Date Nights Done Right

What to do when online dating gets real.

by Lipsa Shah

When it comes to dating, most of us are guilty of surrendering to a boring routine. Especially when it comes to first dates, we rely on the same go-to bars and restaurants—no doubt the bartender has commented on all your Tinder dates. We go where we’re comfortable, and inevitably fall into the monotonous what-do-you-do-with-your-life conversation.

When I realized my conversations were sounding more like scripts, I knew I needed to change it up. But stretching yourself beyond the typical dating scenario can be nerve-racking. To make it easier, here are ideas for upping the ante on date nights, whether it’s a first date or a night out with your soulmate of many years.

  1. Sport a competitive spirit.

Basketball and hockey season are upon us. You’re bound to find affordable tickets before playoffs begin. Bonus points if you both like the same team, but playful competition never hurt. Even if you may not like a particular sport, grabbing a beer and being in the energized atmosphere is always exciting.

2. Catch a concert.

Always an entertaining way to relive your high school days and tell a funny story (or four) about the time you went to this band’s concert, and so on and so forth. The best part: If your date isn’t going as planned, the music can stand in for conversation.

3. Sharpen your aim.

Axe throwing at Urban Axes is an unconventional way to interact with one another while learning a new skill. And it requires you to be real, which is essentially what dating is all about.

4. Play it smart.

Trivia nights are great for two things: showing your date that you actually know stuff and that you don’t take yourself too seriously. Just hope it’s a trivia night where both of you are equally informed (or even equally uninformed). Trivia nights offer all the necessities for some serious bonding in a more casual style.

5. Spice it up.

The fastest way to anyone’s heart is through their stomach, right? When it gets too cold outside, turn the heat up inside by taking a cooking class together. This also gives you a glimpse into the ingredients of your partner’s true identity. Do they use twice the recommended serving of garlic in their recipes? If not, send them packing, because they must not know good food.


6. Take a breather.

Now that we’ve made it through the sweltering season, it’s time to actually enjoy the outdoors. This is the perfect weather to enjoy a hike, and being outdoors is a great way to stay active, disconnect from social media, and take in all the #views.

7. Consider road tripping.

Spend a few hours in a car and you’ll learn a lot about one another. In fact, the proverbial road trip often serves as a serious sign of compatibility. When I pressed play on my favorite true crime podcast and my date (now boyfriend) didn’t even flinch, I knew he was the one. Start your day early by bonding over favorite music and your favorite convenience store snacks. (Maybe a better idea for a second or third meetup instead of date one.)

photo by lipsa shah

photo by lipsa shah

8. Get spooky.

Fall and the spookiness that is associated with these few months is what gets me up every single morning. Luckily, Tobacco Road Tours’ Raleigh Haunted Footsteps Ghost tour is offered all year long! If you’re into scary stories that are authentic and not engineered, visit some real haunts around Raleigh on this 1.5 mile tour. (Breaking the sexual tension has never been easier.)

9. Embrace culture.

We’re lucky to be in the heart of ever-changing art with CAM Raleigh and the North Carolina Museum of Art. You can combine romance with culture while discovering local exhibitions. Google’s Arts and Culture app has elevated the experience to new realms and if you’re trying to make your date seem less like a field trip, plan your visit for an evening. Museum galleries spark great conversation, and you can start with: “What do you think this means?”

10. Laugh it up!

Comic relief may be the best way to break the ice, and comedy clubs are often more affordable than a full-course meal at a polished restaurant. Tickets for comedy shows typically start around $15 and work their way up. What makes your date laugh will give you more insight into their personality than any dinner conversation ever could. A good place to start: the show at Goodnights Comedy Club.

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