Not Your Average Date Night

It could be any Friday or Saturday night, almost certainly on the early side of 9 p.m. as you and your partner work 40 hours a week, endure lengthy commutes and spend your free time maintaining the family, when you grab a pint of ice cream and settle down on the sofa. “It’s my movie choice tonight,” your special someone says. “Okay,” you say, your eyelids already beginning to feel heavy with sleep.

And there it is… another date night over before it began.

Spending quality time with your partner is an important part of keeping a relationship healthy and strong. But date night can be as cliché as… well, Valentine’s Day. In fact, in 2013, the Norwegian government issued a plea to parents in Norway to embrace “date nights” as a means to combat rising divorce rates. It’s a good idea in theory, but adult recreation shouldn’t be forced, nor should every date night consist of dinner and a movie.

Whether you plan a picnic, create a romantic scavenger hunt for one another or create your own restaurant tour by heading to a new restaurant for every course, there are plenty of ways to keep things new and interesting! Ranging from free to fancy, here are unique ways to bond with your special someone that don’t involve on-demand movies, a couch and a pint of ice cream.

Fabulously Free Dates

  • Go for a hike. Is there anything more romantic than watching a sunset on the ledge of a mountain? Hikes are full of unexpected moments that are impossible to plan – rare bird sightings, rainbows, encounters with wildlife – all of which can create a memorable date night.

The necessities: Casual clothes and a good pair of hiking shoes are a must (nothing ruins a romantic mood faster than blisters). Water and food are essential, and bring something your sweetie won’t expect, like chocolate truffles or fancy cheese.

  • Game night. Whether it’s Yahtzee, Twister, Gin Rummy chess or Scrabble, games are perfect for stay at home date nights. If board games aren’t your thing, power up the Wii console and challenge your partner to a game of golf or tennis.

The necessities: Leave your ego at the door and bring a fun, lighthearted and competitive spirit. Wear sweat pants, sports jerseys, lounging wear or even an old alma mater sweatshirt.

Dates for $25 and Under

  • Create the perfect French picnic. Nobody picnics like the French. They’ve turned casual, romantic, alfresco dining into an art form. According to chef Daniel Boulud, “Going on a picnic is about luxury… the luxury of time.”

The necessities: All you need is a local park (or your backyard), a blanket, picnic basket and a menu of delicious and tote-able dishes. Appetizers might include roasted beet salad, cured meats and white bean tapenade, crunchy green bean pickles and a baguette with Boursin cheese. Quality summer fruit makes a perfect picnic dessert. Wear casual clothes such as khakis or a sundress.

  • Create a romantic scavenger hunt. Arrange a trail of clues that lead your special someone to different locations throughout the house – linen closet, attic, sugar bowl. Each location has another clue leading to another place around the house… until your partner finds a little box with a gift inside or some other trinket of your affection.

The necessities: Bring the romance and the mystery. Get creative with the trail of clues and make sure the “treasure” at the end of the hunt is something special. Skip traditional tokens of affection – like flowers or chocolates – in favor of something more personal, such as a poem, a gift certificate for a couple’s massage or a framed photo of you and your special someone.

  • Recapture childlike joys. Ice-skating, roller-skating, bowling, laser tag, karaoke, miniature golf, a visit to the county fair – these types of activities represent the ultimate time-traveling date night. They’re classic activities that help you connect and have fun with your partner.

The necessities: Bring the laughter and silliness. In order to enjoy these activities, you need to lessen your inhibitions and let yourself go. And if you’re roller-skating or doing karaoke, you better request or sing your song.

Fabulously Fancy Dates

  • Go on a brewery or wine tour. Sampling new things together is an important part of a relationship. According to Mara Littman, the creator of Boston Date Night, “It’s important to do something different, out of the usual routine. Something live, interactive and immersive. It gives you something to talk about.”

The necessities: Bring an open mind, cleansed palate and a willingness to try something outside your comfort zone (Double IPA’s and sweet Rieslings aren’t for everybody). Wear jeans and a T-shirt or dress up – whatever you fancy is fine.

  • Go to a new restaurant for every course. Nicknamed the “bike tour” itinerary, this date night is all about new experiences. Basically, you choose a restaurant where you want to have a main course, and then you explore a few of the places that are on the way. For example, you might stop at a trendy bar for an appetizer, head to the destination restaurant for the main course and then end the night with a cocktail and some live music or a dessert and coffee at a cafe.

The necessities: A sense of adventure, a payday-happy wallet and your Sunday best.

  • Take a class together. Yoga, kickboxing, rock climbing, cheese making, wine appreciation, an art glass, a couple’s cooking glass, a cocktail making class, there are all types of classes that you and your loved one can take. Whether you want to get the creative juices flowing, pick up a new hobby or explore an old one, many communities offer a wide selection of informative and fun workshops. Classes sell out fast, so be sure to book in advance.

The necessities: A willingness to learn and zero fear of failure. Yes, it’s difficult to cook authentic Italian cuisine, let alone paint the next Picasso.

  • Go indoor skydiving. Nothing spices up a date night and gets you out of a rut faster than the simulation of free-fall conditions in a vertical wind tunnel. Even if you and your partner aren’t thrill seekers, indoor skydiving or body flight, is a thrilling way to spend the evening.

The necessities: Leave your fear of heights at home, bring the adrenaline and wear a helmet.

Whether you stay at home for date night and create a seven-course meal for your loved one (or hire a professional chef to prepare the meal for you) or venture into town for a new adventure, there are numerous unique and imaginative ways to spend time with your partner. Don’t make it an average date night. Your special someone deserves something special.