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Movies in the park: SummerScreen
Photograph: Sean T. Smith

The best free date ideas in NYC

If you’re lacking in cash for a pricey date, these free date ideas will make you look like the king or queen of romance

By Alison Kotch

From the best bars and restaurants to all of the cultural activities you can handle, there’s no shortage of fun things to do in the city. The downside: Going out alone can be expensive, and if you add another person to the mix, it’s easy to go broke! If cheap date ideas won’t cut it, don’t worry—there are plenty of stellar free date ideas that are just as fun and easy to do as they are on your wallet. Whether you’re looking for romantic first-date ideas or if you’re looking to mix things up with your long-term squeeze, here are the best places to do it—for free!

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to free things to do in NYC

Best free date ideas in NYC

free date ideas
Photograph: Shutterstock

Hudson River Nature Walk

It’s true: there isn’t as much wildlife in NYC as there is upstate or in the suburbs. But any bit of green space is better than none at all, and learning about the nature around you is an easy and relaxing way to feel like you’re getting away. Your self-taught urban naturalist guides will show you how to identify 85 different species of birds, as well as butterflies, dragonflies, and other interesting flora and fauna in the park; tours are about 1.5 to 2 miles and are offered every Sunday at 9am. Christopher Street Fountain (cross at Christopher St) (

free date ideas
Photograph: Raydene Salinas

Bushwick Graffiti and Street Art Tour

While Bushwick has plenty of art galleries and studios worth visiting, you can find some of the best art outside: Street artists like Buff Monster, Skewville, and Billy Mode & Chris Stain of the Bushwick Collective have taken the area’s industrial landscape and turned it into a vibrant, open air gallery. Guided tours (which meet outside of the Raw and Fine Chocolate Shop—also romantic!) require a reservation, but you could also head there with a camera for a spontaneous, self-guided walk. (

free date ideas
Photograph: Julienne Schaer

Outdoor Movie Night

Movie night is a never-fail date night option year-round, but with so many outdoor options during the summer months, there’s no reason you should have it indoors. You’ll find romance, sci-fi, action and noir options in all boroughs—everything from Jurassic World, Jaws and Ali to Chocolat and Star Wars: The Force Awakens—so grab a blanket and some bubbly for a romantic evening under the stars. Various locations, see calendar (

Photograph: David Gettens

Free Concerts at Central Park Summerstage


The only thing better than free movies outside might be free music, which there’s plenty of at Summerstage from now until the end of September. The 31st year of the mostly-free concert series features something for every type of music lover, like Public Enemy and DJ Tedsmooth, The Metropolitan Opera’s Summer Recital Series and the Indigo Girls, so consider this incentive to see an old favorite or something new, gratis. Central Park Rumsey Playfield

free date ideas

Comedy Night at UCB

Though you’ll pay to see big names at the house of comedy started by the UCB (Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh) in 1996, it’s worth visiting for free weekly events like Chemistry and The Improv Jam, if you’re up for audience participation. You never know which moments will turn into comedy gold! 153 East 3rd St (212-366-9231,

free date ideas
Photograph: Courtesy Michael Kirby

River to River Festival

From June 16 to 26, the parks of lower Manhattan and Governor’s Island will be alive with music, dance and visual art from artists who hail from NYC and beyond. While you’ll want to make time for composer and singer-songwriter Olga Bell and Jillian Pena’s dance duet Panopticon, be sure to take advantage of Night at the Museums on Tuesday 21. You’ll get free admission to 16 museums in lower Manhattan, as well as free live music. (

Astor Wines & Spirits
Photograph: Courtesy Astor Wines

Wine Tasting at Astor Wines

Shopping Liquor stores Noho

Not only does Astor boast one of the biggest wine selections in the city, they also offer classes and free tastings: You and your date can sample wines from locales like South Africa and Portugal, plus other spirits like cachaca and gin. You won’t go broke picking up a bottle to take home, either. Their knowledgeable staff will help you pick a winner from their diverse offerings (which often come heavily discounted—a plus if you’re looking to get buzzed on a budget).

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