Winter in New York is a paradox: while it can be cold outside, it’s the most magical time of year to visit. Picture it: folks bundled in wool peacoats and wrap-around scarves, huddling in front of retail windows brimming with holiday lights. Post–New Year’s, many visitors leave to chase the sun, so that hard-to-get reservation at Pastis is suddenly available. And it’s not just restaurants; museums are less crowded, attractions more accessible and Broadway tickets (slightly) more affordable—especially during the confluence of winter’s Restaurant, Broadway and Must-See Weeks. Even the subways are less hectic.
Winter is when New Yorkers take back their city. And we’re inviting you—and your partner—to join us this winter to be a real New Yorker. Once you get here, you’ll need some romantic date ideas. Read on for how to plan a fabulous date night in cold-weather NYC.
The Brooklyn Date
Queer millennials know that Brooklyn is where it’s at. Start with a delicious brunch at MeMe’s Diner, an LGBTQ-owned-and-operated restaurant serving up a New American menu that’s bursting with inventiveness and color. If you prefer more options and international flair, head over to Williamsburg for the indoor iteration of the beloved Smorgasburg, a weekend tradition serving up some of the best locally sourced food in the City.
After dark, plan a visit to the House of Yes, a Bushwick-based queer performance space that’ll be throwing parties all winter long. During the holidays, you’ll find themed nights like A Very House of Yes Hanukkah (December 22), Misfit Xmas (December 24), Merry Funking Christmas (December 25) and their epic Surrealist Ball on New Year’s Eve. The rest of winter sees a lively mix of dance parties and unusual performances.
The Uptown Date
Uptown is our choice for most underrated section of Manhattan. It’s full of delicious food, culture and a lower-key LGBTQ+ scene. Head north on the 1 train for a big brunch at Harlem Food Bar, which is notable for its largely queer clientele.
After stuffing yourself, you and your date should take a healthy walk (or subway ride) a little further uptown to Hamilton Grange, the onetime home of former secretary of the treasury and current Broadway phenomenon Alexander Hamilton. You’ll get an inside look at the founding father who inspired one of the most successful musicals of all time.
Following an educational afternoon, you’ll be ready for dinner at Vinatería, a lesbian-owned Harlem haunt, helmed by out executive chef Mimi Weissenborn. The Spanish- and Italian-style food at this adorable spot on Frederick Douglass Boulevard is some of the best Mediterranean cuisine around, and Weissenborn is an inspiration to those in the LGBTQ+ culinary scene.
The East Village Date
The East Village retains vestiges of a bygone era in New York—gritty, graffitied, countercultural—and is good for those feeling a bit artsy. We suggest starting with an early dinner (say, right when it opens at 5.30pm; best to book ahead) at Prune, an essential NYC eatery where queer chef and author Gabrielle Hamilton serves up braised lamb neck stew and roasted duck in a cozy space.
After dinner, get your culture on at the New York Theatre Workshop, an Off-Broadway gem that has terrific shows throughout the winter, like the popular new musical Sing Street (from some of the same creative folks who brought Once to Broadway). Finally, cap off your night at The Standard, East Village, home to colorfully decorated No Bar. You might find a drag night, an art exhibition or a DJ spinning a set at the queer-friendly hangout—but you won’t find a cover charge.
The West Village Date
Whether you’re looking for a cute first date or a night out with your longtime partner, dinner and drinks in the West Village is always a solid choice. Start the evening with $5 happy hour drinks at Julius'—said to be the oldest gay bar in the city—before popping over to dinner at Via Carota. The kitchen here, run by partners Jody Williams and Rita Sodi, serves up some of the best nouveau Italian fare in the City.
For a creative local dessert, share something sweet from the addictive Milk Bar on Christopher Street or hang out by the unicorn-decorated window inside the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop with a tasty soft-serve cone (the Salty Pimp is a popular choice). Finish the night singing some show tunes inside Marie’s Crisis, a venerable piano bar that is open until 4am on weekends.
The Broadway Date
The Inheritance, a two-part powerhouse play, has riveted audiences this season on Broadway. Set in NYC, it’s an epic tale centered around a generation removed from the 1980s AIDS crisis. We suggest you see a Saturday (or Wednesday or Sunday) matinee of part one, and then break for an early dinner at nearby Danji, in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen. It does modern takes on traditional Korean specialties and was the first Korean restaurant in the US to receive a Michelin star. Afterward, head back to the Theatre District for part two.
Grab a post-theater nightcap (trust us, you’ll need one!) at one of the liveliest gay bars in NYC, Flaming Saddles. They’ve got country music on the jukebox and “cowboys” behind the bar serving up drinks and dancing…on top of the bar! It’ll be a fun end to an intense, cultured and rewarding day and night in the greatest city in the world.