From museums to specialty shops and hearty eats, here are some gems in the Bronx to visit.
There’s no place like New York City, especially once you’ve had a chance to venture off to one of the five boroughs. Each part of the large metropolis holds the key to unlocking a world full of subculture and history. No matter where you land, you can find a place that is right for you — and this includes my birthplace, the Bronx.
The borough attracts tourists for the Bronx Zoo, Yankee Stadium, and “the real Little Italy” on Arthur Avenue, but there are a few attractions and hidden gems that the Bronx — often called “The Boogie Down” to honor its status as the birthplace of hip-hop — offers. No matter what type of traveler you are, there's plenty to discover and lots to explore. As a Bronx local, here are some of my top recommendations.
For the Music Lover
Lehman Center for the Performing Arts
For those who appreciate local artists, the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts might be the best fine arts and music venue in the Bronx. Throughout the year, there are shows featuring global sounds from an array of musical genres. The schedule changes throughout the year — with notable past acts from the likes of Smokey Robinson and Stephanie Mills — so be sure to occasionally check the website to see what each season offers.
For those who would prefer to dine and jam to hip-hop classics instead, Beatstro lets the music serve as the focal point of the culinary experience. Located in the buzzing neighborhood of Mott Haven, visitors can choose from dishes with a cross-cultural blend of cooking styles paying homage to its rich Puerto Rican and Black influence. What’s more, the vibrant decor and live DJs create a vibe you can two-step to no matter whether you're there for happy hour, brunch, or dinner.
For the Bookworm
The Lit Bar
The Lit Bar is the only indie bookstore in the borough. When Barnes & Noble closed in Co-Op City in 2016, Noelle Santos took matters into her own hands by opening a sustainable, accessible bookshop to reflect the needs of the community she lived in. The shelves are filled with a curated selection of general-interest titles from authors around the world. What makes the literary staple special is the selection of wines and light food available for purchase so readers can sip and snack, too.
For fans of the famed poet Edgar Allen Poe, you can visit his final home — Poe Cottage, which was turned into a museum by The Bronx County Historical Society in 1975 — in the Fordham area of the Bronx. The visitor center offers rotating exhibits throughout the year and a virtual tour for those who cannot visit in person. Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and students, and free for members.
For the Parents of a Little One
The Bronx Children’s Museum
If you have a young explorer, The Bronx Children’s Museum offers bright open-themed areas with interactive activities, a cool water exhibit, and large installations that will entertain and educate youth during their visit. The museum champions learning through play, with STEAM-based programs that caregivers can sign up for when the museum is open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Advance registration is required.
Everett Children’s Adventure Garden
Tourists may know about the renowned New York Botanical Garden, but new visitors may be less familiar with the Bronx’s Everett Children’s Adventure Garden. It offers an array of science-based activities with drop-in programs during the week that families can explore together, from naming their own plant to creating mini-tapestries. Each season there are new multidisciplinary experiences to encourage young ones to investigate nature across the 12-acre landscape.
For the Savvy Shopper
Bronx Native Shop
This gem in Mott Haven offers a dedicated homage to all things Bronx. The Bronx Native Shop is making quite the international name for itself by extending the brand beyond the shop, with frequent curated events that include local artists and community members. Shoppers can expect to see everything from apparel marked with the local call of “Yerrrr,” to my personal favorite, “Bodega Dreams,” which reflects the young Bronxite with big dreams for their community.
If you need a place to find internationally sourced honey and body oils, then Manahel Alshifa is the spot. While the area itself may not attract tourists, this shop might. Customers can choose from several different kinds of honey (some are infused with ginger and saffron), spices, coffee, and henna. that you can sample. Everything is measured by the pound, with a few exceptions, and customers can sample products in the store.
For the History Buff
Woodlawn Cemetery is home to some of the most famous New Yorkers and figures from around the world from entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker (America's first Black female millionaire) and Cuban singer Celia Cruz to American pianist Duke Ellington, to name a few. Visitors can access the historical landmark, which is the largest cemetery in New York City, by taking the 4 train to the last stop. There are limited guided tours and events to give visitors a glimpse into the rich history of the borough. Case in point: did you know the Bronx was originally known as “Rananchqua” by the Siwanoy People of the Lenape Nation?
For the Seafood Lover
Those who love local eats rejoice: City Island is home to some of the most textured seafood dishes in a place that often feels like an entirely different city. The New-England-esque neighborhood boasts a selection of antique shops, galleries, and restaurants that line the main street. Locals from every inch of the borough can have a colorful debate on where one should go to eat but my pro tip is to try any pina colada and steamed clams at Johnny’s Reef.
For the Nature Lover
Central Park is the first to come to mind when you think of New York City but there are other equally notable spaces. Take Pelham Bay Park, which is the largest park property in New York City. Or Van Cortlandt Park, which is home to the oldest building in the Bronx and the first municipal golf course in the country. Both parks offer hiking trails, walking paths, a chance to visit historic homes, nature houses, and educational guided activities provided by the city. While you may want to avoid being at either park at night, during the day in warmer months, there are designated barbeque areas where you can picnic, play sports, and swim in the local pools. It is also home to a diverse range of plants and wildlife to explore on your own.
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