So, I've put together some of my favorite, budget-friendly dates - that serve both as a means of sharing and as a reminder of all the awesome things we can do around the city without breaking the bank!
1. East River Ferry to DUMBO
I think the East River Ferry is by far the most underrated (and most pleasant) form of transportation available in NYC - and it's only $4 per ride. Taking the ferry will get you some of the best views of Lower Manhattan, The Brooklyn Bridge, and Manhattan Bridge - and once you dock at Fulton Street, you're in one of the most scenic parts of all 5 Boroughs. For $2 each, you can take a ride on Jane's Carousel, and follow it up by sharing a giant sundae at The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory for $8 - all while catching a sunset steps from the waterfront. $20 exactly. Bingo.
2. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
While admission is posted as $25 per person, it's technically a suggested donation. If you can afford it, I really recommend paying as much as you can - the museum is incredible and costs a lot to run, but it's awesome to know that even if it's not within your means, you can still enjoy the museum and its collections at a price that works for you. The museum is massive - and whether you want to stick to the American Wing, Ancient Egypt, or European Impressionists, there's no shortage of inspiration. Bonus facts: The Met is where Ali proposed to me! More info here.
3. Brooklyn Flea
The Brooklyn Flea now has three homes - one in Williamsburg, one in Fort Greene, and one in Park Slope - and each has a mix of vintage, handcrafts, furniture and food vendors - with an all food counterpart called Smorgasburg. You can get a snack - like a $2 Dough donut, or split an out-of-this-world lobster roll for $16, and browse the vendors for hours. If you want an awesome view, definitely head to the Williamsburg location - but note that even in the hot summer months it can get really windy. More info here.
4. Watch a Movie in Bryant Park
During the summer, Bryant Park turns into an open-air movie theatre ever Monday night. As long as you get a spot (I suggest getting there early and bringing a picnic blanket), it's completely free. This summers list of movies is TBD, but there's always a good list of classics - from Annie Hall to The Breakfast Club. More info here.
5. Catch a Brooklyn Cyclones Game
I'm not exactly a fan of baseball (unless you count A League of Their Own), but Ali really, really is - like, to the point that she wanted to go to a Met's game for my birthday. Al, I love you, but no. I am, however, more than willing to catch a game (and eat a bunless hot dog) pretty much any other day of the year. For the budget conscious, The Brooklyn Cyclones is an out-of-the-park deal, (did I do that baseball reference correctly?) On Wednesday nights, tickets are just $10 each, but if you splurge for a Friday or Saturday ticket, you'll also get a post-game fireworks show. More info here.
6. Disposable Camera Photo Excursion
$7.99 gets you two single-use cameras, so keep your phone in your pocket and resist the urge to Instagram your day away. Keep one camera for yourself, and pass one to your date, and walk around aimlessly snapping photos of your surroundings and each other. Walgreens offers some of the fastest (and cheapest) photo developing in the city - and at the end of it you have a stack of 54 shots that won't disappear when your iPhone inevitably breaks and you've forgotten to back it up.
7. Geek Out at Brooklyn Brainery
This might sound a little nerdy, but it's kind of exactly the type of thing I like to do - and I guess I'm a little nerdy. Brooklyn Brainery offers different classes/talks that start as low as $6 (but they also offer sushi making classes which run at $80 per person). For $8 each, you can learn about the History of Pizza in Brooklyn (and take the remaining $4 to buy a couple of slices) or for $10 each you can explore the Past and Present of the Brooklyn Waterfront. Learning is sexy, I promise. More info here.
8. Falafel in Washington Square Park
Grab two falafel sandwiches (among the best in the city, IMHO) for $3.50 a piece at Mamoun's Falafel on Macdougal Street, and head a block north to Washington Square Park. Enjoy your heaping-sammies with your feet dipped into the fountain, or while laying out in one of the many lawns. Washington Square Park makes for some amazing people-watching, too. Trust me, I lived just a couple of blocks away for 4 years - and sometimes that was all the entertainment I ever needed. More info here.
9. Free Concerts at Prospect Park Band Shell
Since 1979, Celebrate Brooklyn has held free concerts in Prospect Park - and this summer's roster is packed with amazing performers and bands. You can see Janelle Monae, The Dum Dum Girls, St. Vincent, and over a dozen more, all performing on different nights this summer - for FREE. Celebrate Brooklyn also hosts dance parties at Brooklyn Bridge Park, I wish we were going to be in town for Cibo Matto & JD Samson! More info here.
10. First Saturdays at The Brooklyn Museum
The first Saturday of every month hosts an all-out party at the Brooklyn Museum from 5PM to 11PM - for free. Every month offers a different itinerary of events, but you can always walk through the collections (The Sackler wing, which houses Judy Chicago's Dinner Party, is one of my favorites) and expect a lot of live music. On a recent visit, Ali and I saw New York Times Bestselling author Janet Mock read from her book, Redefining Realness, (it's a must read, just FYI!) More info here.
11. Farmers Market + Home Cooked Meal
There are Farmers Markets all throughout New York City, but one of my favorites is the Union Square Greenmarket - which has a variety of farmers that sell produce, fresh seafood and meat, flowers, and baked goods. Set a budget of $17 (with $3 set aside for a cheap-but-delicious bottle of wine from Trader Joe's Wine Shop, just two blocks away), and go wild with all the fresh veggies you can get your hands on. Afterwards, head to one of your apartments and cook up a feast together. It's fun, economical, supports local business, and it's romantic. Kind of a win-win-win-win. Unless you both suck at cooking, then maybe just walk through the market and buy a lot of wine.
12. Trivia Night!
If you're at all like Ali or myself, you probably know a lot of absolutely useless information that is literally only helpful for trivia nights or reruns of Jeopardy. Lately, we've been going to Trivia at Dat Dog in New Orleans, but there are tons of Trivia Nights hosted throughout NYC. I'm partial to trivia at Videology (every Tuesday), Common Ground (every Wednesday), and Pete's Candy Shop (every Wednesday). No cover, just pay for your drinks (optional) at the bar. More info here.
13. Rowing in Central Park
If you live in NYC, this is something you have to do at least once in your lifetime. Boat rentals are $15 per hour and fit up to 4-people, and the pond is open for rowing from 10AM to 6PM. Central Park might be totally man-made, but I'll be damned if they didn't do a near-perfect job designing it. More info here.
14. Drag Bingo at The Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club
Linda Simpson used to co-host Bingo with Murray Hill at the Bowery Poetry Club, and it was one of my favorite things to do on a Monday night. Now, Linda's show is on the road with a slew of different venues hosting Bingo nights. At the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club, where, yes, you can actually play shuffleboard, you can join in on a Bingo game each Wednesday night for just $2 a board. There's also a rotating selection of food vendors. More info here.
15. Dim Sum on Doyers Street
If your idea of Chinatown is limited to stalls filled with Louis Fauxitton and suspicious food smells, you're doing it wrong. You could head to Flushing, Queens to get a really amazing Chinatown experience, or head just a few blocks south of Canal to Doyers Street, one of the oldest parts of Manhattan's Chinatown - which is home to the oldest Dim Sum in the city - Nom Wah Tea Parlor. $20 will definitely leave you and your date stuffed, but dishes range in price from $1.95 to $9.95. I recommend getting an assortment and sharing - try the Shrimp Rice Roll ($4), Stuffed Eggplant ($4), Bean Curd Skin Roll ($4), and Sesame Balls ($3.50) for dessert -- all of which are gluten free. If you're feeling like splurging after your budget friendly date, you can head next door to Apotheke, a speakeasy-style cocktail bar. More info here.
16. Photobooth Fun at Union Pool
Located in Williamsburg, Union Pool is part bar/part DJ destination/part band venue, but they also swing cheap drinks, have a taco truck in the back, and a photobooth that prints out real photostrips for 3 bucks a piece. My friend Amber also throws an awesome party there called PAT (Lauren Flax and JD Samson are regular DJs, alongside Amber Valentine). During the summer their outdoor patio gets packed, and during the winter there's a fire pit to help keep you warm, (and feel free to bring your own marshmallows for roasting, seriously). Union Pool is definitely a dive, but it's reliably fun. More info here.
17. Burlesque Show at The Slipper Room
I can't remember how or when I first fell in love with burlesque, but taking in a show has become one of my favorite things to do, whether it's a small, local list of performers or the ultimate glitzy, cabaret experience that is Dita von Teese. Most nights of the week, The Slipper Room has shows that are $10 per person, and it's pretty much always a lot of fun. Don't forget your favorite vintage red lipstick and pin-curled coif. More info here.
18. Upright Citizens Brigade
UCB is famous for churning out a lot of comedy talent - and it has been a playground for people like Amy Poehler, Kate McKinnon, Aziz Ansari, Aubrey Plaza, and the girls of Broad City. Shows are between $Free and $10 per person, happen every day of the week, and you can reserve a spot online. Empty your bladder before going. More info here.
19. $1 Oysters at Maison Premiere
From 4PM - 7PM each night, this New Orleans-inspired cocktail bar offers their two-dozen-plus long selection of raw oysters at just $1 a piece. They have a long list of cocktails, too, and while they'll push you over the $20 budget, they're both strong and delicious. Still, go for the oysters. Their selection is impressive, diverse, and only $1 each!!! More info here.
20. Karaoke Boho on the Lower East Side
Even if you're not quite an Adele or a Gwen Stefani, singing your heart out into a microphone is usually super fun, cathartic, and when your date has an awful voice - hilariously endearing. Karaoke Boho on the LES has private rooms, and is just $4 per person per hour from 1PM - 8PM, plus it's BYOB. More info here.