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Love is always in the air in New York State! Whether you’re deciding where to take your Valentine, planning a memorable first date, or celebrating a monumental anniversary, surprise your partner with a unique date without breaking the bank. From museum date nights to igloo dining under the stars to tasty food tours, plan your next date in the Empire State.
Call ahead and check websites and social media to make sure attractions and amenities are open and available. Masks are encouraged, but optional in most settings per New York State guidelines. Individual businesses or attractions may require mask wearing.
Make Museum Memories
From art lovers to history buffs to comedy enthusiasts, New York has a museum that’s sure to impress your partner without worrying your wallet. If you love Lucy and your partner, take them to Lucy Desi Museum ($18-$23) in Lucy’s hometown of Jamestown, and learn about Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, the “first couple of comedy.” Take a stroll through the renowned Metropolitan Museum of Art, offering Pay What You Wish nights for New York residents and NY, NJ, and CT students. Every Friday and Saturday, they also offer date nights included in regular admission ($17-$30) that includes live music, drinks, special programming, and 5,000 years of art. Take your partner on a museum crawl through the state’s capital. The New York State Museum (free) explores the cultural and natural history of New York State, the Albany Institute of History & Art ($10 admission) is the state’s oldest museum, and the USS Slater DE766 (open April - November, tours start at $6) is the only World War II-era destroyer escort still afloat. For couples who are young at heart, plan a date night at the Strong Museum of Play ($23/person), housing the National Toy Hall of Fame. Get half off admission on Friday evenings or stop by for the Strong’s adult-only Happiest Hour ($22/person).
Learn something new together
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What’s more romantic than learning a new hobby alongside your love? Make your own candle ($35) or fire starter ($30) at one of Pure Placid’s DIY classes in Lake Placid and Skaneateles. The Corning Museum of Glass is home to the world’s largest collection of glass objects and offers a variety of classes to make your own creations including sandblasting, flameworking, fusing, and hot glass working (classes start at $15 per person). Looking to take dinner and drinks to the next level? NY Kitchen in Canandaigua holds cooking classes (and virtual options) that start around $35 per person.
Take a Scenic Stroll in the Park
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You can’t go wrong when planning a date to one of New York’s stunning parks. Stroll hand-in-hand through Central Park (pictured, free), beautiful during any season of the year. If you’re looking to really impress your date, book a walking tour ($25/person), taking you through Central Park’s iconic landmarks and must-see landscapes. Walk through history at the Saratoga National Historic Park (free), where two monumental Revolutionary War battles were fought. Visit the Saratoga monument, journey down hiking trails, tour the Philip Schuyler Country Estate, and more. In Watertown, Thompson Park offers stunning views of the city from atop a hill as well as walking trails and picnic areas.
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Surprise your date with some seriously stunning views on scenic bridges throughout the state. The Walkway Over the Hudson (free) is the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world spanning 1.26 miles and 212 feet above the dazzling Hudson River with bird’s eye views of the surrounding area. Hold hands as you cross the Brooklyn Bridge (pictured, free) with dazzling vistas of the city skyline. Discover the enchanting charm of New York’s covered bridges on a stroll across the oldest in the country, the Hyde Hall Covered Bridge at Glimmerglass State Park ($7/vehicle, collected May-Labor Day) or the Thomas Kelly Covered Bridge found in Allegany State Park ($7/vehicle, collected May-October).
Hike Mountains Together
Whether you and your date share a love for the outdoors or just want to spend some time outside, plan a day to explore New York wilderness. The Appalachian Trail spans 35 miles offering scenic views of the Hudson Valley. John Boyd Thacher State Park (pictured, $6/vehicle, collected May-October) found along the Helderberg Escarpment, offers unrivaled views of the Hudson-Mohawk Valleys and the Adirondack Mountains with a variety of trail difficulties. The “Grand Canyon of the East,” Letchworth State Park ($10/vehicle, collected May-October) showcases three powerful waterfalls and offers 66 miles of scenic trails for a memorable hike.
Explore a Botanic Garden
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Don’t just bring your date flowers, bring your date to the flowers at botanic gardens boasting vibrant horticultural treasures year-round. The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Garden ($16.50 admission) is home to beautiful indoor and outdoor garden displays and seasonal events throughout the year like Love Week (February 9-18) featuring Valentine’s Day-themed programs to surprise your partner. The Queens Botanical Garden ($6/adult, April-December 15) has nearly 40 acres of dreamy garden displays and offers free admission from December 16 through March, Wednesdays 3pm-6pm, and Sundays 9am-11am. Plan a date to the Cornell Botanic Gardens (pictured) where you can explore 25-acres of breathtaking gardens and the 150-acre F.R. Newman Arboretum for free.
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Spend time sampling craft beverages at wineries and breweries throughout the state. At the Thousand Islands Winery, split a tasting where you’ll get to sample two wines for free, four for $5, or six for $7 alongside live music and amazing views of the largest farm winery in Northern New York. Keuka Spring Vineyards offers a six-wine tasting for $10 and overlooks dazzling Keuka Lake. Indulge in the fun apres-ski atmosphere of Ellicottville Brewing Company where you can sample six 4oz brews for $15.50. In Lake George, the Adirondack Winery offers a $15 wine tasting that includes seven award-winning varieties and an Adirondack Winery branded wine glass. Plus there’s live music, open mic nights, bingo, and Rom Com Trivia night on February 15.
Follow a Unique Food Tour
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Looking to try some unique New York cuisine? Take your date on a delicious food trail. In Corning’s Gaffer District follow the Chocolate Trail, where you’ll get to sample all things chocolate from chocolate martinis to chocolate soda ice cream sundaes to classic hand-crafted chocolate treats. Discover the best places for a Buffalo wing along the Buffalo Wing Trail, where you can sample all kinds of wings in its birthplace. Journey through the Hudson Valley’s scenic apple orchards on the Warwick Valley Apple Trail and delight in cider donuts, homemade pies and baked goods, and apples, of course.
Wander Down Charming Main Streets
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Unique architecture, streets lined with locally-owned businesses, and ornate window displays make for a romantic stroll down a New York main street. Explore Saranac Lake’s historic downtown (pictured), where you’ll find Adirondack shops, art galleries, restaurants, and coffee shops. In Northport, discover boutiques, gift shops, restaurants, and art galleries along the waterfront. Saratoga Springs’ main street, Broadway, has been named one of the country’s best by USA Today with unique shops, celebrated restaurants, and delightful coffee spots.
Visit the awe-inspiring Niagara Falls this winter and take a unique night time adventure through the park. At this Valentine’s Day event, you and your partner can make your own glowing lanterns and walk through the park after dark all for free. The night is sure to be one to remember when the falls are lit with an array of vibrant colors.
Go Ice Skating
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Ice skating always makes for a fun and playful date that won’t break the bank. In Albany, the Empire State Plaza Ice Rink offers free public skating from the heart of New York’s Capital city and rentals are only $5 (and free on Saturdays). Syracuse’s Clinton Square Ice Rink is one of the city’s most popular activities and sees more than 20,000 skaters each season ($5 admission, $5 rental). Clinton Square also offers a lunch time skate Monday-Thursday, 11am-1:30pm, where admission includes a skate rental for just $6. Skate alongside beautiful mountain views at Bear Mountain Ice Rink where admission is just $5 and skate rentals are $10.
Experience Winter Magic at Festivals, Carnivals, and Light Shows
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Gaze up at giant ice sculptures, bask in the glow of twinkling lights, and experience the magic of winter at affordable seasonal festivals. The Lake George Winter Carnival (free) has been a village staple since 1961 and takes place weekends throughout February with a polar plunge, cook-offs, helicopter rides, fireworks displays, and more. Also explore mesmerizing trails, awe-inspiring ice sculptures, whimsical fairies, and more nestled in the magical forest of the Lake George Winter Realms ($20/person). At the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, wander through Wild Lights (pictured), where the 115-acre campus is decorated in an enchanting display of lights alongside a magical soundtrack ($10/adult, Fridays and Saturdays through February 15 and nightly February 16-24). The annual Saranac Lake Winter Carnival (free, February 2-11, 2024) is guaranteed to be a memorable date with a magical ice castle, fireworks, and all kinds of exciting activities taking place each February.
Plan a Cross-Country Skiing or Snowshoeing Adventure
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The best way to experience New York’s wonderful wintry landscapes is on a cross-country ski or snowshoe adventure. The Catskill Scenic Trail (free) has 26 miles of flat trails perfect for beginners or experienced adventurers looking for stunning sights. At the Thousand Islands’ Wellesley Island State Park (free), journey along the shoreline for beautiful views of the St. Lawrence River. For diverse and sprawling landscapes explore Allegany State Park (pictured, free) along miles of scenic trails. For a unique twist, try out the groomed trails at Stone Quarry Art Park that weave through magnificent outdoor sculptures.
Enjoy Dinner Under the Stars
Dine outdoors without braving the cold from a heated igloo without spending a fortune. At The Barrel at Blue Water Manor in Bolton Landing, sip on a delicious cocktail or enjoy a hearty burger from the comfort of your own personal heated igloo ($20 reservation fee) looking out at beautiful mountain landscapes. Make a reservation at Billy and Pete’s Social in Larchmont for a memorable evening with Detroit-style pizza, cocktails, and mini donuts for dessert all from your heated igloo.
Relive a Retro Night Out at the Drive-In
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Whether you prefer rom-coms or action packed thrillers, a night at the drive-in is sure to be an unforgettable evening. Spend a summer night under the stars in front of the big screen at the Overlook Drive In ($12/person) in Poughkeepsie, open since 1955. They also offer discounted double features on Mondays for $8. In Alexandria Bay, Bay Drive In ($7/person, $5/active military/seniors) is a must-visit with two screens for fully digital double features and a ‘50s-style cafe. Ballston Spa’s Malta Drive-In ($11/person) was built in 1949 and still has all the old school charm with flashing neon signs and classic showtime snacks. No car, no problem! Brooklyn Skyline Cinema offers a movie with a spectacular view of the Manhattan skyline and visitors are invited to walk, bike, or drive in.
Spring into Love at Flower Festivals, Gardens, and Flower Farms
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Watch your love blossom among thousands of vivid and vibrant experiences throughout the state. Stroll through rows of thousands of tulips at the Albany Tulip Festival (free) taking place Mother’s Day weekend. Inhale the sweet aroma of fresh lilacs May 10-19 at the Rochester Lilac Festival (free) and admire the park’s 1,800 bushes and 500 lilac varieties, the largest collection of its kind in North America. For picture-perfect cherry blossoms head to the Chinese Scholar Garden ($5) found at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Gardens on Staten Island, one of only two built in the United States. Stroll through 10 acres of bright, beautiful sunflowers and have your partner pick their own bouquet at Wickham Farms in Penfield ($15/sleeve).
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Pick out your own colorful ball and encourage some friendly competition with a game of mini-golf. In Lake George, putt your way around world famous landmarks at Around the World Miniature Golf where you can play a round for $10.25/person. Afterward, grab ice cream at The Pink Roof. Midway State Park in Bemus Point is one of the oldest continually operating amusement parks in the nation. Play a game of mini-golf for just $5/person and be sure to take a spin on some of the rides before you go.
Cheer on a Minor League Baseball Team
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If you and your date share a love for sports, root for the home team at a minor league baseball game. From the Rochester Red Wings to the Hudson Valley Renegades to the Brooklyn Cyclones, you’re bound to have a grand old time. Tickets for minor league games usually start around $5 per person.
Enjoy the Theater Outdoors
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Nothing is more romantic than enjoying a Shakespearean production on a warm summer night alongside your date. Pack a picnic and lounge on the lawn of Delaware Park in Buffalo for their two free summer productions of Measure For Measure and Romeo and Juliet. Enjoy free musicals and plays five nights a week from the grass-covered stands of Park Playhouse in Washington Park. This summer’s lineup includes Spring Awakening, Legally Blonde, The Marvelous Wonderettes, Grace for President, and Finding Nemo.
Set Sail on a Sightseeing Cruises
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Add some excitement to your next date with a cruise showcasing historic landmarks, beautiful sights, and scenic views. For $24/person, float around the “Queen of American Lakes” with Lake George Steamboat Company and take in the stunning sights on a sightseeing tour. Feel the warm summer breeze on your face as you explore Chautauqua Lake aboard the Chautauqua Belle for a historical tour of the area ($35/person). Cruise down the St. Lawrence River and through more than 1000 scenic islands, Millionaires Row, and an elegant Rhineland-style castle with Uncle Sam Boat Tours’ aboard the 2 Nations Tour ($29.75/person).
Plan a Romantic Picnic with a View
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Looking for an easy and thoughtful date that’s sure to impress your partner? Pack a basket filled with delicious local treats and pick a scenic spot to enjoy a summertime picnic. Have a seat alongside the Hudson River at the historic Saugerties Lighthouse (pictured). Afterward, take a half-hour tour of the lighthouse interior ($5 donation recommended). Layout a blanket or settle into the Adirondack chairs on the Great Lawn at Buffalo’s Canalside along the water. Pack your own snacks or grab a bite to-go from one of the restaurants along the boardwalk like Clinton’s Dish. Go for a hike around the two vibrant glacial lakes at Green Lakes State Park ($10/vehicle) and afterward, enjoy the view with your partner from the picnic area.
Explore Outdoor Sculpture Parks
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Get the best of both worlds and bask in the warmth of the sunshine while you admire renowned art all at an affordable price. In East Otto, discover breathtaking art at Griffis Sculpture Park (pictured), the largest of its kind in North America with 450 acres of more than 250 large-scale sculptures for just $5/person. For $11/person, take your partner on a journey through the six-acre environmental bluestone sculpture, Opus 40 which was built from an abandoned quarry by one man using only hand tools. In the hills of the Hudson Valley you can trek the 120-acre Art Omi arts center for free! This sculpture and architecture park features 60 large installations on the landscape, with pieces added or exchanged each year.
Sway to Free Live Music
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From hip-hop to indie-rock to pop, fall in love alongside a free live soundtrack. Bop to a diverse lineup of big names and up-and-coming acts at Albany’s annual free concert series Alive at Five (Thursdays, June 6 - August 1). For classical music lovers, the New York Philharmonic puts on a free Memorial Day concert each year (May 27). Looking for festival vibes? The Canandaigua Music and Arts Festival (July 19-21) showcases three days of live local music from Bluegrass to Rock & Roll to Jazz alongside more than 150 juried artists. Jam out at New York City’s favorite free summer music series, Summerstage (June-October), featuring 80+ free and benefit performances throughout all five boroughs.
Fall for Fall Festivals
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Your partner is sure to fall for you amidst the lively atmosphere of a New York fall festival. Celebrate all things apples at Ithaca’s Apple Harvest Festival (free) with fresh apples, baked goods, and a variety of food vendors. Bask in the glow of thousands of glowing jack o’lanterns at the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze ($19-$47) in Croton-on-Hudson and Old Bethpage. On Long Island, sample a plethora of oyster varieties and fresh seafood from local vendors at the Long Island Oyster Fest (free admission). If your date is a garlic-lover, the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival ($10/person) is the place to take them out (breath mints are recommended). In New York City, head to Pier 15 for a free, month and a half long OktoberFest celebration complete with authentic German beer, brats, and giant pretzels (advanced registration is required).
Visit Romantic Fall Farms
Romance is always in the air at New York’s picturesque fall farms. Take the apple of your eye apple picking through sprawling aromatic orchards. At Indian Ladder Farms (pictured) in Altamont, go apple picking, sip hard cider made on site, indulge in delicious baked goods, and more all season long. Bring your pumpkin to the pumpkin patch and spend time hunting for the season’s best. At Harbes Family Farm in Mattituck, search the eight-acre pumpkin patch for the perfect pick, and afterward, visit the farm animals, run through the corn maze, sample local wine, take a hayride, and more.
Take the Scenic Route
Hop in the car and bring your date on a lovely road trip through the state’s scenic countryside white it’s decorated in fall foliage. The High Peaks Scenic Byway brings you through the spectacular Adirondack High Peaks, river valleys, and the area’s lush forests. Follow along wonderful waterside views of the St. Lawrence and Niagara Rivers, Lake Ontario, and Lake Erie on the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, one of the first roads in America to be designated as a National Scenic Byway. New York Route 97, the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway, is one of the most scenic highways in the East, running parallel to the Delaware River and through magnificent foliage views.
Find Romance on the Rails
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Gaze out the window alongside your love as the enchanting beauty of an autumn train ride passes you by. All aboard the Catskill Mountain Railroad for the fall foliage train ride ($17/person) that departs from Kingston, taking you through winding river valleys and mountain vistas. The Arcade & Attica Railroad also offers a beautiful fall foliage ride ($24/person) through the Greater Niagara countryside. The Adirondack Railroad’s Big Moose Explorer ($19/person) makes a round trip from Old Forge to Big Moose, passing through forests and over rivers and streams.