11 Fall Date Ideas in NYC You’ll Both Actually Enjoy

Spots for your socially distant romance.

We’ll be honest: Dating during a pandemic can be pretty awkward. Between the masks, the world’s newfound fear of kissing (that’s where the germs are!), and hand sanitizer always at the ready, it can be hard to get into the mood for romance. Then again... it is autumn in NYC. The air is crisp, the leaves are changing, and it’ll be winter before we know it. And after all that we’ve been through since spring, maybe the fall of 2020 is the perfect time to fall in love.

With crowded bars now out of the question and the idea of logging onto Zoom again (after a long workday) feeling exhausting, it’s time to take your dating game to the next level. So grab your date-night face covering you’ve been saving to use for months and get ready to charm because we’ve rounded up our favorite fall spots for your next socially distant date.

Amazing Maize Maze at the Queens County Farm Museum
Amazing Maize Maze | Matthew Borowick

Lose (and then find) each other in a maize maze

Get lost in each other’s eyes (and in three acres of corn stalks) at the Queens County Farm Museum’s Amazing Maize Maze. Make your way through the twisting labyrinth, which ends all the way up at Victory Bridge, giving you a bird’s eye view of this year’s maze theme—Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers.” With wider paths, mask requirements, and timed ticketed entry, this is an ideal way to social distance from everyone except your date.

Get your blood pumping at a haunted house

OK, maybe a haunted house doesn’t scream “romance.” But picture this: You and your date, alone and terrified by something that has absolutely nothing to do with current events. Sounds pretty dreamy, right? An adrenaline spike, a racing heart, and a rush to catch your breath might just lead to the first hand-holding you’ve had in months. Just make sure your date doesn’t catch you squirting hand sanitizer on afterwards—it might hurt their feelings. Opening on October 9, purchase your tickets to Blood Manor today.

Swirl glasses of wine at an estate winery's tasting room

Need a fresh spot to show off your oenophile knowledge? Long Island’s Hound’s Tree vineyard has opened up a brand new NYC outpost functioning as an estate winery and tasting room. Sip your way through a variety of tasting pours, or move past your fear of commitment and order up a whole bottle. Pair it with a menu that includes North Fork oysters, local cheeses, charcuterie, and large dishes like a crab roll or Hudson Valley duck confit.

Take a guided hike through the city's most romantic park

Central Park
There’s a reason why Central Park has played a role in some of the most beloved rom-coms—its gorgeous landscape and expansive areas make for the perfect romantic backdrop to stroll, nuzzle, and fall in love. For your next date, switch up your routine from wandering aimlessly through the park’s 840 acres and join a guided tour with one of NYC’s Urban Park Rangers instead. It’ll be an hour well spent filled with discovery about your Tinder date and some of the park’s hidden gems.

Wild Encounters at the Bronx Zoo
"Wild Encounters" at The Bronx Zoo | Julie Larsen Maher

Schedule a private “wild encounter" at the zoo

The Bronx
The Bronx Zoo is offering “wild encounters” to let you and your date get up close and personal with some animal cuties. Spend half an hour with a sloth, penguin, or giraffe; 45 minutes with a cheetah; or 30 terrifying minutes with “Feathers & Scales,” a winged and slithering selection of animals. At nearly $300, it’s a splashy date, but having a rhinoceros as a third wheel makes a great story for the grandkids.

Strike out (in the good way) at a brand new bowling alley

Lower East Side
Governor Cuomo has officially declared that bowling alleys are open for business, and the newly opened location of The Gutter on the LES lets you exercise your right to strike. The whole place is designed with a retro vibe—including vintage arcade games and a bar made from an old bowling lane—so you'll fit right in wearing your favorite '70s band tee. Masks are mandatory (except when you're sipping beer, of course), and bowling balls and shoes are sanitized between every customer.

Book a dinner res in a private greenhouse

Italian restaurant Ampia is offering you and your date the chance to share a meal in a private greenhouse high above the city. You’ll need to plan ahead—the greenhouses must be booked seven days in advance—but the intimate (and socially distant!) setting is well worth it. Share tuna tartare, gnocchi and pasta Genovese for two, and a few rounds of cocktails while staying warm and cozy in your very own bubble of love.

Rockefeller Center Ice Rink
Rockefeller Center Ice Rink | Boris-B/Shutterstock

Go classic with an ice skating date

A date at The Rink at Rockefeller Center never goes out of style: It’s a physical activity that distracts from small talk, it immerses you in a NYC landmark, and there’s plenty of nearby activities to do after. Opening on November 7 for the season, rosy cheeks, a cute pom-pommed hat, and a cup of hot cocoa make for the sort of rendezvous that Hallmark movies are made of. And a word to the wise: You’re gonna see a lot of marriage proposals, so try not to kneel down to tighten your skates without warning your date first.

Chow down on a variety of dishes in the Bronx

The Bronx
The Bronx Night Market is finally back this fall, bringing over 50 rotating vendors including C Bao, Crabman Mike, Wah Gwaan, and MozzArepa. Wander the market and order up a new snack every time you run out of things to talk about. Because after all, you can’t have awkward silence if your mouth is full! For dessert, there’s Sam’s Fried Ice Cream and boozy Spoonable Spirits to give you some sugar-filled liquid courage for that end-of-the-night COVID-necessitated side hug.

Bond over your love for pumpkins

$ - $$
Staten Island
You don’t need to go upstate to pick some pumpkins. Staten Island’s Decker Farm has its very own pumpkin patch—and all it takes to get there is a boat ride. The Staten Island Ferry isn’t exactly the Love Boat, but it’s close enough! Once you’re there, walk around the patch, pose for some extremely autumnal photos on a pile of hay bales, and then stop at the farm stand for pumpkin pie, hot apple cider, and pumpkin-spiced coffee.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art rooftop art
“Lattice Detour” on the Met rooftop | The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Enjoy the artwork atop a museum rooftop garden

Upper East Side
Mexico City-born artist Héctor Zamora has created a site-specific work for the newly-reopened Metropolitan Museum of Art’s rooftop garden. His “Lattice Detour” sculpture was left half-finished in March, at the beginning of the pandemic, and was quickly finished this fall. Get two timed entry tickets, put on your face masks, and make your way up to the very top of the museum for a breathtaking view of the city and a romantic walk around the roof garden.

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Rachel Pelz lives and writes in Brooklyn.