Too often we think that dating and drinking have to go hand in hand.
When we consider a date, we imagine tipsy flirting, kisses lubricated by cocktails, and choosing the right wine to go with a romantic meal.
But with more of us opting to go sober – whether for Dry January or longer – it’s high time we embraced all the possibilities of booze-free dating.
If your go-to date is heading for drinks, worry not, as we’ve rounded up a bunch of alternative sober date ideas to inspire you.
Some are for date nights for established couples, others are ideal first date fodder, and most can be adapted to take place virtually – so please do bear coronavirus restrictions for your area in mind and stay safe.
Old-school film night
A classic for a reason. Stick on a film, pour popcorn into bowls, turn off the lights and settle in for a movie.
Do this from a distance by agreeing the same film, pressing play at the same time, and video chatting throughout.
The dinner decider
This one works whether you live together or apart.
Give each other the control over your takeaway. Give your date your address, agree a delivery time, then choose each other a delicious dinner.
Head on video chat while you eat so you can deliver any feedback.
Go on a weekend hike
One of the most wholesome dates around, really. Lace up your trainers or walking boots and head out on a lengthy outdoor walk.
If you’re far apart or unable to do this together due to Covid-19 restrictions, simply each choose a route that works for you and have a phone call (with earphones, so you’re hands-free) along the way.
It’s amazing how much more easily you bond when you’re doing a shared activity and can just chat the whole time. The endorphins and fresh air don’t hurt, either.
Have a picnic in the park
One for when we can meet outside, but a picnic is the sweetest way to make a regular meal feel more fun.
Skip the usual wine with your cheese and go for a nice elderflower cordial or shared mocktail with an array of nibbles.
Go old-school with ice cream
Ever seen a retro film where a couple goes for a sundae at a chocolate shoppe?
An ice cream date is basically the sober version of going for drinks – a light, sweet treat that doesn’t carry the commitment of a full meal, so you can dip out if you’re not feeling things.
Head to an outdoor ice cream shop or stall, or have an at-home sundae night with all the toppings – virtually if you’re not allowed to be together physically.
Hit up a food truck
If a sit-down dinner feels a bit forced, street food is the way to go. Grab whatever dish you like and chat as you stroll and eat.
Go on a sketching date
When’s the last time you go creative, without the pressure of having to be brilliant?
For this idea, if you’re able to go together, choose a bench in the park, settle in, and sketch what you see.
If you’re apart, decide on something you both have to sketch, track that item down, and get drawing.
Have a Scrabble night
Crack out the physical board game or play online. Just try not to argue too much over whether words are part of the official dictionary.
Watch the sunset
What could be more romantic than watching the sun go down?
Don’t stress if you can’t do this by each other’s side. Having a phone call while you’re both watching the same thing is strangely uniting.
Ask them 59 questions
A super easy way to get to know each other on a deeper level, even if you’ve been together for ages.
Or ask them 70 sex questions
Perhaps not one for the first date, but if you’re ready to get sexual, here’s a good starting point.
Rent bikes and go on a ride
Another cutesy plan that levels up your date with all the magical powers of exercising outdoors.
Cycle round the park or go on a longer route, stopping off at any beauty spots where you want to take in the sights.
Do a Come Dine With Me dinner
A way to make dinner more fun? Make it a competition.
Each week, one of you is in charge of making a three-course dinner and providing some entertainment, which will then be rated. Play to win.
Have a game of mini golf
Trust us, this is fun without a drop of alcohol. Again, it helps to get competitive.
Go for a run together
Experts say that going on a running date can make you and your partner feel closer and strengthen your relationship.
‘Research has shown that when couples run together, they report feeling more fulfilled in their relationships and more in love with their partner,’ Jo Hemmings tells Metro.co.uk. ‘It’s the physiological arousal that drives this, with sweaty palms, shortness of breath and a racing pulse mimicking the thrill of attraction – perhaps sharing a running goal, or simply supporting and motivating each other through the out-of-breath moments, simultaneously showing both empathy and competitive spirit.’
Watch a comedy show
Laughing together is a surefire path to a happy relationship.
If comedy shows are still on in your area, do head along, or just choose a stand-up special you can stream online.
Learn something new together
There are loads of virtual classes and courses available online, from learning how to embroider to DIY tutorials.
Sign up, do an activity together, and expand your mind.
If you can go to a dance class together, do it. There are few things more intimate than getting close and learning the salsa.
If you’re at home, clear some space in the living room and watch a guide on YouTube, stumbling and learning together.
If you’re apart, choose a TikTok dance, turn on video chat, and figure it out together.
Tour a museum or gallery
The British Museum, the Guggenheim, and more are offering virtual tours, so you can feel cultured without leaving your bed.
Go to a gig
Again, if your area is allowed to put on live music shows, this is a great way to spend an evening sans booze.
If you’re under stricter rules, though, you can still get in on the fun. Choose a festival performance you can stream online, turn up the volume, and enjoy from your sofa.
If you live together, take on the challenge of tackling a new recipe and chatting as you cook.
If not, set up your phone on a stable surface, start a video call, and talk each other through making the same meal, at the same time. Then once you’re ready, you can enjoy the fruits of your labour.
The PowerPoint session
If you’re on TikTok, you’ll have seen all the teens doing this one – and it’s another evening activity that can be done whether you’re sitting in the same place or you’re apart.
You each choose a topic you care deeply about – whether it’s a conspiracy theory or an analysis of Blair Waldorf’s headbands – and put together a timed presentation to fully immerse your partner in the subject.
It sounds like a school project, we know, but it’s genuinely enjoyable to listen to someone talk about something they’re extremely passionate about.
Go on a GoogleMaps tour
Choose wherever you dream of going and hit the street view, so you can pretend you’re both taking a stroll around Paris or seeing the sights in Tokyo.
Have a pyjama party
Why did we ever stop having sleepovers? They were brilliant.
Do this virtually or IRL by getting into your comfiest clothes and staying up late into the night doing all the things you used to do at old pyjama parties.
Play truth or dare, have a midnight feast, watch trashy TV – whatever you fancy, as long as you’re wearing pyjamas.
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