There’s obviously nothing wrong with the classic dinner date, most of our lives are spent being hungry and thinking about what we want to eat next time we get hungry, but sometimes you’re both going to want something different. Monotony can be comforting, but it can also be dreadfully boring, and that’s the last thing you want your partner to associate with date night!

Depending on where you live and what kinds of amenities are available, it can be a struggle to think of something that’s accessible, affordable, and feels like something you would both be interested in, but a little creativity can get you a long way. Let’s spice up the dating scene together, and explore some potential ideas for your next special night together. (All nights with your partner are special, but only psychopaths suggest romantic hikes every time the sun sets.)

A Night at the Museum

The natural sciences and histories are the source of everything we today know to be true, and their gift shops always sell those erasers that smell (and probably taste) like bubble gum, so here you’re getting dinner and an introspective trip through our existence. There’s an incredible liminality to public spaces once all the crowds have cleared, and that feeling of isolation and temporality can be very intimate when shared with a partner.

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Nothing will come to life and chase you, and museums all across America and the world offer overnight stay experiences at roughly comparable prices to hotels. It’s an excellent outside-of-the-box surprise that’s sure to excite anybody, but if your partner is at all interested in this stuff, they will absolutely love it.

Visit a botanical garden

If you’ve ever felt like a day of impersonating Cersei Lannister, walking through the rose gardens with your closets confidant and sharing your schemes while brushing your fingertips across the most symbolic flower you can find, a botanical garden will get you most of the way there. There will be places to eat, drink, and sit, it’s more like a day out than a date, but flowers are such a shortcut to romance!

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Pick a sunny day, pack your water and sunscreen, and take in the beauty of nature in the beaming heat. There’s a reason continental Europeans have such a relaxed attitude to life, and it’s because they stare at vivid, bright green landscapes while they sip olive oil with their shirts unbuttoned. Again, the garden only gets you most of the way there, check their button policy beforehand.

Make some furry little friends

What makes a date go from memorable to unforgettable isn’t often the choice of venue. What you plan is important, but when you’re there, the quality of the shared experience is what crystalizes it as one of those dates you would love to recount to a friend, but are afraid you’d come across as bragging about your perfect love life.

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The date becomes more about setting and pretext, a background that will blur behind your partner and flavor the memory, rather than encompass it. So you might as well squeeze it with as many adorable oohs and aahs as possible to keep the lover’s endorphin high going, right? And whether it’s a petting zoo or a cat café, a fuzzy, friend-shaped creature can only enhance the moment.

Try an escape room (they’re still cool, okay?)

Puzzles are inherently fun, but escape rooms are no different from new or pop-up restaurants in terms of quality control. Once you know what to look for, you can find the good ones, and they get pretty specific in their wish-fulfilment so you’re bound to find a great one that suits your area of interest. Just like dinner, avoid anything that looks like it came pre-packaged…

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These places can get super lazy, recycling the same ideas, scenarios, and solutions anybody with a pulse could figure out, and though there is some utility in an experience that appeals to all, you’re not going to find the unique and interesting unless you’re okay getting your hands dirty. Metaphorically dirty, escape room operators in a post-COVID world know just how strong the human instinct is to touch everything in sight, so they take hygiene very seriously.

Learn something together

This is really like, 50 date ideas rolled into one. There’s an endless list of places to go and ways to learn, but you want your special date to have an outdoor component at least, so that narrows the list of activities like a couples cooking class, or a seminar on a subject of mutual passion. It could just be a fun bonding activity, but you might also find a new interest you can pursue.

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If you’re both the entrepreneurial type, a candle-making workshop can turn into a small business and isn’t the date going to feel special when you launch the next Yankee competitor? The Christmas gift market is saturated and we all sat by and let it happen because nobody else has quite nailed pine scents like that.