By Misha Grunbaum

It’s mid-August. The city is all but deserted. Hell, the entire continent of Europe has decamped to la plage. But what if your bank account is as empty as the next three days of your gCal? What if $650 a night in the Hamptons (split six ways with friends, plus the Hampton Jitney, plus booze and food) just isn’t your cup of Pimm's? Never fear! Black Balloon’s armchair traveler is here with five extremely local weekend destinations to enjoy while your (non)friends are trekking up to Montauk!

5. The island from Lost

You can book a flight on Oceanic 815 from Sydney to Los Angeles, or you can watch Season 1 of Lost free on Netflix streaming. Take it from an accidental convert: start watching on Friday afternoon. You are going to get sucked right in. The first season (featuring polar bears, mysterious hatches, dreams of bloody compatriots, and a childbirth) is twenty-five hours long, and the episodes will zip right by. I’m not sure I ever want to go to that spot in the middle of the Pacific for real, but I don’t regret that weekend at all.

4. The park outside your door

Sometimes in the spring I go to a restaurant and sit outside and just watch people. If I can convince a friend to come with me, we usually start making up stories about the couples going in and out of the stores nearby, and we sip coffee while rain patters on the awning above. But in the summer, everybody goes to the park. So go people-watch at a park. In New York, go to the High Line. In LA, Venice Beach works. For every eighty-year-old sunbather with too much exposed skin, you’ll see a young couple hoping nobody notices their illicit affair.

3. Myst Island

I stumbled upon my old Myst  CD-ROM last year, and I lost an entire weekend trying to work out the puzzles inside. It’s a very simple, strange premise: you’ve just landed on an island devoid of humans, but filled with their relics. Hidden clues everywhere take you into completely different, but deeply connected worlds—of trees connected by bridges, or islands formed by craters, or a rocky outcrop with two ends of a ship jutting out. There are more complicated video games, but none that are so strange, so calm, and so surprisingly addictive.

2.  Le Cordon Bleu

Yes, Julie and Julia is a fun movie, but when I asked my mother to recommend an everyday cookbook, she said to save Julia Child's monumental Mastering the Art of French Cooking for when I had a good stretch of time. I've always wondered what it would be like to spend an entire weekend planning out complex French dinner menus and making them all. Tackling her pâté en croute recipe (mentioned in the New York Times), with a few flashy desserts afterwards, should get you clear through to Sunday night. Be sure to stock up on wine. Careful with that knife.

1. Whangdoodleland

Stay with me now. If you haven’t read Julie Andrews’s (yep, the one fromMary Poppins) book about three children who train themselves to get to Whangdoodleland to meet the last living Whangdoodle, give it a look. The country (which, like the levels of Inception, can only be reached in a trance) is a strange one—featuring boats with soda fountains, a stampede of sidewinders, and a slimy creature called the Oily Prock. When the Prock appears in the real world as well, the quest to find the Whangdoodle becomes nigh impossible. It’s frighteningly easy to forget the rest of the world with a really fun book, and The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles is a humdinger.

Leave Montauk to the moguls, I say, and Tilden to the topless hipsters. Have a great weekend, wherever it takes you.

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