Thursday, May 23, 2013

dates and activities to do with your significant other

After seeing endless lists of "fun things to do" with your significant other being shared I finally decided to check some of them out, see what all the fuss was about. I'm not sure if anyone reading this has browsed through those online lists, but I know I won't be the first person to say the majority of them are ridiculous and not altogether practical. I mean landscaping? This is not a fun date/activity. It sounds more like a chore. You may as well try and hang a gallery wall together, or rearrange the furniture - all guaranteed to insight some kind of minor, silly argument (or a full on war) because everyone has an opinion and they are not always alike.

I thought it would be fun to not only put together a list of fun date ideas/activities for couples, but they're also things that Jason and I actually do together - not just some wish list or record of ideas that sound good on paper. (For example, you won't find 'volunteer together' down there. Nothing wrong with volunteering, but we don't have time for it right now.) Unlike landscaping, these are also meant to be enjoyable dates/activities that don't involve major or long-term decisions, just fun. Some we do on a regular basis, others when opportunities and time allow. You may read through and see some things you do with your significant other as well, or something new you'd like to try. You may not like any of them and think of things more tailored to your personal preferences, which is perfectly fine too. I will say everything on this list is pretty normal, so if you're expecting "Take a three day cruise in the Bahamas" you won't find it here:

1. Movie night
This one has two options: movie night out or movie night in. Obviously planning to go to the theater doesn't need much explanation. Plan to see something you will both enjoy and get popcorn/snack/drinks (or sneak them in.) Don't rush this one either. We've all arrived late to the theater, hurried to get tickets, and scrambled to find a seat in the dark because the movie has already started. It's so easy to get frustrated in that situation, especially with one another. Get there early, get your food, get good seats, and chat while you wait. (And ignore the teenagers in the back rows. They are annoying, but you were probably just as annoying once.)

If you're planning a night in choose a movie or two that you'd both like to see (or one for each of you if you decide on two) and unplug for a few hours. No phones, no computers, no distractions. Make food, buy candy, pop popcorn, make a drink, and watch your movie/s.

2. Be a tourist in your own city (or if you live in a smaller town, visit one nearby)
This is easily one of our favorite things to do. We don't wake up on a Saturday and say "Let's pretend to be tourists today!" so don't take that too literally, but we do enjoy learning about new community events and exploring the area. Our town doesn't have a lot going on so we spend a lot of time in Louisville finding new things to check out and new places to visit. We also travel up to Cincinnati and down to Nashville at times. Recently we've attended the annual Thunder Over Louisville event, discovered The Flea Off Market, learned about Second Saturdays, and found lots of great restaurants and shops along the way.  There are usually a lot of summer music series/festivals hosted by radio stations that are free, so I highly recommend looking into your area for the coming months.

Thunder Over Louisville airshow
3. Cook a nice dinner at home
I'm not talking about Hamburger Helper and certainly not any frozen food. Watch Food Network or buy their magazine, visit food blogs, consult a cookbook (if you don't own any, find one online with good reviews and buy it!) It doesn't matter where the recipe comes from, but find something good that requires some effort, make it, and make it well. This can either be a team effort (sometimes we cook together, sometimes Jason does the prep work and I make the meal, sometimes he makes dinner and I make a dessert, so whatever you prefer) or one person can make this a nice gesture to the other after a bad week or even just for fun. You don't have to get dressed up (but you can!) and there don't have to be candles on the table, but I do recommend actually eating at the table and without your television on or cell phones in hand. 

4. Plan a night out
This would be a pretty average "date night" for most people. Find a nice restaurant, preferably somewhere you've never been and/or that may be a little pricier than most places (no Red Lobster guys,) get dressed up, and enjoy yourselves! Try an entree that you've never heard of, if you drink order a cocktail, and definitely save room for dessert. If you're still looking for something to do after dinner you can go to a nicer bar (no dives) for more drinks, go dancing, or even find an art gallery that's open late (like 21c!)
Before dinner!
4. Visit a vineyard/winery and/or take a distillery or brewery tour
I'm putting these all under one idea since they're relatively similar. Vineyards/wineries can be a great place for anyone to visit even if you don't drink. The first time we visited a winery it was actually for the orchard - we wanted pumpkins for Halloween. This is definitely a fall activity for us, but depending on your location and weather it may differ. If you're not interested in wine tastings or purchasing wine and cheeses then cider, fruit, vegetables, and other items may be available. (I can't guarantee what any place you may visit will have obviously, but the place we go to has a farmer's market style set-up in one building. A vineyard may not offer this.)

Barrel cart at the Maker's Mark Distillery

Brewery/distillery tours are a little different. You'll show up at the location and get a ticket for the tour you're taking. Tours are limited to a certain number of people, so if you're aiming for a particular time frame get there a little early. They usually have a set schedule for when tours depart and you can't just go catch up and join if you're late, you will have to wait for the next one. Listen to what the guides are saying and pay attention - it's actually a really cool process to learn about! In our case, we've visited the Maker's Mark Distillery -located in the middle of nowhere- and it's crazy how frothy sour mash becomes bourbon. We did a bourbon tasting at the end of the tour, which was early in the day, so that was interesting. And since we were at Maker's you have the option to dip your own bottle. I realize this may not sound fun to everyone, but bourbon is a huge part of Kentucky culture and that won't be out last tour.

5. Go to an amusement park
Obviously you don't have to journey to Disneyland or Disney World, unless it's feasible. We actually opt for King's Island, which is several hours away, but well worth it. You don't event have to go alone - this is fun to do with other friends. Ride as many rides as you can, visit the water park if they have one, and even play a few of the carnival style games. Something about an amusement park makes you feel like a kid again and it's a lot more entertaining than you may think. Ride the rides you may not have been allowed to when you were younger, or to be adventurous and hop on a roller coaster even if it terrifies you a little bit.

From the top of the Eiffel Tower at King's Island

6. Go to the gym together
This one may not sound like as much fun as some of the other suggestions, but being gym buddies is good for both of you. I'm not very motivated when it comes to the gym, but when I have someone else to say "Hey, let's go." or "I really need to do more of [this] at the gym." it motivates me, and I know I'm not alone. If you do a lot of the same workouts or use the same machines you can even have fun with it - make it a competition. You'll both look good, feel good, and you'll be doing it together.

7. Attend a play, musical, concert, etc.
Obviously when times allows. We've missed out on a lot of good shows because they occur on week nights and we can't miss work, but when we can take the time off or it works perfectly for a weekend night out it's great. We recently attended Broadway's touring West Side Story in Louisville and I loved it! Jason has theater background so he had some criticisms, but I haven't been to a musical since I was really little. It was just awesome! We've had just as much fun seeing some of our favorite bands together too. I definitely encourage this for events where you share common ground and you're equally invested in the performance, no one wants to feel like they're being dragged along to see something they aren't really interested in and that defeats the purpose.

Margot & the Nuclear So and So's at Fountain Square Park in Cincinnati

8. Game night
This one is pretty regular for us, even if we don't deem nights we only play games together as "official game nights." When it's just the two of us we play video games. A lot. We recently obliterated Bioshock Infinite, but also enjoy Call of Duty games (online multiplayer, of course,) anything Resident Evil, Little Big Planet, Mario Brothers, Zelda, Silent Hill, and so on.

Our more official game nights include friends, almost always "couple" friends. In fact, we just got together last week to play Adventure Time Monopoly with some of them. Of course that one takes up some time, but other nights we'll play Trivial Pursuit, cards, Apples to Apples, and Jenga, among others. Sometimes when we play team games we play on the same team, other times we switch it up and challenge one another. There is usually wine involved, and a homemade dip or snack provided by whichever couple is hosting.

9. Attend a sporting event
Like the concerts/musicals/plays this is only if you're both invested in a team or sport. We attend our alma mater's football games when possible and for Jason's birthday this year we went to a hockey game. We have hopes to attend an NFL game in the fall to cheer on our Bengals. I love football more than any other sport, so I'm pretty excited! If I didn't enjoy the sport that wouldn't be the case. So ladies, if you're not into sports, or if you're guy isn't, this one is not worth considering. (Except maybe a baseball game... I think you could hate baseball and enjoy a game because there is so much else going on.)

Homecoming for our alma mater WKU last fall
10. Go to a museum or art gallery
I already touched on this a bit under planning a night out, but checking out a museum or art gallery doesn't have to be part of anything else. Take some time, walk around, and take in what you're looking at. We've visited museum/galleries as part of a date night, midday before/after lunch, and early in the morning too. We love the 21c Museum Hotels because you can grab a drink at the adjoining bar and take it with you to explore the galleries. Be sure to check out local gallery and museum calendars as installations change periodically, and keep an eye out for exhibits that would be interesting to you. After all, if you are interested in Vermeer you may not enjoy a Kara Walker exhibit, and visiting a military history museum is not the same as visiting a World War II specific exhibit.

21c Museum Hotel Cincinnati, Vee Speers Birthday Party series

11. Visit an aquarium or zoo
We're eternally seven-years-old and love taking trips to zoos and aquariums! We just visited the Newport Aquarium a few weeks ago, regularly go to the Louisville Zoo, and Ripley's Aquarium is a must when we visit the Smokies. You never know what you're going to see or learn about animals and nature while you're there. Not to mention you get to look at some super cute animals. (There are also ugly animals, funny animals, weird animals, exotic animals, etc.) Additionally, there are petting exhibits or special things you can do. I *almost* paid to pet a penguin at the Newport Aquarium just because, well, I wanted to now what it would feel like, but most petting areas are either free or you just have to pay for food to feed the animals. (Side note: Most of these are meant to be for couples, but I think this one obviously stands out as one great option for kids too if you have them. We're kid free, but if we had kids there is no way we would leave them at home and visit a zoo or aquarium... unless we become totally heartless parents one day.)

So, that is my list. There could be more to it, but those are probably the most common things we do throughout the year that involve going out to do, see, experience all while being practical and budget-friendly. Pretty simple, but there are few things that may require a little planning if you live in a suburb or small town and have to travel to do any of them. In the event you do have to travel -like I said, sometimes we make the drive to Cincinnati which is about 3 hours each way- make a long weekend out of it and stay a night or two in a hotel. Doing that will also allow you time to relax if you plan for multiple activities over the course of a day or two, and you'll have a place to get ready if you want to go out to dinner, for drinks, or anything else in the evening. Sometimes it's just nice to have a break from home and the day-to-day to do something with the person you love.

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