Beyond the Bars
December 15, 2011 10:50 AM   Subscribe

What are good early-stage dating activities in NYC that don't involve bars?

I'm a guy in my mid 20s, and I've been having a mostly-great single experience since my last dating AskMe. But I spend a lot of time in bars and bedrooms, and not much else, and I'm feeling a little stuck in a rut. As long as I'm going to be out a couple nights a week, I'd like to do more interesting things. Furthermore, as I get more interested in relationships over sex, I'm seeing the value in "taking it slow," but I don't really know what that looks like, event-wise. What activities/places around NYC are inexpensive and good for second and third dates?
posted by modernserf to Human Relations (20 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
The Moth Storyslam is a fabulous date. Get there early, eat takeout in the line, then buy drinks once you're in. It's a good show in a cool space, and it gives you a lot to talk about afterwards.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:53 AM on December 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

I've had some awesome dates in parks with a bottle of wine, but that's probably a no go until April in NYC. Cheap live music is always a good idea - I've often paid 5$ in cities like NYC (not Manhattan so much) or SF for genuinely decent music.
posted by namesarehard at 10:55 AM on December 15, 2011

While I am not single, I have taken to preemptively making dates for my girlfriend and I by buying discounted tickets to tourist traps on Groupon and the like. Neither one of us would pay $30 a piece to get into, say, the Bodies exhibit or the Museum of Sex, but for half that, it actually makes for a nice day out. Plus, they don't expire for anywhere between six months to a year, so you don't have to scramble to use them immediately.

Otherwise, I've always liked park-dates. Getting lost in Prospect Park is wonderful, and I've heard great things about Highline. Winter is coming, however, so that might not be the most relevant suggestion. Bowling is awesome and still fun even if you're bad at it.

Midnight movies are fun, and Sunshine and IFC have one or two apiece every Friday and Saturday. There's film-buff stuff like Eraserhead and El Topo, and cult classics and just fun movies from earlier decades. Plus, unlike new movies, you can go to a movie both of you already like and know you'll be leaving with a good taste in your mouth.
posted by griphus at 10:57 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Moth storyslam is a great idea, or improv at UCB or the Pit. The only thing is you'll have to plan time around it for chit chat, which is usually at a bar/restaurant, especially now that it's cold. The new Pit has a bar in it, and that combined with improv make it a big win for me. Any guy who suggests an improv date gets +5,000 points in my book.
posted by sweetkid at 10:58 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've heard great things about Highline.

All those great things are true, and I only left it off due to the cold. Highline is a great cheap non bar date.
posted by sweetkid at 10:59 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, and there are stage magic shows going on all the time. You might have to dig a little deeper into the stage magic community to find out where they are -- it's not easy to get an audience so there's not a lot of advertising -- but for like ten bucks you can see four or five magicians doing some neat stuff.
posted by griphus at 11:00 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

The "First Saturdays" at the Brooklyn Museum. It's the first Saturday of every month -- from 5 pm to 11 pm they have free admission to the museum, plus they have a lot of event-y kind of things planned -- a couple lectures, some music, a movie, and a dance party. Some of the "event-y" things you may need to pick up a ticket for (the gallery talks and the movie, usually), but most things are just "show up and walk in", or you can blow off all the special-event elements and just wander around the museum.

They usually try to tie the "events" stuff into some kind of theme relating either to the time of year or an exhibit that just opened (this past month's tied into the "art of the 1920's" exhibit that had just opened, so they had a screening of "The Great Gatsby" and charleston classes as part of the festivities).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:16 AM on December 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

Storytelling events are fun. There's the Moth, the story collider and a lot of local bars have them now, too.

Try a class together at Brooklyn Brainery. Super cheap and they often have 2-hour classes for just the evening. I've taken a few classes there and it's always fun. How to Kill at Karaoke, for example, is totally fun and then the class does Karaoke together.

The Society for the Advancement of Social Studies is really fun.

There are a bunch of these types of events, lectures and stuff that's interesting and different. Perfect for winter!
posted by vivzan at 11:19 AM on December 15, 2011

^^ meant to say that a lot of local bars have their own storytelling events now, too.
posted by vivzan at 11:20 AM on December 15, 2011

Speak of the devil.
posted by griphus at 11:48 AM on December 15, 2011

Take some inexpensive one-off classes together via Groupon-like sites or whatever you can find on your own

  • $20 archery lesson in Queens (includes equipment rental)
  • $25 Samurai sword class (I've seen specials on Buy With Me, Bloomspot, etc.
  • $10 Slapstick class
  • $20 Acrobatics classes in Brooklyn (that's the drop-in rate)
  • Free trial class at Sheridan fencing

    I've got dozens of these. My husband and I get sick of going to movies and plays sometimes, and he's a good sport. Even got him to a sewing class once, and he enjoyed it. There are hundreds of crafts and cooking lessons you can take around the city, too.

  • posted by zerbinetta at 11:56 AM on December 15, 2011 [5 favorites]

    Ice skating at Lasker Rink :)
    posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:09 PM on December 15, 2011

    Walk over the brooklyn bridge
    go to a batting cage
    try a museum
    take a big onion tour
    join an AMC hike
    go to the top of the empire state building at midnight
    Saint John the Divine's plainsong Vespers
    cooking class
    posted by shothotbot at 1:50 PM on December 15, 2011

    Go check out HowAboutWe - it's full of people who have solved this problem and you just need to steal their answers.
    posted by soma lkzx at 2:05 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

    On Friday evenings the Morgan Library is free and I think it's a great place to go for a date. It's not huge, like the major museums, and it has enough to keep you interested for a couple of hours before you head off somewhere else for a drink or to eat.
    posted by essexjan at 2:10 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

    The zoo! And then you have something to talk about together.
    posted by musofire at 2:47 PM on December 15, 2011

    Two things.

    1. I feel your pain. The NYC bar rut is real, and difficult to avoid. Godspeed.

    2. Cloisters.
    posted by dixiecupdrinking at 6:49 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

    Walk. You grew those legs for a reason!
    posted by ead at 9:40 PM on December 15, 2011

    Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind for a relatively cheap night of absurd comedy.

    At this time of year, the Christmas markets are really nice to walk around. I'm not sure if it could be made into a whole date.

    For a spin on the restaurant thing, make it your mission to find whatever obscure place catches your eye in Time Out NY. I've gone on quests for Vietnamese food, the best dumplings in NY, etc. Actually, we'd go on quests for lots of things - stores, indoor public gardens, cool houses, best drinks, chocolate shops (speaking of which, keep an eye open for things like this).

    As suggested above, Big Onion tours. I've done the eating tour of the lower east side and it was fun to pretend to be a tourist.

    Many of the museums have frequent events - talks, film screenings, evening parties. Museums by themselves might be a little quiet for a first date, but a concert at the Guggenheim or First Saturday in Brooklyn might be fun.

    Dance lessons/ party. No skillz required.

    Pub trivia nights - at bars, but not about bars.

    Movieoke is hilarious (Make sure that it's still going - I went a million years ago).
    posted by oryelle at 11:41 PM on December 15, 2011

    There is a small "speakeasy" style movie theater in Williamsburg called Spectacle. It's 5 bucks and BYOB and always showing something intresting and different.
    posted by mattsweaters at 11:23 AM on December 16, 2011

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