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10 Unusual Date Ideas in NYC for Under $50

New York City Romance Couples Budget Travel
by Cait Sarazin Jul 2, 2018

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

Photo: Christopher Penler/Shutterstock

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

Photo: Ryan DeBerardinis/Shutterstock

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

Photo: Christian Mueller/Shutterstock

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 like 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

Cloisters Museum NYC

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

Photo: Inna_liapko /Shutterstock

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 like 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

Photo: Magnet Theater/Facebook

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

Photo: /Facebook

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.

9. Syndicated

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 based on film showing. A sample of the current menu includes familiar favorites like the fish tacos ($11) and chicken sandwich ($12), along with new additions like the lentil-walnut burger ($12) and beer-battered cauliflower ($10).

10. Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club — Baba’s Pierogies

Photo: Baba’s Pierogies /Facebook

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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