Beyond the bar: 5 date ideas

couple eating ice cream on a date


Dating can get pretty monotonous if you rely on the same script every time you meet someone new – meet up at a bar, hopefully, go home together, repeat. It’s also really easy to get caught up in a routine when you’re in a relationship, whether that means only going out to your favorite Thai place or spending a lot of time on the couch watching Netflix. There’s nothing wrong with any of these dates, exactly, but you’ll be better off if you give your date something interesting to look forward to instead. Whether you’re trying to make a good first impression or keep your significant another guessing, try these ideas instead:

1. Go outside

No matter where you live and regardless of what the weather is like this time of year, there’s something around you can do outside – we promise. Whether it’s a picnic, a hike or a day of ice skating, you’ll stand out to new dates if you go for the great outdoors. It’s also a way to get to know someone you won’t find in traditional first-date options. You can still have a conversation, but it will naturally happen at the same time you’re enjoying nature and some physical exertion, which can be great if you struggle to make small talk. You can also learn a lot about a person if you pay attention to how he handles everything that comes up when you decide to take a date outside, from ants to falling over on the ice.

Of course, you’re going to need to make sure your date would be interested in an outing in nature. Some people aren’t, while some have allergies or other limitations that would make spending time outside a lot less than fun. You should also use your judgment here
– don’t take your boyfriend who’s never slept outside on a weeklong camping trip, for example, and you might want to hold off on a rock-climbing adventure until you know your date a little better.

2. Make the mundane exciting

After you’ve been on a few dates with someone, it’s pretty common to ask her to your home so you can make dinner. And if you’ve been with your boyfriend for a while, you probably cook for each other on a regular basis. Have you ever thought of a grocery store date? As boring as it sounds, this can be a really cute way to get to know someone. Hit up the fanciest local grocery in your price range and grab the ingredients for a dinner.

Especially if the grocery store of your choice has a bar – and more than you might imagine – this can be a really fun way to get out of the house and get to know your date. Early in a relationship, it’s still fun and special to do standard domestic tasks together, so a grocery date can be really endearing. Even if you’ve been dating for a while, taking the time to make running errands special can also go a long way.

3. Get fancy

Even if your budget doesn’t allow for extravagant dates, you can still impress new people or your current partner with a few classy dates. If you have a decent suit jacket or a nice dress, you have just about all you need to pull off these ideas.

Look around online to see whether any restaurants in your area host a high tea. Many upscale hotels will do so, for example. This can be something of a strain on your wallet, but nowhere near as bad as going out to the same places for dinner. Afternoon tea also has a charm of its own, with tiers of tiny sandwiches and delicately constructed sweets. It’s a date you can schedule without much trouble on a weekend afternoon that will get you fed and give you plenty of time to talk – and it doesn’t involve alcohol if you prefer a dry date. Your partner is sure to be impressed, but make sure to tell him beforehand that he’d better dress up a little.

Other ways you can create a fancy evening out on a shoestring include looking for discounted tickets to the theater or ballet, which you can usually find with a little Internet detective work, and scouring daily deals sites for restaurants you usually wouldn’t be able to afford.

4. Play with animals

Even if there’s no room in your life right now for a cat or a dog, you and your date can enjoy playing with fluffy animals whenever you want. This is a great idea if you bond with your date about cute animal pictures on the Internet, or if you know for sure he loves dogs (this one is best without the element of surprise because allergies are a great way to ruin a good time). Look up the hours of your local animal shelter or rescue and head over. You can look at the animals and even play with them – but make sure you’ve got iron self-control if you know you really can’t adopt a new friend, or else you might end up taking home a sweet kitten along with your date.

If you and your date turn out to be really into hanging out with shelter pets, see about volunteering. It’s a good way to carve out time to spend together on a regular basis, and it’s something you can feel good about doing together. Plus, it means constant access to a bunch of adorable animals.

5. Forget the bar – go to a tasting

If you’re really attached to the bar as a good date to go on – and who’s not? – step it up a notch by going to a tasting instead. You can find tastings for beer, wine, whiskey and more. If you live near a brewery or a winery, you can probably go at nearly any time and get a tour with tastings, and sometimes it’s even free. If not, many bars and other venues will hold tasting events on a regular basis. This one is fun because you get the bar atmosphere (and the alcohol), but you also get the chance to learn more about your drink of choice and find out what you like. They can also be fun social events, which means you and your date might meet new people you can hang out with again in the future.

With a little thought (and this list), you can take your date out for something she hasn’t done a hundred times before

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