Updated: Apr 14, 2021
It’s been a huge topic of conversation with many of my friends over the last six months on how we can spend quality time with our significant others. How do we go on a date, when we can’t get a babysitter, aren’t comfortable eating out or going to the movies, concerts and live music events have been cancelled, etc. etc. etc. Pat and I had some things we started doing during quarantine when we had basically nothing but time on our hands but that came to a swift end and now time and energy seem non-existent. Decision fatigue and the ability to be creative is dissipating. I started googling this subject and was really disappointed with what both bloggers and media organizations were putting out there.
Here are some pathetic examples with zero creative thought applied I saw over and over again. Have a picnic in your living room, as if not eating at the dinner table constitutes a date. Cool, I guess we were being really intimate everytime we decided to eat dinner on the couch while mindlessly watching tv. Have a movie marathon together. So what am I supposed to send the kids to bed at 5 PM so I can fit in all the Star Wars movies in before my old, tired self falls asleep? Also movie/tv watching isn't really quality time it’s just sitting next to each other. But my personal favorite of the awful suggestions is cooking a fancy meal together. Somehow both of us, in the kitchen, at the same time trying to chop, fry, sautee, constantly checking the recipe and not accidentally stabbing each other is romantic. I’m sure there are people who actually enjoy cooking together, or frankly just enjoy cooking, but if you’re those people then you already do this and it isn’t a date. For me, this is a just a nightmare.
I decided I needed to suck it up and get creative for both me, my friends, and all you lovely strangers on the internet. I encourage you to read through each date idea, they can all be adapted if one part is not to your liking (I mean I guess it’s ok that Paris isn’t everyone’s favorite city). I have linked to items that you may actually need or that may just enhance a date. Of course I’d love the tiny commision Amazon will pay me if you buy from my suggestions, but you can get creative with similar things you find around the house. My ideas range extensively for age, interest and cost. I truly believe there is something on this list for every couple. Ok enough chatter, here they are:
A Night in Paris: City of Lights
You can do this with any city, and if I get enough requests I’ll do the research or you. Paris is our favorite city so this is how I plan on creating our perfect date in Paris, from our backyard. We have a small pub table outside, perfect for a Parisian Cafe feel. We’ll create romantic lighting with a candle that is “Paris Cafe” scented and a few strings of outdoor lights because Paris is after all, the city of lights. I plan on recreating our favorite food from France which was a pizza made from 5 cheeses with an olive oil and garlic base on a french bread like pizza dough. We’ll have a bottle of Bordeaux and Moet Imperial Champagne on hand to make us feel like we’re in our happy place. I should probably mention we have a propane patio heater outside that will make this date more winter friendly.
All Aboard the Taste Train: Fondue and Board Games for Two
We own a fondue pot and I honestly don’t know why we don’t get it out very often. It really isn’t more work than other meal. It’s great for date night because it’s as much activity as it is just eating or preparing a meal. Now let’s pair it with a board game. My sister and her husband are huge fans of Ticket to Ride, which can be played with two players. I just ordered the European version of Ticket to Ride and plan on starting with a dutch cheese fondue and then a swiss chocolate fondue for dessert. But you could go the more patriotic route and do Wisconsin cheese and Hershey chocolate combination as you ride across the US insead.
Shaken Not Stirred: Cocktails and CodeNames
This date night could be as simple as drinks and a board game or it could become so much more. CodeNames is a really fun cooperative game where you try to uncover spies with secret codes, but there is a two player version that is perfect for your at home pandemic date night. Now throw in a 007 martini and maybe even a sexy Bond girl dress and you could have a spy who loved me kind of night. Or even a few fun masks to get into the spirit of the spy game.
Escape the Room: Pandemic Style
This is my last game recommendation for today, and it’s the most out there. There are quite a few Escape the Room kits on the market but most require more players. Plus the one I've linked is about a mad scientist and if you don’t escape he’ll turn you into a Werewolf. Alone this could be quite fun, but with a handful of bonus items, you can work the mad scientist bit into serious entertainment. I’m adding links to syringe jello shots, biohazard ziplock bags for snacks, lowball cocktail glasses shaped like beakers, and of course brain shaped ice cube molds.
Sip’N’Paint: Seaside Edition
Here’s a more traditional date night with a little twist. Sip’N’Paint has never been my jam but I have good friends who are die hard fans. They also love the beach so I customized this date night just for them. Instead of Pinot Noir and accompanying wine glass paintings, we’re moving this date night to the Eastern Shore. Here are links to YouTube Guides on painting beach scapes, one aimed for beginners and one that’s a little more advanced. Now for beach escape beverages you can pick your poison: seabreeze, mai tai, tequila sunrise, sex on the beach or my favorite: pina coladas!
Hot or Not: Faux Chili Cook-Off
Who’s got the best chili in town? Besides you of course. I’m not suggesting you cook, we’ve discussed my feelings on that. No, I am suggesting you drive around town and get a cup of chili to go at half a dozen local restaurants. This idea was not mine. We recently attended a virtual event from The Baltimore Station to replace their annual Chili Cook-Off. We picked up the samples and did a tasting complete with a scoring card and an online vote. It was a ton of fun. Get yourself some cheese, fritos, green, red and yellow chopped onions, plus some cornbread and do your own tasting. We also tried different styles of IPAS alongside the chili. I would recommend you ask Alexa or Google to play classic rock during your tasting. It will improve the experience by 50%.
Make Some Noise: Virtual Concert Date
If you have kids, you’ll need a basement to pull this one off properly. From Taylor Swift’s Reputation Tour on Netflix to Metallica's Live in Manchester on YouTube you have so many options right now to rock out with your socks out. Yeah I went there. But if you do this go all the way. Wear the tee, put on the glow necklaces and drink Shock Top from a plastic cup. If you don’t get into the spirit with this it won’t be any different then watching the latest episode of This is Us. I don’t think you can substitute Hamilton on Disney+ or Hamlet on MasterPiece Theater. Why? Because they weren’t interactive in the first place. Get up and dance. Pull out your cell phone and wave it around like a lighter. Dance and sing as loud as you can without waking up the sleeping children or dogs or whatevers. If you don't feel a little silly you're not doing it right.
It’s a Laughing Matter: Bring the Comedy Club Home
This one is inspired by another couple I know who love comedy clubs. The idea came to me right after I tried to figure out how I could program a Taylor Swift light up bracelet to work in my living room for Pat on the at home concert date. There are a lot of great comedy performances on the internet these days. HBO has a whole show and Netflix has everyone from Chris Rock to Ellen. The problem is they’re mostly great jokes and comedy clubs are more bad than good. How do we solve that problem, besides watching randos on YouTube? I don’t know. I do know that you should sit at a cramped table with a cheap black table cloth and a battery powered candle. You should drink really cheap drinks, cranberry cocktail juice and Smirnoff, Jack Daniels and coke, Seagrams gin and flat tonic in a tiny plastic cup. Use a computer or tablet and sit too close at your table, whisper when you think a joke is too racist and eat mediocre wings. Pat and I have actually never joined these friends of ours at the comedy club, but I am really excited to try and create this experience. Also as soon as the pandemic is over, I’m going to go with them to Moogby’s and hopefully the Cosmo is better than what I have had in my experiences with comedy clubs.
Best of the Best: Mini Marathons of Great Shows
“My girlfriend broke up with me after we did a marathon. I’m pretty upset, we had a good run.” Ok I am 100% anti tv being a medium for dates, however, I believe I have found a way around this. Raise your hand if you watch every Thanksgiving episode of Friends in November? Scrap that. Try the Bob’s Burgers’ Thanksgiving episodes and pair them with amazing sliders. I know I just broke all my rules, cooking and tv, but seriously look at this post from Delish on creating Bob’s Burgers. Another great option is the Halloween Heist episodes of Brooklyn 99. You can make NY style pizza and bake donuts or just order the pizza and head to Dunkin. Here’s another option, binge Parks & Rec Christmas episodes and have a ridiculous gingerbread house contest. The possibilities are endless and I'm liking you to so many fun kits. Remember the point isn’t to just watch tv but to engage with your significant other.
Walk Down Memory Lane: Telling the Story of Us
Disclaimer, I don’t know much about this company, and I am not getting paid anything to recommend them, but I like the idea. Book Of Us is a company that helps you put the story of your relationship into words and pictures. You give them a bunch of details and they print a hardcover book that you can pass on for generations to come. I love the idea of walking down memory lane. I actually had a date idea about recreating Pat and my first date that involved a deli with mediocre clam chowder. It’s a cute story that someday I’d love to share with Scarlett, but not worth the trouble to find mediocre chowder. However, sitting down with my husband, a glass of wine and discussing what our story is and how we want it to be remembered, seems like a romantic night. You could alternatively, print a bunch of pictures and create an old fashioned scrapbook. Pat and I would probably murder each other if we did this and the story of us would be more horror and less romance, but maybe you and your significant other are crafty. I'm linking band-aids in case you do go the paper cutting route and stemless wine glasses to reduce the spilling risk.
LAN Party for Two: Who brought the BAWLS and the Cool Ranch Doritos?
I saved this one for last on purpose. If more than 75% of the title sounds like a foreign language to you I give you permission to scroll to the bottom of the blog...but aren’t you at least a little curious? And I’m sure there are a few ladies out there who will score big if they present this idea to their man. On a side note, I am trying hard not to use gender or marriage as qualifiers in this post, but on this occasion, these labels are probably accurate. A LAN (local area network) Party was a thing people used to do in the 1990s and early 2000s when they’d bring their whole desktop computers over (pre-laptops) and plug them into the same router. I know deep down you’re thinking, the woman who will only drink Epernay Champagne, wears La Mer moisturizer, and owns every shade of red Lipsense makes knows about LAN parties? I’m an enigma. Moving on. So how do we turn this into a stellar throw back date? You and/or your significant other may be more casual gamers and maybe you set aside a few hours, sans kids, for a few rounds of Mario Party, Mario Kart or even tag team Luigi's Mansion. Maybe you want to take a step away from Nintendo and you play Portal or Braid on a PC, both games that can be finished in around 4-6 hours. Or you want to go hard core on a longer game that is story driven, with a lot of combat and possibly zombies. I suggest you check out The Last of Us (surviving in a world full of fungus zombies) or Uncharted (treasure hunter fighting off mercenaries). Those are both only on the PS4, so I'll suggest Tomb Raider and Resident Evil for Xbox One. A more traditional solution would be to cooperatively play Baldur's Gate. No you don’t need to set up two desktops to have your LAN throwback date, the idea is that you and your significant other sit and play a game together for a night, or 20 nights over the course of who knows how long. I think we’re ¾ of the way through Last of Us 2, after 3 months of play. It most definitely only took one month to play the original game when Scarlett was like 3.
Now the second part is key, junk food. Back in the day the hallmark of a LAN party ment a cooler full of BAWLS energy drinks, both types of doritos, sour patch kids, twizzlers, and somewhere between 5 and 20 pizzas. Mandie, you’re 38, how can you possibly think this is fun? So I have swapped the energy drinks for cocktails (whisky sour is my favorite pairing for clickers - bonus points if you know what that means) but a few doritos and twizzlers won’t kill you. It’s fun to act like you don’t have problems bigger than solving puzzles and taking down zombies. Give it a try! I'm putting out a bunch of links for snacks of course, but also some of the games. Make sure you know what platform you own in order to play these games.
Ok folks, Frankly I am too tired to keep going. I have been at this for almost 8 hours. I have at least another dozen ideas that will have to wait for another post on another day. I’ve also opted not to write at length about Pat and my virtual wine tasting dates, since I covered it in an earlier post and you can read about it in: Bordeaux or Napa Cab: Both is Good. This is definitely the first post in a series, as I intend to keep coming up with new unique ways to spend time with your special person, whoever that may be, in this unprecedented situation. I hope you found something you want to try and come back for more ideas! If you do try one of my date night ideas please share it with me by commenting on this post, tagging me on instagram @mandiesdiary, emailing my blog, or messaging me on my blog's facebook page.