When we were dating, my husband and I usually took the easy way out: dinner and a movie. Sure, sometimes we attended live performances, went canoeing, or hiked, but we mostly stayed in the dinner and movie rut. Now that the kids are older, we’re looking for ways to make our time together more memorable than ever before. So far I’ve come up with 43 ideas for livening up date night. (They’re just as fun with friends or kids.)
1. Challenge each other to a triathlon of your own devising. You might compete in air hockey, tongue twisters, and onion ring eating. Next time, come up with three different triathlon events.
4. Learn glassblowing at a local art academy.
5. Climb as many things as possible: a wall, a fence, some corralled grocery carts. Take photo evidence of how you get high.
6. Or just climb trees. You probably haven’t done that since you were a kid. You might find a tree you can both climb to sit happily like a pair of love birds.
7. Get together with friends to watch a movie none of you have seen. The catch is watching it muted, inventing dialogue to accompany the screen action.
8. Go on an alternative identity date, either the two of you or with a group of friends. On the way everyone makes up his or her own identity. Make an effort to play along with that identity: call each other by the chosen faux names, enjoy elaborating on your character’s backstory, and interact with strangers through that identity. At the end of the experiment it’s fun to talk about how it felt to try on an alternative self. And if you’ve taken photos, check to see if anyone held their faces or bodies differently. The sense of observing yourself from the lens of another persona can be illuminating.
9. Go Barbie Jeep racing. (This is one of my life goals.) It’ll take some advance planning, some friends, and plenty of thrift store ride-on toys.
10. Go to an attraction in your area that’s embarrassingly tourist-oriented.
11. Visit friends. Throughout the evening, move as many things three inches to the left as possible without them noticing.
12. Toss Holi Colors at each other. Best followed up with a water fight…
13. Buy all sorts of flowers, then hand them out at a senior center.
14. Sit together in a cafe to write a short horror story or sci-fi thriller. Or romance if that sounds fun. Only rule: when you need dialogue, incorporate conversation you pick up via eavesdropping.
15. Ask the oldest people you know to tell you about games they played growing up. Then play them, if possible, with those elders.
16. Try a winter picnic. Choose a bright snowy day, hike off to a perfect spot, then open some thermal containers of hot soup to enjoy with warm-you-from-the-inside drinks.
17. Visit a haunted house. Or volunteer for one.
18. Go cloud collecting. Bird watchers keep a life list of their sightings, cloud watchers can do the same with The Cloud Collector’s Handbook by Gavin Pretor-Pinney. You might want to keep a handbook at the ready to help with identifications. Two of the best are The Cloudspotter’s Guide: The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds also by Gavin Pretor-Pinney and The Book of Clouds by John A. Day, who was known through his long career as Cloudman. Check out resources on Cloudman’s site including instructions for making a cloud discovery notebook, tips for photographing clouds, and cloud history.
19. Eat outside. Pick up something tasty to eat at the park, or the waterside. This is far more alluring when it’s dark outside.
20. Grab a roll or two of quarters and play at a place that still has arcade games.
21. Take selfies trying every option on your phone or every filter offered by Instagram.
22. Tour a brewery or distillery. Take taste notes, each one referencing a video or book. For example, “This beer is Game of Thrones, epic yet vengefully dark.”
23. After nightfall use sidewalk chalk to leave behind some temporary graffiti in an unexpected spot.
24. Relax on a silent date. Read together in a beautiful place or get a massage together.
25. Find a good people-watching spot and make up stories about the people you see: their names, where they’re going, what they’re thinking about, and so on.
26. Attach a hat to a wire. Take it and a pair of shoes around town, documenting how an invisible person spends the day via photos.
27. Go where the food trucks are. There’s often live music and if not, at least a lively atmosphere.
28. Cook together. Try a science-y cookbooks like The Hungry Scientist Handbook: Electric Birthday Cakes, Edible Origami, and Other DIY Projects for Techies, Tinkerers, and Foodies by Patrick Buckley and Lily Binns, The Engineer’s Cookbook by Kari Ojala, and Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food by Jeff Potter. Or lighten up with silly cookbooks like Funny Food: 365 Fun, Healthy, Silly, Creative Breakfasts by Bill and Claire Wurtzel.
29. Try stand up paddle boarding.
30. Take a tour in your area. Unless someone visits from out of town, chances are you don’t check out what your area has to offer. If you’re from the Cleveland area (as I am) you can tour on foot, by bike, trolley, boat, or bus to discover all sorts of obscure places. Tours, as you may remember from field trips as a kid, tend to leave you marveling at the tour guide’s bad jokes as much as the amazing range of information they share.
31. Set free books you’ve already read by registering them with Book Crossing. Leave them in random places around town like a dentist’s office, a park bench, a coffee shop, a hospital waiting room. But do it with a twist. Before releasing them, tuck a note in each book addressed to the next reader.
32. Take a toy figure with you to random areas and photo document it enjoying the evening.
33. Sit around a fire. If you can’t build a campfire, use a fire bowl or fire pit. There’s something timeless about watching flames. Silence feels comfortable, thoughts drift, and you both relax.
35. Rent or borrow some kind of conveyance new to you: scooter, wave runner, snowmobile, snowshoes, kayak, vintage car, or (my preference) an adult-sized Big Wheel.
36. Dream up unexpectedly silly items to mail, unwrapped, to friends and family members. Maybe a playground ball (“have a ball!) to a friend who has recently become a stay-at-home dad, a St. Joseph statue to a family member trying to sell her house, or a small handheld fan (“we’re fans!”) to someone who landed a lead role in an upcoming play. Just slap an address and message right on the object. All you need is a legible address and the correct postage. You both might feel a little silly standing in line at the post office with an address-adorned plush honey badger (perhaps to celebrate someone’s undaunted approach to a problem) but it’ll be worth the look on your recipient’s face when opening the mailbox. There are plenty of other ways to amuse oneself, postally too.
37. Go to a slam poetry event.
38. Make each other something at a pottery or woodworking class.
39. Seek out the marvels of outsider art in your area, savor, buy if possible. (We bought an amazing piece made by an elderly man out of wood scraps and cotton balls. It’s pictured in the center of the photo collage above.)
40. Grab a copy of your local entertainment paper. Open to listings of music, stand-up comedy, and other entertainment. Close your eyes and pick something to do.
41. Participate in a mud run which is, you guessed it, muddy. You’ll probably have time to practice before a mud run scheduled in your area.
43. Go eyebombing. Very simply, it’s the act of putting sticky googly eyes on inanimate objects. As described on eyebombing.com, “Ultimately the goal is to humanize the streets, and bring sunshine to people passing by.” Buy a package or two of googly eyes and start looking for where they belong. For inspiration, check out the eyebombing flickr group. Then enjoy your quest. Anthropomorphizing a mustard bottle never seemed so right.