The best date ideas in NYC

Dating in NYC has never been more fun, with romantic strolls, live shows and candlelit dinners abounding all over town
Jane's Carousel
Photograph: Shutterstock
By Tolly Wright |
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When it comes to date ideas, NYC has it all, but let’s face it: No matter how romantic, creative or fun you are, everyone needs help sometimes. Luckily, we can help. (We've even got a list of free things to do in NYC if you're on a budget). The city is filled with possibility, especially if you want to skip that boring dinner-and-a-movie—or if you want to find the very best restaurants and see screenings of the very best movies of all time to wow your date. These spots have something for every kind of lovebird in Gotham.

Best date ideas in NYC

1
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Photograph: Shutterstock
Attractions, Parks and gardens

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

icon-location-pin Prospect Park

You and your special someone don’t have to travel far to feel like you’re in an idyllic pastoral paradise with this century-old Kings County NYC park. Nestled away by Prospect Park, you’ll find over 50 acres of cherry blossoms, rose gardens and the bright flora of the tropics in the balmy conservatory. No matter the season, you’ll be sure to see beautiful plant life.

2
The Water Table
Photograph: Virginia Rollison
Restaurants, American

The Water Table

icon-location-pin Brooklyn

Aboard a rehabilitated vintage Navy Yard patrol vessel is this floating New England tavern. As you cruise the East River, dine on a seasonal three-course prix fixe in the wood-paneled cabin with scrumptious dishes like lobster risotto or corn chowder with apple-smoked ham. Clink glasses of classic cocktails or share a bottle of sparkly and celebrate the beauty of the city’s skyline and each other’s company.

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3
Jane's Carousel
Photograph: Shutterstock
Attractions, Parks and gardens

Jane’s Carousel

icon-location-pin Brooklyn Heights

As if Brooklyn Bridge Park weren’t already romantic enough with its staggering views of Manhattan and the bridges, this nearly 100-year-old hand-painted attraction will bring out the childlike glee in both of you. Keep the nostalgic feel going with a cone at the nearby Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory or get cultured with a sophisticated theater production at St. Ann’s Warehouse.

4
Gallow Green
Bars, Cocktail bars

Gallow Green

icon-location-pin Chelsea

Many of the city’s various rooftop bars rely heavily on their views as the main selling point for their overpriced drinks, but atop Chelsea’s McKittrick Hotel (the home of the famed Sleep No More) is this highly conceptualized romantic garden party meets cocktail lounge. During the warm months, sit among the short trees and twinkling Christmas lights as actors from the downstairs play weave between the tables making charming conversation as socialite characters. In the cold months, the space is given over to the Lodge, a meticulously crafted alpine cabin seemingly transported to the roof, complete with bunk bed and drawers filled with clues to the space. Grab a maple hot toddy and sit by the fire pit to revel in the full experience.

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5
The Cliffs at LIC
Photograph: Courtesy Cliffs at LIC
Sports and fitness, Climbing

The Cliffs at LIC

icon-location-pin Long Island City

If your date has been looking for adventure but ditching the city isn’t an option, take a couple of hours to harness that love of independence and thrills at this rock climbing facility. Take an introductory class together to learn the ropes (literally: how to tie them, how to belay and proper harness procedure) or let the staff hook you up and start scurrying up the tall walls. Competitive couples can try to beat each other’s times, and memberships are available should this become a favorite hobby for you and your partner in climb.

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Photograph: Francine Daveta
Nightlife, Nightlife

Slipper Room

icon-location-pin Lower East Side

Drop your inhibitions at this seductive, throwback lounge—cheeky performers will leave you and your date laughing, curious and probably more than a bit aroused. From your table by the stage (the space is small enough that there’s not really a bad seat in the house) expect the unexpected as aerial performers, singers, comedians, dancers and sexily clad lads and laddies perform circus and sideshow tricks. You’ll be hard-pressed to find anything like it in the Lower East Side—or anywhere else.

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7
Brooklyn Night Bazaar
Shopping, Markets and fairs

Brooklyn Bazaar

icon-location-pin Greenpoint

To do everything that the Brooklyn Bazaar offers all in one date will require a great deal of commitment, but if you and your love are up for the challenge, there’s great rewards in it for you. Goof off with mini golf and arcade games, sing your feelings at each other in the karaoke rooms, grab a fantastic dinner and drinks at Brooklyn Star, shop artisanal wares and vintage tchotchkes in the weekend bazaar and see an amazing performance in the concert venue.

8
Nitehawk Cinema
Photograph: Gabi Porter
Movie theaters, Independent

Nitehawk Cinema

icon-location-pin Williamsburg

Why bother going to two separate places when you can combine this classic date at one fantastic eat-in cinema? Grab one of the luxurious, big comfy chairs and take advantage of the table with the seats. Chow down on tacos, burgers, charcuterie or small plates as you take in buzzworthy indie films and retro re-releases. Already ate? The seasoned popcorn is far superior than the stale stuff you might find at other movie houses, while the full liquor and cocktail menu will make a boring, drawn-out flick more palatable.

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9
Paulie Gee's
Photograph: Alex Strada
Restaurants, Pizza

Paulie Gee’s

icon-location-pin Greenpoint

Though any date at this rustic Greenpoint pizza haven is likely to feel romantic with the dim lights and the delicious aroma wafting from the brick oven, up your game by traveling there on the East River Ferry. The short (and affordable) ride at sunset from Manhattan gives out-of-this-world views of the skyline surrounded by rich oranges and pinks that are almost as appetizing as the wine selection awaiting you just blocks away from the Greenpoint Ferry stop.

10
Photograph: Shutterstock
Bars, Pubs

Literary Pub Crawl at White Horse Tavern

icon-location-pin West Village

For those book lovers who get a kick out of the Hemingway quote “write drunk, edit sober,” take this long-running walking tour of the Greenwich Village. As you mosey your way through the historic nabe, an incredibly knowledgeable and friendly guide will point out the houses where literary powerhouses lived. And even better is the stops at long-running bars: Grab an ale and hear stories of inspired meetings, writing sessions and brawls that erupted when writers of yore took up residency in the drinking holes. Meets Saturdays and Sundays at White Horse Tavern, 567 Hudson St (literarypubcrawl.com). $30. 

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11
Chelsea Market
Photograph: Shutterstock
Shopping, Shopping centers

Chelsea Market

icon-location-pin Chelsea

Rainy day blues, sweltering hot days and freezing cold nights don’t have to get in the way of your good time at the Chelsea Market. Mosey your way from sifting through vinyl records at Artists & Fleas, browse through the latest best sellers at Posman Books, toast regionally sourced oysters at the Lobster Place and chow down on homestyle cooking at Friedman’s.

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Jump for Joy: Bouncy Castle of BreastsJump for Joy: Bouncy Castle of Breasts
Photograph: Courtesy Museum of Sex
Things to do

Museum of Sex

This date is better after you two have taken some time to get to know each other—or if you’re just really into making bold statements on first dates (no judgment). At the scintillating shrine to the history, science and experience of hooking up, you’ll learn some facts you might not have known you wanted to know, like what porn looked like before movies and the internet. (Hint: It was mostly drawn.) You might also gain some knowledge about what turns your partner on as you see items dedicated to fetishes and jump up and down in a giant bouncy castle made of very big, inflated breasts.

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13
Things to do

The High Line

Though romantic walks are easily one of the most underrated cliché dates, few strolls are quite as magnificent as the High Line. At this park, a repurposed abandoned elevated railroad over 10th Avenue, you’ll see the Meatpacking District, Chelsea and the Hudson River at a whole new angle. As if the views of the bustling city beneath you weren’t enough, the plethora of gardens, sculptures and examples of amazing street art on the surrounding buildings are a sight to behold.

14
Ace Bar
Photograph: Courtesy Stephen Kosloff
Bars, Dive bars

Ace Bar

icon-location-pin East Village

You and your honey can have plenty of fun without spending much money at this East Village watering hole. Come during happy hour, which generously lasts until 8pm, for select $3 drafts as you unwind with games of skeeball, darts and pinball. There might be a bit of wait, but the pool tables are perfect for a friendly challenge—who ever wins buys the next round, or your cab ride to whoever’s apartment is closest.

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