Visiting Washington Heights in Manhattan

Cooling off on West 159th Street in Washington Cooling off on West 159th Street in Washington Heights. (July 9 , 2013) Photo Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

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Filled with rich history, cultural diversity and plenty of green space, Washington Heights is more than the struggling barrio portrayed in the Broadway musical "In the Heights."

Named for Fort Washington, a Revolutionary War-era defensive fortification formerly located in Bennett Park, the Heights is a lively community with family-friendly restaurants, bars and eight parks. Starting in the 1960s, this neighborhood became well known for its high percentage of Dominican immigrants.

Highlights include the highest natural point in Manhattan at Bennett Park, the artist Terry Fugate-Wilcox's "3000 A.D. Diffusion Piece" sculpture in J. Hood Wright Park and the views of the Palisades and the Hudson River from Fort Washington Park. Fort Tryon Park and The Cloisters -- an outpost of the Metropolitan Museum dedicated to medieval art -- are just to the north, in neighboring Inwood, and worth a visit while you're in the area.

FIND IT

Washington Heights, on the north end of Manhattan, runs from 190th Street to 155th Street. It is bounded to the east by the Harlem River and to the west by the Hudson River.

DO

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Morris-Jumel Mansion, 65 Jumel Terrace: This Palladian-style mansion, dating to 1765, is the oldest house in Manhattan. History buffs, take note: George Washington stayed here in 1776 during the Battle of Harlem Heights, returning in 1790 to host a dinner with Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. (212-923-8008, morrisjumel.org)

The Hispanic Society of America, 613 W. 155th St.: A free museum and research library for those interested in Latin cultures. The collections include 800-plus paintings by El Greco, Goya and more. (212-926-2234, hispanicsociety.org)

Bennett Park, at West 183rd Street and Fort Washington Avenue: Once home to Munsee American Indians, then headquarters for Washington's army, the park now features a well-maintained playground and plenty of benches, perfect for a family outing. Be sure to scout out the plaque marking the highest natural point in Manhattan, 265 feet above sea level. (nycgovparks.org/parks/bennettpark)

EAT

La Casa del Mofongo, 1447 St. Nicholas Ave.: Mofongo, a traditional Puerto Rican and Dominican dish consisting of mashed fried plantains, reigns supreme at this well-established 24-hour haunt. (212-740-1200, lacasadelmofongomd.com)

Kismat, 603 Fort Washington Ave.: Craving something other than Caribbean cuisine? Kismat features Indian and Bangladeshi dishes such as Kori kebabs and various nans. A great spot for picky vegetarians. (212-795-8633)

DRINK

Buddha Beer Bar, 191st and Broadway: With 26 craft beers on tap (and 25 more by the bottle), this is the place to try a Barrier Saison du Saisoff, a Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy or a Wells & Young's Double Chocolate Stout. (646-861-2595, buddhabeerbar.com)

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