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Winter in NYC: 10 Indoor Activities Off Manhattan

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BridgesBaby, it’s cold outside, and that means staying indoors whenever, and wherever possible.

If you want to travel like a New Yorker, get off the main island and experience some of the best-kept secrets the rest of the city has to offer … all accessible via public transportation.

OffManhattan.com co-founder and editor Lauren Matison shares her top 10 picks for indoor activities off the island of Manhattan and into the less-explored boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.

SPORTY SPOTS

Flushing Meadows Corona Park Pool & Rink
Pool kids at FMCPIn February 2008, the largest recreational facility ever built in any of the city parks was completed in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The $66.3 million dollar project includes an 110,000-square-foot Olympic-sized indoor public pool.

The park in Queens is also home to the U.S. Open Tennis Championship held in August. During the rest of the year, for a $75 annual fee, people can swim laps Michael Phelps-style and enjoy free access to all other public pools in the five boroughs. An NHL standard ice rink is due to open in January 2009. 718-760-6565, www.nycgovparks.org

Directions: 7 train to Willets Point/Shea Stadium.

Powerplay Recreational Center
If you are an adrenaline junkie, this rock-climbing center in Brooklyn is for you. Suspended as high as 30 feet above ground, participants aged 7 to 70-plus can boulder, top rope, and climb the ceiling overhang. One-hour open climbs on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday from 9a.m.-6p.m. are $20.

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For newbie climbers, on-site instructors are available, and can also teach techniques needed for navigating outdoor terrain such as the Shawangunks upstate, where the center will often organize trips for students and parents. In addition to rock climbing, there are trapeze, gymnastics, and martial arts classes available for children and adults. Harnesses, leotards, and gear are available. 432 3rd Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-369-9880

Directions: M, F, or R train to 4th Ave. and 9th St. Walk one block to 3rd and one block over to 8th.

Bridgeview Racquet and Fitness Club
Tennis racquetInstead of waiting an hour to play on a free public outdoor court or paying $100 at Grand Central’s Tennis Club, bounce over to Bensonhurst in Brooklyn where regular rates range from $30 to $65. Perched on the East River, the 100,000-square-foot white tennis dome houses eight indoor courts, a pro tennis shop, and a full-service gym for $35 per month. Private lessons are available for $95 an hour. 9000 Bay Parkway, Bensonhurst, Brooklyn; 718-372-6878

Directions: D or M train to Bay Parkway, walk or take the B6 bus four blocks.

Riverdale Equestrian Center
Since the Claremont Riding Academy closed in 2007, the closest stables are located in the Bronx’s Van Cortland Park, less than 30 minutes north of Manhattan. The indoor ring gives avid riders and beginners a place to practice English-style equestrian regardless of bad weather. Dressage lesson rates vary from $45 for 30 minutes to $85 for hour or an eight-week semester for $400. Types of horses include appaloosas, thoroughbred mix, quarter horses, and ponies for children 7 years and up. West 254th Street & Broadway, Riverdale; 718-548-4848, www.riverdaleriding.com

Directions: 1 or 9 train to 245th Street (the last stop). Walk, take a taxi, or the #9 bus to Broadway and W. 254th Street. The stable is on the right.

SCIENTIFIC EXPLORATIONS

New York Aquarium
Walrus Baby and MomIn addition to the Russian delicacies of Brighton Beach and historic roller coasters, Coney Island boasts the only aquarium in New York City. The aquarium exhibits over 8,000 species (including the newest walrus baby, Akituusaq, pictured at right with his mom), and brings visitors back with attractions like the Alien Stingers, Sea Lion Aqua Theater Show, and shark tank.

Winter is the best time of year to make the trip; the typical tourist crowds are scant and animals show their love of cold weather with un-choreographed wet-and-wild performances. All of the admission ticket proceeds go to the aquarium’s wildlife conservation society, and on Friday afternoons admission is pay what you wish. Surf Avenue & West 8th Street, Brooklyn; 718-265-3474, www.nyaquarium.com

Directions: B36 bus to Surf Avenue and West 8th Street; or take the F or Q train to the West 8th Street station.

EAT AND DRINK LIKE A LOCAL

Brooklyn Surf Bar
A seafood surfer joint in hipster Williamsburg, Brooklyn? Even celebrity chef Bobby Flay was inspired to have a chowder throw-down with seafood shack owner and devoted surfer dude Sargent.

This laid-back joint has sand-specked floors, tropical drinks—try the Polynesian rum-based Coconut Kiss or Blue Crush—lobster rolls, and of course, the trek-worthy Bahamian monkfish chowder. Surfboards adorn the rafters and the vibe is distinct: a pacific coast beach and perfect set of waves could be right outside the door. Even if it isn’t true, the ambiance offers a nice retreat from frosty weather. 139 North 6th Street, Brooklyn; 718-302-4441, www.brooklynsurfbar.com

Directions: L train to Bedford, walk one black to North 6th Street, turn right and walk half a block.

Brooklyn Brewery
Brooklyn BreweryWalk into almost any bar in Manhattan and you’ll find the green-labeled Brooklyn lager on tap. A 30-minute train ride will take you to an unassuming block in Williamsburg where tours of the 100 percent wind-generated brewery are given every Saturday between noon and 5 p.m. in an ivy-covered, yellow-brick warehouse.

You don’t have to be a beer aficionado to appreciate the deliciously reasonably priced pints of special reserve pilsners, stouts, ales, and seasonal drafts from one of America’s top 40 breweries. 79 North 11th Street, Brooklyn; 718-486-7422, www.brooklynbrewery.com

Directions: L train to Bedford Ave., stay in the rear car, walk from North 7th Street to North 11th Street, turn left (towards the water) and walk a block and a half to the brewery.

INDOOR SHOPPING SURPRISES

Bedford Avenue Flea Market
While the holiday markets in Union Square, Bryant Park, and Grand Central shut down in December, the indie bazaar in Brooklyn is still standing. Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, you can sift through one-of-a-kind goods like vintage furniture, designer jewelry, clothing, and artwork from the burgeoning local art scene. Located in a 3,000-square-foot old collision shop, the market will be hustling and bustling—sans all the tourists—with crafty vendors, cupcakes, Caribbean food, and live entertainment through the end of February 2009. 999 Bedford Avenue, at Lafayette Avenue, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn; 347-742-5880, www.bedfordfleamarket.com

Directions: 7 train to 45 Road-Courthouse Square, transfer to the G train and stop at Bedford-Nostrand Avenues. Exit near the intersection of Lafayette Avenue and Bedford Avenue.

LUXURIATE ON A BUDGET

New York Spa Castle
Spa Castle outdoor heated poolSpend a day like a high-budget traveler—without foregoing dinners out for a month—at this Korean-run spa in Flushing, Queens. For $35, guests have unlimited access to a foot and body massage pool, Hinoki Bath, sauna, indoor, outdoor, and kiddie pools, and an aqua bar.

Throughout the five floors, men, women, and kids will also find a sushi bar, Starbucks, a Korean restaurant, American and Italian cuisine, and a fresh juice bar. For an additional cost, full shiatsu massages, facial treatments, full body exfoliation (in clothes-free zones), simple scrubs, seven Jacuzzis, and underwater beds are available. 718-939-6300, www.nyspacastle.com

Directions: 7 train to Flushing, head one block to municipal parking lot where a shuttle comes every 30 minutes to take you to the spa.

COOK LIKE A TOP CHEF

Brooklyn Kitchen

Your inner Iron Chef keeps telling you it’s time to spice things up a bit in the kitchen, so head to Brooklyn to this unconventional cookware store. The husband-and-wife-owned shop is stocked with pots and pans, aprons, and culinary odds and ends like vintage knives, kooky silicone whisks for kids, and copper cookware. But the classes are the real gem; try your hand fermenting vegetables, study knife skills (a recurring favorite), churn out sauces, soufflés, and nutty cheeses. Most course are $25-$50, except for the popular butchering class which costs $75-$125, in which you get to bring home six pounds of high-quality meat. 616 Lorimer Street, Brooklyn; 718-389-2982, www.thebrooklynkitchen.com

Directions: L train to second stop in Brooklyn, go north on Lorimer Street towards Conselyea Street to the corner of Skillman Avenue.

By Lauren Matison for PeterGreenberg.com. Visit OffManhattan.com for more travel hot spots off the island of Manhattan that are all accessible by public transportation.

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