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The best indoor activities in NYC

If the weather outside is frightful, never fear! These killer indoor activities in NYC are here to save the day.

Photograph: Courtesy Rory Moon

Think city is better during perfect weather conditions? Our list of kick-ass indoor activities suggests otherwise! Just because our most beautiful NYC parks and outdoor attractions are off-limits doesn’t mean you should waste the day cooped up in your apartment while watching Netflix and ordering Seamless. Whether you’re interested in going ice-skating, finding a great pool hall or touring one of New York’s legendary museums, brave the cold, sweltering heat or a heavy downpour to explore some indoor fun! (Trust us, it’ll be worth it.)

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to things to do in winter in NYC

Best indoor activities in NYC


Play skee-ball at 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 a small selection of standard taps supplemented by 40 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 $2 hot-dog 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.

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Lower East Side

Play indoor golf 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 to get a better bang for your buck (148 balls for $25, as opposed to 90 during peak hours). The simulators ($45 an hour) allow you to compete in over 55 virtual championship courses while supping on pizza and beer from Chelsea Brewery Company downstairs.

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Go bowling at The Gutter

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 ($7) or pitcher ($24).

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Play games and listen to jazz at 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 ($6 to $7 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

Make the climb at 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 ($49 to $89) are offered several times a day for aspiring Peter Parkers.

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Hit the slick stuff at 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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Shop till you drop at 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, 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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Grab a book at Housing Works Bookstore Café

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 cafe, especially during happy hour on Fridays (4–8pm) during summer. 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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Bunker down in the stacks at Strand Bookstore

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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Take an underground tour at the 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
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