Gritty, congested, and loud -- these are all words that accurately describe New York City. And here's another one: romantic. Yes, it's one of those eternal contradictions that the Big Apple is both the place that gave us "pizza rat" and "An Affair to Remember." And despite the city's grit, countless classic Hollywood movies have set their will-they-or-won't-they romances around New York's iconic landmarks -- proof that these spaces can cast a spell over the most hardened heart. If you're coming to the city for a couple's getaway, consider our list of the 10 all-time most romantic places to go in New York.
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1. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.
“Sex and the City” got several things right about New York: the city’s obsession with brunch, the trauma of apartment hunting, and the undeniable romance of the Brooklyn Bridge. The latter served as the “happy ending” site for Miranda and Steve’s rocky relationship in the 2008 movie. And it also serves as a spot for zillions of engagement and wedding photos. There’s an excellent reason why. The bridge acts as the perfect picture frame for some staggering views of NYC’s skyline and waterways. And at night, you can see the city’s shimmering lights wink on while hovering over the East River. Just note that end to end, it’s a long walk of around 30 minutes, so plan accordingly.
2. Have a Drink at the Campbell in Grand Central.
With its palatial architecture and ceiling of constellations, Grand Central is already a spot that could dazzle any date, but the Campbell takes that a step further by providing a cocktail bar that matches this train terminal’s spirit. This bar was once the private office of a railroad tycoon in the 1920s, and since then it’s been reborn as a swanky spot for a nightcap. Thankfully, much of the original structure of the space has been preserved. And after being renamed and reopened in 2017, the venue is once again serving up old-fashioneds and Manhattans in clubby leather-backed chairs, but now a little al fresco terrace provides another place to sip and people watch.
3. Ride Jane's Carousel at Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Brooklyn Bridge Park has undergone a rebirth in the last decade with the conversion of an industrial waterfront into a rolling green parkland, and its crown jewel is Jane’s Carousel. The ride itself is a glittering dream, diligently restored to its 1922 glory days. Its horses and chariots, enclosed in glass, sit below a whirling rooftop edged in incandescent bulbs. But what makes it truly spectacular is its setting, bumping right against the East River and placed just below the Brooklyn Bridge. From here, the entire city unfolds like a pop-up book, all of which you can see on (wooden) horseback. (Note: do check the carousel’s website to make sure it isn’t booked for private events or photo shoots.)
4. Catch a movie at the Paris Theatre.
NYC’s romantic spots aren’t always big and bombastic. Sometimes it’s the sweet little gems that really set the mood, and the petite Paris is in this latter category. This wee, single-screen movie theater is parked right next to the Plaza Hotel. As the name suggests, the theater tends to run art-house films, especially foreign ones (subtitled, of course). It’s not unusual to see the latest winners from the Cannes Film Festival screening here — with plenty of love stories among them. While interiors aren’t ornate, and the concessions stand is a simple little register in the basement, the theater has loads of intimate charm, plus a balcony up top, ideal as a couple’s hideaway.
5. Stroll the High Line.
Consider the High Line the Brooklyn Bridge’s hipper, edgier alternative. Like the bridge, it serves up excellent city and waterfront views along a lengthy promenade. But this pathway, that was once an elevated train track, snakes along the more industrial west side, crossing hipster hotels, art galleries, and the city’s gay mecca of Chelsea. All along the way, native vegetation like foxtail lilies and gray birch add a natural softness to the urban cityscape. Several wood-plank platforms, benches, and even loungers set on wheels that roll on the tracks give places to rest and cuddle up with your date and even take in the sunset over the Hudson River.
6. Get a taste of history and art at the Cloisters.
New York City is known for its museums, from the grand and imposing Metropolitan Museum of Art to the cheeky and rambunctious New Museum with its “hell, yes!” sign. But when it comes to romance, nothing can beat the enchanting elegance of the Cloisters. The collection here focuses on medieval treasures — think elaborate altarpieces, unicorn-themed tapestries, and stained-glass windows. But all of this is just the final flourish on a magnificent setting that feels a world apart from the city streets. This Gothic complex has several stone-columned walkways encircling herb gardens and fountains. If it all feels airlifted directly out of France, that’s because in many ways it was. Some of the structures here were pulled from other European abbeys and reassembled stone by stone in the Big Apple.
7. Shop at Tiffany & Co. on Fifth Avenue.
Tiffany and Co. was already a famed jewelry brand when Audrey Hepburn window-shopped its glittering cases in the ’60s classic “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” But it’s fair to say that Hepburn’s star turn in the film moved it from “widely known” to “iconic.” Just don’t go thinking a date night here is reserved for the one percent. Take it from Hepburn: In the film, she and her paramour came here to ogle all the bling and get a free ring from a Cracker Jack box engraved. While the free engraving isn’t likely anymore, it costs nothing to ride the manned elevator up the landmark building, gaze at sparkling trinkets, or spritz their signature perfumes. And if you are in the market for a bit of celebratory sparkle, plenty of engagement and anniversary rings are at the ready on the second floor.
8. See the city from Top of the Rock.
Thanks to “An Affair to Remember” and “Sleepless in Seattle,” we all think of the Empire State Building when it comes to race-to-get-the-girl movie montages. But as plenty of New Yorkers will tell you, the views from the Empire State Building are second-rate. Why? You”re missing an essential part of the city line if you’re sitting in it. Instead, better skyline views can be found at the Top of the Rock, Rockefeller Center’s observation deck. Here you’ll see all of the breathtaking skyscrapers of Midtown Manhattan — including the Empire State Building. Tip: In the wintertime, you can pair a visit to the Top of the Rock with a skate session on the rink at the ground level, which sits under Rockefeller Center’s famous tree, for a double dose of romance.
9. Dine at the River Café.
Plenty of romance can be found strolling around the city, but what about those that want to take it easy and be wined and dined? The River Café is your answer. Here you’ll find the same outstanding views you would get from the base of the Brooklyn Bridge or from Jane’s Carousel, but they’re paired with a robust wine list and dishes like sautéed Maine sea scallops with pork belly. The dining room itself extends off the end of a pier under the bridge, giving a panorama of the entire cityscape and a close-up to every passing sailboat. Don’t neglect to close out the meal with a miniature chocolate version of the Brooklyn Bridge paired with a raspberry sorbet.
10. Wander through the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
Central Park will always be the green heart of Manhattan, but the crowds and vendors do have a way of breaking the mood. Instead, head to Brooklyn where this garden gives a sweet escape from NYC’s honking yellow cabs. Couples often make a beeline for the Rose Garden or the peonies, when in season, but Daffodil Hill and the Lily Pool are equally photogenic spots. Other places worth an arm-in-arm stroll include the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden and Shakespeare Garden, where greenery worthy of an English cottage is planted with all manner of flora that references the bard’s many star-crossed lovers.
Need a romantic hotel recommendation? Check out our picks here.
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