NYC’s Best Date Ideas That Aren’t Just Dinner and a Movie

Joke all you want about how the seasons seem to blend together in New York City -- we’re still lucky enough to have them, and each one is romantic in its own way. But winter’s where it’s at: Warming cocktails, comfort food, and the promise of a new year really do stretch the most wonderful time of the year well beyond the holidays.

Winter is truly the best time to meet those special someones, to wine them, to dine them, and to enjoy everything New York City has to offer, week after week. Woo a new boo, rekindle an old flame, or keep a current spark alive with these cold weather date ideas.

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

Glide into love

Central Park, Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park
There’s a reason people seem to get engaged on the ice practically every day until the season’s first thaw -- thebigthree Manhattan ice rinks provide picture-perfect settings for romance, in spite of the rented footwear. Hit the rink when the weather forecast calls for a light snowfall for maximum aesthetic impact. 

Shake off your cabin fever

“Let’s grab a drink” is, perhaps, one of the lowest-pressure invites ever uttered. There’s no need to buy tickets, make reservations, or even plan ahead -- you could throw a dart and hit a decent happy hour in New York City. But winter’s cold temps and constant weather threats can sometimes make grabbing a drink seem like the only thing to do. Break up the monotony and get your blood moving at the best bars with in-house activities in town.

Say what you mean to say at an open mic night

Once you’ve gotten past any appearance of propriety and expressed your true feelings via other people’s words at karaoke, try using some of your own at an open mic night. Unleash your worst poetry, test out that comedy routine, or just read some of your most-liked tweets aloud like Al Gore intended when he invented the internet at some of the most forgiving venues in town.

Share a raging inferno of a cocktail

When the icy winter weather takes hold, warm up with a flaming libation. We’re partial to the Volcano Blast at Otto’s Shrunken Head -- a super-strong rum-based tiki concoction set ablaze. The $35 cocktail is more than enough for two, and the bar’s island vibes will remind you of the real thing.

Handmade Pasta Class
Handmade Pasta Class | Courtesy of the International Culinary Center

Get Classy and learn something new

If you aren’t any more ready to commit to an expensive novelty hobby than you are to your date, check out our round-up of the best one-day classes in NYC. You’ll learn how to brew beer at home, read tarot cards, or throw pottery, as you learn about each other. Love may be fleeting, but fortune telling skills last a lifetime.

Go camping, sort of, in the middle of Brooklyn

Cobble Hill
Dirt in your hair. Bugs in your sleeping bag. Wolves circling, baring their glistening fangs as you huddle with your honey on the roof of your car. Who needs it! Instead, Go faux-glamping at Camp, a hunting lodge-themed bar in Brooklyn. Between rounds of Big Buck Hunter and cheap beers, you can roast s’mores over a mini-fire at your table and revel in the great indoors.

Flex at trivia

Everybody loves a know-it-all, and NYC has a themed trivia night for all “well, actually” types. Would your pop culture proficiency put Siri to shame? Shuffle over to Metropolitan. Are you just a general genius? Check out The Wolfhound.

Color Factory Ball Pit
Color Factory Ball Pit | Heather Moore

Make it FB, Insta, and Snap official

You could quietly change your relationship status on social, or you could introduce your new flame to your rando old high school friends, rando influencer followers, and rando whoever’s still on Snapchat with a colorful splash. Set a date for a “candid” photo shoot at pop-ups like the ball pit at Color Factory, or, if you think this love is built to last, the permanent Decorative Arts and Period Rooms installation at the Brooklyn Museum.

Have a wine and food pairing contest -- but let someone else do the cooking

Although we’re better known for our $18 cocktails, NYC still has a smattering of BYOB restaurants where you can expand your beverage selection beyond the typical merlot/cab/mystery blend menu offerings. Pick a spot from our roundup of the best BYOB spots in town, set a price point, and compete to see who can bring the better bottle. Loser picks up the (slightly less expensive because you avoided the booze markup) tab.

Learn a few new positions...

Garment District
... yoga positions, that is. Stretch, bend, and soar into partner poses during a session (or a week of sessions) of AcroYoga at the Om Factory. Single classes start at $15.

Talk about sex, baby

Museums can be subtly sexy, with their tasteful nudes and needlessly sensual depictions of fruit. There’s nothing subtle about the Museum of Sex, where current exhibitions include The Illicit Origins of Pornographic Film.

so far
Courtesy of SoFar Sounds

See a secret live concert

TBA location
Sofar Sounds shows pop up in intimate, undisclosed locations -- someone’s apartment; the back of a retail shop; a gallery space. You’ll apply for tickets online through a lottery and receive notification 24 hours in advance if you’ve won access to a performance. Prepare to sit cross-legged on the floor and BYOB. Even if you end up with a musical dud, your date will be impressed with your insider knowledge.   

Bodega Negra
Bodega Negra | Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Have a boozy brunch

If you’re fast enough, each drink can be as cheap as a bodega umbrella. Good on you if this is technically the conclusion of yesterday’s date.

Visit a monastery-turned-medieval art museum

Washington Heights
Visiting the Cloisters is as close as you’ll ever get to being a Game of Thrones character. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s outdoor outpost will transport you and your dragon queen or king to a medieval wonderland reminiscent of Westeros -- hopefully sans bloodshed. Suggested admission is $25.

Take a turn on Brooklyn's finest carousel

After brunch and day drinks in Dumbo -- Juliana’s for pizza and Gran Electrica for margaritas -- pop over to Brooklyn Bridge Park and hop on the beautifully restored Jane’s Carousel. The painted ponies will bring some whimsy to your social media posts. Tickets are $2.

Get lost in one of the world's grandest botanical gardens

The Bronx
The 250-acre National Historic Landmark is open for business year-round, and the place is an especially verdant treat at wintertime. Check out the orchid show, the seasonal walk, and the winter lecture series, or just wander the grounds unbound. New York City residents can get in for as little as $15.

Gallery hop on the West Side

Take your muse on a self-guided gallery tour. Most Chelsea art joints open their doors to the public on Thursdays, and some even serve free wine.

Play shuffleboard on the banks of the canal

Gowanus, Brooklyn
OK, the palm trees are plastic. The flamingos are fake. And the canal is toxic. But the resort vibes at the Royal Palms are the real deal. Make this your dating destination for when you want outside feels after the weather stops cooperating.

Enjoy an island getaway

Departing from lower Manhattan
Break out your compass app and board the Staten Island Ferry to New York City’s westernmost borough. The free ride boasts beautiful views of the skyline and a cash bar that, while modest, gets the job done. Once you’re back on land, take a short walk to SI’s own Flagship Brewery, where you can make-believe it’s still al fresco drinking season at indoor picnic tables.

Go dancing!

Now that dancing is finally (sort of) legal in (some) NYC bars, grab your partner and shimmy, shake, cha-cha, or merengue at some of our favorite dance spots.

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