Great Day In Harlem Jazz Tour

Big Apple Jazz Tours

Zerve Seller: NewYorkJazz
Activity #2044
  • See what goes on in Harlem after dark and visit the hottest, most intimate hidden juke joints this inviting neighborhood has to offer!

  • Discover living legends of jazz and the most soulful stars in town on this guided experience through NYC's world class night clubs.

To inquire about booking this event, please contact us directly by clicking on the 'contact NewYorkJazz' link below.

For more information, please contact NewYorkJazz.


This is the essential and comprehensive Harlem jazz tour. You will hear the stories and see the sites of Harlem’s historic jazz neighborhoods traveling by luxury mini-bus from the world famous Apollo Theater through Jungle Alley, and up to Sugar Hill.

Hop off the bus and stop in on three off-the-beaten path jazz joints along the way for live jazz shows that will surprise and thrill everyone from the jazz newcomer to the aficionado. Three sets of music are included in this tour, but none of them at tourist traps. You will also be invited to dine on delicious soul food (Southern home cooking) in a real down-home atmosphere - also included in the tour price!

The 5-hour tour is run at an enjoyably relaxing pace. The commentary will cover Harlem's role in the development of jazz styles from swing and big band through bebop and the great vocalists like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.

We will visit a few current jazz venues to hear great jam sessions being played by Harlem locals; and see locations such as:
  • The original Cotton Club
  • Savoy Ballroom
  • Minton's Playhouse
  • Lafayette Theater
  • Apollo Theater
  • "Great Day in Harlem" stoop
  • Duke Ellington's home
  • Billie Holiday's haunts
  • Count Basie's Club
  • EZ's Woodshed
  • St. Nick's Pub
  • Lenox Lounge
  • Jazz Museum
  • Jazz Walk of Fame
  • Smalls Paradise
  • Big Apple Club
One of the tour highlights is locating the legendary Tree of Hope and rubbing its bark for good luck!

All ages are welcome. And if you are a jazz musician or vocalist, you will get a chance to join the jam.

What Is Not Included?

There will be opportunities to eat and drink during this tour when we stop in the jazz joints, but no beverages are included in the tour price.
You may wish to bring some extra dollars to tip musicians, driver, guide and servers.

Meeting Location

Harlem on 125th Street (New York City, NY) (Exact meeting location details will be provided immediately upon purchase of tickets.)
22 Reviews
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All 22 53 1 = 52 95% 4.6
22 Reviews
Displaying 1 - 10
Sort by: Date Attended Gender Age Where From Group Type
Rating: 5
an excellent tour.
Sun, Sep 1, 13  3:00 PM Female 50-59 International Tourist(s) Family With Children
the tour guide was was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. the driver was friendly and drove well. the venues visited gave us a great feel for the Harlem area.
Rating: 5
A Really Great Great Day In Harlem
Sun, Sep 23, 12  3:00 PM Male 60-69 International Tourist(s) Family Without Children
Full Marks to Gordon and his enthusiasm!! For my wife and I Harlem was such a revelation of great streets, beautiful architecture and friendly happy people. The tour ensured the full flavour of each.

And the music:- the golden oportunity to meet with Marjorie Eliot in her home; a real home of jazz. To be enthralled with her brilliance on piano, in bringing the soul of each and every piece right into the room and into the hearts of all present simply defies description, especially in her interpretations of 'Amazing Grace' and 'Someone to Watch Over Me'. Abley supported, in a quartet of real musicality, precision and improvisational skills making for a true jazz experience which never lost sight of it's audiences' rapt attention. Then a visit to a really 'hip joint', 'The Shrine', for a highly rhythmic and uplifting jam session from jazzmakers who just seemed to live to play - and how !! Finally to a private American Veteran's Club, curtesy of Gordon's influence, for some straight ahead bop, tight and sassy with hints of tenor playing from the greats and superb jazz organ in the hands of Selene Clarke. Lets not forget the soul food - don't miss out on the chicken.

As I said earlier - go with Gordon he knows these people and we, his guests, were treated as friends by all. His knowledge, personality and organisation are just what is needed as a guide to a Great Day in Harlem. Yes I'm a keen jazz fan, but the words are unsolicited, it is all true - just go and do it if you have any thoughts or love of jazz in any form; and never think on the cost, you'll talk about this one for a long time. P.S Gordon even escorted my wife and I to our subway to see us safely on our way home - perhaps earlier than I would have liked but ......well after the tour's appointed end time
Rating: 5
Fantastic Experience in New York
Sun, Apr 22, 12  4:00 PM Female 50-59 International Tourist(s) Group of Friends
We had a great afternoon/evening on the Harlem Jazz Tour with Gordon. He is so knowledgeable and enthusiastic; if you love Jazz music at all, then this is not to be missed.
Rating: 2
Too bad I can't recommend it
Sun, Apr 8, 12  4:00 PM Male 30-39 International Tourist(s) Couple on a Date
I wouldn't categorize my wife and I as jazz enthusiasts, but we wanted to try something different from the normal NY attractions. We do like jazz music, but aren't very knowledgeable about the history, the types, etc. So this tour consisted of stops at several different jazz clubs/lounges, as well as dinner at Jacob's which was an experience on its own (in a good way).

Gordon was very knowledgeable and made trips on the private bus between jazz clubs very informative and interesting.

That being said, as part of the tour, one of the stops that night was at Paris Blues, which ruined our experience. It felt very dodgy inside, the music was uninspiring, we had to sit around aimlessly while the musicians took their time, ate dinner and chatted, and we got ripped off really bad on our drinks. For that reason alone I didn't recommend it to my friends. Too bad, as everything else was top notch.
Rating: 5
Great way to explore Harlem's jazz scene.
Sun, Apr 8, 12  4:00 PM Female 30-39 International Tourist(s) Individual
Great tour, will suit both those who are avid Jazz fans plus those who just have a casual interest or just want to see a different side of New York. The guide focused on taking us to less well know jazz bars that you wouldn't find yourself and hence less touristy and more of a genuine/local experience. In addition the guide takes you past the more mainstream places (like the Apollo and Lenox Lounge) so if you want to go to those you can return in your own time and know where they are. Overall and fun, entertaining and enjoyable experience. Would recommend.
Rating: 5
Tour was a top highlight in our 6 day NYC trip!
Sun, Apr 8, 12  4:00 PM Male 40-49 International Tourist(s) Couple on a Date
The Great Day in Harlem Jazz Tour was the musical highlight of our stay in New York city. Sympathetic and knowledgeable Gordon brought us to places we would have never entered ourselves. A marvellous way to experience Harlem and jazz ! Genuine, intimate ans with a warm welcome in every club we entered. We're so glad we booked this tour and recommend it to everyone, jazz connoisseur or not.
Rating: 5
great experience
Sun, Sep 26, 10  4:30 PM Male 40-49 International Tourist(s) Family With Children
very informativ and impressive tour. we learned much about the harlem jazz history and the recent uptown jazz activities.
Rating: 4
great jamsesions
Sun, May 2, 10  4:30 PM Female 50-59 International Tourist(s) Family With Children
The explanation and especially the jamsessions and its locations were great; must admit that the last visit / the last bar was not our type of music and we (our children)were asked to leave the bar and later to make room at the tables for another group!? An other location with another type of jazzmusic would be our advise! Further on the tour was excellent and really enjoyd it; incluiding our children (age: 16 - 18 and 20).
Rating: 5
Sun, May 2, 10  4:30 PM Unspecified 50-59 Domestic Tourist(s) Other
Gordon was informative, knowledgeable, and full of interesting anecdotes r/t jazz. We loved the 3 juke joints we visited, had some great soul food, listened to at least an hour or more of music at each place we visited, and had an air conditioned van waiting outside for us once we were ready to go on. The music at each place was different, the musicians and singers were excellent, and Gordon was with every step of the way. We would highly recommend this tour!!
Rating: 5
excellent tour of harlem jazz history
Sun, Dec 27, 09  4:30 PM Male 40-49 Local Family Without Children
I could not say enought about what a great night we had. Gorden was fantastic he has great knowledge of Harlem he was wonderful it was worth every bit of ticket price We are looking forward to going on any other jazz tour Gorden does again you cannot go wrong with this tour
Displaying 1 - 10 of 22
Ratings and Reviews for:
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 full meal at one of the live jazz venues. The menu will include several soul food meals to choose from with two side dishes as well. (This is not a fancy meal, but a tasty and filling introduction to Harlem cuisine - some of the best prepared food uptown).
Are food and drinks included in the tour price?
Drinks are not included, but a modest dinner is. The menu will include several soul food selections like fried chicken, meat loaf, fried fish, and ox tails to choose from. Also, two side dishes like macaroni and cheese, rice, collard greens, string beans, and potato salad. (This is not a fancy meal, but a tasty and filling introduction to Harlem cuisine - some of the best prepared food uptown).
Is there an age restriction for this tour?
All ages are welcome. Parents and guardians will be expected to monitor their childrens' behavior. Please note that children who want their own seat must have a reduced price child ticket in order to attend, but those that will share a seat with an adult (sit on a parent's lap) can attend for free and do not need a ticket.
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 jazz clubs. 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.
Is there a dress code?
Our typical answer is to come-as-you-are. This tour involves walking for a block or two at various stops, so sensible shoes are recommended. Your guide will be dressed neatly and comfortably, and trying to look cool. But it is fair to warn you that church day in Harlem means that many of the locals will be wearing their "Sunday Best."
How long is the tour?
This tour lasts for 5 hours.
How much walking is there on the tour?
The tour takes place mostly in the mini-bus but there will be some minor walking involved at a few tour sites. The walking is not strenuous and should be easy for any tour participant!
Is the bus climate-controlled?
Yes, the mini-bus is heated in the winter and air-conditioned in the summer for your convenience.
Is seating on the bus assigned?
No, seating is first-come first-served, so please arrive early if you'd like to sit in a particular spot on the bus.
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. There will often be opportunities to get autographed CDs of the musicians we hear perform.
Will there be restrooms available?
Yes, there will be 3 venues where you can use the restroom during the tour.
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?
Unfortunately no food or drinks are allowed on the bus other than a bottle of water per passenger. Remember that there will be food and drink available for purchase at the clubs we visit!
Is the tour wheelchair accessible?
Unfortunately the mini-bus is not wheelchair accessible.
Can I bring luggage or large personal items with me?
Because of limited space on the mini-bus, please try to limit the number and size of personal belongings you bring with you. Strollers, luggage, and other large items cannot easily be accommodated.
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!
Are there any cover charges I'll have to pay?
There are no cover charges at any of the places we visit. 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 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!


Refund/Rescheduling Policy

Non-refundable, cannot be rescheduled.
Once purchased, tickets cannot be refunded and cannot be rescheduled because your space is being guaranteed at the event.

Weather Policy

Activity takes place rain or shine.
The activity runs regardless of weather conditions. In the rare situation where the seller is forced to cancel the event, ticket-holders will be allowed to reschedule to another time (subject to availability).

Other Policies

Non-paying children must share a seat with an adult.
Children that require their own seat on the mini-bus must have a discounted child's ticket in order to attend. Any children that will sit on the lap of a parent do not need a ticket in order to attend.

Big Apple Jazz Tours

Big Apple Jazz Tours founder Gordon Polatnick, is a life-long jazz fan who transformed this passion into a career which includes stints as a jazz journalist, jazz festival producer, artist manager, Harlem jazz club owner, jazz webhost, DJ and for the past 12 years jazz tour guide. He was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation from the Harlem Arts Alliance.

"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 has been featured in major TV, Radio, Newpaper, and Magazines around the world such as:
New York Times; NBC-TV; NY1 NEWS TV; London Times (UK); All About Jazz; New York; Associated Press; NYC-TV show: $9.99; NY Daily News; and Live Door News. 
 “Gordon, Thanks a million for the fabulous Harlem jazz experience you mastered so wonderfully! I wish all my colleagues from the UN could hear your charming stories and insights, or the fantastic jam sessions you gave us the chance to enjoy in some cool clubs. My stay in New York would have been much poorer without this tour! Thanks for opening my eyes to the places where I can have the most authentic and thrilling jazz experiences!!! I’ll be back!”
 ~ Ambassador Simona Miculescu,
Permanent Representative of Romania to the UN

Please call Zerve at
1 (800) 979-3370
to get more information or
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