Valentine's Day is just around the corner, which means I've been seeing a lot of pink and a lot of hearts everywhere in the city while I walk to the office or go shopping after a workout. While there are plenty of expensive and bougie ways to celebrate the occasion in New York, like going out to a fancy steakhouse, cruising the Hudson over a candlelit dinner, or heading to the Top of the Rock during sunset, I would rather not have to deal with the city's craziness on a Thursday night after work. My ideal date night (especially on Vday) is to head somewhere for dessert, or just bring the sweets back home to cuddle up in bed and watch Netflix while fighting over the last bite of cake.
I have a sweet tooth all year round, which means I spend a lot of time time exploring all the desserts that NYC has to offer. Over the last few years, I've found my favorites, but there are a couple of stand-outs that I think are extra perfect for Valentine's Day. Here are my top picks to sweeten up February 14th!
THE SWEETEST TREATS
Blue Stripes Cacao Shop
28 East 13th St New York, NY 10003
My latest drink obsession is definitely hot chocolate, especially when I've already had one too many cups of coffee for the day. It also doubles as a dessert and totally satisfies my sweet tooth, so what's not to love! My personal favorites in the city are City Bakery (known for their giant, homemade marshmallows), but my new favorite is Blue Stripes Cacao Shop located in Union Square. This beautiful cafe opened just last year by one of the co-owners of chocolate heaven Max Brenner's. While the restaurant is just around the block, I love the vibes of Blue Stripes so much more. You can grab one of their delicious desserts to go, or sip on hot chocolate with your date in one of the cozy seating areas around the shop.
Eileen's Special Cheesecake
17 Cleveland Pl New York, NY 10012
I grew up in a town where there weren't many options for dining out, so we always ended up at the Cheesecake Factory. And for some reason, I've never particularly liked cheesecake and would always opt for ice cream, brownies, cookies or anything else before choosing cheesecake. But, like many of my other great dessert discoveries, I found Eileen's Special Cheesecake while walking back home one day and did a quick search to satisfy my sweet tooth. I've heard of this place before, but since I was finally conveniently nearby, I decided to give it a try. They are all decked out for Valentine's Day, but they have enough flavors to make an indecisive person have anxiety at only choosing a few. Eileen's sells mini cheesecakes at around $5 a pop, but they also sell 6 inch and 10 inch cakes. There are some seats around the small shop, but I highly recommend getting a box with a few flavors and taking them home to enjoy.
Classic strawberry (left) and red velvet oreo (right)
116 University Pl New York, NY 10003
The Nutella Cafe popped up near Union Square (where I frequent nowadays) just a few short months ago, and I noticed right away when I saw a long line wrapped around the store during opening day. I usually try to stay away from places I deem "touristy", but I decided to give it a try one morning. It truly is Nutella heaven. They have everything from fresh fruit crepes and french toast, to gelato and nutella lattes. I highly recommend checking it out and picking up a personalized jar of Nutella for a friend/boyfriend/sister/anyone with a Nutella obsession. It costs around $8 for a jar with your name on it, and it takes less than a minute for them to print and put on the label. I think it's a really cute dessert date spot and it's located right in Union Square, so it's super accessible wherever you are in the city!
251 W 18th St New York, NY 10011
This tiny basement bakery in Chelsea is truly a hidden gem. They are known for their whopping 1/2 pound cookies and their delicious cupcakes, so be sure to pick up a few treats to go. The guy working the counter told me their new viral Instagram cookie is the green matcha with gold flakes, so I guess I'll have to come back and try that next. For Valentine's Day sake, I'd go for a few of the beautiful strawberry funfetti and red velvet cookies. They looked SO perfect and delicious, but I opted for a few cupcakes instead to share with my honey (red velvet, strawberry shortcake, flourless chocolate cake, and salted caramel).
Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer
136 W 55th St New York, NY 10019
I've waited in long lines for quite of a few places in NYC before (DO, Dominique Ansel for the cronut, etc.), but my wait for Black Tap was truly worth it! Not only do they have incredible burgers, but their milkshakes are beautiful works of art. My friend and I split a birthday cake milkshake, but Black Tap has a VDay special that looks out of this world delicious and sexy. I hope they keep this on the menu just a bit longer, so I have time to make it uptown and get my hands on one of these red velvet cake milkshakes. HOLY COW.
photo courtesy of Yahoo!
Jacques Torres Chocolate
30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10112 66 Water St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
350 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014
Jacques Torres has always been my go-to for hot chocolate, and their orange cups can be spotted from a mile away. Chocolate is a classic choice when it comes to gifting for Valentine's Day, so there's no surprise this chocolatier goes all out for the holiday. From heart designs on their chocolates to assorted heart boxes of goodies, make sure to stop by one of Jacques Torres' many locations in Manhattan, and now also in DUMBO, Brooklyn! I recently stopped by the Brooklyn located for a hot chocolate date with my friend in town. It was the perfect cozy atmosphere and afternoon stop to escape the cold.
I think the perfect date night is to get an assortment of chocolates (you can purchase by the piece), and do a tasting at home with a glass of wine. Cheers!
DATE NIGHT ACTIVITIES
Valentine's Day falls on a Thursday this year, which means if you have a typical 9-5 job, you will only have the evening to celebrate. Luckily, the weekend is around the corner and you can also spend enjoy the daylight with your honey doing fun things around the city. Along with the dessert spots I mentioned above, I wanted to also give you guys some good "date night activities", where you can be active while celebrating Love Day! Here are a couple of my fun ideas.
DIY Chocolate Covered Strawberries
Why buy overpriced, expensive chocolate covered strawberries, when you can make your own, fresh ones and make an activity out of it too! All you see are a dozen long-stemmed strawberries (if you're feeling extra fancy), a bag of chocolate chips, and any toppings of your choice (crushed nuts, Oreos, sprinkles, coconut flakes). Just wash your berries, melt down the chocolate with the double boiler method (to avoid burning the chocolate), and dip them in your toppings. Lay your treats flat on parchment paper and refrigerate for 1-2 hours to harden. YUM! I love this idea because you can do it all in the comfort of your apartment without having to set foot outside for date night (other than to get the ingredients of course). It may be hard to find strawberries day of, so plan ahead!
photo courtesy of myrecipe.com
Ice Skating in Central Park
I love central park so much, but one thing that I've actually never done is go ice skating there! It's still on my bucket list, but I think it's such a cute and romantic thing to do as a couple. Plus, Valentine's Day is perfect because many people will probably be out at dinner and the rink should be less busy than any other winter night. I recommend skating for an hour or so, and then heading to a bar for drinks or grabbing dessert at one of the spots I mention and cozy up back at home. I highly recommend Central Park rinks over the Bryant Park and Rockfellar options since it's far less touristy and often less crowded.
Central Park has 2 skating rinks, the Wollman Rink, and the Lasker Rink. Make sure to check out their opening hours and prices here.
480 Baltic St Brooklyn, NY 11217
If you're feeling like Cupid, then look no further than Gotham Archery in Brooklyn. It's slightly dangerous, kinda fun, and oddly romantic, don't you think? They offer 1 hour Intro to Archery classes for $35/person, which includes equipment rentals and an introductory lesson by one of their USA Archery certified instructors. They require booking in advanced, so make sure to check out the schedule and dates available here. Honestly, this is such a fun and unique activity that although perfectly fits the theme for VDay, can be a rainy day activity for any weekend. I think it would be such a fun friends outing too!
At-Home Spa Night
Valentine's Day is also about love, and self-love is probably the most important kind of love! I've spent many Valentine's Days single, and while there were years I wish I had someone to celebrate it with, there were also years where I was so happy that it was just, myself, and a hydrating face mask. Lush is one of my guilty pleasures, and they have bath bombs, massage bars,and fresh face masks galore for you to pamper yourself (which should be all the time!) with. So pick up a few goodies for the night and pamper yourself with a glass of wine and some chocolate while your mask is drying. It's the perfect end to a night by yourself, with your girlfriends for Galentine's Day, or with your boyfriend (who will begrudgingly put on the mask after you guilt him into it).
Happy Valentine's Day everybody! Thanks for checking this post out and make sure to check out my Valentine's Day Gift Guide for the perfect gift for the guy or gal in your life.