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Staycations: Travel the world without leaving NYC

THIS SUMMER, see the world with a MetroCard swipe.

Not everyone has the cash or the vacation days to skip town. Luckily, the boroughs house a treasure trove of hidden gems to transport New Yorkers from the crowds for the day.

And there are more ways than ever this year to “escape” the city — without actually leaving — thanks to a tropical garden in the Bronx, exciting new exhibits that transform museums into far-away countries, and a renovated Spa Castle guaranteed to wash your stress away.

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Mexico City takes root in the Bronx

The New York Botanical Garden has transformed its Enid A. Haupt Conservatory glasshouse into Frida Kahlo’s famous Casa Azul garden and studio by planting cacti, palms and fruit trees that really grew around the late artist’s home in Mexico. The exhibition “Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life” juxtaposes 14 of her paintings and works on paper among the exotic plants nestled inside the lava stone walls and a replica pyramid that were also modeled after the painter’s oasis. Enjoy this rare Kahlo exhibit — New York’s first in more than a decade — while sipping complementary Modelo Especial draft beers or Jose Cuervo Tradicional margaritas during Frida Al Fresco Evenings from 6:30-9:30 p.m., which also include musical performances, light projection shows, dance performances and noshes from La Casa Azul Taco Truck. The next Frida al Fresco Evening takes place Saturday. Check the Garden’s calendar for addition dates.

The exhibition runs Tues.-Sun. through Nov. 1. Tix cost $ 20-$ 25 adults, $ 18-$ 22 students/seniors, $ 8-$ 10 children 2-12. Bronx River Parkway at Fordham Road, the Bronx. See nybg.org/frida for complete schedule.

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Get steamy at Korean baths in Queens

The original Spa Castle in College Point has just finished an extensive renovation of its five-story Korean spa complex. There are several pools to take a soothing soak in, including the new Hydrotherapy Bath Jacuzzi rentals, rooftop spa pools, aqua bars and waterfalls. Or sweat your stress away inside the Sauna Valley of haute hot rooms. The newly upgraded Healing Zone also features soothing meditation and sleeping rooms, and the locker rooms were just given a facelift with polished wood floors and jet-powered bubbling baths. If all this relaxation whets your appetite, you can order authentic Korean bites from the Sky Garden menu such as grilled eel or seaweed soup. There’s also a juice bar, and frozen yogurt and Italian dishes served in the food court if you’re looking for wholesome comfort food.

Admission is $ 40 for the day, with a la carte massages, scrubs and facials running more. 131-10 11th Ave., Queens. See spacastleusa.com/ny.

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Visit the Far East via the Upper East Side

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “China: Through the Looking Glass” exhibit is open through Aug. 16. Lose yourself in the sprawling collection that covers a whopping 30,000 square feet of the Costume Institute and the Chinese Galleries with more than 140 haute couture and avant garde ball gowns and evening robes, as well as a saffron silk festival robe from the Qing Dynasty. The garments are displayed among Chinese paintings, porcelains and other works of art, along with films and multimedia presentations reflecting Chinese imagery and its impact on Western culture.

After your trip through China, head up to the Roof Garden where French conceptual artist Pierre Huyghe has installed a massive fishtank with live lamprey eels and tadpole shrimp swimming around a submerged boulder. That will be on display through Nov. 1.

Admission to the Met is technically pay as you wish, but recommended admission runs $ 25 adults, $ 17 seniors and $ 12 students. Kids under 12 free. 1000 Fifth Ave., Manhattan. See metmuseum.org.

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Westeros in Washington Heights

“Game of Thrones” fans can get medieval in Upper Manhattan’s Fort Tryon Park , a hilly green sanctuary perched on a ridge with panoramic views of the Hudson River, the New Jersey Palisades and the George Washington Bridge. The winding paths and crumbling stone walls that look straight out of a fairy tale lead wanderers to its crowning glory: The Cloisters museum and gardens . This arm of the Met is tucked inside parts from five European abbeys that were reconstructed into a medieval castle. Travel back in time by poring over the new “Treasures and Talismans: Rings from the Griffin” collection, which showcases precious golden rings, paintings and sculptures inspired by the mythical creature that’s half eagle, half lion. And no trip to the Cloisters is complete without touring the grounds and getting enchanted by the Unicorn Tapestries .

The “Treasures and Talismans” exhibit runs through Oct. 18. Admission to the Met is technically pay as you wish, but recommended admission runs $ 25 adults, $ 17 seniors and $ 12 students. Kids under 12 free. 99 Margaret Corbin Drive, Manhattan. See metmuseum.org.

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A Flatbush theater fit for a king

This venue upstages the artists. Take a trip back to the 1920s at the Kings Theatre . The spectacular movie palace (originally called Loew’s Kings Theatre), which first opened in 1929, was closed for nearly four decades, but reopened in January after a $ 95 million renovation made it shine once more. The Art Deco theater has been completely restored to its original glory with crystal chandeliers, ornate plaster walls, plush carpeted floors and gold-leaf ornaments. Explore the palace’s history and architecture with the $ 20 public tours that launched last week. Or better yet, catch a show. Upcoming acts include a Reggae Jazz Fest starring Beres Hammond & Monty Alexander on Aug. 1 . Theatrical performances including “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Live on Stage” and “Annie” are on deck for later in the year as well.

1027 Flatbush Ave., Brooklyn. See kingstheatre.com. o

npesce@nydailynews.com

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Music & Arts – NY Daily News

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