With temperatures dropping and COVID cases climbing higher by the day, it can be more than a little bit difficult to navigate the dating scene right now. Going on Tinder dates over Skype can be taxing at best and traumatizing at worst; even worse is navigating creeping anxiety when you finally do meet up with someone in person. Still, there’s a lot of joy to be found in pandemic-era dating, whether you’re looking for a hookup (shoutout to cuffing season!) or the love of your life. No matter who you are, you’re probably desperate for some fun, safe date ideas. Depending on where you live and your level of comfort, you’ve got some limited options. However, there are still plenty of ways to plan a socially-distanced evening out or a cozy night in! Here are some great options for dating and having fun during coronavirus.
Cliche as it might be, a good picnic never hurt anybody. It’s probably the safest in-person option if you’re meeting up with someone new, and besides, there’s nothing more romantic than the great outdoors. Supposedly. Even if you’re not much of a “park” or “nature” person, you can set up a nice spread on a balcony or porch; come springtime, you could even hike with your picnic basket to a place with a nice view. Remember to always bring a blanket; your outfit will thank you later (learned that one the hard way). This is also a great way to show off your cooking skills if you’re into that, but we’ll elaborate on that in a bit.
If you’re a book-lover like me and don’t mind safely going out in public, this might be the right option for you. In my experience, most bookstores aren’t particularly crowded and are one of the safest ways to get out of the house. Get some coffee, recommend some books, make fun of ridiculous pulp covers—the possibilities are endless. If you want to add a little something extra, pick out a “blind” book for your date and swap with them at the end. You can give them an old favorite, a recent read, or something that looks intriguing. The same thing could also be done at a nearby library if you’re a bit strapped for cash. In any case, a book-themed date is bound to go well.
A table at a cafe was a go-to for many people pre-pandemic; thankfully, if you’re not so comfortable in public places anymore, you can somewhat recapture that vibe over a video call. Use your video software of choice for a safe first date, grab your favorite mug, and make that perfect latte. It might not be exactly the same, but at least you’ll have the opportunity to talk to someone new over coffee. It reduces some of that first-date anxiety and places the control in your hands. You can share your favorite coffee recipe, take it slow, and listen. Plus, if you don’t exactly hit it off face to face, you can always hang up and blame it on poor connection.
Maybe you’re staying in quarantine but don’t want the same old coffee date. We’ve got you covered for that, too! During the pandemic, lots of museums and foundations have been providing virtual (and sometimes free) tours of their collections. There are even some zoo cams you can watch if you love animals, and Playbill offers a list of theater productions that have been streaming their performances. No matter what your interest or passion is, you can explore it virtually with your partner or your Tinder match. This is also a great option if you wouldn’t have had a chance to see these things otherwise; by opening up these virtual tours to the public, museums have made themselves much more accessible.
If you’re a festive person, look no further than a Christmas lights display. Even if it’s just a quick drive around the neighborhood, it’s a whimsical way to spend a night with your crush, hookup, or longtime lover. Bundle up in a blanket and take off for the nearest show. Sometimes local parks and gardens will have discounts on their events, so it’s a great last-minute holiday idea. Much like stargazing, looking at beautiful (and massively cheesy) light displays can definitely create a spark.
This one works whether or not you consider yourself a master chef. My date was charmed by my lack of experience in the art of making tortellini; the classic “teaching” trope plays out well in rom-coms and real life. Instead of heading out to a restaurant like you normally would, stop by your local grocery store and grab some ingredients for a night in. Pasta is always a sure bet, but if you’re an experienced cook you can aim for something even more romantic. There’s nothing better than an intimate, candle-lit dinner or a spontaneous brunch. If you mess up the food somehow, don’t sweat it; my oven literally caught on fire while testing out this item on the list. It can’t get worse than that.
Illustration by Gabriella Shery