Your Washington Heights checklist, for a complete day in the growing Manhattan neighborhood

Washington Heights' Fort Tyron Park boasts eight miles of paths and The Met Cloisters.  Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

The coffee-to-cocktails itinerary includes The Met Cloisters, a Venezuelan counter spot, an Irish pub and beyond.

Washington Heights' Fort Tyron Park boasts eight miles of paths and The Met Cloisters. 
Washington Heights’ Fort Tyron Park boasts eight miles of paths and The Met Cloisters.  Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin

Washington Heights has a lot going for it. It’s proudly diverse in both its population and its range of experiences and things to do. It’s about to get the Hollywood treatment in the 2020 film adaptation of Quiara Alegría Hudes and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2005 "In the Heights" musical. And there’s a decent chance you know someone who’s recently moved there; in 2018, the New York Post reported that Washington Heights is drawing millennials back to Manhattan from Brooklyn and boasts more millennials than any other neighborhood in NYC.

It’s no wonder this neighborhood is worthy of the stage and silver screen, or that it’s drawing new generations to settle there. One stroll through Washington Heights offers Revolutionary War history in Fort Washington Park, medieval art at The Cloisters and a whole lot of delicious food in between.

Start with coffee at Cafe Buunni

Cafe Buunni at 213 Pinehurst Ave. in Washington Heights serves coffees made from hand-picked, small-batch roasted Ethiopian beans for a taste set apart from your standard chain.
Cafe Buunni at 213 Pinehurst Ave. in Washington Heights serves coffees made from hand-picked, small-batch roasted Ethiopian beans for a taste set apart from your standard chain. Photo Credit: Carrie Nichols

Pop into this cozy and subtly stylish little nook for your morning dose of caffeine. Coffee is made from hand-picked, small-batch roasted Ethiopian beans for a taste set apart from your standard chain. Cafe Buunni also focuses on all things local and fair-trade. In addition to different variations on coffee and espresso, there’s tea, hot chocolate, apple cider and fresh pastries — not to mention a calendar of events that establishes this shop as a community staple. (213 Pinehurst Ave., 212-568-8700)

Have brunch at Le Chéile

A Smithwick's with brunch? Le Chéile can make that happen.
A Smithwick’s with brunch? Le Chéile can make that happen. Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

Le Chéile is an Irish pub in all of its welcoming, convivial glory, but has a bit of an elevated feel. In other words, it’s a lovely way to get your day going with a hearty brunch. The affordable menu focuses on brunch classics done well, like French toast and pancakes, eggs Benedict and eggs Florentine, bagels and lox, a Greek salad, burgers and, of course, an Irish breakfast. Pair your meal with wine or beer from a diverse list of options. (839 W. 181st St., 212-740-3111)

Take a field trip to The Met Cloisters

The Met Cloisters, 99 Margaret Corbin Dr., is in Fort Tryon Park in Washington Heights.
The Met Cloisters, 99 Margaret Corbin Dr., is in Fort Tryon Park in Washington Heights. Photo Credit: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

If it’s a nice day, enjoy the 25-minute walk to The Met Cloisters; otherwise it’s a quick train, bus or cab ride. However you get there, it’s worth the trip to visit one of New York City’s true gems, conveniently located in Washington Heights — Fort Tryon Park to be exact. This extension of The Met feels like a mini European getaway. One can completely forget they’re in the city when wandering the gardens and taking in Medieval architecture. Inside, you’ll find sculptures, paintings, tapestries, stained glass and more, for a perfect blend of history and art. Don’t leave without checking out the gift shop, guaranteed to upgrade your coffee table book game. (99 Margaret Corbin Dr., 212-923-3700)

Snack on arepas from Tu Cachapa

A shredded chicken arepa at Tu Cachapa.
A shredded chicken arepa at Tu Cachapa. Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

Make your way back down into the real world — you may be back in the hustle and bustle of the city, but at least there are delicious arepas here. With all of that art viewing and walking, you’ll probably have worked up an appetite for a snack, and Venezuelan counter spot Tu Cachapa has you covered. Get a cachapa, or corn cake; an arepa; or a patacon, or plantain sandwich, with filling choices like steak, chicharron, three-cheese, chorizo or chicken. Take it to go to enjoy at your next stop. (4195 Broadway, 212-568-7575)

Stroll to “The Little Red Lighthouse”

The "Little Red Lighthouse" sits under the George Washington Bridge.
The "Little Red Lighthouse" sits under the George Washington Bridge. Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

Snacks in hand, take a walk to one New York’s cutest landmarks, “The Little Red Lighthouse.” Erected in 1921, this bright red lighthouse is the centerpiece of a beautiful waterfront view, right under the George Washington Bridge. Settle in to eat your cachapas with this backdrop in Fort Washington Park, and take time to get closer to this quaint piece of NYC history. The little red lighthouse was even the subject of a children’s book in 1942. (Fort Washington Park, Hudson River Greenway)

Sip coffee or cocktails at The Uptown Garrison

A coffee shop by day and a cocktail bar by night, The Uptown Garrison (821 W. 181st St.) is the perfect afternoon-to-evening refuge.
A coffee shop by day and a cocktail bar by night, The Uptown Garrison (821 W. 181st St.) is the perfect afternoon-to-evening refuge. Photo Credit: Stephanie Cowan

A coffee shop by day and a cocktail bar by night, The Uptown Garrison is the perfect afternoon-to-evening refuge. Its modern interior buzzes with locals, and the overall vibe is chic in the most unassuming, welcoming way. Before 5 p.m., you can refuel with coffee, or you can start the evening with a well-made cocktail. The friendly staff is happy to recommend what could become your new favorite drink. The Uptown Garrison is also known for its brick oven pizza, so make a mental note: This spot is worth a return trip. (821 W. 181st St., 917-261-4680)

Have an Italian feast at Saggio

Saggio's rigatoni with meatballs and Italian sausage.
Saggio’s rigatoni with meatballs and Italian sausage. Photo Credit: Stephanie Cowan

From its atmosphere to its fare, Saggio is where the old-school Italian restaurant and the refreshingly tuned-in neighborhood spot meet. It’s stylish in an unpretentious way, and balances thoughtful cooking and quality ingredients — including fresh pasta — with classic comfort food. Start with a variety of crostini (from roasted peppers and ricotta to wild mushroom to eggplant caviar to white beans, roasted garlic and pecorino cheese), sauteed calamari, a Caprese salad or polenta before indulging in spaghetti al limone, squid ink linguine, rigatoni with meatballs and Italian sausage, roasted rosemary chicken, grilled salmon or skirt steak with shaved Parmesan and aged balsamic vinaigrette. Leave room for tiramisu, panna cotta or gelati, and pair your meal with cocktails, wine or craft beer. (827 West 181st St., 212-795-3080)

Have a nightcap at Bar 180

Bar 180 offers a solid selection of craft beers.
Bar 180 offers a solid selection of craft beers. Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

A lively gathering place for both locals and those from surrounding neighborhoods, Bar 180 is a great way to punctuate a day in Washington Heights. It’s hip to trends without neglecting the area’s roots. There are cocktails and mixed drinks to be had, but Bar 180 is especially a haven for craft beer fans. You’ll find 20 taps — plus cans and bottles — representing well-known and up-and-coming breweries alike, from Brooklyn to Belgium. Depending on what night you pop in, you might catch comedy, karaoke or an evening of drink specials. (4241 Broadway, 646-928-3283)

Courtney Iseman