When I mentioned that I was taking a month off from drinking, the thing I got messaged about most was… dating! You guys were hilarious. There was a LOT of concern in these ranks about sober dating, and I have to be honest with you… until more recently, I had my concerns as well. Dating, (especially in the digital age), is awkward and weird and all of that can be amplified even more without a little bit of liquid courage. Or so I thought. And then I had some really good sober dates and realized the beauty of the coffee date.
Hear me out. The coffee date is a wonderful thing (regardless of whether you are drinking or not). It’s low pressure, it’s easy, and honestly you guys, we are (much as I hate the word!) BUSY PEOPLE. I like that coffee can go either way. A great coffee date can turn into a second cup of coffee which can turn into a long walk or another activity, while a bad coffee date can be cut short and you can go home and get on with your life without being tipsy, wasting calories, and so on and so forth. Even if I were drinking this month, I would rather save my wine for friend time.
If you’re a long term reader you probably have noticed that I can be ruthless with my time and sticking with coffee for a first date saves you so much time in the end. As an aside (and I don’t do this, or recommend it! I have a male friend who would literally set up back to back coffee dates on Saturdays. He has a a whole system down which makes me laugh. Hey, whatever works!) Coffee dates aside, once you’ve been through that initial coffee screener there’s so much you can do! I think it’s a great opportunity to get in your culture (go to a museum or a play) or do something active (go for a hike, try out rock climbing, take a tennis lesson, etc)! And if all else fails, go to a bar and order a club soda. It’s not as awkward as you think, as long as you order with confidence. I promise.
As an aside: If you are taking a month (or a year for that matter!) off drinking and a guy is rude to you about it, I think that’s a perfectly fine reason to cancel and/or bloc him. I haven’t personally experienced this but was DMing back and forth with a reader whose prospective date called asked her if she was always that boring. RUDE. Three little words here: delete AND block!
Here are some fun sober date ideas….
…Try out a new coffee shop.
…Take a cooking class together.
…See a comedy show.
…Try out a rock climbing gym.
…Hit the batting cage!
…Go record shopping or antiquing.
…Take a tennis lesson or work out class together.
…Go to a museum (this is my personal favorite as I’m a total museum nerd.)
…Go kayaking around the city (if it’s warm).
…Go ice skating (if it’s cold).
…Go apple picking (in the Fall).
…Go bowling or play shuffleboard! (For the New York/Brooklyn set, this is one of my favorite places, mostly because of the decor…)
…Play indoor mini golf!
…Play Ping Pong (SPiN is so fun in New York).
…Visit the Botanical Gardens (I love the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, but every city has it’s own.)
…Go all high school and see a movie + get ice cream afterward.
…Have an evening of board games.
…Reader Idea from Shibani F: Go “dessert hopping!”(Go to a bunch of different restaurants within walking distance of each other, only order dessert.)
…Take a food tour.
…Go hiking. (This miiiight be harder fo the New York set, but if you are in CA, this is perfect!)
…Go out for milkshakes!
…Reader Idea from Ashley B – best for when you’ve known each other a little while longer and are comfortable going to their home: Replicate the cooking show Chopped. Each person picks 1-3 ingredients for the other person to cook an appetizer or entree with. At least one ingredient should be a tougher, “wild card” item to make things fun. At the end you pick who the “winner” is with the best dish.
A few fun reader stories!
“I was initially afraid of sober dates — I would think to myself what am I going to say? How do I not have a drink to help me relax? What are we going to talk about?! A year and a half ago, I got a message from a guy on Tinder and he said no to beers because he was taking a month off drinking after having a heavy month. I remember distinctly asking him if we weren’t going for a drink, what could we do instead? He wrote back with a simple, “Dinner?” At this point, I had been single for 6+ years so I had gotten to be a pretty seasoned first-dater. I had a rule against eating on a first date (too much awkwardness for me). I love to eat and am not afraid of ordering big meals in front of people, but to me, eating is v intimate and is a way to spend time together. Not a way to get to know someone. But I said yes to dinner. We were meeting at a Mexican place and I checked out the menu beforehand. I wanted to order something simple, something that I could eat with a fork, and something that was unlikely to get stuck in my teeth. When we got there, I ordered a burrito bowl and he ordered three tacos with guac (amateur move– that’s tough to eat). The date went really well, and without the alcohol, I actually found myself to be calmer and less jumpy. Fast forward 1.5 years later and we’re recently engaged. 🙂 I think the moral here is to be true to ourselves and things work out. And we don’t need to force others to spend time with us if they’re not into what we’re doing at the moment.” – Sara M.
“My husband is sober and had just over a year of sobriety when we started dating. Some of our best dates from the start of our relationship were – cooking class, Museum of Natural History and ice cream afterwards, Rangers and Knicks games, dessert and coffee at Magnolia’s Bakery, bowling, coffee and walks through the park and then walking around Eataly, getting their prime rib sandwich and hanging out in Madison Square Park. So many fun things to do —- when you don’t drink calories there’s room for more sugar calories 🍩🍦🍪!” – Catie B.
“One of my best dates of all time was to an art museum on a Saturday afternoon (they had a Warhol exhibit and my date knew it’s my fave) and then we had lunch at their cafe outside. It was amazing and he kissed me behind a statue.) – Anonymous
“The first date with my boyfriend of two years was a sunrise hike. He woke up at 3:30am and drove an hour and a half to pick me up so we could hike Mill Mountain and watch the sunrise. We brought a blanket to lay down on the ground. Afterward, we got coffee and breakfast. I was smitten from then on.” – Ally D.
“This is kind of dorky, but we loved it. When my husband and I were dating, we would go to these history series speaker events at our local museum. They always occurred on a Sunday afternoon, so while you could have a boozy brunch beforehand, we usually didn’t and it was just a nice relaxing activity for a weekend afternoon. We learned all about our city’s history, and got to spend time together.” – Alyssa B.
I love this. What a great post. These ideas reiterate what was in Modern Romance (Aziz’s book), but that activities, spawned by sober dating or not, take the pressure off, take away the intensity of the ‘interview’ style date, and are actually fun. Great post! Happy dating peeps
I’m so happy you enjoyed it! It was fun to put together 🙂
I don’t drink at all, and haven’t done so for many, many years… simply because I don’t like the taste of alcohol. If I need to go to a bar, I just order hot tea 😉 These are amazing date ideas since both my boyfriend and I don’t drink!
Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
So glad you like them! x
I love the coffee date idea, I’ve found that ice cream is also a good one. I see it more as an “interview” for a date. Spending dinner with a stranger has always felt weird to me, like a big time commitment and that weird moment when the check comes. Coffee is quick, but long enough to form an opinion if this is someone you want to spend several hours and possibly more dollars on 🙂
Ice cream is always a good idea!!! I completely agree that dinner with a stranger is weird. Too much pressure and you don’t have an out!! x
Your suggestion of rock climbing as a sober date made me laugh – a guy I went on a pretty typical, decent first date with suggested we go as a second date (he LOVED climbing)… he showed up noticeably tipsy, with plans to still belay me. Of course I left – seriously, who shows up to a rock climbing date drunk??
Thanks for this article!
Hahahaha, that sounds very risky!!!! 😉
I think the first coffee date is a great idea! My first date with my husband was actually a coffee date and I think that it really just takes the pressure off.
Glad you agree! xo
I love this article! These are such creative ways to get to know someone!
Thank you! It was a fun one to put together!!
Love this post! My now husband, then first date didn’t order a drink on our first date (pizza) and it definitely threw me for a loop, so I ordered a Diet Coke. While it initially threw me off (and I probably talked WAY too fast due to drinking so much caffeine…ha), but it wasn’t any more awkward than a normal first date! Plus, I didn’t have to look back and wonder if I had wine buzz happy feelings, or if I actually liked him! Our fave dates are walking around the lake, stopping for ice cream halfway or morning donut runs!
Love that!! (And now I want a donut, ha ha!)
Love this post! As a millennial, I feel like I often gravitate towards alcohol-centered dates, when sober dates are usually the most fun & adventurous. Will have to try a few of these when I’m reunited with my BF in March 🙂
As an aside, on one of our first dates he taught me how to shoot & we went to a range! It was really fun, cool to see him in his element and let him teach me something.
I think sober dates are actually more fun! Let me know how it goes!!
This was a cute post. I am married, but it is always nice to get some new ideas for “dating” my hubby.
I’m so happy you enjoyed it!
When my husband and I started dating, he was on a drinking hiatus. We’d actually been friends for a few years, but we got together when we were both training for long distance races. We’d spend hours running together, having coffee, and just talking about everything under the sun, and after a while, we both realized there was a lot more than friendship between us. I don’t know that we’d be together if we hadn’t had all that non-drinking time to really get to know each other. I think there’s something to be said for stone-cold sober dating – don’t you really want to know who someone is without alcohol anyway?
I totally agree – you get to know someone so much better!
When we were dating, my now-husband would plan “country” dates to shake things up a bit – we’d go to “France” by having a croissant and espresso at a local bakery that played French cafe music, stop in “Italy” for some authentic pizza and gelato and pop into the art museum, or head over to “England” for high tea and a long walk in the park. I so loved these (not on purpose but ended up being no drinking) dates!
That is such an adorable idea – I love it!!!
This is very LA, but I’ve gotten into doing a (low-key) hike on a first date. It gives you guys something to do as opposed to staring directly at each other, and even if the date’s a bust me/ my dog got a decent workout!
I wish that were an option here!!!!
Revisiting this post after two months in LA and returning to NYC—it’s been pretty easy to not drink so much here but I want to hold on to that in NYC and wanted some good ideas of things to do, dates, friends, that don’t always involve booze!
Oh good!!! Love that you referred back. 🙂 xx