5 Under-the-Radar Date Ideas in NYC

There is no shortage of romantic date spots in New York City. From the top of the Empire State Building to champagne at Brooklyn’s River Café, couples in NYC have their pick of iconic, Instagrammable vistas and venues. That is, of course, if you and your SO like those sort of dramatic expressions of love and all that. But, if you’re looking for something more low-key, casual and affordable (hey, it’s not a bad thing!), check out this list from a native New Yorker who moonlights as a Don Juan on the DL.

under the radar dates nyc

Brooklyn Bridge Park. (Source: Gigi NYC via Flickr Creative Commons)

From Brooklyn Bridge Park to Dumbo

The Brooklyn Heights Promenade is always memorable, evidenced by the fact that half of the married couples in the city get their wedding photos taken there. Start here for the traditional (and sometimes crowded) romantic vista and then mix it up by heading over the Squibb Bridge to Pier 1. The Squibb Bridge was built to be flexible, so hold your partner extra close as you feel the vibrations of the BQE rattle below you. Pier 1 offers plenty of short trails along the water or through private, pressing forests of sumac and willow. Don’t skip out on Jane’s Carousel, where $4 gets a couple a ride on a beautifully carved chariot. Finish up the perfect day with some pizza and wine for two at Juliana’s and then enjoy a decadent hot chocolate at Jacques Torres on Water Street.

From Central Park West to American Museum of Natural History

under the radar dates nyc
Hayden Planetarium via AMNH

The Loeb Boathouse in Central Park has all the essential elements of a romantic postcard. During the spring, summer and fall months, visitors enjoy the swaying trees reflected on the lake as couples paddle aimlessly about in rowboats — all accentuated by a scenic footbridge to complete the vista. This pastoral landscape will put anyone in the mood.  Enjoy a glass of wine at the Express Café and then head west towards the 79th Street Transverse, hand in hand with your significant other. The Hayden Planetarium is your next stop with tickets starting at $22. Stargazing in NYC isn’t the norm but at the planetarium, you can lean far back and see the whole universe from a plush chair. Restaurants are easy to come by on the Upper West Side but if you want a destination, try Han Dynasty on 85th Street, where you can get a high-quality Chinese food in an unpretentious setting.

From the Cloisters to Fort Tryon Park

under the radar dates nyc

The Cloisters. (Source: Patrick Standish via Flickr Creative Commons)

You and your boo can take the A train to 190th Street and visit Fort Tryon Park for a peaceful stroll. This park is known for impressive river views and playing host to Heather Garden. While it’s open year-round, the garden is especially enjoyable in the spring, summer and fall months when visitors can stroll about the unrestricted area and observe the birds and the bees among the more than 500 species of curated plants. Wander up north a few blocks to The Cloisters, the most authentic museum/medieval experience in the city. What can I say, walking through a castle, past suits of armor,  just does it for some people. Take the same route back out and get a healthy, delicious dinner at the New Leaf Restaurant and Bar, housed in an old parks department building in the middle of Fort Tryon Park.

Pro Tip: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and all of its related buildings (including the Cloisters) have a suggested admission price of $25. If you’ve got the money it goes to the arts, which is great, but if you are low on cash any amount will get you in.

Green-Wood Cemetery to Pop Tarts

under the radar dates nyc

View of NYC from Green-Wood Cemetery. (Source: Marcela via Flickr Creative Commons)

A cemetery might seem like a bizarre choice for a date but Green-Wood isn’t just any cemetery. The resting place of passionate artists and celebrities like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Leonard Bernstein is a National Historic Landmark. Come in at the main entrance on 5th Avenue in South Slope, and start huffing and puffing up the first path you see. Before you know it you will be at the top of Battle Hill, the highest point in Brooklyn, staring down at the Statue of Liberty, Buttermilk Channel, and a whole lot of Brooklyn. You and your better half can take a seat on the memorial and cuddle (respectfully.) Continue your walk by heading back downhill to one of the serene lakes dotted with benches or find a private space underneath the massive crown of a weeping beech tree. By closing time, you will be hungry so head to 5th Avenue where you’ll find a wide selection of casual bars and restaurants. A homemade pop tart from Baked in Brooklyn, just across the street from Greenwood, is always a good place to start.

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Rock Climbing to Sunset Views in Long Island City

under the radar dates nuc

Gantry State Park. (Source: Gigi NYC via Flickr Creative Commons)

Rock climbing is a great combination of exercise and thrill that makes for an awesome, if atypical, date in NYC. Nothing like a little physical exertion and risk-taking to get the blood pumping. If you think you and your date are up for it, head to Long Island City where you’ll find  The Cliffs at LIC. It’s a local rock climbing gym that does a great job of accommodating all levels of experience. Here, you’ll get just a little sweaty testing your ability on the boulder walls and face your fears in safety climbing the high walls. When you leave, pumped full of endorphins, head down to Gantry Plaza State Park to take in the Manhattan skyline. If you time it right you can watch the sun set behind the wall of skyscrapers and practice your hand-holding technique. Another 5-minute walk will take you to The Standing Room where live entertainment, good food, and great cocktails spell out date night. In NYC, love is always in the air.