My husband and I have been married for over a decade (we celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary this year), and the reason we’re still going strong is our emphasis on keeping the spark alive. Our secret? Date night. It's a simple idea, but making time for each other (sans children) has honestly been key to reigniting the flame and making sure the passion between us doesn’t fizzle, ever.
This became especially important when we had our son. The struggle to squeeze a date night in with our busy schedules was very real. But the positive influence it has on our family’s happiness is phenomenal and worth the calendar shuffle. With all those date nights lined up, you'll need to challenge yourself to think outside the typical dinner and movie routine. Because let's face it, not all date nights were created equal.
So before you plan your next romantic rendezvous, consider some of our favorite alternative ideas.
HOST YOUR OWN ART CLASS
Is there anything more romantic than drawing your partner’s portrait? Kate Winslet lived out every person's fantasy when her character Rose posed naked while Jack, played by Leonard DiCaprio, no less, sketched her figure onto parchment paper in the epic movie Titanic. We all held our breath watching that intimate scene and felt the butterflies we know she had fluttering around in her stomach while she held still.
Turn your date night into an art class. You don’t have to be naked either; it can be a fun night of inking out each other’s faces with various mediums, or you could even use modeling clay and sculpt your loved one. Once you lock the artistic evening into your calendars, you can make a visit to the local art store and pick out all the mediums you want to try.
BOOK A COOKING CLASS
Who else thinks to see your partner cook a meal is incredibly sexy? Science even backs this statement. According to new research carried out on real-life couples, women were "more aroused" when their partners were making a cup of coffee or whipping up a cake than if they were using a power drill or a saw, and they were also happier. So imagine the chemistry when you cook together. By taking a class, you’ll not only learn how to make a new meal, but you’ll have so much fun and flirt a little too.
Then go home and watch Woman on Top, the spicy, sexy comedy about the magic of food.
PLAN A ROMANTIC BIKE RIDE
I remember when my husband and I started dating. We bought cheap secondhand wheels and rode around Arizona holding hands between bikes when it was safe, of course. We loved hitting the trail around sunset, the light in the desert was magic, and we still talk about those enchanting evenings today. There’s something wildly liberating about taking a bike ride, just you and the wind in your hair, letting your soul be your compass.
I highly recommend planning a cycling adventure with your partner: Look up the local bike trails in your area, or put the bikes in the back of your car and head down to the beach for a sunset coastal ride along the water’s edge. It’s guaranteed fun.
GO ROCK CLIMBING
Rock climbing isn’t just for mountaineering experts, athletes, and kids’ parties; it’s also a really fun activity for anyone who enjoys a challenge and a thrill. There’s something about indoor rock climbing that takes you a little out of your comfort zone, which is great for new couples getting to know one another, and it’ll make you laugh until your sides split when you see each other in the hilarious gear. Be sure to dress appropriately; this isn’t a date for dressing up. Keep it simple, casual, and comfortable.
HAVE A NIGHT OF KARAOKE
You'd be hard pushed to find a couple out there who don’t want to reenact the karaoke scene in Lost in Translation. Get your pink wig on and book a room at a cool karaoke bar downtown; you’ll have the time of your life, we promise. Don’t worry if you can’t sing—having a terrible voice is all part of the fun. Just get your Beyoncé on and shake it like you were made for showbiz. Dress up for the part too; it might help you hit those high notes.
SET YOUR ALARM FOR A SUNRISE PICNIC
It will take a little planning and discipline to get up in the dark, but seeing the sunrise in each other’s arms will be totally worth the sleep deprivation. Look up Google Maps to figure out the perfect vantage point with the best sunrise views; you’ll want somewhere that is private too, although we’re guessing the majority of people will still be in bed at that time anyway, so you should have most places to yourself. Remember to pack some warm blankets in your picnic basket.
VISIT DISNEYLAND LIKE LOVESTRUCK TEENS
Is there anything more magical than Disneyland? I don’t think I ever grow out of it, and why should I? You can enjoy the happiest place on earth well into adulthood too and spend a fun-filled day riding roller coasters while wearing Mickey Mouse hats and eating cotton candy. Don't forget to grab a photo together with your favorite character and be sure to stay for the fireworks at the end of the night. So romantic, right?
ENJOY A READING AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE
There’s a reason Hot Dudes Reading has an Instagram following of 895,000 because there's something incredibly romantic about seeing your partner’s nose deep in a book. That winning combination of beauty and brains is a beautiful thing. If you share a mutual love for the paperback, then make your next date at a bookstore reading or launch of your favorite author’s latest read. Barnes & Noble host author events regularly and you can browse the store’s site to find an event by an author in your local area.
MEET AT A LOCAL FLEA OR FOOD MARKET
Shopping is a hobby for many people, but malls aren’t the best place to enjoy a spot of romance. Why not hit up your local flea together and trawl through local treasures, vintage one-offs, and thrifty finds? This way you can both find something you love, from clothing to décor. The foodie lovers should hit up their nearby farmers markets; there’s often so much to discover here beyond your weekly groceries. There are always new brands to discover made by the locals, along with the freshest regional produce.
Browse, sample, buy, and then curate your own picnic for when you’ve finished.
JOIN THE LIVE AUDIENCE OF YOUR FAVORITE T.V. SHOW
Switch out the usual Netflix and chill for a live version of your favorite show as part of the studio audience. It’s super cool to see how your show looks beyond the screen and to watch how it all unfolds behind the scenes. Make sure you practice your best-canned laughter and clapping so you’re ready to go when the sign is raised. You might even be able to book a studio tour for before or after. Check out the local ones happening in your area.
Figure out the dating game with some of our top books below:
Up next: These first-date etiquette rules are totally outdated.
This post was originally published on September 3, 2016, and has since been updated.