When I was desperately trying to find activities for a rainy summer day, all I came up with were expensive or outdoor activities. Go for a walk, see a concert or movie in the park, and so on. It’s true there are scores of free outdoor events in the summer but, I thought, surely there are saving graces for rainy days other than museums and movies?
Of course there are! This is New York City, man. If it can be done by man or machine, we got it. So here are some fun and cheap things to keep you occupied when you’re trying to while a way a rainy weekend afternoon:
1. Chinatown Fair Video Arcade: the last authentic arcade in the city, if you don’t want to travel out to Coney Island. This arcade has all the old favorites: Street Fighter, DDR, King of Fighters, Pacman, Puzzle Fighter, and lots more. Sadly, it does not have my video game of choice—Area 51—or any shooting games, for that matter. But for a bit of fun, nostalgia, and an attack of B.O. on your nose, check this place out. Just be sure you watch how much you’re spending! http://www.yelp.com/biz/chinatown-fair-video-arcade-new-york.
2. Free museums: I’m sticking this one in because there are apparently folks who still don’t know that most of the great NYC museums are pay-what-you-will. Next time you visit, take a closer look at the price lists—they say “suggested fee”; I usually pay $1. This is the best list I’ve found of free/suggested-donation museums: http://www.ny.com/museums/free.html.
3. Cool stores: Some stores are just giant houses of fun, and you can spend hours browsing through the collections and acting like a dork. Just be sure to BROWSE and NOT BUY. I leave it up to you to find a store that caters to your interests, but some suggestions: American Girl Place on Fifth Ave, Village Chess Shop in Greenwich, FAO Schwarz near Central Park, Toys R Us in Times Square, the NBA Store also on Fifth Ave, or Nintendo World at Rockefeller Center. For those of you a bit more mature than me and not looking for toys and games:
a. Bookstores: Any Barnes and Noble will do, but for something different:
--Argosy Books is an institution and supposedly interesting.
--The Strand off of Union Square is a great place for browsing.
--Or try these independent bookstores recommended by Time Out.
b. Music: I would’ve liked to send you music lovers to Tower Records or Virgin in Times Square, but sadly, both stores are history. Here’s Time Out’s list of independent music stores, for you hipsters.
c. Home goods: ABC Carpet & Home near Union Square, Williams-Sonoma in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle, Pearl River in SoHo, any Bed, Bath & Beyond, or check out this list of voter faves.
4. NYPL free events: Really. No, really! The library often has free concerts, lectures, movies, author talks, etc. I met one of my favorite authors, Tammy Pierce, at one. There are also classes on anything from filmmaking to job hunting, and lectures for all you intellectual types. Check it out!
5. Host a party. Eureka! What an idea. The entertainment comes to you, and you stay perfectly dry. Split the cost by making it a potluck, or buy snacks and have friends bring their favorite alcohol. Provide games (Trivial Pursuit is a personal fave), put on some music for a dance party, or share an activity you’d usually do alone like knitting, writing, or watching the Yankees lose.
6. This one’s (probably) for the ladies: treat yourself to a spa day. Lock your partner, roomie or kids in the other room and indulge yourself. Take a long bath, light some scented candles, put on your favorite music, paint your toenails, use a face mask (google “homemade face mask” for some ideas), play with your makeup, dress up in fancy clothes, etc. Warning: side effects may include heightened feelings of sexiness, so hopefully you have a live-in partner or mechanical pal to turn to at the end of the day. ;-)
7. Read a book! For pete’s sake. Here are some suggestions.
8. Bake something! Baking is a perfect rainy-day activity, as it makes you feel all warm and cozy and homey. Bake a couple of loaves of real bread (Trent at the Simple Dollar has a wonderful step-by-step guide) instead of the usual preservative-y stuff we buy in the stores. Or bake some muffins to have for breakfast during the work week, try an exciting new recipe you’ve been scoping, etc.
9. Watch some thought-provoking videos on www.TED.com. One of my favorites is Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk on artistic genius (because that’s how I roll). TED is a website database of videos of great performances, lectures from artists, scientists, intellectuals, and famous people, and they’re usually reasonably profound.
10. Do something creative. Being bored and trapped at home is the perfect excuse to do something you’ve been meaning to do but procrastinating on: write a short story, edit that poem, pick up your guitar, finish that drawing, exercise your vocals. We all have some pursuit we’d like to devote more time to, so quit being lazy and dive in!