Fun and Frugal Ways to Escape Winter

Ron Dicker sits in a warm, fake park - escape winterEscaping winter on the cheap requires imagination. I took my shot by visiting afree indoor park in Manhattan. As birds chirped on the soundtrack, fake grass and fake trees helped by a real thermostat turned to 72 degrees provided a cozy respite.

Anything to shed my parka. I slumped against a rock and read for a while. A nanny named Wendy Bond and her 2-year-old charge waited nearby for a playdate. "This is the first time I'm coming in," she told WalletPop. "I like the scenery."Ditto here. The picnic benches and see-saw add nice touches to 4,500 square feet that would otherwise be used for pop-up stores and gallery events through its landlord, Openhouse. And when true Mother Nature calls, there's two bathrooms. Openhouse developed the green space out of the goodness of its warm heart and to lure in potential pop-up clients when the January doldrums pass, Openhouse manager Whitney Shanks said. The park, at 201 Mulberry Street, will remain open all month. Yoga is available.

The emerald-dominated forest wallpaper helps you conjure spring, but the arranged brown leaves (real, by the way) evoke autumn. I've got one chilly season enough to deal with. I quibble, though. I was warm and calm, even when the calendar told me I shouldn't be.

Here are a few other low-cost or no-cost ways to escape winter for a bit:

Basking in a sun lamp from 30 minutes to two hours a day can ease Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), otherwise known as winter blues. You sit close to the light box and carry out an activity such as reading or Web surfing. It's not a good idea to look directly into the light. You can find new therapeutic lamps as low as $60 if you shop carefully online. In a Columbia University study more than 100 SAD patients used a 10,000 "lux" (a unit of intensity) system for 30 minutes a day, with 75% showing major improvement of their symptoms.

Rent a movie with a summer theme. May I recommend The Flamingo Kid, Big Wednesday, A Summer Place and Lifeguard? You can practically feel the sand between your toes.

Apply bronzing lotion and tell friends you rented a condo in Barbados. Their envy will be well worth the $8 to $40 you'll spend for a tube on Amazon.

If 165 degrees and muggy is your thing, make an appointment for asauna. Paradise, a popular spa in frigid Chicago, charges a mere $18 for use of its sauna. You sweat while winter howls outside. Let it wait.

Buy a copy of Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal's Winter Blues: Seasonal Affective Disorder: What It Is and How To Overcome It. It's apparently the bible for conquering depression brought on by cold and bleak weather. Copies are available for a few bucks on Amazon.

Host an indoor beach party. Crank up the space heater, spread out the chaise lounges, serve umbrella drinks, turn up the surf tunes, and play limbo. Hibiscus shirts and shorts only. Too collegiate for ya? Then suck it up and pay the airfare to Maui.
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