I’ve been dating my (now) husband for more of my life than I haven’t. With well over a decade of date nights under our relationship belt, we’ve had to learn to get creative. That means going beyond just trying a new restaurant. Here are some of the budget-friendly, low prep, most-weather date night ideas we use to mix it up a little! Honestly, if you do it right, you can make almost any date night a little more magical just by giving it a theme, adding an element of surprise, or declaring a winner!
Tip #1: Name It!
Simply creating a theme can make an otherwise mundane night memorable.
“Act Like Kids Again”- Pour giant bowls of sugary cereal for dinner with a side of any food that reminds you of your childhood. Play some old school video games on the couch while you wear your pajamas. Watch Saved By the Bell and Boy Meets World. Play M.A.S.H. (careful with this one!). If it were me, I would go overboard and wear a rockin’ 90’s outfit, but there is about a zero percent chance I would get my hubby to do the same.
“Progressive Dinner…OUT”– Have drinks and appetizers at one restaurant, the main course at another, and dessert at a third. Once we decided to do dessert at all three places. Listen to me carefully: Do. Not. Do. That. No matter how awesome it sounds, it is a horrible idea. You WILL get sick. Try my next date night idea instead.
“Dessert Marathon”– On valentine’s day, we skip the dinner reservations and get to the good part…dessert. We sit at the bar, grab a drink, and order dessert. Sitting at the bar not only saves time on waiting for a table, it also saves you the stink eye from a waiter who may see a small tab total rather than a cute date night theme. Follow up dessert by going to get more dessert. Visit a fancy chocolatier, a bakery, or a candy store where you can scoop from bins to mix and match your favorites. Find a good hiding spot at home, and ration out your treats each night after the kids go to bed. It’s the date that keeps on giving.
“Battle of the Sexes Date Night”- Plan a manly night with your guy. Go out of your way to think of things he might not suggest for date night because he knows you wouldn’t enjoy them. Maybe you start with a beer flight at a local brewery, follow it up by hitting some balls at the batting cages or taking in a sports event – then end the night eating his greasy guilty pleasure. The next date night, let him plan a date night perfectly suited for you. Some of our best date nights have been nights I planned purely for him, like a night at the driving range.
Tip #2: Add an Element of Surprise!
Lack of control can make date night into a hilarious adventure.
Playful attitudes are a must for these options.
“Pick and Envelope”- You’ll need at least 9 envelopes. The first set of three envelopes have dinner ideas, the next three have activity ideas, and the last three have “night cap” ideas. You won’t know what’s coming up next on your date until you choose an envelope and open it! I think this idea would be even better if you made a ton of envelopes ahead of time, so that even you were surprised when they were opened. Then, keep the cards and re-use them once you’ve worked through all the date ideas.
“Kid’s Choice”- Let your kids plan your date. This is especially hilarious if you have younger kids. Let them choose where you’ll eat, what you’ll do, and most importantly: WHAT YOU WEAR. I mean, head to toe. Not “choose from these three outfits”, but “create my outfit from anything in my closet”. After all, you spent years picking out their clothes, it’s only fair that they have a turn. You may end up eating Chick-Fil-A in a baseball hat, pearls, sweatpants and your new years eve sequined top followed up with swinging at the park but you are almost guaranteed to have fun. Getting ready for this date is really half the fun! Be sure to encourage the creativity your kids are using by having a great attitude. YOU are their masterpiece tonight. Take lots of pictures to show them how much fun you had on the date they planned for you!
“The Penny Date”- Pick a number between 10 and 20, that’s how many times you will flip your penny. Flip the penny to decide which way to head out of your driveway, then every time you come to an intersection, flip your coin. Turn left every time you flip heads, and right every time you flip tails. Stop driving once you’ve flipped your penny the number of times you decided to start. Make a date wherever you end up. It may be star gazing. It may be test driving a BMW. It may be a tire shop…which brings up a good point: you can cheat a little, it’s the idea that counts. Take a couple of extra flips if need be. Just have fun with it.
“Tattoo Me”- Get fancy with henna, or just use pens and markers. You can pick the location, but THEY get to design the tattoo. Tell them the plan in advance so they can really have time to think about the perfect “ink” for you. Sometimes the creative process is half the fun. Be sure to keep your design a secret until you’ve finished your brilliant work. Reveal them on the count of three and, if you are anything like us, enjoy a good laugh at the brilliant artwork your spouse just scribbled on you.
Tip #3 Declare a Winner:
Competition can make almost anything more fun!
“Bartending School”– Set a time limit and Google unique cocktail recipes. Try to find a recipe that you think your spouse would love. Buy the ingredients and whip them up at home. Give your cocktail a signature drink worthy name. Sample them both and try to pick a winner. While I was pregnant we did a version of this date night and my husband made me a “Safe Sex on the Beach” (get it, not alcohol) that I still request to this day. If cocktails aren’t your thing, try dessert, sushi, or anything else that requires you to get out of your comfort zone.
“Dollar Store Dash”- Set a time limit. Set a dollar limit. Then, go into the dollar store and scramble to find the BEST items. After check-out, compare your items and duke it out for who had the best find. Have the babysitter vote if need be. To repeat this date, just put a new spin on it. For example, who can find the best present for each kid (the time limit is the key here, and obviously your kid is the judge.) You could also do a round where you try to find the tackiest thing in the store. One of my favorite themes is “I didn’t even know I needed it”. I got a GIANT wine glass this way once. I ended up going back and buying 6 more because I loved it so much. The possibilities are endless.
“East Side vs. West Side”- Whether you are an east-sider or a west-sider, you can get in on this. Play Rock-Paper-Scissors to determine which person gets which side of town. Then, you each plan epic date nights that take place ONLY on that side of town. The trickiest part is that you can’t go to any national chains. Think local!
“Obstacle Course”– Our recreation center held an adults only team obstacle course, “Mission Impossible”, last Christmas. There were prizes for best costume, best teamwork, and best time. It was a blast! Create your own obstacle course at home, or tone down the physicality a bit and make your own miniature golf holes. Agree on how it will be judged ahead (ie: degree of difficulty, creativity, and craftsmanship). Set a time limit for creating and make use of the kids’ toys. This could also make a great double date, just work in teams. In fact, make it a group event by allowing each couple one day to create their own and then spend the second day going from house to house competing.