You're in New York. Don't be lame. Do something:
Play - Rockefeller Park in Battery City - Go over to the parkhouse and you can borrow anything from wiffle ball bats to frisbees to hula hoops. They've got enough hockey sticks and lacrosse equipment for a good game of pick-up with your friends, and sidewalk chalk to keep the little ones entertained. Open every day from May to October.
Get High - The High Line - Don't do drugs. Not when you can do cool stuff like wander along an old El Train track. Right now about a half mile of the 1.5 mile stretch is open to the public. Expect some nature, great modern architecture (mixed seamlessly with the original 1930's structure), and a relaxing way to gain a brand new perspective (on life, Manhattan, the Hudson, whatever). You can enter at Gansevoort St in the Meat Packing district or at 20th Street and 10th Ave (and a few places in-between).
Pray - Or don't. Try meditating. Or if all else fails, just take a nap in one of these great churches. I just think the buildings are cool. Some of the best architecture in the City can be found in three very different churches: Trinity Church (Wall St and B'way), St. Patrick's Cathedral (5th Ave and 51st), and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine (Amsterdam and 112th). Each have different appeals to me: the woodwork and carvings in the entrance of Trinity Church are amazing; the Stations of the Cross in St. Pat's are unlike anything I've seen (even in European cathedrals); and the vertical tour of St. John's gives you an extremely rare view of the architecture that holds up these massive structures.
Get Rich - Federal Reserve Bank of NY - They give free tours of the gold vault six times daily, Monday through Friday. No briefcases, wheelbarrows, or transmatter rays allowed, so you'll have to be creative if you want to walk out of there with some gold bricks. Reservations must be made in advance so don't think you can just walk in and get rich quick.
Read a Book - But not at home, that's boring. Check out the Rose Reading Room of the New York Public Library at 42nd Street and 5th Ave. Three ginormous murals span the ceiling of this 300' room (that's the distance from home plate to the warning track in Yankee Stadium), and the oak tables and bronze lamps make it the most majestic "study hall" ever built. And don't worry about a library card, I've never needed one. Free wi-fi and miles of books on any topic you can imagine.
Be a Tourist - My dad has lived in New York forever, but he had never been up to the crown of the Statue of Liberty until my brothers and I made him take us. And now because of stupid terrorists, they don't allow anybody up there anymore. Now I'm not saying they're ever going to close Times Square (although with Virgin gone now it doesn't feel the same - but my wife loves the new Forever 21 that replaced it) or shut down Rockefeller Center. I'm saying that it's a shame that locals never see some of the things that make New York great because they're considered tourist traps. If you haven't been to Times Square in a while, it's completely new now - Broadway is a pedestrian only street, Forever 21 and the Disney Store are there, and the red stairs over TKTS in Father Duffy Square make a great viewpoint that we've never had before. Rockefeller Center isn't just for skating and Christmas trees. It's one of the most grand open spaces in the City, with benches throughout to take a break and people-watch, great shops (how can you go wrong with Nintendo, Legos, and Magnolia Bakery cupcakes - which I think are just ok, but if you bring a girl there they will LOVE you), and if you haven't been to the Top of the Rock ($21 but they hand out $2 off coupons at street level, so look for them), you need to go. Forget the Empire State Building, this is the best observation deck. Those are the main ones, but you know what tourists see.
Go Park Hopping - I. Love. Central Park. I proposed to my wife on top of Belvedere Castle. Our wedding reception was even held on the Great Hill. And just like at Rockefeller Park (see above), you can borrow games from any of the information booths throughout the park, or get binoculars, a sketch pad, and a bird book from the castle. You can spend days on end in Central Park and never see all of it. But when you're ready to move on, try one of the other 1700 parks in New York City. My other favorites are Prospect Park in Brooklyn and Bryant Park on 42nd at 6th Ave.
Get Cultured - Almost every museum in the City has some sort of deal, on some day, where you can get in for free. From Free Fridays at the MoMA (from 4-8pm) to the Brooklyn Children's Museum free Wednesday (from 2-5pm). Others are free all the time, like the Forbes Magazine Gallery or the Museum at F.I.T. And then you have "Pay-What-You-Wish" museums like the Museum of Natural History and the MET, where I've seen people give spare change for admission. Here's a basic list:
- The MET - 5th Ave and 82nd St - One of the largest art galleries in the world. Contains everything from Byzantine to Egyptian to European to modern art, and lots of American stuff. PWYW all the time.
- The MoMA - 53rd St b/t 5th and 6th - Modern Art. It's cool. I think it's better than the Pompidou in Paris and the Tate Modern in London. Yeah. We rock. Free Fridays from 4 to 8pm. Be warned: It will be packed and you will stand in a long line. This is not a secret deal.
- Museum of Natural History - Central Park West at about 79th - According to most of the people I know, this is the coolest museum ever. If you don't know what's in here, watch Night at the Museum. PWYW all the time.
- The Guggenheim - 5th Ave and 88th St -Impressionist and contemporary art, but the main draw is the building itself, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. PWYW on Saturdays from 5:15 to 7:15pm.
- Forbes Magazine Gallery - 6th Ave and 12th St - An interesting little gallery containing toy soldiers, antique monopoly games, and various paintings and other collections. Always free. Tues through Sat.
- Museum at F.I.T. - 6th Ave and 27th - I'm not even going to pretend that I know anything about fashion. I know I like models. That's about it. But if you want to know anything else, check this place out. Supposedly it's the biggest and best fashion museum on the planet, with everything from costumes to couture. Honestly I thought it was kinda small, but I guess there aren't too many fashion museums out there to compare. Always free. Tues through Sat.
Do you know of something else that should be on this list? Leave it in the comments and I'll check it out and add it.
Hopefully that list gave you some ideas. If not, I've always enjoyed sitting on my fire escape and watching the police helicopters circle around, but I live in the Bronx so maybe that option isn't available where you live.