unique nyc experience?
July 22, 2006 12:38 PM   Subscribe

Unique New York experience for a couple - beyond helicopter rides?

I'm looking for a unique activity in New York for my partner's birthday. It will be just the two of us, and we like it that way -- no touristy/big group/too-trendy stuff. Perhaps some kind of private tour of a hard-to-access place? A very unique dining experience? Our concierge suggested a helicopter ride, but that seems a bit cliche. Something along those lines though would be great. I appreciate any ideas!
posted by saffron to Society & Culture (15 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
-- a day at the Bronx zoo gorilla exhibit. It's astounding. It's a whole family of gorillas that you can watch, in a natural-like habitat. When I was last there, they came right up to the glass.

-- go to an auction at Sotheby's or Christie's.

-- go geochaching.

-- go to Coney Island. It's apparently going to be torn down and modernized (NOOOOOO!!!!) See it while you still CAN.

-- walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.

-- if you're so inclined, visit a swing club.

-- if you're so inclined, visit a swingers club (see Craigslist).

-- take a walking tour.

-- go see an off-off Broadway show (self link).

-- go see a Broadway show.

-- go rowing in Central Park.

-- ride the old time carousel in Prospect Park (Brooklyn).

-- how about some burlesque?

-- see some corpses.

-- stalk a celebrity.

-- and make sure you come to Brooklyn and eat at Tom's diner, which is pretty much preserved from the 50s (you can get an egg creme) and was the subject of a song by Suzanne Vega.
posted by grumblebee at 2:30 PM on July 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

Since Gotham has one of the great natural harbors of the world, why not view it properly — from the deck of your own chartered sloop? Escape the riffraff of the land and the air — honking taxis, swearing bike messengers, shitting pigeons — and toast your taste and good fortune aboard the very yar Tilton Hilton.
posted by rob511 at 2:36 PM on July 22, 2006

A unique dining experience might be the Ninja restaurant.
posted by xo at 3:32 PM on July 22, 2006

Sit in the Dunkin' Donuts at 5th Ave. and 85th St. in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Drink a strawberry coollatta and enjoy some spectacular people-watching. Then take a walk around, window shop, and buy some fruit from one of the corner stands. There's a parking structure across the street.

I know, you may be thinking there's no way you're going to spend time on your trip to New York in a chain donut shop, but seriously this is a uniquely New York experience. You won't believe the colorful variety of people that pass by. It certainly won't be your main event, but it would be a nice way to spend the late morning or early afternoon.
posted by leapingsheep at 4:02 PM on July 22, 2006

Do NOT go to the Ninja restaurant.
posted by Juggermatt at 4:46 PM on July 22, 2006

My gf suggests that you find out which of the City's top restaurants offer what's called a "chef's table"...you're given an opportunity to dine in the kitchen @ a private table and sample a variety of dishes---sometime from the menu, sometimes chosen for you by the Chef. Bon appetit!
posted by NYCinephile at 5:02 PM on July 22, 2006

I like leapingsheep's idea, though it might not satisfy the OP. I used to live near that Dunkin Donuts--Bay Ridge is definitely an underrated neighborhood.

How about dinner at the River Cafe?
posted by Brian James at 5:20 PM on July 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

I've always wanted to go horseback riding in Central Park. It's pretty expensive, but I think it'd be romantic.

There are a lot of companies offering walking tours (google should pick these up) that can be oriented toward whatever you want: history, movie filmings, architecture, whatever. I went on an awesome culinary walking tour of Chinatown offered by a local community college. Lots of companies will arrange private tours for just the two of you, but it'll cost ya (probably no more than a helicopter ride would, though).

The best New York date I ever planned was an all-over the city tour of some "only in New York" places that fit my girlfriend's interests. We went to Strand Books (18 miles of books!), CB I Hate Perfume (they have Play-doh and "old books" perfumes!), il Laboratorio del Gelato (honey-lavender and cactus-pear flavored gelatos!), Sea Thai restaurant in Brooklyn (gorgeous), and the Chinatown dollar store (indescribable). Hopstop.com is a huge help in planning something like this.

There are a number of awesome restaurants in New York (obviously) so it's hard to make a recommendation, unless you're looking for something specific (vegetarian, Afghan, steakhouse, etc). You might try looking at menupages.com. It's an awesome resource that will let you look for restaurants near your hotel. You can even use it to search for places that serve your partner's favorite dish!

I second Juggermatt's assertion that you should not go to the Ninja restaurant. It has such a terrible reputation that I'm pretty sure xo was kidding. Check out the New York Times' review for proof.
posted by chickletworks at 5:20 PM on July 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

If you want to splurge, it looks like this company does some pretty neat things:
Enjoy a private visit and continental breakfast or afternoon tea in the ballroom of Gracie Mansion, a 1784 Federal-style mansion overlooking the East River and traditionally the home of the Mayor of New York City. A V.I.P. Tours of New York Exclusive: A private meeting with a woman who has been at Gracie Mansion through 4 mayorships totaling almost 30 years.
At one of New York's best known steak restaurants, a private demonstration by one of the chefs. followed by a steak-tasting lunch. [My guess is that the restaurant in question is either Peter Luger or Smith & Wollensky.]
A private lunch at the chef's table in the kitchen of the United Nations Delegates' Dining Room. A private, informal discussion with our chef will cover international protocol and the culinary and wine habits of our world leaders, past and present. Our guests will enjoy a private, docent-led tour of the United Nations headquarters.
Before the store opens, our guests will be welcomed privately into to one of our country's most famous and prestigious department stores, for a private breakfast in the store's famous restaurant, a private fashion demonstration, discount shopping opportunities, a private discussion with a renown Parisian Chocolatier, and a sample of homemade Chocolate.
posted by anjamu at 6:22 PM on July 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

Get up early, go to 34th st on the west side and hop up on the high line. It's illegal, but what the hell. DO it quick before they theme park it.

(CLick the 'View the high line' link for piccies)
posted by Decani at 7:14 PM on July 22, 2006

If you're intrigued by the idea of a NYC helicopter tour, you could do a little more legwork, and set up a corridor run. It's easier to do this with charters out of New Jersey airports, and most of the area commercial charter pilots will know the route you are asking about (or you can show them the linked article). Out of Newark International, the reverse route is known simply as a Governor's Island departure, and on a clear, early summer morning with sun coming up low in the east, it's like God giving you the keys to Manhattan.
posted by paulsc at 8:43 PM on July 22, 2006

Thinking about it a little more, if you're interested in arranging a corridor run as above, you might look for private charter operators out of Teterboro NJ Airport, and talk to them about a local clearance tour a little east of the Newark International arrival route shown on this Teterboro Dalton departure route diagram [PDF file linked]. You don't want the Dalton departure route from Teterboro, as that will take you west towards Pennsylvania.

Check with Teterboro charter operators and talk with them in some detail about what you want. They know the airspace, they know the route, and they love to beat those tourist operations out of New York...
posted by paulsc at 9:47 PM on July 22, 2006

If you're going to be in the Park Slope area of Brooklyn, get an Indonesian Rijstafel at Java on 7th ave and 15th st. It's about 25 bucks a person and they bring you out plate after plate of delicious Indonesian foods. You can only get it at a handful of places in the US, and when my BF brought me there I thought it was a really unique date at a quiet, romantic mom and pop joint.

Also, Prospect Park has horsebackriding for 25$ an hour in the park.

Oh! And another great date I went on in Prospect Park was the bat tours that are run out of the audobon center. It includes wine/cheese tasting, a ride around the lake in an electric boat for birdwatching, then you go out at twilight with a bat expert who tracks the bats flying around. I don't know if they're still running that tour, but you could call and find out.
posted by np312 at 10:38 PM on July 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

If you're going to do a helicopter tour, definitely do one that's based outside manhattan as you'll get much better value for money so can go on a full hour/more individual tour eg. Pegasus Global Helicopters is based out of Linden.

I loved the Chelsea Market/ Meatpacking food tour -- it was a small group and you can try some great foods.

Go to the River Cafe for cocktails - you get a great view of manhattan, and it's not super-trendy so isn't too packed.
posted by ingridm at 5:28 AM on July 23, 2006

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for the suggestions!
posted by saffron at 7:24 AM on July 23, 2006

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