- 7 NYC date ideas that are free (or almost)
- 1. Ride the Staten Island Ferry
- 2. Cross a bridge
- 3. Walk the High Line
- 4. Go gallery hopping
- 5. Explore a museum
- 6. Split a sandwich at Katz’s Deli
- 7. Grab a hot dog
- More money-saving insights
- NYC’s Best Date Ideas That Aren’t Just Dinner and a Movie
- 10 unusual date ideas in NYC for under
- 1. Kayaking on the Hudson — Reade Street Pub and Kitchen — Nish Nūsh
- 2. Roosevelt Island Smallpox Hospital — LIC Market
- 3. Bushwick Collective Street Art — Tortilleria Mexicana Los Hermanos
- 4. The Cloisters — Fort Tyron Park — Patacon Pisao
- 5. Green-Wood Cemetery — East Wind Snack Shop
- 6. Sunshine Laundry – Đi ăn Đi
- 7. Magnet Theater — Larb Urbol
- 8. Elsewhere — Strange Flavor
- 9. Syndicated
- 10. Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club — Baba’s Pierogies
7 NYC date ideas that are free (or almost)
As expensive as New York is — but Mom, I split that rent with five roommates! — it’s also full of cheap, fun date activities. Here are seven of our favorites.
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1. Ride the Staten Island Ferry
This ferry trip is about as cheap and easy to plan as a date can get.
Board at Whitehall Terminal in Manhattan, where free ferries depart for Staten Island about every 30 minutes, depending on the day and time. Then enjoy the 25-minute ride, which treats you and your date to a close-up of the Statue of Liberty. “It’s very romantic,” says Rebecca Fishbein, born-and-raised New Yorker and editor at Gothamist.
You’ll find more date opportunities at St. George Terminal in Staten Island, including the National Lighthouse Museum ($7 admission), a brewery and restaurants.
Hop back on the ferry to take in gorgeous views of Manhattan. If the date has petered out by then, at least you’ve come away with some impressive Instagram posts.
2. Cross a bridge
Make a date of strolling across the Brooklyn Bridge or the Williamsburg Bridge, Fishbein says. The walk across the Brooklyn Bridge is just more than a mile long and offers views of Lower Manhattan on one side and the Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn on the other. The bridge itself is iconic, as well as a National Historic Landmark, designated by the National Park Service.
The walk across the Brooklyn Bridge is just more than a mile long and offers views of Lower Manhattan and the Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn.
As popular as the Brooklyn Bridge is, Fishbein prefers the Williamsburg Bridge, which connects its namesake Brooklyn neighborhood to the Lower East Side in Manhattan. Its views aren’t quite on par with those of the Brooklyn Bridge, she says, but you’ll encounter fewer tourists. The beauty of both bridges? They’re free to walk.
3. Walk the High Line
This elevated park on the West Side of Manhattan also has interesting city views, says John McDonagh, a New York City taxi driver of 35 years and creator of the one-man play “Yo, Taxi!” The High Line was built atop a converted railroad line and is free for you and a date to enjoy.
4. Go gallery hopping
On Thursday nights, many art galleries in Chelsea offer free admission and, in some cases, free wine, Fishbein says. Without spending a dime, “you can seem very cool and cultural,” she adds.
5. Explore a museum
Several New York museums waive admission on certain nights, too. The Museum of Modern Art is free every Friday evening, and the Frick Collection is free on the first Friday of most months. Across the river, the Brooklyn Museum has free admission on the first Saturday evenings of most months. See this guide for more information on free or donation-based museum experiences.
6. Split a sandwich at Katz’s Deli
McDonagh dubs this spot “the last Jewish deli from the old days.” The family joint on the Lower East Side has been in business since 1888, and while it has attracted plenty of fans in that time, it remains “old school,” McDonagh says. “It might be touristy, but they don’t cater to the tourists,” he adds.
McDonagh suggests splitting a pastrami-on-rye sandwich, which will set you back about $21 but is enough to “feed a family of four.” And what’s more romantic than sharing some smoked meat? Call ahead to request the table where Meg Ryan faked a really, really good time in “When Harry Met Sally.” (This scene could be a bold conversation starter with your date.)
7. Grab a hot dog
Rudy’s Bar & Grill is a “cheap, fun date,” Fishbein says. The Hell’s Kitchen dive sells beers ranging from $3 to $6, as well as a $5 shot-and-a-beer “stimulus package.”
Rudy’s also offers a free hot dog with every drink purchase — perfect for pacing yourself.
More money-saving insights
Jumping on a free ferry rather than shelling out for dinner and drinks could easily save you $50, if not more. Feels good, right?
Keep it up. Try other ways of saving money, so you afford a pricier date now and then — or rent. Use coupons and loyalty programs to cut costs on groceries. Negotiate bills or change your plan to save on your cable, internet, cell phone, utilities and even student loans.
Perhaps the easiest way to save — aside from earning a free hot dog — is using an app that automates your savings, so you don’t even have to think about it. Here’s everything you should know about these saving strategies.
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 | Boris-B/Shutterstock
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.
“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 the only thing to do. Break up the monotony and get your blood moving at the best bars with in-house activities in town.
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-d tweets aloud Al Gore intended when he invented the internet at some of the most forgiving venues in town.
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 | Courtesy of the International Culinary Center
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.
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.
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 | Heather Moore
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 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.
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.
… 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.
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.
Courtesy of SoFar Sounds
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 | Cole Saladino/Thrillist
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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10 unusual date ideas in NYC for under $50
Let’s face it. New Yorkers are spoiled. We have endless things to eat and places to see, as well as the option to have a unique adventure at any time of day right at our fingertips.
With so many choices, don’t let your dates be the same rinse and repeat of grabbing drinks or going out to eat. Do that and you’ll be swiping right for a while. That ends now. Here are 10 unique outings on the cheap to spice up your next Tinder date.
1. Kayaking on the Hudson — Reade Street Pub and Kitchen — Nish Nūsh
From late May to October, the Downtown Boathouse at Pier 26 offers free, walk-up, 20-minute kayaking sessions on the Hudson River.
It’s open weekends from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM and Tuesday through Thursday from 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM. All you have to do is show up and sign a waiver, and you’re good to go.
Volunteers provide newcomers with brief kayaking instructions, and there are on-site lockers and changing rooms.
After you’ve worked up a sweat, walk down to Tribeca and grab an $11 pitcher of the house ale at Reade Street Pub and Kitchen, a dive bar with a solid beer menu.
If the date is going well, carry on with dinner at Nish Nūsh, a vegan Mediterranean restaurant serving up tasty hummus in a fast-casual setting.
Order the falafel trio ($13), which includes roasted pepper, greens, and spinach and mushroom falafels served with hummus and an Israeli salad.
2. Roosevelt Island Smallpox Hospital — LIC Market
For the cost of a subway ride, take the Roosevelt Island Tram at 59th and Second Avenue for sweeping views of the city and the East River. Once you’re there, head to the southern tip of the island and take a peek into the Smallpox Hospital.
Originally built in 1854, the site served as one of the first US hospitals for smallpox victims, as well as a prominent nursing school. It was designed by James Renwick Jr. who also designed Manhattan’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.
, and the Lighthouse on Roosevelt Island.
Although the building is now only viewable through a metal fence, it’s worth seeing. Designed in classic Gothic-Revival-style architecture, it has a hipped roof leading to an oriel window and ivy crawling up the structure’s granite-veneer facade.
After taking in this classic New York City landmark, take the F Train one stop to the 21st Street-Queensbridge station for lunch at LIC Market. Get the duck hash, burger, or sausage and onions sandwich (all under $20), and you won’t be disappointed.
There’s also a great weekend happy hour from 4:00 to 6:00 PM with $5 beers, $7 sparkling wines, and a discounted bar menu.
3. Bushwick Collective Street Art — Tortilleria Mexicana Los Hermanos
The Bushwick Collective was founded in 2012 by Joseph Ficalora, a businessman and local celebrity whose late parents inspired him to beautify the streets of Brooklyn with vibrant street art. Artists from around the world Damien Mitchell, Case Maclaim, and Dasic Fernandez create temporary murals that grace the walls for less than a year.
Most of the murals are completed at the annual Bushwick Collective Block Party in June. Start by taking the L to Jefferson Street and wandering down Troutman Street, Starr Street, and St. Nicholas Avenue.
Brooklyn Unplugged Tours has an online walking guide. Finish your journey with a trip to Tortilleria Mexicana Los Hermanos, a tortilla factory where $20 buys you five tacos and a couple of Mexican sodas.
4. The Cloisters — Fort Tyron Park — Patacon Pisao
Photo: Manuel Hurtado/Shutterstock
What better way is there to get the conversation flowing than with a garden stroll and some medieval art? Gifted to the City of New York by John D.
Rockefeller and designed by the Olmsted Brothers, Fort Tyron Park covers 67 acres in upper Manhattan and includes the city’s largest garden, with over 500 varieties of plants and eight miles of pathways.
Once you’ve had your fill of meandering, skip the crowds at Museum Row and opt for the Cloisters Museum located in the northern end of the park.
The Cloisters Museum features over 2,000 pieces of art, architecture, and gardens from medieval Europe. Admission is $25, but NY residents — as well as students from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut — are asked to pay whatever feels right.
(This is also true for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Met Bruer.) If you’re looking for a quick bite to hold you over, Patacon Pisao has you covered.
Beginning as a food truck, the Venezuelan spot serves up patacones (plantain sandwiches), cachapas (sweet corn crepes), and arepas (cornmeal patties stuffed with meat or cheese) for around $6.
5. Green-Wood Cemetery — East Wind Snack Shop
Walk through 478 acres of hills, glacial ponds, and paths through a massive collection of 19th- and 20th-century statues and mausoleums.
Green-Wood Cemetery houses 175 years of history, including permanent residents such as Civil War generals, baseball legends, politicians, artists, entertainers, and inventors.
Additionally, Green-Wood Cemetery is the site where the Battle of Long Island was fought during the Revolutionary War in 1776.
Make sure to check out the free walking-tour app, Green-Wood Discover, which includes maps, commentary by author Pete Hamill, recent photographs, poems, and dramatic readings.
Once you’ve finished your tour of the historic landmark, head down to East Wind Snack Shop, inspired by old Chinatown tea houses. Everything here is cooked from scratch with locally sourced ingredients.
Order either the vegetable or pork dumplings ($7), dry-aged beef potstickers ($7), pork belly ($7), sweet chili ribs ($14), and a side of vegetables ($12).
6. Sunshine Laundry – Đi ăn Đi
Although doing your laundry together isn’t a traditional first date, don’t let outward appearances fool you: Sunshine Laundry is more than just a laundromat.
Nestled between washers and dryers are old school pinball machines, including the Addams Family, AC/DC, and Big Bang Bar.
The real kicker is the hidden beer bar behind the dryer-machine door in the back of the laundromat, which features rotating taps of Other Half Brewing and Barrier Brewing.
If you’re hungry after all the pinball playing and beer drinking, check out Đi ăn Đi, a Vietnamese restaurant specializing in Ho Chi Minh City-style pho. Expect to see add-ons extra sauces, kinds of vinegar, herbs, chilis, and various beef cuts. Less than $15 gets you a bowl, with the brisket and beef cartilage being two standout choices.
7. Magnet Theater — Larb Urbol
You can vet your date by seeing his or her sense of humor in action. Magnet Theater is an improv theater featuring multiple shows throughout the week for under $10 a ticket.
One of the best is Trike, which goes on every Saturday night at 9:00 PM.
The New York Times named it one of the best improv performances in the city, in which Nick Kanellis and Peter McNerney take a topic suggestion from the audience and perform an hour-long unscripted show based upon it.
Once you’ve had some laughs, chow down on some authentic Isan Thai food at Larb Urbol. Get your hands on the som tum salad, pad ped moo krob (pork and eggplant stir fry), and crispy pork larb for under $15 a piece.
8. Elsewhere — Strange Flavor
If you’re going on a date where you’ll want options of things to do — if all goes well, of course — Elsewhere in Brooklyn is the spot.
Elsewhere is a multi-floor space with a nightclub, music venue, rooftop, and coffee shop in one.
Whether it’s taking in the view of the skyline with a frozen drink on the roof or catching a live show from an up-and-coming artist, Elsewhere has something for everyone.
Tickets for all events run from $10-$25. For a quick bite to eat, stop by Strange Flavor, a burger joint with a Sichuan flair. Order the Pop’s Burger ($11) with a side of animal-style fries ($7) and grab a drink from the ‘70s-style retro bar in the back of the restaurant.
Dinner and a movie is a classic date, but Brooklyn’s Syndicated puts a new-wave spin on it. The movie theater plays two to three movies a night ($4 for classics, $7 for reruns).
Food and drinks are served right to your seat, and the menu is curated film showing.
A sample of the current menu includes familiar favorites the fish tacos ($11) and chicken sandwich ($12), along with new additions the lentil-walnut burger ($12) and beer-battered cauliflower ($10).
10. Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club — Baba’s Pierogies
Tropical drinks, live DJs, and a competitive game of shuffleboard — what better way to ease the awkwardness of your date? During floor shuffleboard, each player uses cues to slide weighted discs down a court with the goal of having the discs land within a marked scoring area. Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club charges $40 per hour for a court rental.
When you’re done, head over to Baba’s Pierogies where these Eastern European dumplings are made by hand from an old-school recipe. Choose between fillings (among them sauerkraut and bacon-cheddar), preparation (boiled or pan-fried), and toppings/dips (such as sauteed mushrooms or caramelized onions). For under $10 for a small order, your bellies will thank you.
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