Valentine's Day, a holiday that celebrates romantic love by funneling savings into extravagant dinners and expensive couples' dates, is only three weeks away.
If you're still mulling over affordable and unusual ways to express your affection this year, we have some ideas that will help you make the most of living in NYC:
► Do dinner and a movie
The Williamsburg dine-in movie theater Nitehawk Cinemas offers tableside food-and-drink service, so you can order cocktails, entrees and dessert with a pencil and paper throughout your screening. (The newly opened Alamo Drafthouse theater in Downtown Brooklyn provides a similar experience.) The week of Feb. 14 Nitehawk is showing a romantic selection of movies, from "West Side Story" to "Coming to America." Tickets cost $16, and we recommend you show up at least a half-hour early, because admission doesn't guarantee you the adjacent seating you'll need for hand-holding and cuddling.
► Play a few rounds of pinball to prove your relationship can withstand some healthy competition
A woman playing pinball at the Creek and Cave in Long Island City (DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly)
For the nostalgic couple in search of some old-school fun, the city has a number of bars stocked with pinball machines. You can locate them all on this map. For the widest assortment of games, roll over to Sunshine Laundromat in Greenpoint or Modern Pinball NYC Arcade in Kips Bay. Bring lots of quarters!
► Reflect on love's eternal flame at a cemetery
If you and your inamorato believe that love never dies, pay homage to its enduring vibrancy at the graves of couples buried side by side. (And ignore all the haters who say that's a morbid idea.) At the Trinity Church cemetery in Washington Heights, you can visit the mausoleum where "Law & Order" star Jerry Orbach and his wife Elaine were laid to rest. At the Trinity Church graveyard in the Financial District, you'll find a monument erected to founding father Alexander Hamilton and a grave for his wife, Eliza, founder of the city's first private orphanage.
► Trade a fancy meal at Per Se for reservations at White Castle
New Yorkers looking for an ironic Valentine's Day experience that conspicuous consumption and good taste can make dinner reservations at one of the burger chain's more than 20 locations in New York City. At its 26th annual Valentine's Day dinner with tableside service, White Castle customers can order sliders, chicken rings and gooey butter cake on a stick straight to their tables. If 99-cent cake on a stick doesn't scream "romance," we don't know what does.
► Jump, jive and wail at a swing-dancing night
If you and your valentine just want to dance on Feb. 14, join Svetlana and the Delancey Five for some live swing music with no cover charge at the Roxy Hotel in TriBeCa, or head to the jazz and supper club Swing46 for live music and a dance lesson for $15. That Friday, you can also hit up Brooklyn Swing's weekly dance in Williamsburg for $5 to $10 a person.
► Lace up some skates and hit the ice
Ice skaters at Wollman Rink in Central Park (Credit: Flickr/StuartMoreton)
Whether you glide on the ice like an Olympian, or fall on your rear like a klutz, we think you'll enjoy circling the rink at Bryant Park's Winter Village, the Wollman Rink in Central Park or the LeFrak Center in Prospect Park. Save money for hot chocolate by bringing your own skates and lock.
► Find bedroom inspiration at a burlesque show
Some professional strip-teasing could be just the motivation your love life needs. The more lavish burlesque productions can cost a pretty penny, so we recommend catching a revue at the Lower East Side's Slipper Room or Nurse Bettie for some erotic pointers.
► Take a Valentine's Day-themed tour of the Tenement Museum
The crowded tenement at 97 Orchard St. may not have been the romantic place in world in the late 19th and early 20th century, but love can flourish anywhere. Museum guides will share stories of residents who fell for their boarders, the tale of a devoted widow who found a new love, and insight into how New Yorkers wooed their crushes in 1910. Tickets, which come with complimentary sweets, cost $30 per person.
► Name a roach for your sweetheart and take them to see it
For a mere $10, you can name a giant Madagascar hissing cockroach at the Bronx Zoo in your beloved's honor through the institution's annual "Name-a-Roach" program. A $35 donation will get you a plush cockroach or box of gourmet chocolates, in addition to a naming certificate. A $50 donation guarantees you the entire package. You can find the insect you've christened among the lemurs at the Zoo's "Madagascar!" exhibit.
► Laugh it up with your valentine
If you laugh at the same jokes, put a ring on it. This is New York, so your options for comedy on a given evening are pretty much unlimited. But here are a couple of listings that caught our eyes: a showcase for women "sharing their unique vagina valentine" at the People's Improv Theater in Gramercy, and an improvised musical based on the true love story of two audience members at the Bell House in Gowanus. Tickets for the former are $7, for the latter $15.