Sometimes being sober can feel like you’re an alien life form on an unfamiliar planet with oceans made of beer. We encounter other beings who urge us to partake in their sacred ritual, no matter how we protest. Nothing–not danger, death, or disease–could come between drinking and socializing for these creatures of habit. And then there’s us. And then, there’s dating.
Ahh, dating culture. The absolut(e) companion of drinking culture. Anxious strangers have been meeting for drinks to take the edge off since the dawn of time (probably). Did Adam and Eve throw back fermented grapes to be cool around each other naked? Was eating the apple a drunk game of truth or dare on the very first awkward date of all time? We’ll never really know, but one thing’s for sure: that’s ancient history.
With so many people getting sober nowadays (and with a little help from Covid, which forced everyone to get creative), there are more ways than ever to go on dates. Thinking outside the bar is cute and adventurous, so the next time you date sober (or just want to show a sober person a good time), here are some places to go that don’t have booze as the main event.
The Great Outdoors
A few ideas we list here could fall under the category of outdoor activities, but this one refers to those with a real sense of adventure. You want scenic, sweeping views only accessible to the real nature-heads? Take a hike! If you don’t have access to those, go camping. The beach is great– and if you’re landlocked, any body of water is likely to make your date’s heart sing. There’s something so SOBER about a breathtaking nature scene. Something about gratitude or being present, probably. In other words, we eat this shit up!
The only environment we can think of that’s as inherently flirtatious as a bar is an old-fashioned drive-in movie experience. Being in a car together, alone but in public, nothing between you and your date but a gear shift? We’re thirsty (for a giant fountain Coke with extra ice, of course) just thinking about it. If you don’t have a drive-in movie theater at your disposal, any kind of outdoor screening will do. Why not indoor? We’re just trying to take things up a notch post-Covid… any movie will get the job done, but you knew that!
This date does a lot of heavy lifting: brings joy, gives you endless conversation fodder for after, and takes all the pressure off of YOU to entertain. Even if the comedians bomb, you’re pretty much guaranteeing an unforgettable night — and if you didn’t laugh at the show, you can laugh together about it later no matter what. Dates like this really lighten the load of “getting to know” one another. Just be wary of sitting in the front few rows, unless you want to offer you and/or your date up for possible crowd work.
One of the most common myths about sober people is that they don’t do karaoke. A lot of people couldn’t imagine singing for a room full of strangers without a couple (if not many more) drinks in them, but sober people have energy to burn. And there’s something about facing that kind of fear head-on that can be more of an adrenaline rush than drinking or getting high ever could. Also, we much prefer private karaoke rooms to bars, so we’re talking about that here– basically you and your date having a glorified jam sesh once you’ve broken the ice conversationally.
We love bowling because it’s a fixed amount of time doing something that people are only randomly good at. The game length sets a boundary, so you both get to check in with each other and yourself as to whether you want to go another round. No one expects anyone to be good, and if they do, that red flag doesn’t have to wait to be revealed. In fact, you can tell a lot about a person by how they bowl. It’s good information about whether a person is fun, easily embarrassed, super-competitive, a sore loser, et cetera!
This is just super effing cute. Even the word “picnic” is cute. And you get to eat cute little travel-friendly foods out of a damn basket. We like things in containers, rather than things that need to be cut, spread, or assembled on site. Keep it simple, keep it clean-ish, and if you don’t bring that red-and-white checked fabric… well, it’ll still be a whole lot of fun. Tip: a small cooler with an assortment of alcohol-free drink options (LaCroix, some fun sodas, bottled still water) is a small gesture that brings instant luxury and abundance to the blanket.
The Color Me Mine franchise has been around forever, but if you’re not hip to the concept: you book a slot at a ceramics studio and get to make and decorate your own creation. Lately, private studios have jumped on the train, and pop-up events with appetizers and drinks are cropping up everywhere, solidifying the date-night vibe we’re looking for. While alcohol is present at some of these functions, drinking isn’t the main point, and if everyone else is drunk, you get the added bonus of your ceramics looking SUPER impressive!
This might be our favorite overlooked date. Massage is the ultimate way to relax, and for those who don’t drink or do drugs, a way to achieve a kind of natural high whose rewards echo for days. Surprising your date with a massage is always impressive, as it shows you want a part in pampering them– it’s a luxury many of us don’t treat ourselves to often enough, so enjoying it with someone else is super thoughtful and VERY flirty. The sensuality of being rubbed and kneaded by strangers isn’t lost on us– what a way to get primed for Netflix and chill. ;)