01/10/2012 01:07 pm ET Updated Mar 11, 2012

An Uptown New York Weekend On A Downtown Budget

Uptown New York, we love you. We love your Michelin-starred restaurants, your ritzy boutiques, your cosmetically-enhanced residents and your Central Park. Dropping a month's wages over a weekend? Not so much.

Follow our ten-point plan and you'll get the high life for a whole lot less. And for a five star crash-pad to match, click here.

6 p.m. / Make It a Manhattan Head to the jewel box Mark Bar for a post-flight livener -- the wait staff is speedy on the wasabi peanut refills, the Manhattan will set you back a relatively reasonable (for these parts) $16 and the people watching doesn't get much better.

8 p.m. / Hobnob Harlem-Style Flag a cab north to Marcus Samuelsson's Red Rooster in Harlem. Come hungry -- the Creole red grits and fried yard bird are among the soul food standouts, and expect a mix of fashionistas and politicos (President Obama likes the cornbread).

10 a.m. / Biennial Brunch The oil-slick-thick Stumptown coffee and cheesy scrambled eggs at the Whitney's raw new Danny Meyer spot make one of the most affordable brunch options uptown. Upstairs you'll find works by an ever-changing who's who of 20th-century artists (Roy Lichtenstein, Edward Hopper, Sherrie Levine), and the Whitney Biennale, one of the highlights of the New York cultural calendar, kicks off on March 1.

12 p.m. / Facials for Nada Want the UES look without dropping major dollar (or going under the knife)? Head to Fresh at 78th and Third, and book any of their treatments -- we like the plumping one-hour facial -- and they'll hand you back whatever you spend in store vouchers.

1 p.m. / The Haute Look for Less Locals call Designer Resale "the Miracle on East 81st Street." The store, spread over six brownstones, is filled with barely worn label castoffs: Hermès ties for $55, Armani suits for $395 and DVF wrap dresses for $80. Then head back to your mystery hotel for tea and a nap.

6 p.m. / Fireside Fun With its Rubenesque oils, velvet drapes and $28 bottles of Merlot, Auction House is cozier -- and less credit-card-hammering -- than your usual UES drinking den. Snag a table for two and contemplate how good you look by candle light.

9 p.m. / Dinner with the One Percent Make reservations at Crown, a wood-paneled beauty with food by John Delucie of Waverly Inn fame. It's A-lister central -- Madonna, Karl Lagerfeld and Blake Lively have all been spotted here -- but stick to the top of the wine list, skip wallet-shockers like the 28-day Delmonico Sirloin ($55) and double up on the $15-$25 appetizers, and you should get out for less than $100 for two.

11 a.m. / Exhibit, Eat, Park Fresh from a $63 million do-over, the New York Historical Society is an essential stop. Highlights include Civil Rights era photography and intricate miniatures of New York society ladies. And once you've had your fill of history, head to the society's elegant new Venetian Caffè Storico for delectable cicchetti (Italian tapas), before taking a turn in Central Park.

3 p.m. / A Ballet Bargain Tickets to the Lincoln Center ballet can easily nudge $100; instead, head back uptown to the Dance Theater of Harlem for a matinee of the raved-about Nutcracker (3 p.m., second Sunday of the month through May).

5 p.m. / A-List Bakes Follow the scent of strawberry mille feuille across the park and up Madison Avenue to dessert "salon" Lady M, sweet go-to for tastemakers like Martha Stewart and Natalie Portman. It's a posh setup (you'll scrape checkered chocolate pudding off Limoges china) but the desserts start at just $8. Get some extras to go -- they sure beat plane food.

-- Vishaka Robinson