By NATALIA LUSINSKI
You may think Valentine’s Day and alcohol go hand-in-hand, but that’s not necessarily true. In fact, there are many Valentine’s Day date ideas that don’t include alcohol, because, TBH, you don’t need it to have fun. As someone who gave up alcohol for over a year, I know all about date ideas that don’t include it. At the time, my then-boyfriend drank it, but when I took a year-plus off from it, he did, too. Another year, I dated someone who didn’t like drinking, so I found myself not drinking either.
Whatever your reason is — whether you’re sober, on medication that prohibits alcohol, allergic, or just don’t like alcohol — there are many non-drinking options for Valentine’s Day dates and everyday dates. Personally, I feel it’s a great test when you can have a sober date, as then nothing clouds your judgment about your date, not even a shot’s worth of vodka. Plus, I’ve learned first-hand that dating someone sober is much better than dating someone who drinks too much.
“Many singles nowadays don’t want to drink alcohol on a date,” James Preece, aka The Dating Guru, tells Bustle. “Perhaps this is for health reasons or they just want to keep their heads clear. As a dating coach, I think this is a great idea. While alcohol can sometimes help with nerves, it can also end up ruining dates by making you say or do something you regret afterwards.”
Plus, alcohol can also affect you physically. “For some couples, Valentine’s Day is a definite planned sex night,” Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist and author of the relationship blog, You’re Just A Dumbass, tells Bustle. “Although we commonly refer to it as a social lubricant, alcohol is a depressant that causes drowsiness and can play a role on your ability to have sex.”
Without further ado, here are 13 Valentine’s Day date ideas that don’t include alcohol and do guarantee fun.
1Go To The Zoo
Not only do many zoos have holiday-themed activities, like a Valentine’s dinner at the Cincinnati Zoo, but who doesn’t love animals?!
“If you want an interesting fun date that’s full of talking points, and booze-free, look no further than your nearest zoo,” says Preece. “It’s especially interesting around Valentine’s Day, as you can watch the animals and see how they couple up themselves. Find out your date’s favorite animal and you can buy them a small toy to remember the day with afterwards.” Awww.
2~Anything~ In The Snow
Since ‘tis the season of snow, why not do something snow-centric? From skiing to making snow angels, there are many fun and alcohol-free snow activities you can do with your date.
Just think about movies that had romantic snow scenes, like Bridget Jones’s Diary, Serendipity, and Love Actually. There are countless others, and you can make your own romantic, movie-esque date-and-snow setting, too. Hint: Surprise your date with some flowers waiting in your snowman’s arm.
3Cook A Meal Together
Staying in and cooking can be very sobering — pun intended. Not only will it be fun, but you can see how you and your date work together.” “Cooking is an inexpensive way to hang out together, but it’s also a fun activity!” Kali Rogers, Founder of Blush Online Life Coaching, tells Bustle. And there are plenty of non-alcoholic drinks to choose from to accompany your meal.
“You can have sparkling cider or other sparkling drinks in beautiful wine glasses (they could be a gift),” Tina B. Tessina, PhD (aka “Dr. Romance”), psychotherapist and author of The Real 13th Step: Discovering Confidence, Self-Reliance and Independence Beyond the 12-Step Programs, tells Bustle. “Or, make a Virgin Mary with V8, complete with festive celery sticks. Most cocktails can be made virgin, without alcohol, so get out the blender, get some piña colada mix and ice cubes, and celebrate! It’s cheaper than drinking alcohol, too.”
4Read To Each Other
“For something a bit different, get your partner comfortable and take turns reading them a story,” says Preece. “It doesn’t matter what it is — it could be a fairy tale, thriller, or comedy. It just gives you the opportunity to spend time relaxing and enjoying each other’s company, while making sure they feel special.”
You can also write an original story, perhaps a love story about you and your significant other. Plus, you can add hot chocolate — with lots of marshmallows, of course — to the mix. Is anyone else thinking of that scene in The Holiday right now, where Cameron Diaz and Jude Law’s characters were in the tent with his kids?
5Go For A Walk
It may be cold outside, but the snow is good for something — it’s beautiful and provides a natural romantic setting. So for a non-alcohol-related date idea, go for a walk. “I’m a big fan of a casual stroll through a fun neighborhood or street fair,” Jeffrey Sumber, MA, MTS, LCPC, psychotherapist and bestselling author of Renew Your Wows!, tells Bustle. “I think it helps a person witness how the prospect interacts with others and with general input from the external world.”
Plus, you guessed it — it doesn’t include alcohol. But if you want to stay warm, you can always grab some hot chocolate or coffee along the way.
6Play Video Games — At An Arcade Or At Home
I don’t know about you, but I think arcades make for great dates. (Then again, you’re talking to the girl who once had a Ms. Pac-Man-themed birthday party!) Not only is an arcade date an activity date, but it also lets you see each other’s competitive sides. With all the adrenaline from trying to beat your date at Frogger or a pinball game, you won’t need alcohol. Plus, there are more than enough non-alcoholic options. You can also stay in and play video games, since there are so many different game consoles out there these days.
7Take A Class Together Or Do Something Active
There are a countless number of activity-based dates you and your date can do, all sans alcohol. You can go to the gym, go for a run, do yoga, or take a class. You can also go dancing! “With dance lessons, you’ll get a great sense of your rhythm as a couple and your communication style,” Allison Gerrits, Matchmaker, Three Day Rule, tells Bustle. “It lightens up the pressure for physical contact, so you have an excuse to be close to one another.” Great point!
“Learning something new together is a great way to bond and learn about how the other one takes in new information and whether or not they’re a good sport,” says Rogers. “I once took an ‘intro to deejaying’ class with my current boyfriend and it was a blast! We were both terrible, but it was a lot of fun.”
8Go On A Road Trip
Valentine’s Day, or the weekend before, is the perfect time to go on a road trip with your significant other. Whether you drive to the mountains or someplace you’ve never been, it’s sure to be fun. “Instead of going out to dinner and a movie,take a day trip somewhere outside of town,” says Rogers. “Driving there will provide time to get to know each other, and you two can experience something new together.”
Tyler Turk, Founder, Crated With Love, a monthly date night subscription box, agrees. “As a culture, I think we can be too attached to the idea that Valentine’s Day has be centered around expensive gifts,” he tells Bustle. “This can put a lot of pressure on the relationship, because we want to offer something that’s perfect. Instead, we should use this holiday as an opportunity to grow closer together. Creating memories and moments that truly reflect your feelings for each other is what it’s all about, like a day trip to a nearby destination.” I could not have said this better myself!
9Explore A Used Bookstore
Chances are, there are some cool used bookstores in your town or city, and they’re a great date idea for Valentine’s Day. You can get to know a lot about someone based on the types of books they like. Plus, many often have live entertainment, like local bands, or authors speaking, of course. And, you can both buy each other a book to commemorate the date.
10Watch The Sunrise Or Sunset
Watching the sunrise with your partner is the perfect way to start Valentine’s Day. You can bring along also a breakfast picnic — or surprise your partner with one — and begin the day together. You can also have an orange juice toast to celebrate the day, and being together. Of course, you can watch the sunset instead of or in addition to the sunrise. Not only are they both romantic, but they’re also free.
11Visit A Thrift Store
Valentine’s Day or not, ~any day~ is a good day to hit up some local thrift stores. Not only will you get to know your date more by what clothing he or she is into, but you can also make a theme out of it. For instance, you can go somewhere that has a lot of attire from the ‘40s, try on various outfits, take pictures, then perhaps continue the night in those outfits and go find a speakeasy playing Big Band music.
12Go See The Stars
Not much is more romantic than seeing the stars, either sitting outside together with blankets, all cozied up, or at a planetarium. The sky will do the setting-up-a-romantic-ambiance for you. Just make sure you drive outside of the city so you get as clear a sky as possible. If you’re going to a planetarium, see if they’re having any Valentine’s Day events going on.
For instance, in NYC, the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History is having an event on February 14. First, there is a cocktail hour, which includes an open bar, hors d’oeuvres, chocolates, and live music. Then, attendees will go into the planetarium for stars and to hear romance stories. You an also make your own version of this, of course.
13Go Coffee- Or Tea-Tasting
“Coffee is a great mood and energy booster and it’s also a fantastic aphrodisiac, so it makes for a great dating opportunity,” says Preece. “Seek out a coffee-“tasting event and you can try some wonderful flavors together. Many independent coffee shops run these,including some Valentine’s specials.” Fun, right?
Plus, it can bring you closer as a couple. “The environment (and caffeine) will put a stimulating slant on your conversation,” Susan Winter, relationship expert and bestselling author of Allowing Magnificence, says. “This option is perfect for new couples, and a terrific choice for established relationships, as well. Time to share meaningful conversation is often overlooked in long-standing partnerships.”
If you usually don’t date without alcohol, consider this: “A sober mind has the ability to think clearly, which leads to brilliant conversation,” Winter says. “With booze, we only think we’re having brilliant conversation.” So enjoy the conversation and the bonding experience — you just might find a new date night routine.