Tired of the snow and slush covering New York City streets? You don't have to wait until spring to enjoy a day in the park. For just $1 you can picnic with friends, run your toes through green grass and listen to the sounds of birds chirping at Manhattan's Openhouse Gallery. This indoor pop-up park is open daily through February 13.
I visited the pop-up park on a recent Saturday after a fresh wave of snow blasted the city. January's record snowfall -- 36 inches in Central Park -- essentially trapped me in my apartment. Once I exhausted my Netflix queue and ruined my Timberland boots walking through gray slush, I was ready for an escape.
The crowd at the pop-up park is mixed; groups of 20 somethings circle around picnic baskets, moms chase toddlers across the bi-level gallery and couples sit against the walls, texting. (View the slideshow to see how New Yorkers are enjoying the park).
Savvy visitors bypass the expensive food carts (offering $15 lobster rolls) and bring their own meals. Pizza boxes and fountain sodas are a common sight, as are picnic lunches. When I visited, only the drink cart was doing steady business with its affordable $2 organic tea and $4 kombucha.
It's hard to find fault with a New York City indoor activity that is essentially free (the $1 entry fee is a "suggested donation"), but there are some drawbacks. Unlike the mobile gardens that have cropped up across the city, this pop-up park is built with artificial grass and trees. Environmentalists will shudder at the amount of plastic on display; the only natural materials I spotted were wood chips placed near the entrance.
Still, the Openhouse pop-up park is one of the few places in Manhattan where you can hang out for an entire day without buying anything. To get the most out of the experience, gather a group of friends, bring an assortment of bread and cheese and enjoy a winter-time picnic. It may be several months before you get this chance again!
Pop-up park at the Openhouse Gallery
Location: 201 Mulberry St, Manhattan, NY
Hours: 11am to 6pm daily through Feb 13, 2011
Cost: $1 suggested donation
The pop-up park is closed on select dates for private events. Check the Facebook page before you head out to make sure the park is open.