1 AT FIRST SIGHT On a crystalline night no Carriage tour can compare with the Yellow Cab ride into the city from La Guardia or Kennedy airport. As you cross the Triborough Bridge into upper Manhattan, the entire skyline – from the World Trade Center towers to the housing projects of East Harlem – is spread out in a dazzling show of lights. The panorama looks like a fairyland, just the way Woody Allen depicted it in Manhattan. The scene always brings home the reality that romance on this particular island is a three-way affair: The city itself figures in every love story.
2 HIGH NOTES Live music is one rousing reason this city never sleeps. In the subways, reggae and soul, South American and African, classical, jazz, and (really bad) pop music echoes through the train tunnels. But a nominal investment will buy you a performance by top symphonies at Carnegie Hall, where even a seat in the loftier tiers makes it seem as though some of the greatest musicians in the world are playing just for you two. There are also jazz clubs like Iridium and the Jazz Standard. Diana Krall at the keyboards, singing Dave Frishberg’s classic “Peel Me a Grape” (“Skin me a peach, save the fuzz for my pillow”) can send you on your way bothered and bewitched.
3 DRINK TO THIS When in Manhattan, you’ve gotta have a manhattan. Or at least a martini, if not something trendier, like a cosmopolitan or caipirinha. Since the Rainbow Room closed in 1999, the bar at Eleven Madison Park has taken up the slack for glamour seekers. Housed in a gorgeously restored Art Deco building, this spot was designed for indulgence á deux: The sleek dining room has a lofty ceiling, tall windows looking onto Madison Square Park, and intimate little booths. For an aphrodisiacal snack, try the pristine oysters on the half shell and a selection from the large array of wines by the glass, which start at just $5.
4 RIVER WALK Strolling with your closest companion over the Brooklyn Bridge is a singular experience. There is nothing like crossing the East River on the massive 19th-century span as bikes and traffic whoosh past. The round-trip is nice, but it’s more fun to take a cab or the subway from Manhattan to Brooklyn’s lovely River Cafe (it’s virtually under the bridge) for brunch – or just drinks on the terrace – then saunter back toward the sparkling lower-Manhattan skyline.
5 ROMANCE ON TRACK Grand Central Terminal was saved from destruction in the 1960s but then was left to decay for years. Now a radical cleanup has transformed the dreary waiting room and halls into gleaming, soaring grandeur. The ceiling shines with its now visible stars; the marble glows. The place evokes all those old romantic comedies set in sleeping cars. No need to board a train together; a mere walk through this stunning space is uplifting. You can also sit down and savor it: The newly opened Campbell Apartment is one of the city’s hippest bars – and the place for those who want to get cozy.
6 KITCHEN CUDDLING In the words of George Meredith, “Kissing don’t last; cookery do!” Couples looking for enduring culinary inspiration will find it in the newly gentrified, eight-block meatpacking district west of Greenwich Village. Chelsea Market, set in a renovated Nabisco factory, is the place to feed visions of domestic bliss. It has a charcuterie, a fish shop, a sprawling cookware store, bakeries, and other epicurean temptations. If that all makes you hungry, head to Florent, a 24-hour French bistro – complete with authentically French attitude – or Markt, a new spot serving Belgian classics like mussels and frites.
7 TWO ON THE AISLE Sitting together in the dark at the theater is a quintessential New York experience. It’s even better spiced up with a little serendipity. The TKTS booth in Times Square sells half-price tickets (cash only) the day of the performance, but those for choice shows often go on sale just half an hour before curtain time, when the theaters unload their unused house seats. Take your chances – you could wind up in the fourth-row center, even for some of the hottest plays, like the revival of Kiss Me Kate.
8 FERRY GO ROUND Live in Manhattan long enough, and you know it is best appreciated from afar. And there is nothing like a ferry ride to help put the city into perspective. No need to get off on the far side; an outing on the Staten Island ferry or the ferry across the Hudson to New Jersey is exhilarating, especially as the boat cuts back toward that awesome urban outline. The view is best on a sunny day at sunrise or sunset – but weather doesn’t matter when your sweetie is along.
9 NOONER For a long lunch in midtown, no setting is more romantic than La Grenouille, with its gorgeous floral arrangements and subtle lighting. The service is old-world courtly, but the midday crowd is a study in up-to-date style. The food – from classic quenelles to frog’s legs (which account for the restaurant’s name) – always satisfies. A couple of blocks away, perennial hot spot Lespinasse is less lush looking than La Grenouille but boasts food that’s four-star seductive. For the ultimate after-meal indulgence, you can book a room just above the restaurant dining room, in the St. Regis Hotel.
10 PYROTECHNICS Central Park is at its most inviting when the city puts on a fireworks display. There’s no experience like strolling into the park just before midnight on December 31, with an icy bottle of really good champagne. A gazebo near the West 77th Street entrance overlooks a lake and midtown lights shimmering in the distance. Bundle up, grab a bench, and enjoy sitting and sipping in the cold. Even though the park is full of other celebrants, you’ll feel as if you two are all alone in a shower of stars.