Romantic winters of New York
Ice skating at Rockerfeller Center. (BBC)
The Big Apple is known as one of the most romantic cities in the world – second only to Paris, perhaps – but how do you induce romance in the snow-piled slippery streets of winter?
The best way to be romantic in New York is to see New York. You can hike little-known Central Park trails, wander the grounds uptown at the Cloisters museum in Fort Tryon Park, or even kiss your sweetie in Times Square a la the famous V-J Day photo. As an added bonus, the famous landmark recently became a pedestrian-only zone, complete with café tables, making it a perfect place to relax. For Sleepless in Seattle fans, climb to the observatory at the Empire State Building, although the view from atop Rockefeller Center is just as magnificent. Plus, the Top of the Rock Observation Deck features a live music series in February.
If ice skating gets your blood flowing, the Pond at Bryant Park is free if you have your own skates. But the best outdoor skating is at Wollman Rink and Lasker Rink, on either end of Central Park. Or, see the great island by boat on a Circle Line day cruise, a World Yacht dinner cruise, or even the free Staten Island Ferry, where you sail right past Lady Liberty.
Once you have had your fill of the cold, grab your Valentine for some "Wicked" hot chocolate with allspice, cinnamon and chilli peppers at one of Jacques Torres six New York stores. Pick up some champagne truffles at La Maison du Chocolat, or stop by Kee's Chocolate, where you can see the chocolate being made next door. City Bakery is renowned for its thick hot chocolate and house-mad marshmallows.
For dinner, try to book a table at the candle chandelier-lit restaurant One of By Land, Two if By Sea, Aaron Burr's former carriage house. Piano and trumpet players infuse classic jazz into the bar and three dining rooms. Sit by the fireplace or near the windows with icicle-tinged trees and try not to eat all the cheesy pretzel-challah bread so you will have room for their classic Beef Wellington and buttery poached lobster. Reservations are a must.
Alternatively, you may want to try the intimate dining experience that is created by eating in the dark. Dark Dining Projects are most often held at Camaje Bistro but you could be anywhere because you are blindfolded with foamy blackout visors before entering, and deposited outside after the two-hour culinary experience. Dana Salisbury, a dancer and visual artist who serves as the host, will lead you by the hand to your table, and wait staff will orient you to your mysterious food and drink. When you are denied the ability to see the three-course meal, watch your partner talk or see the restaurant, you will find food - and all your senses - heightened.
Aphrodisiacs are in order for a romantic day in the city, and the hard-to-find Apotheke bar, named after old-style pharmacies and perfumeries, specializes in love potions such as a Madagascan Vanilla Sidecar (cognac infused with Madagascan vanilla, aromatic bitters and lime) or the Deal Closer (vodka infused with local Chinatown aphrodisiacs, fresh mint, cucumber, lime and vanilla essence).
For drinks with a view, try the Mandarin Hotel at Columbus Circle for a spectacular panorama overlooking Central Park. Or be daring in the cosy leather booths at the White Star bar on the Lower East Side (21 Essex Street; 212-995-5464), and try some absinthe. The dark Shalel Lounge (65 W 70th Street; 212-873-2300), housed down a few stairs on the Upper West Side, feels intimate and Middle Eastern with its and half-moon entrance ways.
You may not be in Paris, but New York has everything you need for a romantic outing, even in the dead of winter.