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15 Creative Date Ideas in NYC For Any Budget

Cleopatra Boudreau

Los Angeles, CA, USA

New York: the city that never sleeps. With so much to do in one place, you’d think that picking out a date night activity would be simple. The problem is, with so many options, it can be hard to know where to start. Whether or not you plan on sleeping tonight (wink wink), there are plenty of options on how to have an incredible time. Here are 15 NYC date ideas that will help you soak up each other’s company, create an unforgettable experience, and get into a New York state of mind.

Clink drinks at Garfunkel’s scandalous speakeasy 

Garfunkel’s, New York, New York, US.

Getting drinks is always a great go-to for date night, but getting drinks at an underground speakeasy where you go through a bank vault door to get in? That’s a way to make an impression. 

Garfunkel’s is located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and the ambiance is perfect for a cozy date. Plush armchairs, vintage accents, and delicious cocktails make this spot a local favorite. The space often has that perfect “buzz” in the air, and is a great place to gossip, eventually disclose astrological information, and share birth charts. 

Share dinner in front of the big screen at Nighthawk Cinema

Nighthawk Cinema, New York, New York, US.

The classic “dinner and a movie” date combination is a classic for a reason. With two locations in Brooklyn, Nighthawk Cinema has created an experience where you get to enjoy both simultaneously. Screening a variety of contemporary and nostalgic films, there is the perfect date night opportunity for every person’s tastes. 

Enjoy their table service to the fullest and order some film-themed meals and split a sundae for the ultimate movie-going experience. They also have a boozy root beer float to remind you how fun it is to be an adult, while still keeping the child alive in your heart. 

Lust after the saxophone at Zinc Bar 

Zinc Bar, New York, New York, US.

One word: jazz. Known for its intimate atmosphere and talented live musicians, Zinc Bar is a great place to end any magical evening. Their line ups are posted ahead of time, so you can plan a special date night when your favorite kind of music is playing. Sit back, relax, and let the saxophone be your aphrodisiac. 

After you go downstairs and beyond the velvet curtain, you’ll find this family-owned spot has a “hidden gem” vibe immediately. With a reasonable cover fee and affordable cocktails, it’s a great choice for a nightcap. They even serve hot apple cider for those nights where you just want to bundle up and feel warm from the inside out. 

Tell secrets at the Pier 35 swings

Pier 35, New York, New York, US.

Normally, my favorite NYC date ideas are the sweetest and simplest. As much as I love finding a new hotspot or dancing in a crowded room, sometimes the most magical moments are the quietest. Sharing secrets while taking in a view of the East River sounds like my perfect daytime date experience. 

The Pier 35 eco-park is a newly developed area that offers views of both the Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge. With the sound of water waves accompanying you, and a very pleasant absence of tourists, you can fully enjoy the company of your date and get to know each other on a deeper level. 

Ride a Revel through the city 

Revel, New York, New York, US.

As an avid fan of The Lizzie McGuire movie, I have long fantasized about riding on the back of a Vespa through the streets of Rome. Wind blowing through my hair, hands on the waist of someone I have a major crush on – ah, bliss. With the Revel app, you can coast through the New York City streets on a Vespa without having to make the major investment of buying one.

Save you (and your date) time by downloading the app on your phone ahead of time and taking the short introductory course. The app will tell you where the closest scooter is, you take a quick snapshot, throw on your helmets, and off you go! What a way to sweep them off their feet, am I right?

Enjoy a laugh at Drunk Shakespeare

Drunk Shakespeare, New York, New York, US.

Of all of my NYC date ideas, this is the one I most recommend for theater lovers and people who need a little help loosening up. Currently being performed at The Gallery at Green Fig, Drunk Shakespeare features actors that are five shots deep in their attempts to make it through a full play by Shakespeare. 

And wonderfully, you can get buzzed right along with them. Craft cocktails are served throughout the performance. The casual vibe of the show makes a great date night since there’s opportunities to share laughs and knowing looks throughout the show. A different energy from a Broadway play where you may feel somewhat obligated to keep your eyes on the stage at all times and you wonder whether or not to go for a “hand hold” moment during the second act. 

Stroll through Prospect Park at sunset 

Prospect Park, New York, New York, US.

My lovely girlfriend lives a short ten-minute walk from Prospect Park. I’ve gone to pick her up after her soccer matches and I love to stroll through the various nooks and crannies that it has to offer. Since it’s smaller than its better-known-famous-cousin Central Park, there is a certain intimacy to the area that I appreciate. 

Add in a little extra romance by asking your date to meet you by the Grand Army Plaza and look for each other in the crowd like it’s an episode of 90-Day Fiancé. Pick up some bagels, shove your phone in your pocket, and stroll hand-in-hand with your date on the path for a casual catch up. Remember how much a little “walky walk” can bring you back to life? There’s nothing quite like some vitamin d to remind us that it’s fun being alive. 

Have an adult punch bowl at Vida Verde

Vida Verde, New York, New York, US.

Located in Midtown, Vida Verde is the perfect Mexican restaurant to share small plates and pop two straws into their sweet and bubbly punch bowl. Not only is the “adult punch” delicious, it comes fully finished with its very own mini rubber ducky (aww)! There’s nothing I hate more than being at a restaurant that feels stuffy and pretentious, and Vida Verde is anything but. 

Known for its eclectic and colorful decorations, this restaurant is a good place to connect in a breezy and fun way. Though it’s a great spot to visit year-round, the best time to go is in the spring and summer when you can enjoy their rooftop margarita market. You and your date will be kept company by some gorgeous hand-painted murals and 10 different flavors of margaritas. 

Gaze at some photography at the Fotografiska museum  

Fotografiska, New York, New York, US.

For people with a more… *ahem*… sophisticated idea of the perfect evening, Fotografiska is the perfect way to wow your date. An art museum dedicated entirely to photography, this location features special exhibitions that you can take your time absorbing with a beverage in hand. 

If your date is a photographer, or has a passion for the artistic medium, this can be a great way to show them that you care about their interests. Though tickets can be a bit more on the expensive side, many people find themselves spending hours taking in the work. It’s a great option for special occasions and is located around a plethora of amazing restaurants for an amuse-bouche (oysters anyone?). 

Pick a random play at a TKTS booth

TKTS, New York, New York, US.

Nothing screams romance more than a little spontaneity. For people looking for a Broadway (or off-Broadway) experience on a budget, the TKTS booth is a great way to find last-minute tickets for a discounted price. There are two locations in the city for you to line up at and hope you find something that tickles your fancy. 

With so many shows out there at any given time, it can be confusing trying to pick which one to see. On top of that, you may feel pressure to pick the perfect seat or showing time. Visiting these booths puts the decision in the hands of the universe and the TKTS booth gods, and gives you and your date more time to giggle and less time to argue over which play sounds more interesting. 

Satisfy your cheese cravings at Raclette 

Raclette, New York, New York, US.

The key to my heart? Cheese. Warm, gooey, melt-in-my-mouth cheese. 
After going viral, Raclette has become a hotspot for cheese lovers everywhere. Order a plethora of delicious dishes and experience the wonder of having melted cheese scraped directly off the wheel and onto your plate. Their brunch also features a variety of elevated classics, and they have delicious desserts to share. 

Raclette also has specialized cheese scrapes for every flavor. Garlic scrape, truffle scrape, smoked scrape – endless scrapes galore! As our dear friend Cady Heron once said, “The limit does not exist.”

Cruise above the East River on the NYC Ferry 

NYC Ferry, New York, New York, US.

Yes, New York City has one of the most comprehensive train systems in the world. And yes, you may want to consider taking an Uber if you’re trying to be flashy on a night out. But my ultimate favorite way to travel is taking a sweet little cruise on the NYC Ferry. 

With a variety of routes that get you where you need to go, the NYC Ferry offers a great view of the city and a pleasant and brisk ride through the East River. Tickets are cheap, and since it’s not normally very crowded, it’s the perfect chance to sit side-by-side and take in the beauty of the city together. That skyline still gets me. Every time.  

Get some fresh air at the Botanical Garden 

The Botanical Garden, New York, New York, US.

Your NYC date ideas don’t have to be over-the-top to be memorable. The Botanical Garden is a relaxing place to unwind, BYOP (Bring Your Own Picnic), and enjoy some greenspace within the hustle and bustle of urban living. 

In a city like New York, finding an oasis that’s mellow and makes you want to run through the grass like a five year old is a magical experience. And maybe, just maybe, running through that grass will be all you need to realize that your date is the love of your life. Or maybe it will make you realize how out of shape you are after a year of Netflix binges (not like I’m speaking from personal experience or anything). 

Take Instagram pictures at Color Factory 

Color Factory, New York, New York, US.

Want to boost your chances of being hard-launched on your date’s Instagram account? Look no further. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve heard, or seen photos of, the Color Factory art museum (aka every influencer’s dream). Interactive in nature and designed to be photographed, this spot is great for a playful and immersive experience. 

Snuggle up on a ferris wheel ride at Luna Park 

Luna Park in Coney Island, New York, New York, US.

One truly romantic way to see a beautiful view, and add a little thrill to your date, is to ride the Luna Park ferris wheel on Coney Island. Once you’ve confirmed with your date that they aren’t afraid of heights (panic and puke aren’t fun additions to date night), buy some tickets for the Wonder Wheel

Make sure of opening times before trekking over to this area. I have been a victim of holiday closures not once, but twice when it comes to Luna Park. Get there with enough time to win your date a teddy bear at the arcade games, walk along the boardwalk, and share some cotton candy.