Planning summertime dates might’ve been fun and easy in the past, but as we weather the coronavirus pandemic, coming up with ideas now poses some challenges. Whether you’re in a long-term relationship and live with your partner or you’re a newer couple just beginning to incorporate each other into your social circles, romantic summer activities are no longer as straightforward as a day at the beach or a trip to a new city. Depending on where you live and what phase of reopening your area is in, it may be time to get creative—while also prioritizing your safety and comfort.
“When going on a social distancing date, it’s truly important to talk to your date beforehand about what does and does not feel right for you,” Dr. Carla Manly, clinical psychologist and author of Joy From Fear: Create the Life of Your Dreams by Making Fear Your Friend, tells HelloGiggles. “Whether you want to wear a mask, avoid touching, or find it important to avoid congested areas, let your date know in advance about your preferences and boundaries.”
Once you and your partner are on the same page about what you’re okay with doing, it’s time to take stock of your options. We talked to several relationship experts on how to practice social distancing while still enjoying romantic activities, and these are their suggestions.
1See a drive-in movie
While many movie theaters still remain closed throughout the country, several spots are now offering drive-in movies as an alternative to get out of the house and experience something different. Check in your area to see if there’s a drive-in theater option, then discuss with your partner what health measures you’d both like to put in place if you go. Since sitting in a car together involves being in close proximity, wearing masks could be a good idea. If you’re already quarantining together, though, it may feel comfortable to just hop in the car and enjoy your favorite classic (with snacks, of course).
2Create a DIY movie theater
If drive-in movies aren’t a thing in your area or you aren’t comfortable being in car with someone right now, that’s okay—creating your own at-home theater can be a great alternative. Helen Virt, spokesperson for the dating app Hily, suggests making your own DIY movie screen, but in a pinch, projecting onto a wall or hanging a sheet in your backyard will do just fine. “If you don’t have a projector, you can build one using your phone and a shoebox,” Virt says. “Turn off as many lights as possible, settle into blankets and pillows, and it’ll be one of the most romantic and cozy dates you’ve ever been to.” If you want to put any physical boundaries between you and your partner in place, though, you can definitely still do that.
3Go on a hike or walk in the park
This could be a good option if you’re in a new relationship and want to slowly transition into physical closeness. Dr. Manly suggests exploring nearby hiking trails if you’re the adventurous type, or keeping things simple with a stroll through a local park. Since you’ll be outside, it will be a lot easier to maintain a six-foot distance. Let your partner know if wearing masks is something you want, as well.
4Plan a picnic
Luckily, most outdoor date ideas are not off the menu while we continue to social distance. Dr. Manly notes that planning a picnic can be a fun alternative to eating yet another meal inside or over Zoom with your partner. Grab a blanket and a basket filled with some of your favorite treats. You can even pop a bottle of bubbly if your park allows outdoor drinking. From there, find a spot that seems to be at a safe distance from other park dwellers, and enjoy the experience together.
5Set up a backyard dinner date
If you are fortunate enough to have a backyard, now’s the time to put it to good use. Decorate your outdoor space with twinkle lights or candles, and set a table for two. If your partner lives with you, collaborate on a menu that feels fresh for the both of you and cook it together before dining outside. If your partner doesn’t live with you, surprise them with this wine-and-dine backyard date, free from the crowds of a regular restaurant.
6Try outdoor dining
Many different states are moving into phases of reopening that include partial restaurant openings, in which restaurants can allow half of their usual patrons in or utilize their outdoor spaces for social distance dining. If you’re a foodie and miss the days of going out to eat, bring it up with your partner. Find a restaurant that’s maintaining health and safety recommendations like keeping tables six feet apart, having servers wearing masks, and consistently disinfecting common areas. While this option isn’t for everyone, dining out can definitely give you a taste of normalcy if you’re craving it.
7Grab a to-go cocktail
When many restaurants and bars transitioned into take-out only, they also got innovative by offering cheap cocktails to-go. If outdoor drinking is permitted in your area, stop by your favorite bar for a drink you haven’t had in a while. Many places are now offering drinks in pouches, which is convenient and can make for a great ‘gram. If you’re not a big drinker, you can also grab a coffee or tea to-go from a favorite cafe. From there, you and your partner can walk around town or take a seat in a local park to enjoy the pick-me-up.
8Tour a museum virtually
With many museums around the world closed, virtual tours are an option for patrons to enjoy art and history from the safety of their homes. Samantha Moss, editor and content ambassador at Romantific, tells HelloGiggles that she recently turned her love of museums into a virtual date, and it was a hit with her partner.
“I set the date of when we were going to watch the virtual museum tours,” she explains. “Then I ordered a couple of bottles of wine. I had sent one to my date, plus a dozen roses. So on that day, we drank wine, and talked on our smartphones while taking a virtual tour of museums around the world.”
To jazz this idea up even further, pick out a drink or food from the country whose museum you will be touring and share the experience over video chat or in-person. You’ll feel like you’re actually there.
9Cook a summer recipe over Zoom
If you’re isolating from your partner or date, think outside of the box for your next Zoom chat. Order the same summer-themed meal kit from a service like FreshDirect and make sure it will get delivered on the same day for both of you. Plan a time for the Zoom call and set up your laptop in your kitchen. Cook through the meal together and set your table for two with your date facing you at the table. From there, enjoy the fruits of your labor and have a healthy debate over who is the better cook.
10 Plan a virtual travel date
You may not be able to take the vacation you wanted with your partner this year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still get away. According to KC McCormick Çiftçi, intercultural relationship coach and founder of Borderless Stories, “You can ‘travel’ to another country with recipes, music, a movie, and a little research online.” Since she and her husband couldn’t visit his family in Turkey this year, for instance, she decided to create a meal similar to what they’d had in that country to feel like they were there. “Even just changing the place that you eat (but especially when you add new recipes to the mix) is a great way to differentiate between a regular night and date night,” Çiftçi says.
Get creative and figure out the best way to evoke the vibes of your destination of choice. Maybe you can turn your kitchen into a French bistro, or you can play the sounds of ocean waves in your backyard to imagine you’re in the Caribbean. It’ll be completely romantic, and you won’t even have to get on a plane.