective sob of despair in Harlem when Morningside Coffee & Biscuits closed earlier this year. The team behind it has now reopened the space as an espresso bar called Callie's Cafe, which also serves food in the vibe of the new Callie's Taqueria next door (no, there are no more biscuits). Stop by from the morning onwards for a huge selection of specialty coffees, from flat whites to chai latte

Uptown links: iconic photo "A Great Day in Harlem" gets the art book treatment, the artist

• A new book marks the 60th anniversary of Art Kane's famous 1958 group shot of jazz musicians sitting on a Harlem stoop, known familiarly as "A Great Day in Harlem." [NY Times] • The hip hop artist and activist formerly known as Mos Def is a partner in a new gallery called The Compound in the South Bronx. [NY Times] • Take a peek at some of the beautiful images from the fourth printing of "The Sweet Flypaper of Life," a collaborative work set in Harlem by photographer Roy DeCarava and poet Langston Hughes. It was first published in 1955. [Daily Beast] • Harlem is one of the most church-filled neighborhoods in the country, but with Americans as a whole becoming less religious, many congregat

Step inside Harlem Ale House, a new bar serving up beer with a side of real neighborhood history

​Harlem is a neighborhood steeped in history, but as the area continues to undergo sweeping changes, that past is getting harder to find. Enter Eric Curtis, the owner of Harlem Ale House, a bar that just opened on West 127th Street and Lenox Avenue. The new pub serves not just a hundred-plus varieties of beer (from Chimay Grand Reserve on tap to Hazy Little Thing IPA in a can), but a big helping of Harlem's bygone days. Its walls are covered in ephemera that were found throughout the 150-year-old building, from a vintage "125th Street" sign that now hangs over the bar–"It's heavy as hell," notes Curtis–to the leftover bits of a bowling alley that once ran across the top floor. Every last pie

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