Washington Heights and Inwood, up in the northernmost reaches of Manhattan, are welcoming areas for those who miss the melting-pot vibrancy of old New York. You’ll find interesting museums, cool street fashion and authentic Latin cuisine that can transport you far from the City; indeed, part of this stretch has been officially designated Little Dominican Republic. Surrounded by hills and parks, the neighborhoods have become increasingly popular with budget-conscious artists, aspiring actors and college students looking to make a home, as well as LGBTQ folks seeking affordability and character. Read on for our top spots to check out.
Cafés and Restaurants
Few places outside of Santo Domingo celebrate Dominican culture like Washington Heights, and El Malecon gets the nation’s cuisine just right. This local staple is as authentic as it gets, dishing out roast chicken, sweet plantains, homemade jugo de chinola and other favorites. It’s open late, too.
Indian Road Café
Sure, Indian Road Cafe is warm and charming. And yes, it’s known for being the last (or, more specifically, the northernmost) café-restaurant in Manhattan, located across from a beautiful waterfront park. But if we’re being honest, it’s the drag bingo we love the most. Run by Ona and Goldie, it takes place the last Thursday of the month, features expert lip-synching performances and donates proceeds to a local charity.
Locals love Manolo. This Spanish tapas bar serves up some of the City’s top paella; pair an order with a pitcher of sangria and you’ve got a lovely date-night meal. Exposed brick and dark wood accents make it feel homey and intimate. Note that it’s cash only.
Hidden away inside Fort Tryon Park, New Leaf is a little gem of a restaurant located in an historic 1930s stone mansion covered in ivy (and once managed by Bette Midler’s NYC Restoration Project). The restaurant is just a short walk from the Met Cloisters, making it a great place to brunch on a lazy Sunday before you stroll the grounds for a day of art and nature.
Taszo Espresso Bar
Taszo is a cute, local coffee shop located just around the corner from the 157th subway station (on the #1 line). Baristas make Americanos behind a long marble counter while folks hang out with their pastries at the long table in the back, enjoying the casual vibe.
Hamilton Grange National Memorial
There’s a little musical on Broadway called Hamilton. Maybe you’ve heard of it? If that show left you wanting to know more about one of our founding fathers, head to Alexander Hamilton’s uptown home in St. Nicholas Park. You’ll find period-decorated rooms in this beautifully restored house, one of our favorite historic spots in the City.
The Little Red Lighthouse
The Little Red Lighthouse is just too adorable—almost impossible to believe it exists in NYC. Officially known as the Jeffrey’s Hook Lighthouse, it’s located just underneath the George Washington Bridge and got its current name from a beloved 1940s children’s book. If you’re in the area and have the time for a scenic jaunt (it’s a little hike from the nearest subway stop and main road), do yourself a favor and go.
The Met Cloisters
The Cloisters, a serene outpost of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, displays medieval art in a rebuilt monastery that has panoramic views of the Hudson River. Bonus tip: if you visit The Met Fifth Avenue or the Met Breuer, you can use your admission sticker to get in here for a same-day visit or one on the following two days (and vice-versa).
From the outside, Morris-Jumel looks somewhat abandoned. But inside, it’s a historic, architectural oasis of woodwork and stained glass. Speaking of founding fathers and Hamilton, the history here runs deep: George Washington used it as a headquarters during the Revolutionary War, and Aaron Burr called it home for a few years in the 1830s. There’s a “Paranormal Investigation” tour if your idea of fun is searching for Martha Washington’s ghost, or you can just pay the basic $10 admission to see an exquisite example of colonial architecture.
United Palace Theater
One of the five famed Loew’s Wonder Theaters in the NYC area, this 1930 landmarked theater has operated as a church for many years and, after loving restoration, has also returned to its original use as an entertainment emporium. In addition to weekly spiritual services, you can attend concerts by the likes of Iggy Azalea, see special movies on the big screen and take the occasional historical tour.
Washington Heights’ newest gay bar opened in fall 2018 on Broadway and 159th Street. It’s the latest in a mini-chain of sports-themed hangouts (the others are in Chelsea, the Upper East Side and Hell’s Kitchen) that feature shirtless bartenders, along with games and shows (including RuPaul’s Drag Race) on multiple big screens. Events take place near nightly; you’ll find drag shows, karaoke and various DJs spinning to a multiculti uptown crowd.
The Castro, located on Dyckman Street, is our kind of bar. A $10 cover offers a fun night out where you can meet some queer locals and see some sexy go-go dancers too. DJ-led parties take place Wednesdays through Sundays.
Fort Washington Greenmarket
A pocket-size open-air grocery with a local Latin flare, this seasonal greenmarket runs every Tuesday from 8am to 4:30pm (June through November). Fresh kale, peppers and plantains from nearby and upstate farms are just a few of the delicious items you’ll find here.
For men’s street style, Probus is the top shop in Washington Heights. It features a great selection of shoes, sunglasses and even some stylish sweats. The store is a fun place to just browse around, though we usually leave with something new for the weekend.
Word Up Community Bookstore
Word Up is a true community bookstore, run by volunteers and promoting local writers. It’s become an important part of NYC’s Dominican and Latin literary culture, drawing the likes of acclaimed novelist Sandra Cisneros for readings.
Outdoors and Recreation
Fort Tryon Park
This natural, forested park overlooks the Hudson River and serves as a recreational focus for the surrounding neighborhoods. The lush green escape is home to The Met Cloisters, the photogenic Billings Arcade, the changing colors of Heather Garden and the New Leaf restaurant.
Inwood Hill Park
Secluded and green, with sweeping views of the Hudson, this is one of Manhattan's best-kept secrets. It’s a park for every season: cultural events in the summer, stunning foliage in the fall, a quiet peace brought by winter’s snow and blooms in the spring. Families and canine lovers will love the trails, never-crowded green spaces, nature center and dog run. Just outside the park’s boundaries, the historic Dyckman Farmhouse Museum preserves an 18th-century Dutch Colonial farmhouse that’s open for public viewing.