Whether for Valentine’s Day or just to chase away the winter doldrums, a shared adventure can offer lasting memories and be much more meaningful than just another gift from the mall. So whether you’ve been a couple for decades, or it’s your first time stepping out together, check out our ideas for amazing local dates. Have fun!
Bundle up, hit the ski slopes of the Catskills, then indulge in a scrumptious meal and overnight stay in a turn-of-the-century inn. Start your morning in the village of Tannersville with a cup of freshly brewed coffee and made-to-order donuts hot from the fryer at Twin Peaks Coffee & Donuts. With toppings like caramel and sea salt and cinnamon sugar, it’s no wonder that this is the place where the locals congregate. Nearby Hunter Mountain (above) offers learn to ski and snowboard lessons at Hunter One, a special area just for beginners; a onetime lesson, with equipment and lift ticket, is $79. After schussing the afternoon away, relax with “back melt” massages at the resort’s Mountain Club Spa. Head back to Tannersville for magret duck breast or lobster butter poached cod at the Deer Mountain Inn. Built in the Arts and Crafts style, the inn has six cozy rooms furnished with antiques and William Morris textiles. A farmhouse breakfast awaits you come morning.
Guests have a choice of stylish bedrooms (left) at the Deer Mountain Inn, as well as a new third-floor game room
Spread over more than 14,000 acres in Putnam and Dutchess counties, Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park offers more than 11 miles of machine-groomed snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trails. Shoes and skis are available for rent in the warming lodge, and you can sip hot chocolate in front of the outdoor fireplace. Or channel your inner Hans Brinker, lace up your skates, and take some laps at Bear Mountain’s outdoor ice-skating rink; a 90-minute session is just $5, and the view of the Highlands from the rink is spectacular. Afterward, book a reservation in Cold Spring at the circa 1832 Hudson House River Inn. Just 100 feet from the river’s edge, and with Storm King and West Point in full view, this historic spot offers a full slate of steaks and seafood — lobster rolls are always available on the bar menu. Top off your meal with bananas Foster or chocolate bourbon pecan pie.
Pictured: Uncrowded groomed trails at Fahnestock State Park inspire learning or mastering snowshoeing.
For the high-minded, consider squiring your date through one of the Valley’s top-flight art museums. Admire the Hudson River School paintings — and other American artworks — currently on view at Vassar College’s Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. Or cross the river and head to the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz. Three new exhibits — featuring photography, furniture, and holography — open there this month; the museum is also known for its collection of metalwork, which includes 18th- and 19th-century silver as well as jewelry and sculpture. Cap off your day with dinner at A Tavola, a gem of a Northern Italian restaurant whose signature pappardelle Bolognese will capture even the most fickle heart.
Pictured: A piece by Andrew Lyght as part of the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art’s Full Circle exhibit. Photograph courtesy of Andrew Lyght, Air Rights NYLyght 6136, 2009–10.
Swing out, tuck turn, or dip? If the words sound like gibberish, it’s time to grab your partner and book a dance class, where you can learn new moves or hone existing ones. We like Got2Lindy Dance Studios, owned by Linda and Chester Freeman, who left careers in the corporate and publishing worlds to host classes in Newburgh, Highland, and Kingston. Sessions focus on the swing style — also known as the Lindy or jitterbug — since it’s the dance most often requested at parties, says Chester. If you’re swinging and swaying in Kingston, dine at one of the many delightful eateries in the city. Grab tapas at Elephant Wine Bar; gastropub fare — including house-made pastrami — at Frogmore Tavern; organic, “Ameropean” cuisine at Duo Bistro; or Boitson’s Restaurant, where you’ll never go wrong with the fried chicken and mashed potatoes.
Share in a living history lesson by visiting one of Dutchess County’s celebrated sites. Begin at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library and Museum in Hyde Park. This National Historic Site has so much to see — campaign buttons, the family tree, Eleanor’s engagement ring, one of FDR’s automobiles; fortunately, your ticket allows for a two-day visit. Or you could take a guided tour of one of several Gilded Age mansions. Staatsburg’s Mills Mansion (pictured) even offers a series of special Downton Abbey-themed tours. Head to Poughkeepsie for an intimate French bistro lunch at Brasserie 292 — escargots in garlic, moules frites, salade Nicoise, and a glass of wine, perhaps?
Yes, they’re considered an aphrodisiac — along with coconut, honey, chocolate, coffee, strawberries, and red wine. (If you want to get scientific, the hot-and-heavy reputation comes from their amino acids, which are said to trigger sex hormone production.) But the bottom line is they’re a great appetizer to enjoy a deux along with a glass of Prosecco or Champagne. Local raw bars feature a wide variety of the shellfish from both coasts. Blu Pointe in Newburgh offers six types — Blu Point, Wellfleet, Great South Bay, Hood Canal, Malpeque, and Kumamoto — served on the half shell. Captain Jake’s, which is also on the Newburgh waterfront, offers the “One Buck Shuck” oyster special at the bar during happy hour. It’s not a bad idea if this is a first date; you won’t be too much out of pocket if things don’t work out. Kingston’s Boitson’s also has a popular raw bar.
Art-loving couples might consider sitting for a portrait with Kingston photographer Tom DeLooza. A master of the wet plate collodion photographic technique, DeLooza creates sensuous black-and-white images that have a unique 19th-century quality, but are thoroughly modern at the same time. After your photo shoot, head to Uptown Kingston’s Duo Bistro. Voted “Best New Restaurant” by our readers when it opened in 2013, this casual spot highlights New American fare — like honey rhubarb pork chop or ricotta gnocchi with wild-caught shrimp. Visit on a Monday or Tuesday evening, and take advantage of the restaurant’s “three courses for $30” special.
Tom DeLooza’s photographic technique makes for memorable portraits. Some say that are even better than selfies
Find your voice — either solo or as part of a duet, on or off key. Smalley’s Inn in Carmel serves up karaoke on Saturday evenings, along with big portions of quality food. While belting old (and new) favorites, you can nosh on main course classics such as stuffed salmon, prime rib, crab cakes, lobster ravioli — and for dessert, a big, dense, delicious Mississippi Mud pie. The drinks list helps keep your vocal chords lubricated, whether it’s with a glass of wine, a Manhattan, a vodka martini, or just a Coors Light draft.
Not literally of course, but it seems that chopping, slicing, or dicing side-by-side may well be a recipe for romance. At the Home HGS Chef in Hillsdale, cooking classes are taught by local and national experts, in two sleek kitchens housed in a charming 1870 building. In February, consider Cheese 101, Sourdough 101, chicken basics, or the preparation of an authentic Mexican meal. Afterward, head over to the Hillsdale General Store, which sponsors the cooking classes; it’s stocked with gifts, food goodies, and antiques. Under owner Matthew White’s direction, it became the first historic commercial building to be restored in Hillsdale’s newly designated National Historic District. The building also contains the casual, farm-to-table CrossRoads Food Shop, where you can grab a bowl of soup, a burger and fries, or a salad in an unpretentious setting that matches the general store’s old-fashioned vibe. Before you leave, don’t forget to take home some of the shop’s unforgettable bite-sized jelly donuts.
Check out Piermont. Incorporated in 1847, this Rockland County village is known for its mile-long pier, from which thousands of soldiers from nearby Camp Shanks were shipped off to Europe during World War II; it was also the setting for Woody Allen’s 1985 movie The Purple Rose of Cairo. Many of its buildings are in the Victorian Stick style, including the 1873 railroad station, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. More than 20 shops and art galleries also are located in the village. The Editor, for instance offers women’s clothing, furniture, and creative gifts. End your day at the Freelance Cafe & Wine Bar, owned by famed local chef Peter X. Kelly. Small and large plates feature pasta with duck confit, Brie-stuffed chicken breast, and glazed wild salmon. Prices veer toward the higher side — but it’s definitely worth it. After all, it is date night!