Look out, Paris and Rome—New York City is coming to claim the City of Love title. Romantic vistas, date-friendly restaurants and rom-com-worthy activities are all on the table for a night out. Whether you think of Valentine’s Day as a Hallmark holiday or an opportune time to demonstrate your love, it’s a reasonable excuse to take yourself, friends or your partner on a winter-friendly, only-in-NYC date.
We asked staff members to play Cupid and design themed dates for Valentine’s Day (February 14) or the weekend leading up to it—or, really, for whenever the mood strikes. They also reflected on their own NYC dating experiences. Read on for romantic inspiration.
Treat your stressed-out SO to a day of relaxation.
The Date: Get centered at Aire Ancient Baths in Tribeca, with thermal baths modeled on Roman, Greek and Ottoman traditions. This urban oasis offers couples massages and other rituals on Valentine’s Day. Or try the Vessel Floats in Greenpoint: sensory deprivation tanks where you simply float and experience the joy of, well, nothing. For dinner, reserve a table at Antica Pesa, which specializes in Roman-style cuisine. (See the Roman connection? It’s a theme.) Indulge in the Valentine’s Day set menu that includes choices like oysters (you know what they say), house-made taglionini and cannoli for dessert.
My best Valentine’s Day in NYC: My friend and I went to a now-closed Italian restaurant in the East Village where the bill came out to $30 (total) for pasta and a bottle of wine.
Dating in NYC…was the subject of a great column in the fictional New York Star.
Have a (one) block party.
The Date: After exploring Prospect Park, which in winter is plenty scenic and, naturally, less crowded, head to Prospect Heights’ Vanderbilt Avenue. Bookstores, especially small, neighborhood ones, are very romantic. We’ve all seen You’ve Got Mail, right? (I haven’t, but I’m guessing you have.) Scan the shelves at Unnameable Books for great used finds; maybe you’ll spot a volume of romantic poems that you can read over drinks and dinner. Have those a few doors down at Maison Yaki, home to a heated outdoor space and plenty of shareable skewers. Finish more or less across the street at Ample Hills with a scoop of your favorite ice cream flavor (no wrong answers, but PB Wins the Cup and King of Mangoes are righter than most). So what if it’s winter? At least your treat won’t melt.
My best Valentine’s Day in NYC: Don’t recall. Though as far as regular dates go, maybe either a long night of drinks at East Houston Street’s Botanica or a double date that involved moonlight bowling at a now-defunct bowling alley in Staten Island, followed by a 2am-ish meal at the Waverly Diner.
Dating in NYC…is something that probably still happens. I mean, I’ve seen people out together.
Take a history lover to honor something else February 14 is known for.
The Date: Did you know that Frederick Douglass celebrated his birthday on February 14? He chose that for himself, and there is some historical information confirming that he was in fact born in February. In the years after his death, some cities began to celebrate the date as Douglass Day. Show your love for this abolitionist by spending some time learning about his legacy at the Frederick Douglass exhibit at New-York Historical Society and the Frederick Douglass Circle and monument. In between, stop by Amorino for amazing hot chocolate (it is Valentine’s Day, after all).
My best Valentine’s Day in NYC: exploring a number of hot chocolate bars on a cold snowy day.
Dating in New York…is not for the faint of heart.
Test the stability of a new relationship by reenacting a favorite 30 Rock episode.
The Date: Get yourself to IKEA Brooklyn (note: the dedicated ferry is on hold until spring), in Red Hook, and try to not get in a fight on the way or while there about what furniture to buy. Bonus points: make a not-so-subtle analogy comparing your partner to an ottoman and see how they react. After the inevitable battle—IKEA can bring out the worst in couples—head over to Widow Jane Distillery to drink your feelings; tours end with a tasting flight. Decide to give another chance to the person you came with and go to Baked to get a sweet treat as a peace offering. Enjoy it at home while watching 30 Rock reruns.
Feel like rom-com royalty on this dinner-and-a-movie extravaganza.
The Date: Set the mood with something suitably entertaining at the Angelika Film Center on Houston Street, one of indie cinema’s most beloved theaters. (Currently showing are such relationship-centered vehicles as Joel Coen’s Tragedy of Macbeth, Pedro Almódovar’s Parallel Mothers and Joachim Trier’s Palme d’Or–nominated The Worst Person in the World.) Afterward, take the edge off any unintended subtext with dinner at the West Village location of Sant Ambroeus, an Italian charmer known for attracting its share of cinema giants and serving a killer tonnarelli cacio e pepe. Finish the evening with a nightcap at the 18th-floor lounge atop the Meatpacking District’s Standard Hotel, whose glamorous decor and glittery views ought to make you feel like your evening was art-directed by a Hollywood veteran.
My best Valentine’s Day in NYC: It involved two dinners at the West Village's now-defunct Blue Ribbon Bakery sandwiching a Film Forum screening of Fat City, the tale of a bottomed-out boxer (Stacey Keach) and his about-to-bottom-out protégé (Jeff Bridges).** What can I say? I’m a romantic.
Dating in NYC…is inevitably memorable.
Feast on next-level Italian on Staten Island.
The Date: Grab a beer and a hot dog at the Whitehall Ferry Terminal and then board the Staten Island Ferry. Once in Staten Island, have dinner at Enoteca Maria, aka Nonnas of the World, where each night a different grandmother specializing in a particular regional cuisine is the designated cook. If you can’t get a table here, try Vinum or Pier 76 as a backup. If your date is a fan of The Sopranos, buy tickets to St. George Theatre, where In Conversation with The Sopranos brings together cast members on February 12 at 8pm. Afterward, discuss your shared love for Michael Imperioli over a nightcap at Twisted Vineyard.
—Frances “Baby” Houseman
*Any similarities between our staff members and the rom-com characters they have chosen as pseudonyms is purely coincidental.
**May not have occurred on Valentine’s Day, but probably should have.