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How to Have the City to Yourself

Embrace the emptiness of a Manhattan weekend

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For those with an urge to splurge, Scott Conant, the chef-owner at L’Impero, advises a movable feast: Breeze through six restaurants in a single night. Head for the Flatiron district and order a succession of appetizers and small plates at Gramercy Tavern, Craft, Veritas, Beppe, and Tabla. Finish with vanilla-Greenmarket-cherry-swirl ice cream at Union Square Cafe. The next day, indulge yourself at the Mandarin Oriental spa at the Time Warner Center. Then grab a cab crosstown to Agata & Valentina on 79th Street and First Avenue, where you can build the perfect picnic basket and take it to a verdant spot behind the Met.

For those who prefer to conserve, Sarah Gray Miller, editor of Budget Living, suggests using the Staten Island Ferry as your own personal Pacific Princess—beer is served, and without commuters, a semi-private sundeck can be yours. If you crave A/C, forget movie theaters and think museum. Especially the American Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, where you can play Asteroids, Frogger, Space Invaders, and Ms. Pac-Man for free (they’re part of an exhibit about arcade games from the late seventies and early eighties; on Fridays from four to eight, admission is also free). And if you’re feeling nostalgic for the we’re-all-in-this-together vibe of last summer’s blackout, a group called the Urban Park Rangers is staging one of its free campouts on the first anniversary, August 14, which is a Saturday (for details, call 866-692-4295).

Or invent your own itinerary: Shop at Barneys, where you won’t have to wait for a dressing room, and the bored attendants will happily serve as your personal shoppers. Take cabs everywhere, if only for the thrill of cruising down a gloriously deserted Park Avenue. Score a sidewalk table at Da Silvano (on Sixth Avenue, below Bleecker) and order Campari. Finagle a guest pass to Equinox and have the run of the weight room. Get a prime-time slot at the Central Park tennis courts. Make nice with that cute Spice Market waitress who hasn’t got her hands full with hedge-fund managers. Turn cartwheels in the aisles at Whole Foods. Cat-sit in a Soho loft with amazing overhead fans. Hit the Chelsea flea markets, where sparse crowds tilt the laws of supply and demand in your favor and give you extra bargaining leverage. Rollerblade on the supersmooth pavement of midtown. Show up for a 9:30 movie at the Angelika at 9:29.


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