A Single Person’s Guide to Valentine’s Day in NYC
Valentine’s Day is a pressure cooker of emotion, anxiety and absurd expectations. What do I wear? How do I smell? What should I buy? Where should I book a table? And I don’t know about you, but all that stress is not something I want on my plate. It’s not that I’m an anti-Valentine's Day curmudgeon—trust me, I love the holiday—but I’ll admit that I’m excited to be spending this year’s holiday alone. You see, it’s been about a full calendar year since my three-and-a-half-year relationship ended, and I’m ready to see what a solo Valentine’s Day in NYC has in store for me.
Gimme all that mushy, couple-y lovey-dovey everything—for one please. Because who better to love me, then, well, me? This Valentine’s Day, I’m actively choosing to find ways to date myself. That means no worrying about having anything stuck in my teeth or pretending to care about NFTs or arguing over the bill. Instead, I’m cultivating a full-fledged relationship with me, myself, and I. That being said, I’m not planning on spending the holiday sitting at home in my PJs with a bar of Hershey’s. Actually, I might do that, but only after hitting the town for a solo love fest. Here are some of my recommendations for spending Valentine’s Day single in the Big Apple. Pro tip: You don’t even have to celebrate on February 14th. That’s the beauty of zero expectations—you can save all your holiday fun for the weekend if you want!
Start the Day Off Right
Remember last Valentine’s Day when you were gifted one of those delightfully cheesy heart-shaped boxes filled to the brim with truffles and it took everything in you not to scarf them all down in one go in front of your date? Or when you had to fake a smile when your S.O. bought you an edible fruit basket when all you wanted was a belly full of mascarpone? Well, you’re in luck because this year’s, “I love you,” is self-indulgent and comes in the form of a heaping cup of rich, steaming hot cocoa. I’m not talking about the run of the mill Swiss Miss variety; I’m talking about the self-indulgent, chocolate-between-the-teeth sipping kind that you’ll find at a select few locales dotted around the city. My favorite has and always will be L.A. Burdick, a cozy cafe in SoHo, serving up their signature handmade chocolates since 1987, but I’m in it for their exceptional sipping chocolate. Each month, L.A. Burdick rotates through various single-source chocolates to make their iconic beverage, February being a cocoa blend from Grenada. It’s got notes of banana, nutmeg and coffee. It’s giving fresh banana bread in the morning and I’m drooling. If you’re not a chocolate connoisseur, they’re also chock-full of espresso bevs that will delight any caffeine fiend. Just pop on in, breathe in deep and allow yourself to indulge, no strings attached. Some of our other favorite chocolate spots in the city include MarieBelle, known for their legendary cocoa bar stocked with a unique selection of flavors ranging from white to dark, The Chocolate Room, a Brooklyn staple serving up creamy, to-die-for cups of hot chocolate, and Vechi, a tried and true chocolate shop with multiple Manhattan locations serving up their cocoa thick and rich.
Bop Around Niche Museums
After you grab yourself something sweet to start off the day, it’s time to visit one of NYC’s many storied museums. Why? Because museum hopping with a companion can be stress-inducing. Planning where you’ll go is the first hurdle. Then which exhibits you’ll have time for because surely there won’t be time for all of them, and what if you want to cut the trip short and grab a snack but your museum buddy is still gaping at the art? You’re both left feeling rushed and ultimately someone misses something that they’ve been itching to see. Solution: Go alone. You can spend as much time as you want looking at anything you want.
If you’re going to somewhere like the Met or MoMA, you’re gonna want to hit those up on the off-day and off-peak hours. That being said, why not use this solo excursion as an opportunity to visit a museum that’s a little more niche? Here are a few museums perfect for enjoying without the crowds.
Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space (MoRUS)
This East Village museum centers around the vibrant urban spaces that have been born from reclaimed vacant and/or abandoned urban spaces that are then transformed into community spaces, gardens and more. There is a major emphasis on the activists that have been integral to these movements. Right now, you can catch their exhibit, “Squats,” which focuses on the housing crisis in the 1970s when hordes of people took over and reclaimed dilapidated and run-down spaces in the Lower East Side in movements like squatting and mass homesteading.
155 Avenue C, New York; morusnyc.org
New York Transit Museum
Located in one of New York City’s decommissioned subway stations, the New York Transit Museum is home to a wide variety of transit artifacts, old subway cars and more. They’ve got a handful of permanent exhibits like “Moving the Millions” and “No Spitting on the Platform,” plus a couple of rotating exhibits as well. This February, I’ll be checking out “Streetscapes & Subways: Photographs By Pierre P. and Granville W. Pullis” featuring photographs taken prior to and during construction of the NYC transit system and “Ticket to Ride” which documents various kinds of fare collections that have been used over the years from turnstiles and fare boxes to subway tokens (you can touch things in this last one!). While they do have a limited number of tickets for sale on-site, they recommend making a reservation online prior to visiting.
99 Schermerhorn Street, Brooklyn; nytransitmuseum.org
Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art
This legendary two-gallery museum always has a rotation of artists that ebb and flow through the space. The exhibit, “Coyote Park: I Love You Like Mirrors Do,” is on display through July 16, 2023. It features photographic works by Coyote Park, a queer artist. “Documenting ephemera and energetic connections between past lovers, current partners, and those they hold close, Park aims to capture the unspoken understandings of how they see and are seen,” reads a description on the museum’s site. The collection emphasizes that each and every person is a reflection of those they come in contact with. They’re even pulling out rarely exhibited works from the Leslie-Lohman Museum’s collection to appear alongside Coyote Park’s work, meaning you’ll probably see some hidden gems from the archive.
26 Wooster Street, New York; leslielohman.org
Embrace the Stank
Once you’ve had a couple of hours to take in a bit of culture, your belly might be craving some noms. And when you’re dining for one, any dish is fair game. This is the perfect opportunity to indulge in the most fragrant, rich and—dare we say—odorous cuisines. Think: heavy pastas, potent truffle, garlicky everything. As long as your after-meal breath or the thought of loosening some pants buttons aren’t deal-breakers for you, these delicious options are hands down some of the best the city has to offer. Cue the pungency!
Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles
This Chinatown favorite is known for—you guessed it—hand-pulled noodles. And many of their dishes come with incredible garlic sauce or onion. It’s a small, local spot, so plan accordingly. They’re usually pretty busy, but it’s first come first serve, so you’re likely to get a table quickly if it’s just for you. And if take-out is more your speed, they also have an order online option, and you can bring it home for a dinner-on-the-couch movie sesh.
1 Doyers Street, New York; tastyhandpullednoodlesnyc.com
Olio E Più
Located in Greenwich Village, Olio E Più, is known for its beautiful, airy Italian villa vibes. With stunning florals and greenery dotted throughout the space, chandelier-style wall sconces, antique photos, wooden hairpin chairs and additional ornately upholstered wooden seats, Olio E Più is a place to woo yourself. Indulge in their Fettuccine Tartufo, pasta enveloped in a creamy sauce and topped with a small mountain of black truffles.
3 Greenwich Avenue, New York; olioepiu.com
Another Greenwich Village favorite, Rosemary’s boasts a neighborhood-friendly atmosphere. You can nearly always catch the restaurant in full-swing, catering to an array of locals and tourists alike. Their bright and open dining space becomes dim and moody in the evening and if you ask nicely, they might just let you take a peek at their rooftop herb garden where they grow their fresh herbs in-house. When you’re dining for one, start with the Truffle Foccasia full of onion, fontina cheese, and black truffle and end with the Spaghetti Aglio E Olio, a garlic, chili, and olive oil pasta. Chef’s kiss!
18 Greenwich Avenue, New York or 350 1st Avenue, New York; rosemarysnyc.com
Top the Night Off with Your Drink of Choice
Did someone say nightcap? You may bristle at the idea of going to a bar by yourself but hear me out—enjoying an expertly made beverage that you could never concoct at home while taking in the ambiance is all kinds of fun. You can strike up an interesting conversation with the person sitting next to you or you can enjoy a great book or you can just sip your drink in peace—there’s no pressure. Plus, going to a bar solo is an easy way to become a regular, and is there anything cooler than asking a bartender for “your usual”?
Feeling salty about that one person that ghosted you a couple weeks back? Just broke it off with a long-time situationship? Or maybe you’re just in the mood to smash some stuff? Break Bar sounds like it’d be right up your alley. This isn’t any old NYC bar; here anything you buy that comes in a glass can and should be broken in a special room in the back made for glass-chucking. They equip you with a pair of goggles and in you go. If one glass or two isn’t enough, they also sell buckets of glass so that you can smash in the throwing range until your heart's content. *Sigh* Plus they’ve got an incredible selection of drafts, bottled beer and inventive cocktails with names like Peanut Butter & Jealous, Surfer on Acid, and Cranberry Sauce. How’s that for a Valentine’s Day bar date?
458 9th Avenue, New York; breakbarnyc.com
The perfect marriage of bar and bookstore exists and it’s in the East Village. Book Club is exactly what it sounds like—a bookstore and bar combo perfect for a quiet, introspective night out. Especially after a nice hearty meal. Park up with a book at their bar fashioned with cushioned seats or in their plush armless club chairs surrounded by their shelves full of for-sale books. It’s got a dim, speakeasy library vibe where you won’t be bothered—unless you’d like to be. It’s easy to blend into the background at this curious spot if that’s what you’re after. While you’re there, their bar caters to all the beer and wine drinkers as well as the caffeinated crowd, slinging up espresso bevvies and steaming cups of tea. Mmm, cozy.
197 East 3rd Street, New York; bookclubbar.com
If you’d rather wind down after your whirlwind solo adventure in the city, but still be surrounded by other people in a spot buzzing with beautiful energy, Moonflower is the ideal spot. This colorful wine bar decorated with detailed floral murals and unique wine shelving serves up curated wines from indie producers. Their bottle and by-the-glass selection is quite extensive, so if you need help choosing, you can check out their new astrological wine menu that breaks down recommendations by element and sign. And this night is all about you, right? Why not have that full-bodied orange, Scorpio? Find your Mars sign—the planet that rules desire and sexuality—Moonflower’s correlating glass and sip away. Pure satisfaction. And if you’d rather not drink, they also have a menu of noms to pair with some no alcohol-by-volume beverages like fermented kombucha.
201 West 11th Street, New York, moonflower.nyc
Conclusion = Best Valentine’s Day Ever
Whether this is your very first Valentine’s Day alone or your first one in a while, I hope that you’re able to find ways to date yourself this year. The city truly is your oyster. And you, are the single, gleaming pearl inside. Happy Valentine’s Day to you, babe.