40 things to do indoors

What to do when it's raining, snowing or stifling hot in NYC: score cheap drinks, play games, get cultured and more.

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Brooklyn Bowl

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Antiques Garage Flea Market

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The Morgan Library & Museum

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Photograph: Jolie Ruben

Nitehawk Cinema

Full Circle Bar

This Skee-Ball-themed bar in Williamsburg is a haven for kitschy, nostalgia-driven boozing. The beer offerings skew cheap and cheerful, with five standard taps supplemented by 17 canned brews kept in ice-filled coolers behind the bar. Three-buck Genesee Cream Ale replaces PBR as the cheapo suds of choice, and a $4 beer-and-hot-dog combo serves as the snack of champions. Divey decor reflects the owners' commitment to the game—the bar is constructed from old Skee-Ball machine parts, and a TV up front plays a live feed of the action on the three ramps in the back ($1 per game).

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Williamsburg

Brooklyn Strategist

Wet weekends were made for board games, and this Brooklyn haunt boasts 150 of them, including rare and out-of-print diversions such as Machiavelli, Yacht Race and the original Railroad Tycoon. Healthy homemade snacks, including bittersweet chocolate chip cookies with sea salt ($3), will sustain you while you outmaneuver the Austro-Hungarian empire in an epic game of Diplomacy.

Village Chess Shop

When the weather won't let you hustle tourists at the boards in Washington Square Park, for $5 per hour perfect your strategy at this always-open spot, which feels more like a private club for checkmate-minded individuals than a hobby store. Bring your favorite competitor or play against one of the store's ready-made opponents: the VCS attendants. If you find yourself in a Maroczy Bind, spend $1 for a bit of liquid strategy in the form of coffee, hot chocolate, tea or soda, or take a break at one of the store's nonchess tables, which accommodate backgammon, Go, cards or cribbage matches.

The Golf Club at Chelsea Piers

There are other venues to perfect your swing away from the elements in New York, but this West Side complex doesn't require membership: Casual golfers can whack a few balls when the mood takes them from one of the 52 stalls over four floors. Come during off-peak hours (6:30am-4pm, 10pm-midnight Mon-Fri; 9am-9pm Sat; 9am-6pm Sun) to get a better bang for your buck (147 balls for $25, as opposed to 90 during peak hours). The simulators ($45 an hour) allow you to compete in 51 virtual championship courses while supping on pizza and beer from Chelsea Brewery Company downstairs.

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Chelsea

The Gutter Bowling Alley and Bar

The owners of Williamsburg's Barcade have cornered the leisure-time market with this eight-lane bowling alley that looks straight out of early 1980s Milwaukee. Locals toss frames, then retreat to the lounge decorated with bowling trophies and ancient beer signs to drown their seven-ten-split sorrows. A dozen killer microbrews on tap include spicy Allagash White poured by the pint ($6) or pitcher ($21).

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Williamsburg

Brooklyn Bowl

Critics' pick

If you're in the mood to throw some rocks, gorge on comfort food and take in a show, this Williamsburg favorite is for you. The renovated warehouse boasts 18 lanes and on-site Blue Ribbon, so you can put your name down to roll and pass the time tackling a fried chicken platter ($22-$69). More often than not, you'll be able to catch an affordable set after your frames from a band or DJ.

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Williamsburg

Roosevelt Island Racquet Club

This tennis venue boasts ten full indoor doubles courts and two singles courts. Keeping your tennis whites dry will cost you, though—fees for nonmembers run from $72-$110 per court per hour.

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Roosevelt Island

Ocean’s 8 at Brownstone Billiards

Park Slope's cavernous underground pool hall is Brooklyn's upscale answer to Amsterdam Billiards (110 E 11th St at Fourth Ave; 212-995-0333, amsterdambilliardclub.com). Teens, twosomes and grizzled gents take to the six Ping-Pong tables, two bowling lanes and 30 pool tables. Bring a friend or try to single out a weak opponent to challenge for a plate of spicy chicken wings ($9-$16) or any one of the 24 draft brews (Blue Moon and Chimay make appearances).

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Park Slope

Fat Cat

When the weather turns nasty, hunker down underground. You can kill many an hour at this cheap, scruffy and jovial spot playing pool, Ping-Pong and shuffleboard ($5.50--$6.50 per person, per hour), foosball ($1 per game) and chess ($1 for unlimited play). Once you've exhausted those options—and yourself—flop onto one of the comfy worn couches and nod along to that night's jazz band.

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West Village

Brooklyn Boulders

Ever wanted to climb the Brooklyn Bridge? Play it safe and mount the 30-foot replica of one of the bridge's towers at this three-year-old rock-climbing gym. With more than 22,000 square feet of bouldering and climbing walls to scale, even Spider-Man wouldn't get bored. Introductory classes ($45-$75) are offered several times a day for aspiring Peter Parkers.

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Gowanus

Next Level

This Sunset Park space is an arcade in the early '90s mold: a video-game dungeon where practiced hands could battle via fighting games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. It comes equipped with nine cabinets that focus on head-to-head button-mashers such as Street Fighter IV and Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Consoles like Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are set up to play contemporary titles, which can be selected from Next Level's extensive library.

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Sunset Park

City Ice Pavilion

Practice your triple axels before you hit the city's A-list rinks at this indoor facility, which offers dozens of weekly skating classes, as well as daily open sessions. There's also the added benefit of having a second, smaller area for spillover. The additional rink—made of synthetic material—gives smelly adult leaguers a place to practice their hockey stops while you enjoy your leisurely laps.

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Long Island City

The Antiques Garage

Critics' pick

Always a scene, here bargain hunters compete with dealers for the best prices on all things antique and vintage. Offering more than 100 vendors spread across two floors of an old parking garage, this market is perhaps the best known in the city, and for good reason: While the prices aren't the best you'll find, the merchandise usually hits the mark. It has its share of curio junk, but an early morning trip through the stalls—best to get there before the post-brunch, hand-holding hordes—can be rewarding.

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Chelsea

Chelsea Market

Food-lovers can spend hours browsing the specialty stores in Chelsea's renovated Nabisco factory. Grab a coffee at Ninth Street Espresso and take your sweet time as you get the effect of market shopping all under one roof. Check out fresh catches at the Lobster Place, browse a good range of vino at Chelsea Wine Vault (tastings Thu, Fri 4-7pm; Sat, Sun 2-5pm), and pick up Italian cooking staples at Buon Italia. If the rain lets up, you're in prime position to enjoy the High Line without the crowds.

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Chelsea

Limelight Shops

Critics' pick

What was once an infamous nightclub is now a sparkling, three-level temple of boutique shopping housed in a converted Episcopal church. When you're shopped out, grab a pizza ($12-$16) from the on-site Grimaldi's, then people-watch from the balconies.

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Gramercy & Flatiron

Shops at the Loom

Trek into the industrial wilds of Bushwick to spend the day in this mini mall housed in an old textile factory. Indie boutique Better than Jam Handmade Co-Op stocks quirky finds from local designers. Rummage in Nouveau Vieux for chic vintage bargains and shop for affordable sterling silver accessories in Belel. While away the rest of the day getting your hair done at combination salon and boutique Tomahawk Salon; working on your cast and purl while scarfing down a cupcake at Brooklyn Yarn Café; or working out the tension of the week with a yoga class at Loom Studios.

McNally Jackson Books

Critics' pick

This spacious taste of Winnipeg, Canada (where the brand's progenitor was founded as McNally Robinson in 1981), is a cultural gem of Nolita and exemplifies everything an indie bookstore can be: There's space to spread out and read on the floor, a good selection (we recently discovered an elusive Max Frisch there) and most nights offer awesome readings. Both book nerds and casual literates should find what they're searching for here, whether it's The Summer of Naked Swim Parties, A Nation on Fire or something in between.

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Soho

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe

The two-level Soho space stocks a range of literary fiction, nonfiction, rare books and collectibles. Leisurely browsing is often rewarded by finding something you never knew you wanted. It's a peaceful spot for solo relaxation in the plentiful seating, or for meeting friends over coffee or wine in the caf, especially during happy hour on Fridays (4--8pm). Deals include bottles of red or white for $15 and buckets of five beers (Brooklyn Brewery $20, PBR $12), and board games such as Trivial Pursuit Book Lover's Edition are available to play.

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Soho

Chinatown Fair

Legendary arcade Chinatown Fair served as a video game shrine for five decades until closing in early 2011. But lucky for gamers, the shop reopened in May 2012, with a fresh coat of paint and more family-friendly options. Make your way past the new Skee-Ball and Hoop Fever machines to the back of the store, where you’ll find button-mashing classics Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike and Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (approximately 60¢ per game)­

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Chinatown & Little Italy

Strand Book Store

Critics' pick

Boasting 18 miles of books, the Strand has a mammoth collection of more than 2 million discount volumes, and the store is made all the more daunting by its chaotic, towering shelves and surly staff. Reviewer discounts are in the basement, while rare volumes lurk upstairs. If you spend enough time here you can find just about anything, from that out-of-print Victorian book on manners to the kitschiest of sci-fi pulp.

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East Village

Central Park Zoo Tropic Zone

We admit, a daylong Planet Earth marathon is appealing, but what if your roomie is impersonating a rutting turtle in the next room? (Google "Turtle sex sounds"; it's more hilarious than disturbing, we promise.) Don shorts under your wet-weather gear and get to the balmy indoor section of this menagerie. Mammals are well represented with a tamandua, mouse deer, cotton-top tamarin, coatimundi and mongoose, among others, while the institution's tropical bird collection roams free above you.

Federal Reserve Bank

Once we're in the dead of summer and sweltering conditions can be relied upon, plan ahead and book an underground tour that takes you 80 feet below street level to commune with the planet's most precious metal. Roughly a quarter of the world's gold (more than $200 billion) is stored here in a gigantic vault that rests on the bedrock of Manhattan Island. Learn about the history of moolah and the Fed's role in maintaining interest rates while touring the posh interior. Don't miss the impressive coin collection and the gold bars in the basement.

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Financial District Free

New York Public Library map room

For all the apparent stuffiness of the ornate Beaux Arts room, you can stroll right in and get lost in almost any of the collection's 450,000 sheet maps and 16,000 atlases. There are German army maps from World War II and 20,000-plus maps of New York, including a 1610 Dutch atlas. A giant 1782 British Headquarters Map used during the Revolution shows forts, hills, ponds and a small settlement below a wall at Manhattan's tip. An 1880 atlas transposes the modern Brooklyn grid onto the original topography and later farm lots, so you can see that a winding road to Gowanus would have bisected Smith Street, and that Luquer's Mill Pond covered much of Red Hook. Take that, Google.

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Midtown East Free

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Critics' pick

Occupying 11-and-a-half acres of Central Park, the Met is the ideal unpleasant-weather diversion and surprisingly easy to negotiate. Visit the ground floor's north wing to view the collection of Egyptian art and the glass-walled atrium housing the Temple of Dendur, overlooking a reflective pool. Two halls in the southern wing house Greek and Roman art. Turning west brings you to the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas collection; the American Wing houses the Charles Engelhard Court. Now more a sculpture court than an interior garden, it houses large-scale 19th-century works in bronze and marble.

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Upper East Side

The Morgan Library & Museum

This Madison Avenue institution began as the private library of savvy financier J. Pierpont Morgan, and is his artistic gift to the city. Begin with brunch in what was the Morgan family's original dining room, then meander your way through the exhibits. Make sure to visit Morgan's library from 1906, which was restored to its former glory in 2010.

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Murray Hill

Radio City Stage Door tour

Inside Radio City's lushly carpeted Art Deco halls, the city streets feel miles away. Stroll through the gorgeous interior, learn the secrets of the Great Stage and its intricate hydraulics system and meet one of the high-kicking Rockettes.

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Midtown West

Austrian Cultural Forum

Critics' pick

Duck into this institution's striking building, designed by architect Raimund Abraham, for an afternoon of intellectual enlightenment. Begin by browsing works of art in the galleries—gratis curator-led tours are held every Wednesday at 5pm. Then make your way to the library, pick up a book from the English-language section and settle into one of the white chairs by the window for an afternoon of reading. If lady luck is with you, you'll be able to finish your day at one of the many concerts, lectures or screenings the Forum hosts.

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Midtown East

Rubin Museum of Art

Critics' pick

Opened in 2004, this six-story museum (once home to Barneys New York) houses Donald and Shelley Rubin’s impressive collection of Himalayan art and artifacts, as well as large-scale temporary exhibitions.

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Chelsea

Museum of Arts & Design

Critics' pick

Originally designed in 1964 by Radio City Music Hall architect Edward Durell Stone to house the Gallery of Modern Art, 2 Columbus Circle (nicknamed the "Lollipop Building" because of the Candyland-like columns that lined its base) was a windowless monolith that had sat empty since 1998. After an 18-month overhaul (with a price tag topping $90 million), the ten-story building now has a 150-seat auditorium for public events, classrooms, a restaurant and four floors of exhibition galleries, including the Tiffany & Co. Foundation Jewelry Gallery. Founded in 1956 as the Museum of Contemporary Crafts, the institution brings together contemporary objects created in a wide range of media—including clay, glass, wood, metal and cloth—with a strong focus on materials and process. Visitors can now watch as resident artists create works in studios on the sixth floor, and curators are able to display more of the 2,000-piece permanent collection in the larger space, including porcelain ware by Cindy Sherman, stained glass by Judith Schaechter, black-basalt ceramics by James Turrell and Robert Arneson’s mural Alice House Wall, on view for the first time in two decades.

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Nitehawk Cinema

Critics' pick

Dinner and a movie sounds good, right? But what happens if you get soaked on your way from the restaurant to the picture house and proceed to catch pneumonia in the arctic AC? Thankfully, now you can get fine food while you watch a flick. Try this Williamsburg spot for a menu by Michelin-starred chef Saul Bolton (Saul, the Vanderbilt) and programming that skews to new indie releases and retro gems.

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Williamsburg

Film Forum

Critics' pick

This cinematic staple regularly offers up its repertory programming as double features—for the same price as a single screening.

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Soho

Spa Castle

A sort of relaxation amusement park, the entry fee (weekdays $35, weekends and holidays $45) grants you access to seven saunas, including the gold room (outfitted in real gold, which apparently harkens back to an ancient technique for soothing sore limbs), one outfitted with LED lights and a room with stacked blocks of Himalayan salt.

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Outer Queens

Shambhala Meditation Center

If you've ever wanted to know anything about Shambhala, a path of meditation linked to Buddhism, this is the place to be. Classes, workshops and weekend retreats are all on the table here to help you learn about what meditation could do for you.

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Chelsea

Great Jones Spa

Based on the theory that water brings health, this Noho mainstay is outfitted with a popular water lounge that boasts subterranean pools, saunas, steam rooms and a three-and-a-half-story waterfall. Enjoy the serenity of the 15,000-square-foot paradise while getting a haircut ($90 and up), or treat yourself to a Coconut Paradise Manicure ($40). Access to the water lounge is complimentary with services over $100, or a three-hour pass is available for $50.

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East Village

Cha An Japanese Tea House

You have to climb a flight of stairs and peek behind a curtain to find this tranquil teahouse, which offers a succession of deftly crafted plates accompanied by a thoughtful list of teas and sake. Each night features two special “sets” that take you from an amuse-bouche like creamy soy-milk quiche through a selection of tiny bites (pickled eggplant, marinated lotus root), to entrées such as tea-smoked salmon with sliced radish, Dijon mustard and tarragon. It's a great escape from the East Village crowds.

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East Village

Tibet House

The rotating schedule of teachers at this nonsectarian Tibetan cultural center introduces novices to a wide range of practices, and appeals to solitary and social practitioners alike. Arrive at 6pm for silent, individual meditation, or join in on the group session at 7pm. Tangka paintings from Nepal adorn the walls of the space, which also doubles as an art gallery.

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Chelsea

Body by Brooklyn

On weekends, expect to hang with worse-for-wear Brooklynites following the suggested Hangover Relief regimen in the wet lounge's Russian sauna, but the sensible can pick and choose from the jacuzzi, cold-plunge pool, Turkish steam room and Swedish dry sauna. Once you resemble a prune, retire to the fireplace in the dry lounge for food prepared by the chef of the adjacent organic supermarket, Fresh Fanatic, and a tipple from the full-service bar.

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Clinton Hill

Himalaya Teahouse

A surplus of Tibetan rugs and a lush back garden set the tone at this tea lovers’ haven, where loose-leaf organic and fair-trade varieties are served ceremoniously in hefty iron pots. Try the low-key Ceylon Curls green tea, or a mug of fragrant masala chai.

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Astoria

The Paley Center for Media

Critics' pick

Channel-surfing getting you nowhere? Then head to this pop-culture nirvana, which contains an archive of more than 150,000 radio and TV programs. Just head to the fourth-floor library and search the database for your favorite episode of I Love Lucy, Seinfeld or Desperate Housewives, then turn on, tune in and veg out at your assigned console.

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Midtown West

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