Say “Valentine’s Day,” and most people think of chocolates, champagne and candlelit dinners, but New York has far more to offer than your typical heart-shaped charms. With that in mind, Heather Stimmler-Hall, author of Naughty New York set out to find some of the city’s most interesting and hedonistic pleasures.
Check out some cheeky art, learn some sexy moves or take a break and let someone else do the legwork on a specially-themed city tour. Here are ten artistic, culinary and sensory delights that are guaranteed to put you in the mood for romance.
Top of the Rock Observation Deck
30 Rockefeller Plaza, entrance on 50th St. between 5th & 6th Aves.
Begin your romantic Valentine’s Day rendez-vous with flair at the Top of the Rock Observation Deck at Rockefeller Center. From its perch 850 feet above street level, you can experience breathtaking, unobstructed 360° views of Manhattan — the best in the city. The efficient, glass-topped elevators whisk you up in less than a minute to three viewing platforms — two enclosed at the 67th and 69th floors, and one open-air deck 70 floors above the city. From there, you can see New York landmarks such as the Empire State Building, Central Park, the Chrysler Building and Grand Central Station. Come just before sunset to see the city light up before your eyes.
Staten Island Ferry
Whitehall Terminal, 4 South St.
Who doesn’t enjoy a free quickie? The iconic Staten Island Ferry is one of the most romantic cruises you’ll ever take without spending a dime. The five-mile trip takes 25 minutes one way, and provides sweeping views of lower Manhattan’s skyline and intimate proximity to Lady Liberty. Both the upper and lower deck of the ship offer sublime views — just make sure that you position yourself strategically on the starboard (right) side for the best vantage point. Despite the crowds, it can be a little chilly on the upper deck, so you’ll have a built-in excuse for snuggling up together during the ride. Skip rush hour and try one of the post-dinner departures (after 8pm). Both the last ferry out from Manhattan, and back from Staten Island, departs at 11:30pm, so plan accordingly…unless you want to spend the evening in Staten Island.
Hornblower’s Valentine’s Day Dinner Cruise
Pier 40, 353 West St. at West Houston St.
This three-hour cruise combines dinner with serious skyline views. The cruise starts with a Champagne toast followed by a four-course dinner. Couples will find plenty of room to get comfortable on the luxury vessel, with four levels, an open bow, sun decks and a covered sky deck to enjoy the stars even in chilly weather. Inside, spacious lounge rooms are furnished with comfy sofas and wraparound windows so you don’t miss a thing. If the panoramic night views of Manhattan’s stunning skyline aren’t enough, guests will also find fully-stocked cocktail bars and a DJ spinning hits that will keep the dance floor busy until you return to port.
The Cloisters Museum and Gardens
99 Margaret Corbin Dr.
Looking for a secluded, serene setting to escape the urban bustle with your Valentine? Try a bit of al fresco inspiration at the gardens of the Cloisters Museum. Located on four acres overlooking the Hudson River in Manhattan’s Fort Tryon Park, these enclosed quadrangles incorporate elements from five medieval cloisters imported from France, including elaborately carved marble columns, a Venetian well, limestone arcades and elegant stone cloister archways dating back to the 12th century. Even in the winter, the garden’s espaliered fruit trees, medieval tapestries and stained-glass windows create a peaceful setting. On clear days, there are unspoiled views from the museum over the Hudson River and the cliffs of the New Jersey shoreline.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Ave.
Ready to discover a new angle on art appreciation? Some of the most famous masterpieces ever created pay homage to the human body, and you’ll find the best of them at the Met. In the permanent collections, Parmigianino, Matisse, Rodin and Renoir offer their own take on both the male and female forms and how passionately they go together. Bonus: Admission to the Cloisters Museum and Gardens includes same-day admission to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Museum of Modern Art
11 W. 53rd St.
The clean and bright spaces of this contemporary masterpiece of architecture convey an aesthetic purity. But that doesn’t mean the artworks are quite as chaste. There is certainly no shortage of carnal pleasures to contemplate with your partner-in-crime, including the plastic sex appeal of Roy Lichtenstein’s Girl with Ball, Gustav Klimt’s Hope II, featuring a rare artistic depiction of pregnancy, or James Rosenquist’s Marilyn Monroe I, a graphic commentary on the ubiquitous sex symbol. And it may seem positively angelic when you see it today, but Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon scandalized Parisian society back in 1907 (perhaps the original title, The Brothel of Avignon, didn’t help). Since the MoMA stays open until 8pm every Friday (with free admission after 4pm), enjoy a sunset stroll through the galleries, followed by a glass of wine in the museum’s Bar Room, which is open until 11pm.
Museum of Sex
233 Fifth Ave.
Since it opened its doors in 2002, the cheekily nick-named MoSex has expanded its collection to include over 15,000 artifacts including works of art, photographs, costumes and technological inventions. It is located in the once-seedy Tenderloin district, but there’s nothing creepy nor even intentionally titillating here. In fact, with the minimalist white rooms, fluorescent lighting and sterile glass cases showcasing everything from vintage vibrators to close-up photos of STD viruses, the museum is more Sex Ed than sexy. But even couples who think they’ve seen it all can marvel at homemade sex machines, anatomically-correct RealDolls and wax nostalgic over the classic American porn magazines. When you’ve whet your appetite for more, head down to the museum’s Play Bar for a menu of sensually stimulating cocktails (choose from Demure, Curious and Kinky) and small plates such as spicy Szechuan peanuts and fried shishito peppers. The bar is open s until 2am every day expect Sunday, when they are open until midnight.
On Location Tours
See where your favorite movie characters fell in love with the Romantic Movie Moments Tour, held on Saturdays and Sundays in February. Stops on the two and a half hour tour include filming locations from movies including Breakfast at Tiffany’s, You’ve Got Mail and Serendipity. If you’d rather take a tour based on your favorite show (or your partner’s), On Location has tours tailored to big TV hits. Whether it’s the Cosmos and cupcakes that Carrie and the ladies shared in Sex and the City, or authentic Italian cuisine and Tony’s Bada Bing Club from The Sopranos, there’s a bus tour to whisk you around town to the most memorable sites. All tours include live commentary and trivia, with on-board screens to show you the scenes featured in each location, and carefully-chosen stops at the best locations to get an up-close feel (and in many cases a taste) of the famous setting.
They say the way to the heart is through the stomach, and it would be hard to disagree once you’ve experienced City Foods’ Upper West Side tour menu. You’ll not only indulge in chocolate truffles, fresh baked cookies, creamy hazelnut gelato, handmade artisan cheeses and local craft beers, you’ll also learn how they’re made, and how to pair them for the best enjoyment. During the leisurely 2.5 hour walking tour — hey, you’re walking off some of those delicious treats, right? — you’ll also learn about the hottest Manhattan shops and restaurants. Consider it a reconnaissance tour for further culinary explorations à deux later on. Note: All guests must be 21 years or older to participate in this tour.
New York School of Burlesque
440 Lafayette St., schoolofburlesque.com
Ladies of all shapes and sizes are embracing the return of burlesque, and with good reason. Unlike regular striptease, burlesque isn’t about how much you take off, but how well you can hold your audience’s attention with costumes, fun props and a big helping of humor. Headmistress and celebrated neo-Burlesque pioneer Jo Weldon helps women discover their confidence and develop their own personal routines incorporating fan dancing, chair dancing and boa play. Sign up in advance for one of her weekly classes, including “Burlesque Booty” every Monday or “Flirting with Burlesque” every Thursday. Later on, you can impress your partner with your new-found skills.
Get more ideas for what to do on Valentine’s Day in New York City.