For our very first Valentine’s Day back in 2012, Justin and I went ice skating and then had dinner at . . . Waffle House. He even brought a little fake flower for the table, ha! Our ideal date is casual and fun (and I love breakfast food!) so I found the whole thing to be charming and perfect. It struck just the right balance of making a special memory without trying too hard.
Flash forward 11 (!!) years and our plans for tomorrow are to go to a local breakfast joint and have brunch together (with a six-month-old tagalong!) while the big two kids are in preschool. Not much has changed and yet, SO much has changed.
We don’t really make Valentine’s Day a huge deal because we try to be intentional about dating each other all year long, although what this looks like has changed over the years. As we’ve added kids to our family, we’ve had to adjust the way that we carve out time for one another. Sometimes this looks like getting a babysitter and going out for dinner or a comedy show or something like that, but more often than not it looks like figuring out a way to have a date at home after the kids go to bed.
We’ve been working on our date-night-at-home style for several years now and as much as we love curling up on the couch and watching a movie or show, we also enjoy some variety. I’ve been collecting ideas over the years so I have a list to turn to when we want something different and I thought I’d share it today in case anyone else is looking for different at-home date night ideas. Everyone has different styles (for example: I have absolutely no interest in building a fort in my living room for a date night when I’m also the person who will have to get the room put back together afterwards, but I’m happy for people who want to do that!); these are ideas that sound fun for Justin and my personalities. Feel free to take any ideas from here and make them your own!
A couple disclaimers before the list: I really strongly recommend talking about your expectations in advance. A simple “hey, I’d really like to carve out time for a date at home this week. What night looks best for setting aside an hour or two for focused time together?” can help set the tone that this is important to you. I also recommend setting an expectation about devices – using the TV or a device as part of your date night is fine, but there are also nights where we want it to be device-free. If you want to eliminate the distraction of phones or devices, communicate that in advance! “It’s important to me that we have this time together distraction-free, so can we both commit to keeping our phones off for this hour?” Justin and I haven’t always had the same expectations for what it means to have a date at home and it has helped us so so much to talk about those expectations in advance so we’re not disappointed or frustrated by mismatched standards.
Okay, let’s get to the list!
No Advance Planning + FREE!
1. “Dream” date. I love a super low-key evening where we just dream together about something in the future. Maybe you prefer a tangible thing like creating a physical vision board, maybe it’s a shared Pinterest board, or maybe it’s just talking and bouncing off one another – however you choose to do it, it’s fun to just grab a drink and a fun snack and dream together.
2. Make a Bucket List. A spin-off of the dream date is to actually create a bucket list together. I’m a bit of a nerd and love lists, so I like to go a step farther and categorize: a bucket list for things to do as a family, a separate list for travel/adventure, yet another list for house projects and financial goals. We have a shared Google spreadsheet (told you I’m a bit of a nerd) with things we want to do and their goal timelines; we enjoy seeing progress get made and it’s fun to work toward making them happen.
3. Plan a vacation. You could probably lump this one in with the dream date, but taking it a step farther than dreaming, it’s super fun to actually sit down and plan a vacation together. Justin and I are currently planning a trip for our 10 year anniversary and it’s so exciting to just cozy up on the couch with our laptops and chat about options for flights, lodging, and things to do. We’re taking our time before making any final decisions but we’ve had several nights of talking about options – we’re just about ready to pull the trigger on some flights and then the planning date nights will really take off (no pun intended, ha!)
4. Create a Spotify playlist together. Way back when I was deep in our office renovation, I was working on things in the room and Justin was sitting just outside of it pulling up random songs from our childhood to play. I’m not even sure how it started (maybe he was looking up one song stuck in his head?) but it spiraled into several hours of back-and-forth requests and was SUCH a fun evening of unlocking memories from our youth – “remember this song?” “Oh, what about this one!” “Oh my gosh, can you believe this one is 25 years old!?” We had a blast and determined that 1997 was the greatest year of music, ha! Try creating a playlist together of favorites from childhood or college or some other formative time, or a playlist for an upcoming road trip or just to have on in the background while making dinner together.
5. Learn a dance routine. Sure, you can follow a YouTube tutorial to learn to salsa, waltz, whatever, but I’m also thinking a little more niche here. There are so many songs with specific routines that would be fun to try out – it’s a life goal of mine to learn the Thriller dance! Maybe you’re more a fan of Fancy Like or About Damn Time – there are so many songs, both new and old, out there with specific routines to try out. Which leads me to . . .
6. Try a TikTok or Instagram challenge. TikTok and Instagram are FULL of challenges to try out. Crazy lifts and couple yoga poses will either make you super impressed with your skills or crack up laughing over how terribly the move is going!
7. Take Random Buzzfeed quizzes. Buzzfeed has some hilariously niche quizzes. Which cartoon cat are you? Which Bath and Body Works candle matches your personality? Which of the 4 types of Super Bowl fans are you? What is your distinct movie genre? I mean…the possibilities are endless, super random, and entertaining.
8. Find a list of questions to ask each other. Just googling “questions to ask your spouse/partner” brings up list after list of questions to ask to get to know one another better. I’ve also used “A Year of Us” to spark unique conversations when we just want a simple way to connect.
9. Watch a comedian online. Justin and I are obsessed with Nate Bargatze and have watched all his specials. Netflix, Prime, Hulu – whatever streaming service you use, search for stand up comedy and you’ll find multiple options. Grab some snacks and prepare to laugh together.
10. Good old-fashioned game or puzzle night. We personally love a game night. I blogged about two-person games we enjoy a couple years ago, but you can also search your personal game collection or borrow a new game from a neighbor (or check out your local library – mine loans out games and puzzles!) and get your game faces on. We also love a puzzle while watching TV (maybe pair a puzzle with a stand-up comedian!) and have this puzzle board storage system to keep it away from our kids if we need multiple nights to finish it. You can also try online games and quizzes – we love Sporcle and have had nights where we team up to beat the clock or we sometimes each are on our own device and do the same quiz to see who can get finished quickest.
No Advance Planning + $
11. Candlelit dinner + takeout. A couple weeks ago, my parents had the older two kids for the night. I made dinner for Justin and I and decided on a whim to plate it on our fancy china and light some candles. It was a fun way to elevate our dinner and make it feel a little special, and I feel like it naturally made us take our time and linger longer over the meal. An even easier way to enjoy this is ordering takeout or delivery from your favorite restaurant – then break out the good plates, light some candles, and enjoy!
12. Video game + pizza night. When it was Justin’s turn to plan a date night, he got all his old Guitar Hero stuff out from storage, booted up his old xBox, and we played for hours – video games weren’t my thing growing up but it was so fun to play together! Order some pizza and try a brand new video game, something nostalgic like MarioKart, or an online game if you don’t have your own system.
Advance Planning + $
13. Drink Around the World. Pick a few different regions or countries and make a cocktail they are known for: aperol spritz (Italy), sangria (Spain), pina colada (Puerto Rico), mojito (Cuba), Singapore sling (Singapore), Mai Tai (Hawaii), White Russian (Belgium), the list goes on! It might be fun to each pick a drink or two to make for the other partner and have each other guess what country/region the drink came from.
14. Recipe Roulette. Flip through a cookbook, stop at a random page, and pick something to make together for dinner! My sister and I like to say that all experiences are either a good memory or a good story – an overlooked recipe you’ve never made before might surprise you and become a new favorite or it might become a hilarious memory of the time you made a dinner that was barely edible but so fun to attempt.
15. Create a signature drink. Justin loves experimenting with mixology – it’s fun to try different combinations and see what works and what doesn’t. I love the idea of working together to come up with a signature drink for our date nights!
16. Blind Taste Test. Pick a category (chocolate bars, chips, pop/soda, ice cream, etc) and choose a few different brands to try. Label the back of the package or bottom of the bowl and try them blindfolded to see which one is your true favorite.
17. Date Night in a Box. There are subscription companies out there who curate a date night in a box and deliver it to your doorstep – you fill out a survey and they send you a date night box catered to your preferences. We’ve never tried this so I can’t speak to it personally, but it might be a fun option if you want to be surprised!
18. Wine + Cheese Tasting. Pretty self-explanatory, but this is always a winner in my book. A little charcuterie board + glass of wine can make a night on the couch feel special and intention.
19. Escape Room in a Box. We’ve never done one of these, but we love doing escape rooms in real life and I think this would be a really fun thing to try!
20. To Hunt a Killer Murder Mystery Game. We bought this game for a date night last year and it was really fun to work together to solve the murder. The downfall is you can only play it one time, but the good news is it’s really easy to pack everything up and pass it along to a friend or sell on Marketplace so someone else can enjoy it too!
21. Advanced Lego Set. Justin was obsessed with Legos as a kid and there are so many awesome Lego sets out there now. I think it’d be fun to work together to build a really complex Lego set together someday.
22. Night in Mexico. Have tacos for dinner, make margaritas, and break out Mexican train dominos for a fun little themed date night.
23. Spa Night. This actually falls under the “no advance planning and free” category for me because I have these things on hand, but I put it here in case others don’t. We actually really enjoy getting ready for bed early, then doing face masks and hanging out in our robes while watching a movie or talking. It’s restful and relaxing and fun and yes, my husband, who loves hunting, beer, and sports, also really enjoys these nights.
24. DIY Date Night. I gotta end on this one because it’s my personal favorite! Honestly, this does not need to be intimidating – start really small! In fact, I think it’s ideal to start out with projects that can be finished in one single night since a bigger DIY project could make it seem like a chore or too much work if it spirals into multiple days. It’s supposed to be fun so pick something that actually seems fun (so maybe not the time to replace your furnace filters or clean out the gutters). We started with simple shelves for our kids, but you could start even smaller with a can of paint and an old piece of furniture or hardware you want to swap out in your kitchen or bathroom. You don’t need complex tools either – you can do a lot with your basic hammer and screwdrivers when you’re starting out. Put on some music (your curated Spotify playlist perhaps?) and enjoy figuring out something new with your partner. It’s so gratifying to build something or make something beautiful together!