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We know, we know: It’s a hell of a long time until June, and it’s hard to avoid the cold. Every sidewalk is a frigid wind tunnel, all the trees look like skeletons, and the sun just scrapes over the horizon before dropping below it again. You may not be able to beat the weather, but you can pretend it doesn’t exist. We’ve cobbled together an itinerary you can use to trick yourself into believing it’s actually high summer, starting with beach volleyball and swimming, and ending at a palm-frond-bedecked tiki bar.
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Begin your morning at the Sports Center at Chelsea Piers (Pier 60, 20th St at the Hudson River; 212-336-6000, chelseapiers.com), home to the only indoor sand-volleyball court in NYC. Ditch your shoes and show off your spiking skills at an open-play session, which is men’s, women’s or coed depending on the hour (schedule varies; check the website for details). Then, swim some laps in the complex’s 25-yard-long swimming pool, whose wall-to-wall windows look out over the Hudson. (A day pass will cost you $50 and will also grant you access to the Sports Center’s many other amenities; if you’re a member, you’re golden.)
So maybe you didn’t actually go to the beach—but it kinda feels like you did, right? Complete the effect with a spray tan from Brazil Bronze Glow Bar (580 Broadway between E Houston and Prince Sts, suite 501; 212-431-0077, brazilbronze.com). Opt for a full-body ($60), half-body ($40) or face-only ($25) treatment; whichever you choose, you’ll leave looking like you just jetted in from the South Pacific.
Sate your hunger with a tube steak from Crif Dogs (113 St. Marks Pl between First Ave and Ave A; 212-614-2728, crifdogs.com); try the Tsunami, a wiener topped with bacon, teriyaki, pineapple and onions ($4.50). No dog-day afternoon is complete without that thing we all scream for, so grab a cone at the nearby Big Gay Ice Cream Shop (125 E 7th St between First Ave and Ave A; 212-533-9333, biggayicecream.com), where the only thing more amazing than the frosty treats is the giant bedazzled unicorn mural. Try the Mermaid Sundae ($6), a summery combo of vanilla ice cream, key-lime curd, crushed graham crackers and whipped cream.
Next, head to the New York Botanical Garden (Bronx River Pkwy at Fordham Rd, Bronx; 718-817-8700, nybg.org) for a visit to balmier climes. On Saturday 19, the NYBG will unveil “Tropical Paradise” ($20, seniors and students $18), an indoor rain forest of warm-weather flora, from hot-pink bromeliads to towering palm trees. Learn about individual plant species while you meander with a self-guided smartphone tour. And did we mention it’s between 65 and 75°F in there?
To sate your postexploration appetite, hop a train to the East Village and slip into Cienfuegos (95 Ave A at E 6th St; 212-614-6818, cienfuegosny.com), chef Ravi DeRossi’s aquamarine-tinted Cuban spot. Show up between 5 and 7pm (Sun 5pm–close) for Madrugador, when you can get a selection of the resto’s signature small plates, punches and cocktails for only $5 a pop. We recommend bringing along a few friends to split south Cuban treats like plantain chips with avocado puree or spicy black-bean dip and empanadas de carne (beef empanadas served with chimichurri).
Finish off your midsummer night at Otto’s Shrunken Head (538 E 14th St between Aves A and B; 212-228-2240, ottosshrunkenhead.com), where the faux-Polynesian decor, palm fronds and jungle-green lighting will make you feel like you just stumbled into a ’60s beach movie. Ten bucks will get you a gaudy tiki drink like Patty’s Poison (rum with passion fruit, guava, mango and pineapple) or Otto’s Octane (pineapple rum, coffee liqueur and banana); for an extra $5, you can keep the wacky mug it comes in. Come on the first Saturday of the month for maximum coastal vibes: Unsteady Freddie’s Surf-Rock Shindig features live performances from reverby bands like Surfer Joe and his Boss Combo and Beware the Dangers of a Ghost Scorpion (both playing Feb 2 at 9pm; free). Try not to be too blindsided by the blast of icy air that hits when you walk out of the bar; it is winter, after all. Or did you forget?