Boulevard of Dreams was the name given to an historic stretch of 7th Avenue in Harlem during the Jazz Age. Musicians and actors during the Harlem Renaissance would gather here along the The Stroll, to see and be seen on the street that made stars of Louie Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, and Charlie Parker.
Countless others gathered there beneath the legendary Blarney Stone of Harlem – the wishing tree known as the Tree of Hope.
This two-hour walking tour gives you the chance to go back in time to where it all began, and to walk in the footsteps of all the greats to the places where:
- Billie Holiday got discovered TWICE!
- The Big Apple got its name
- Charlie Parker introduced Bebop
- A homeless teenager named Ella won her first fame
- Duke Ellington first worked in New York as a sideman
- And more!
If you are a jazz musician or vocalist, you may get a chance to join the jam. All ages are welcome.
What Is Not Included?
- Is advanced purchase required? Can I pay cash?
- Advance purchase is strongly encouraged as tours often sell out in advance. If you do not have a credit card and need to pay in cash, you can buy tickets at the meeting spot only if there is still room, and your spots will not be guaranteed in advance! To ensure your attendance, please book online or over the phone using a Visa, Mastercard, or American Express.
- Will we stop for food?
- There will be time set aside for group members to enjoy a great meal or snacks at the live jazz venue. The tour will conclude near several great choices for a meal as well.
- Are food and drinks included in the tour price?
- No, but food and drink will be available at reasonable prices.
- Are credit cards accepted at club for drinks and food? Or is cash preferred.
- American Express, but not Visa or MasterCard has been accepted in the past. To be on the safe side, bring enough cash for drinks, food and gratuities. Plan appropriately for at least one drink ($5-$12) and an inexpensive ($10-$20) meal or snack if desired. It is also customary to offer a few dollars into the tip jar for the musicians.
- Is there an age restriction for this tour?
- All ages are welcome. Parents and guardians will be expected to monitor their young children's behavior.
- Where will the tour begin and end?
- The tour begins and ends at the same spot along 125th Street, the main drag of Harlem. This meeting place is accessible by subways, buses, cabs, and has free street parking available if you're driving.
- Are cameras allowed?
- In most cases you will be able to take pictures at all the sites and at the jazz club. Flash photography during a show should be kept to a minimum. Musicians will very often be happy to meet you, and take photos with you in between sets. Out of courtesy, photographs of club patron's, staff, and people on the street should only be taken if permission is asked for and granted.
- Is there a dress code?
- My typical answer is to come-as-you-are. This tour involves walking for the first hour, so sensible shoes are recommended. Your guide will be dressed neatly and comfortably, and trying to look half-way cool. The local population will run the gamut in dress from "street styles" to "Sunday Best!"
- How long is the tour?
- This tour lasts for 2 hours. About half of the tour is spent walking, and the other half is spent inside the jazz club. If you need to meet the tour in progress, or leave before it ends, that is fine. If you would like to stay longer after the tour is over, your guide will discuss with you all your transportation options from the last club back to your destination. Please let the guide know your intentions as soon as possible.
- Is there time to do some shopping during the tour?
- No, the tour doesn't have any stops for shopping, but there is some shopping at the meeting spot so we ask that you shop before or after the tour. The musicians that we hear are often in the habit of bringing their own cds for sale, and many will happily autograph them for you.
- Will there be restrooms available?
- Yes, there will be. The first one will be available one hour into the tour. For your convenience prior to the start of the tour, there is a Starbucks cafe with a restroom on the corner of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. and 125th Street, only one block from the meeting place.
- Can I come late or leave early?
- It is possible to attend the tour late or leave early, provided that you can meet up with or leave the tour at a location on its predetermined route. To see if your request fits into our route, please click on the "Contact NewYorkJazz" link and let us know what you'd prefer. Otherwise we'd be happy to direct you to a nearby subway station or cab if you need to leave early!
- Can I bring food or drinks?
- Food or drinks are allowed on the tour, if you don't mind eating on the go and finishing by the time we arrive at the club (about one hour into the tour). Remember that there will be food and drink available for purchase at the club! But please don't bring food or drinks to consume in the club.
- Is the tour wheelchair accessible?
- This is a wheelchair accessible tour.
- Can I bring luggage or large personal items with me?
- Since this is a walking tour, you will be responsible for the care, transportation and well-being of all your personal items. No storage is available, but if the timing of your trip means you must bring large items with you on the tour, we will do our best to accommodate you.
- Is Harlem and the meeting spot safe?
- No place we go on the tour is unsafe, and our meeting spot is the safest of all! We have been in business for over a dozen years and have always enjoyed the hospitality of Harlem.
- Are there any cover charges I'll have to pay?
- There are no cover charges or out of pocket expenses. However, there will be the opportunity to tip the performers, so please keep that in mind!
- Do you sell gift certificates?
- Yes, and they make a great gift for any special occasion! To request a gift certificate, please click on the "Contact NewYorkJazz" link.
- Can I do a private tour?
- Yes, we do have private tours available for groups or individuals and they can be customized according to your preferences. To request a private tour, please click on the "Contact NewYorkJazz" link and let us know what you're interested in doing! When it comes to NYC and jazz, we can show you where it's at.
- Will there be a lot of walking?
- We will cover the 10 block stretch of the Boulevard of Dreams at a relaxed pace, concentrating mostly on the last 4 blocks. This means that the bulk of the commentary will take place after we've walked 6 blocks together to get a feel for the neighborhood - it's sights and sounds and the diversity of its architecture. At the completion of the tour, we will also walk back to the starting point as a group, but members will have the opportunity to get a cab to their next destination, or get easy directions to a nearby subway or bus stop instead if they prefer. The B,C and 2,3 trains will be only a few blocks away as will the M2 bus.
Big Apple Jazz Tours
"This tour, hosted by New York jazz expert Gordon Polatnick, is the real deal for jazz buffs." ~ Brian Silverman, Frommer's New York City 2009 & New York City For Dummies
Big Apple Jazz Tours has been featured in major TV, Radio, Newpaper, and Magazine reporting around the world such as:
New York Times; NBC-TV; NY1 NEWS TV; Toni On! New York; London Times (UK); All About Jazz; New York; Associated Press; NYC-TV show: $9.99; NY Daily News; and Japan's Live Door News.
"...Gordon proved to be so thoroughly knowledgeable of jazz locales and players that he could attune the tour to our personal tastes and experience with jazz...The others in our group of Philadelphia doctors, lawyers and professors thoroughly subscribe to the above." ~ Dr. Jack Dobbyn, Philadelphia, PA