They say New York City's got it all. Unfortunately, that includes the occasional spell of uncooperative weather. But staying sheltered from the elements doesn't have to mean staring at your hotel room's walls or sitting on your couch. We've got ideas aplenty on how to take advantage of NYC culture, recreation and food while keeping dry on a rainy or snowy day—or staying cool during hot spell. For our quick list, read on.
Plan Your Trip
Go to a Museum
Hmm, if only New York City were home to a mind-boggling line-up of world-class museums and institutions. Because if it were, we suppose you could spend all day dry and cozy inside admiring masterpieces of art and design or marveling at the wonders of the natural world. And if only some of them were to offer free admission at times…
NYC has some of the best shopping in the world. Thankfully, there's a lot of it to be done in large, dry, comfortable locations throughout the City. Try Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale's and Macy's Herald Square for the classic department-store treatment and Brookfield Place and the Shops at Columbus Circle for collections of retail shops.
Hit a Bucket of Golf Balls at Chelsea Piers
The Golf Club at Chelsea Piers features a multitiered, year-round outdoor driving range whose 52 hitting stalls are heated and weather protected. Fore!
Heck, Just Go to Chelsea Piers
In addition to the Golf Club, Chelsea Piers offers a variety of drop-in activities that don't require membership—ice-skating and bowling among them.
Go to a Movie
Even a trip to the cinema in New York City is different than in most cities. Indie theaters like the Angelika Film Center and the Landmark Sunshine Cinema, for example, screen the kind of nonmainstream fare (documentaries, foreign films and such) that you'd be unlikely to find in a typical multiplex. The same goes for the movie theater at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. If you'd like to combine dinner and a movie, you should try Nitehawk Cinema in Williamsburg. There, waiters will serve you at tables propped up right in front of your plush theater seat (you place your orders by marking a small piece of paper with a golf pencil). Finally, those fascinated by the history of film can hop the train to Astoria, Queens, home of the Museum of the Moving Image. There are more film-and-TV artifacts here than at any other institution, and it also hosts a steady stream of screenings and public programs.
Watch TV at the Paley Center for Media
If you're interested in television, radio, the Internet and other digital technologies—and their impact on society and culture—the Paley Center is the place for you. In addition to a public library of more than 160,000 TV and radio shows and commercials, the center hosts occasional screenings of classic episodes and films, often focused on special topics—say, presidential campaign ads or an Orson Welles' centennial. It's a thinking couch-potato's paradise.
Head to a Bar with Games
New York City's nightlife isn't all about lounges and dance clubs—there are plenty of places that combine fun and games with a booming soundtrack and some adult beverages. Brooklyn Bowl, in Williamsburg, is exhibit A. The bowling alley serves food from Blue Ribbon and also hosts live music from locals and big touring acts (Guns N' Roses and Robert Plant have even played there; Questlove, from the Roots and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, deejays regularly on Thursday nights). Down in Brooklyn's Gowanus neighborhood, Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club matches the favorite game of Love Boat cruisegoers with tropical cocktails, rotating food trucks and an occasional pop-up restaurant. Other places to find fun, games and libations include Barcade—a bar jammed with classic arcade games—which has locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan; Spin, a sometimes-raucous table-tennis nightclub; and the Skee-Ball-obsessed Full Circle Bar. Check out this slideshow for even more ideas.
Take a Train Trip Around the World
It's been said that in New York City you can see the world for the price of a subway ride. That's not far from the truth on certain lines, like the 7 train, which runs from Times Square to Flushing, Queens, along a route sometimes referred to as the "International Express." This National Millennium Trail is elevated for most of the way, so you'll have a view of the different neighborhoods it travels through. There are numerous international dining options along the 7, or you could visit the New World Mall food court, just steps from the line's final stop in Queens (Flushing-Main Street). With more than two dozen Asian food stalls to choose from, it may be unlike any mall food court you're familiar with.
See the United Nations
Many New Yorkers haven’t even been to the UN, so you'd have one up on the natives if you did. If you are a New Yorker, when’s the last time you visited? Tickets are required for a weekday visit (and include a guided tour), but you can purchase them with relatively short notice. On weekends the visitor center is usually open to walk-ups, but there are no guided tours.
Ride the Staten Island Ferry
OK, so it's not necessarily indoor-indoor, but you can escape the elements for a while below decks on the Staten Island Ferry. Step out on a port- or starboard-side deck to get Statue of Liberty views and imagine yourself a grizzled seafarer for a minute before ducking back inside and grabbing one of the ferry's famously underpriced beers.
Visit Grand Central Terminal
Go wander about Grand Central, one of New York City's landmark buildings. Take a self-guided audio tour or a 75-minute circuit led by one of the transit hub's expert docents. There are several food options on the lower level's Dining Concourse, including the classic Oyster Bar, with its beautiful Guastavino-tile architecture. Fancy a cocktail? Try The Campbell, formerly the private office and saloon of 1920s tycoon John W. Campbell. There's even a secret or two waiting for you to discover.
Explore Radio City Music Hall
Did you know there's a lavish apartment inside Radio City? So pleased were the Rockefellers with impresario Samuel "Roxy" Rothafe's productions at Radio City that they gave him his own place to live—on premises. Here are 10 more things we learned about Radio City on the Stage Door tour.
Visit New York City's Historic Houses
The City is known for skyscrapers, but its smaller-scale historic houses offer an opportunity to time travel to a rich cultural past. Once functioning as country estates or homesteads for New York's upper-crust landowners, the houses are a throwback to an era that's hard to imagine in today's bustling urban environment. Preserved in bucolic settings in City parks and located in all five boroughs, the houses boast grand architecture, lovely gardens, working farms and commanding views. Find one near you.
Book It on Down to the Library
Grab a book, magazine, newspaper, tablet, phone or phablet, and read it in one of the majestic public reading rooms of the New York Public Library's iconic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (that's the one with the lions).
Schedule an Indulgent Lunch
Check out those restaurants on your hit list. Don't have a list? You can borrow ours.
Go Ice-Skating Indoors
Aviator Sports and Events Center in Marine Park and City Ice Pavilion in Long Island City are a couple of the covered ice rinks that offer skating year-round. Riverbank State Park and Prospect Park's Lefrak Center at Lakeside have covered rinks that offer ice-skating in winter (and roller-skating in summer). Check out our complete list for other locations.
Go Rock Climbing
Reasonably priced day passes are offered in Manhattan at Steep Rock Bouldering and Chelsea Piers, and in Queens at The Cliffs at LIC. In Brooklyn, beginner classes are available most days at Brooklyn Boulders.
Make It a Spa Day
Admit it, you're happy for the excuse to book some "me" time. Here are some of NYC's top locations to do just that.
Drop in to a Workshop or Class
Create a masterpiece at the Painting Lounge. Take an educational or instructional class at Brooklyn Brainery or QED Astoria. Learn to weave, knit or crochet at the Textile Arts Center. Try your hand at letterpress printing at The Arm in Williamsburg.
So there you have it: a foolproof list of activities to make even the dreariest day fun. Getting off the couch, though, is still up to you.