Dating is important—not just for getting to know a love interest, but for sharing experiences throughout a relationship.
In the beginning, a good date idea sets the scene to break the ice and help you make a connection with someone. "Whether it's the movie you saw, the food you ate, or the place you visited, it's important to have an enjoyable experience and continue to get to know each other," says Dr. Jane Greer, New York–based marriage and family therapist and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship.
Deeper into a relationship, regular reconnections can help keep your bond solid. "Dating can be extremely beneficial toward keeping romance alive, and making a practice of going on regular dates can be a great way to jump-start that habit," says Denise Limongello, a licensed psychotherapist based in Manhattan, who points out that lack of romance is a common reason for breakups or divorce.
But coming up with new date ideas is harder than it seems! That's why we polled the experts to reveal their favorite date night (and day) ideas for couples, first-time dates and relationship statuses in between.
Date Ideas in this Article:
- First Date Ideas
- Fun Date Ideas
- Cheap Date Ideas
- Romantic Date Ideas
- Cute Date Ideas
- Winter Date Ideas
- Creative Date Ideas
- Double Date Ideas
- Anniversary Date Ideas
- Summer Date Ideas
- Indoor Date Ideas
Think hard about the venue while you're planning a first date. Good first date ideas are ones that facilitate upbeat conversation, so it's probably not a good idea to choose a loud bar or dark movie theater. It's okay to keep it simple the first time you go out with someone. In fact, you might want to go to one of your own favorite places.
- Meet at a coffee shop. "Most coffee shops are set up to facilitate intimate conversation, which is just what you want on a date," says Esther Boykin, licensed marriage and family therapist and author of The Date Deck. "And most importantly you can stay for 30 minutes or 3 hours and exiting the date at either point doesn't seem awkward or forced."
- Have dinner. Probably the most common first date idea, the dinner date can take up more of your time but definitely sets the mood for eye contact and talking. “Going out for a nice dinner [gives you the] opportunity to share the dining experience while getting to know each other," Greer says.
- Take a cooking class. “One of my other favorite first date ideas is to meet for an activity like painting or cooking," Boykin says.
- Taste wine at a vineyard or winery. “If you're often nervous making small talk, an activity gives you built-in conversation topics," Boykin says. “Just be sure to choose something that doesn't involve lengthy instructions from a teacher or ongoing group discussion, which will hinder your ability to get to know your date one-on-one."
If the first date goes well, you'll want to plan a second one. "I think the simplest and most effective way to decide if you should have a second date is to ask yourself, 'Do I want to talk to this person again?'" says Boykin, who notes that many times people needlessly stress about what a second date means.
As for as good second date ideas are concerned, “show the other person that you were paying attention on the first date by doing something to show you learned a little about them," Boykin says. “It could be as simple as choosing a restaurant she mentioned liking on the first date or congratulating them on their favorite team's recent win (or consoling them if they lost)."
Planning a fun date from time to time adds joy to any relationship. "You need to set aside time to be together and enjoy your shared activities and hobbies," Greer says. "You're prioritizing your time with your partner so that you can create more intimacy between the two of you. With everything going on in people's lives, you can wind up flipping into creature comfort and not wanting to bother going out or doing anything."
"Fun" has different meanings to different people, so choose something that speaks to your and your date's personalities. What makes you smile? Let loose? Act silly?
- Picnic. “Plan a picnic with your partner—this can be very different, old-fashioned and romantic," Greer says.
- Be adventurous. "Try biking or hiking a trail; enjoy an afternoon in nature," Greer says.
- Sing karaoke. Who cares if you can't carry a tune? Pick a few favorite songs, and we'll sure you'll lower your inhibitions a bit.
- Go dancing.
Take a pottery-making class. This activity can be romantic too. Remember the movie Ghost?
Don't feel as if you need to spend a lot of money on a date. “It's not the amount of money you spend or what you're doing, rather than the fact you're setting aside time to be together and build intimacy," Greer says. Cheap and free date ideas include:
- Stay in and watching a movie together. Order a pizza or affordable take-out!
- Take an exercise class together. Couple's yoga is a good bet! Or, if one of you is a gym member, get a guest pass and bring your date along with you.
- Sit by the lake, pond or river. Feed the ducks, people-watch or gaze at the sunset.
- Spend the day at the beach.
Re-create a pricey class at home. "Wish you could take a cooking class together? Find a video or recipe online and learn how to cook a great meal together," Boykin suggests. "If you love the idea of those sip and paint evenings, create your own art studio at home with inexpensive paints and canvases from your local art store." We also love the idea of signing up for a subscription with Plated, so you can make delicious, chef-designed recipes at home with fresh, pre-measured ingredients..
Whether you're looking to ignite or rekindle romance—or simply keep it aflame—it's not just what you do on the date, it's how you treat your significant other while you're on it.
"Romance is created through affection between the two of you, like compliments, light touching or remembering what your partner likes—like their favorite ice cream or a single stem of their favorite flower," Greer says. "Romance can be found when you pay attention to your partner, remember what they like and show them they matter to you."
Some romantic ideas for her or for him include:
- Dinner date night. Have dinner at a quiet, quaint restaurant; or at home, paired with a good bottle of wine.
- Go ballroom dancing.
- See a show at a comedy club. "Laughter is the fiber of intimacy," Greer says. "Laughing together helps people bond."
- Get a couple's massage together.
- Plan a weekend away. Plan a ski trip, a stay at a bed-and-breakfast, or a quick getaway to a nearby city.
"Flowers and candlelight can be romantic, but so can hot dogs and a baseball game," Boykin says. "It is a balance between doing what you know your partner loves and taking a little risk to try something you think they may like. The idea that there's still more to learn and be surprised by in your relationship is what fuels the sense of romance."
Okay, so your partner says they want to "do something cute." You're probably wondering what exactly that's code for. Well, when we want a cute date idea, we want to break the mold and turn the typical date on its head. So get cute with one of these adorable ideas:
- Plan a date night surprise. "Research shows that many satisfied couples report appreciation when their significant others take the time to surprise them," Limongello says. Don't tell your partner you have something planned, and create a fun night. It can be having a simple candlelit dinner waiting when they get home, but the fact that it's a surprise will make it special.
- Have a lunch hour date. Whether you have conflicting schedules or just need to switch things up a bit, it will be fun to rendezvous in the middle of the day for a change.
- Cook something you've never tried before. Pick a cuisine you're not very familiar with or make something from scratch—such as fresh pasta, charcuterie, candy or beer— together, suggests Melody Li, a national certified counselor and licensed marriage and family therapist associate based in Austin, Texas.
- Plant a garden together. Whether it's an herb garden, cacti or mini fruit trees, this is a fun, sweet activity that can be as labor intensive or simple as you want it to be.
Print and frame your favorite photos. This is a fun activity for an established couple. "Give new life to old frames from thrift and vintage stores by filling them with photos you cherish," Li says.
When the weather cools down and you're planning a date, you've got two choices: Plan something warm indoors or embrace the chill! Whatever you plan to do, make some time to get cozy with a little hot chocolate or some cuddling at the end of the date.
- Do a winter sport. Take your pick: skiing, ice skating, snowboarding or snow tubing.
- See a movie. "Research has shown that watching movies with relationship themes and talking about them can be as effective as premarital counseling," Boykin says. "The secret? Couples must be intentional about the conversation they have after the movie."
- Have an indoor picnic. "I love to cook a great dinner, open a favorite bottle of wine and lay out a blanket in front of the TV," Boykin says.
- Go to a museum or art gallery.
Start a blog together, Li suggests. "Your blog can be a collection of your favorite poems, photos and inside jokes. Or, if you have a shared interest like baking, juggling or upcycling, consider starting a themed blog to grow your community."
Use your imagination to come up with a few unique date ideas your partner won't see coming. Some of our favorite dates are unexpected, creative and adventurous. Give these out-of-the-box date ideas a try for a new twist on the same old date.
- Go glamping. Let's say one of you loves to "rough it" and the other would rather stay in a fancy hotel. Meet in the middle for a little "elegant camping," Limongello suggests. You can still enjoy the great outdoors together but with some creature comforts.
- Get crafty. "Make something beautiful," Li says. "Put your creative minds together—bury a time capsule, make a short film, home brew with seasonal ingredients or make jewelry."
- Foster or rescue a pet. This is a fun idea for couples that live together. Share the love by welcoming a furry friend into your home!
- "Do a food truck tour," Li says. "Support local entrepreneurs while you enjoy a range of tasty treats."
Take a photo walk. "Wander around and capture anything that catches your eye with a camera or phone" Li says."Try shooting from a different perspective than you usually do. Have fun and be silly!"
Double dates can be really fun, but make sure you choose to go on one with a couple with whom you both get along. “If the four of you vibe and have fun together, then it's a great double date," Boykin says. "Research actually shows that double dating can be good for your relationship because it often sparks deeper and more meaningful conversation than when we go out alone."
- Have Sunday brunch. "A double date over brunch or dinner is a great, simple way to connect with friends and each other," Boykin says.
- Go see a play.
- Watch a sporting event.
- Take in some culture. “A gallery opening, museum or lecture can provide fodder for your double date conversation," Boykin says.
- Run a race or go to a charity event.
When you're planning an anniversary date, think of doing something special and celebratory—and reflecting on your relationship a bit. "Couples should plan a date that reflects their interests and history together," Boykin says. "Some of my favorite anniversary date ideas are really low-key but nostalgic."
- See a band. Have "a night out listening to a local band that plays covers of your favorite artist or a band you saw together early in your relationship," Boykin says.
- Relive your first date. Go back to the restaurant or coffee shop where you had your first date. Before you go home, consider re-creating your first kiss too.
- Relive the wedding, if you're married. "A double date with your maid of honor and best man or another favorite couple can be a really great way to share your love and memories," Boykin says.
- Plan a staycation. Take the whole weekend to celebrate this special occasion. Stay in a swank hotel, get drinks at the hottest new bar, see a show and have fun!
Start a new tradition. "I encourage couples to use their anniversary as a time to create special rituals too," Boykin says. "Take a selfie every year and add it to the back of your wedding album, or take turns surprising each other with unexpected adventures. After all, what is marriage if not an unexpected adventure together?"
The good new is: As the weather heats up, the date idea options increase. (That is, if you live in a climate with bitter cold winters.) For summer date ideas, you can get outdoors, get moving and get romantic.
- Go to a local fair or festival. How fun is it to play fair games, eat cotton candy and ride a ferris wheel?
- Attend an outdoor concert. "Music festivals are particularly great if you get your dance on," Boykin says. "The physical contact combined with the emotion of music and the joy of being outdoors can be a catalyst for a lot of fun and intimacy during and after the date."
- Take a road trip. "The potential for you to do something spontaneous and find an adventure is a great way to bring that sense of newness back to your relationship," Boykin says. "Road trips also encourage you to be collaborative with each other as you plan where to go and how to get there."
- Go on a motorcycle ride. "Not everyone has access to or a desire to ride a motorcycle, but if you do, I highly recommend it," Boykin says. "The added level of physical closeness and trust involved can turn a casual afternoon into a very romantic experience without much effort."
Hike, mini golf, bike, walk the dog or do something else outdoorsy! "Outdoor activities can all bring out a more playful and easygoing side to your personality," Boykin says. "The less you have to think about what to say or what to do next, the more fun you'll have."
If you're stuck indoors because of rain or intense heat, there are plenty of fun date ideas. And just because you're not out in the sunshine doesn't mean your date has to be boring. "Be adventurous," Li says. "Get sweaty!"
- Take an aerial yoga class.
- Learn to trapeze.
- Try indoor bouldering.
- Take a Zumba class together.
- Hit a dance club. "Dancing together is a date you'll be glad you tried," Boykin says. "It's not just a good excuse to get closer, it's also a good way to practice your nonverbal communication with each other. Sometimes you need to let your body do the talking."
"Dating, whether it's your 15th or 150th [date], is one of the easiest and most effective ways to keep your relationship healthy and long-lasting," Bokin says. "Dating gives you opportunity to nurture intimacy, practice communication, demonstrate commitment and create a meaningful history together. These elements are foundational to any quality relationship, be it dating or marriage. When you are consistent about having date night together, you are reminding each other that your relationship is a priority no matter how busy life gets."
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