This Valentine's Day, it might be time to update your #RelationshipGoals -- and one to add to your list is getting out of the "dinner-and-a-movie" date rut. By getting creative with your rendezvous, you can rekindle that old spark or light a new one. Not only are dates good for your love life, they can be good for your health as well. A 2013 study in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that couples who are happier in their relationships have better health than those who are unhappy . Give your relationship and your well-being a booster shot with these 17 fun date ideas from the experts.
1. Do Something Exhilarating
Pump up your adrenaline, and you'll pump up your attraction. Watch a scary movie, go bungee jumping, visit an amusement park or take a whitewater-rafting tour down some rocky rapids. "When you build adrenaline, you build attraction," says Bela Gandhi, founder of Smart Dating Academy. "Do something that scares you, whether it's watching a horror film or sitting in the front row of a roller coaster." A 2003 study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that individuals considered others more attractive and desirable after a roller-coaster ride revved up their endorphins. So shut your eyes, cuddle up close, squeeze your partner's hand tightly and set out on an amorous adventure.
2. Learn to Flirt Again
Create some suspense on your date by keeping each other guessing. Dating expert Hayley Quinn suggests heading to a cute cafe, neighborhood restaurant or other laid-back locale and communicating solely via sticky notes for 30 minutes. "You'll be surprised how much of a better flirt you are when you're literally swapping notes," Quinn says. You might discover inhibitions taking a back seat when you're writing out your thoughts rather than speaking them directly to each other. Perhaps you'll use the opportunity to discuss a hot topic or maybe swap ideas on what the rest of the evening could bring.
3. Do a Double Date
If you've been with your partner for a while and have grown bored with your usual date-night activities, invite another couple along. A Wayne State University study found that double-dating can help rekindle the flame for couples. Although passionate love is often one of the first areas of love to diminish in couples over time, the research indicated that interactions with other couples can help to bring those feelings back. The researchers believe that such interactions might cause partners to see their relationship in a fresh and positive light .
4. Volunteer Together
Perhaps you both love animals or are passionate about helping the less fortunate. Volunteering is an inexpensive date and can give you that warm-and-fuzzy feeling that comes with giving back. Most animal shelters have a number of volunteer opportunities, and many no-kill shelters welcome volunteers to merely interact with the animals and give them attention. If animals aren't your cup of tea, volunteer at a soup kitchen or help the neighborhood beautification board plant a garden. The possibilities are endless. Search opportunities by area and interest to find the perfect volunteer experience on sites such as AllForGood.org and VolunteerMatch.org.
5. Get in a Vacation Mindset
To mix it up, try a non-seasonal activity. Bela Gandhi, founder of Smart Dating Academy, suggests turning the seasons upside down for a unique rendezvous. "In summer, it can be fun to drag out your winter clothes and go to an ice-skating rink to shake things up a bit," Gandhi says. She recommends trying to re-create that vacation-like feeling you get at a ski resort after hitting the slopes all day and then warming up in a hot tub. Ice-skating in the summer can make you feel like you've taken a trip to another climate. You'll probably emerge invigorated and refreshed with that post-vacation glow.
6. Do Your Own Progressive Dinner
If you're having trouble deciding on a restaurant, try dining at several. San Diego's Irene LaCota, president and chief marketing officer for It's Just Lunch International, recommends creating your own progressive dinner to add some variety to an otherwise predictable date. "Start with apps at a wine bar then move to dinner at a nearby restaurant and finish up with desserts at a dessert bar," LaCota says. You can add more stops by including a pre-dinner cocktail at a trendy bar or ending the evening with post-dinner espressos at a cozy coffee shop. Stick with one dinner theme or choose to mix it up, sampling a selection of various cuisines throughout the evening. Maybe you can't travel to Italy, Brazil and Hawaii in one night, but your taste buds can.
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7. Find Passion in Ping-Pong
It turns out that table tennis isn't just for Forrest Gump anymore. Get your blood pumping with a little friendly competition. "Forget bowling," says dating coach Hayley Quinn. Retro is considered cool these days, she explains, "with Ping-Pong halls popping up all over big cities." Grab a cocktail beforehand and don't worry if you miss your shot. Table tennis is a fun way to stay involved and active on your date, unlike some of the more typical dating activities like watching a movie. "You can bond over a game you can play together rather than in turns like bowling," Quinn says. Have some flirtatious fun while mastering your hand-eye coordination.
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8. Randomize Romance
Open the entertainment section of the paper, close your eyes, point and pick. Unless you land on an activity well out of your price range, you must go wherever your finger has led you. Perhaps you'll end up at a comedy club or a concert or movie you wouldn't usually choose to attend. You may find yourself at a unique festival or at bingo night. The sky is the limit. "Trying something new can get the adrenaline going," says Irene LaCota, president and chief marketing officer for It's Just Lunch International . "It can help conversation flow naturally, allowing you to get a true feel for each other," she explains.
9. Take Advice From Your Inner Children
Get playful! Let go of adult worries and inhibitions for one evening and invite your inner children out to play. Go to a local playground, make clay sculptures of each other, break out the art supplies and embark on some finger painting or play Candy Land for kisses. Imagine what the younger versions of you two would consider a fun date if given the opportunity, then run with it. Letting the child in you take the lead can be a creative way to get to know a new love interest or mix it up with your current partner.
10. Explore a New Neighborhood
Couples who have been together for a while may find themselves visiting the same neighborhood bars and restaurants date after date. Break out of your comfort zone and visit an unfamiliar neighborhood. Bela Gandhi, founder of Smart Dating Academy, recommends investigating a new area to keep things fresh. "Sometimes we tend to get on the dating treadmill and do the same things over and over again," Gandhi says. "Go explore a new neighborhood on foot and check out the shops, stop off at a local gym or grab a meal."
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11. Learn Something New
Learn more about each other while acquiring a new skill or enhancing an old one. Maybe one of you knows chess and can teach the other, or perhaps you've always wanted to learn to play the guitar and your partner knows how. Or learn something new together -- enroll in a cooking class then try to recreate that meal on a future date. Paint-and-sip classes are a fun new trend, providing a chance to enjoy some wine and engage in conversation while creating a masterpiece. Perhaps you're both wannabe thespians. Look into an improv workshop or acting class. If you've always fancied yourself a wine connoisseur, take it to the next level with a wine-tasting workshop. Explore what types of classes your city offers, and turn your date into a positive and passionate learning experience.
12. Be Bookworms
Bookstores can have magical possibilities. Countless pages filled with stories of far-away places and exciting adventures have the power to whisk your mind and spirit away, jump-starting your imagination. "I love old-school, mom-and-pop bookstores," says Bela Gandhi, founder of Smart Dating Academy. "They can be very romantic places." Gandhi suggests flipping through beautiful travel books and dreaming about where you might journey together one day or perhaps taking turns reading excerpts from love stories to one another. Pick out a book for the other person and discuss your thoughts after reading a couple of chapters or chat with the owner of the shop and ask for suggestions.
13. Hand Over the Planning Reins
Sometimes the energy it takes to plan a different kind of date can be half the battle. If you're married or have been dating for a while, you may have other couples you enjoy hanging out with who have a good handle on your likes and dislikes. Let your friends plan a date for you from beginning to end, then do the same for them. Sometimes it's easier to think outside the box when you're doing the thinking for someone other than yourself. The fact that you'll be doing the same for your friends automatically builds in a "payback clause." They'll probably not plan a clunker date for you, knowing that you could return the favor.
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14. Get Physical
Not that kind of physical -- at least not yet. Get your hearts pounding by planning active dates that get your bodies moving. "I'm a big believer that the best dates are active dates -- those where you and your companion are moving around, doing something together, not focusing on each other exclusively but getting to know each other in a natural way," says Irene LaCota, president and chief marketing officer for It's Just Lunch International. Go golfing or bowling, head to the batting cages or have a basketball shoot-off. The key is to keep the energy up and get those endorphins activated at the beginning of the date -- and maybe toward the end as well.
15. Sing Your Heart Out
Attend a karaoke night together. Karaoke is a chance for everyone to be a star -- whether or not they've got the pipes for it. "Sing a duet together or sing one apart and cheer each other on," says Bela Gandhi, founder of Smart Dating Academy. "Crack each other up," she suggests. "It's fun to look out into the audience and see a bright, smiling face looking back at you." If you're able to muster up the courage, karaoke can be a fun, light date and will likely provide you with stories that long outlive the evening.
16. Share Your Passion
Introduce each other to one of your passions. This can be especially fun for newly found love. Whether it's a yoga workshop, a salsa class or a comic-book convention, including your partner in your hobbies and interests is a great way to learn about each other and can be a compatibility litmus test. Even if your love interest doesn't excel at your particular passion, the fact that he or she is willing to try something that is special to you speaks volumes. "You will be 100 times sexier demonstrating something you feel confident with," says dating coach Hayley Quinn. "So forget feeling self-conscious about what you love and instead see how compatible with you [your date is] by getting them involved."
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17. Travel Back in Time
Get, like, totally '80s: Visit a video-game arcade then grab a pizza. You probably won't have to look far: "barcades" are a new trend spicing up the social scene. "Even people in their 20s can have a good time navigating those old arcade games like Ms. Pac-Man and Centipede," says Bela Gandhi, founder of Smart Dating Academy. "There are some great arcades springing up everywhere." Play doubles and make fun bets. Instead of playing for money, barter for massages, dinner tabs and future date-oriented prizes.
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What Do YOU Think?
What are some of the most fun and interesting dates you've been on? What do you think is the most challenging part of planning a date? Share your stories and date ideas with the community.
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