SETTING UP HQ
You could take most of our themed staycations below using your cramped apartment as a homebase, but if you really want to make it feel like a (sort of) real vacation, you could stay at one of the teeny rooms at The Jane (113 Jane St), in the "far" West Village, instead. Though still undergoing renovations, the hotel is going through its rough opening stages — and at $70-$99 a night, it's the most affordable game in town, at least for the area.
Much of The Jane is intended to evoke the past through a Wes Anderson lens: the staff wears old-fashioned bellhop uniforms; the elevator is manually operated. An opened trunk, the kind people impossibly lugged in the pre-suitcase dark days, occupies the lobby. So that's what those immigrants in photos were carrying! The lobby's bar, recently opened, is a plush ballroom with ample ceiling space and several couches. Taken together, The Jane's self-conscious accoutrements make The Royal Tenenbaums' fantastical portrait of New York seem authentic.
A former sailor's boarding house, The Jane's rooms are modeled after berths and are thus uniquely tiny. Each room has a bed and a shelf (and a widescreen TV with basic cable); it's long enough to lie down flat in bed, but not wide enough to do the same. The open floor space is too narrow to do a push-up. The owners — noted hoteliers Sean MacPherson and Eric Goode — have said they hope the place will exude a collectivist hostel vibe (at hotel prices!).
THE SUB-SAHARAN: Africa
Start on a Sunday by heading out to Bedford-Stuyvestant's Odyssey African Market (1124 Fulton St), which boasts that when you walk through its doors, "you walk into Africa." Like Sliders? There, you can pick up indigenous delicacies — like ukazi, utazi and ugu leaves — as well as arts, crafts, CDs, DVDs and foreign cosmetics.
From there, it's only a quick ride on the Franklin Avenue Shuttle (an adventure in itself!) to the venerable Prospect Park Drum Circle, where Brooklynites and commuters have been banging drums collaboratively for over forty years. Drummer's Grove, on the east end of the park (the much more interesting side of the park, for all you Slopers afraid to pass the ballfields), looks like the headquarters for a witch's coven any other day of the week, but Sunday afternoons it's alive with crowds of percussionists. The jam is rooted in West African traditions, though, this being Brooklyn, the crowds are culturally diverse, as are the instruments.
Make your way then to The Prospect Park Zoo (450 Flatbush Ave), where you can see a few species native to Africa, including the Hamadryas Baboon and Madagascar's Tomato Frog. But if it's African animals you're after, you'd be better off taking the long subway ride up to The Bronx Zoo (2300 Southern Blvd), whose African Plains showcase features lions, gazelles, zebras, wild dogs and other critters, creatures and beasts.
And from there, it's only a short train ride to uptown Manhattan, where you can visit the Contemporary African Art Gallery (330 W 108th St), a by-appointment-only art gallery two art dealers created in their Harlem-border home. Over 30 artists from the continent are represented in diverse media like inks, etchings, paintings, prints and stone and wood sculptures. Now that you're near Harlem, take a walk through the historic neighborhood, building up an appetite; you'll find plenty of authentic African dining options, like Senagalese foodstuffs at La Marmite (2269 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd) or Côte d'Ivoire cuisine at Treichville (339 E 118th St).