The signs (and decorations) are everywhere: Halloween is fast approaching. And Harlem, particularly its historic parts, is an especially fun place to walk around this time of year. It's a great excuse to check out some of the area's prettiest neighborhoods.
But before you do so, why not stop by ROKC for some drinks to get you in the mood? This accolade-winning bar and restaurant in Hamilton Heights, whose name stands for Ramen, Oysters, Kitchen and Cocktails, serves some serious–and seriously beautiful–drinks.
Two in particular are perfect for a Halloween-y cocktail hour. The Smoke, a mix of bourbon, Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur, Cynar and house bitters, is served with a glass dome that captures the smoke that gives this drink its distinct flavor. Watch as the eerie fog escapes when the bartender lifts the top, then settle in to enjoy this hazy twist on an Old Fashioned.
The other potion worth trying this time of year is the Grapefruit, which comes in a Day of the Dead Sugar Skull mug, complete with a smoking stick of palo santo incense. Made with mezcal, grapefruit juice, and lime, the drink is a playful take on a margarita.
Now choose your stroll. One is closer to ROKC, the others are a bit farther. But any walk you pick should include a stop at City College, whose main campus features a series of neo-Gothic buildings that are especially atmospheric in the twilight hours.
Pass through one of the two wrought iron arches at either 138th or 140th Streets and Convent Avenue, admire the many impressive structures built with dark Manhattan schist, and try not to be too horrified by the grotesques staring down from the terra cotta ornamentation.
If you choose to go uptown next, stay on Convent Avenue to admire the grand houses on this landmarked street as you head north to Sugar Hill. Once you reach 147th and 148th Streets, you'll see homes on your right and left with pumpkins, witches and spiders galore.
Those who prefer to head south from City College should go down the hill on 141st Street and pass through historic Strivers' Row, located on 138th and 139th Streets between Frederick Douglass and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevards, where there are all sorts of cobwebs and ghosts lurking up and down the streets.
More skeletons and jack o'lanterns decorate the historic areas surrounding Mt. Morris Park, but if you want a taste of how Hollywood does Halloween, amble past Neil Patrick Harris's townhouse on Fifth Avenue just north of 125th Street (for an inside peek, here's the "73 Questions" he did with Vogue last year). There's a huge old witch over the door–probably trying to scare away the paparazzi huddled across the street.