6 unique date ideas for when you're tired of dinner, drinks and cinema

Because there's more to life than the multiplex

Monday 16 October 2017 01:03
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Drinks. Meal. Multiplex. Repeat.

When you're dating, it's easy to get stuck in a rut. If you're seeing someone for nights out three or four times a week, it's hard to come up with something unique every time.

That's where we come in. The Independent's lifestyle team is constantly exploring London and beyond, looking for the most interesting and different ways to have fun.

This is the first instalment of our ever expanding list of suggestions for date night, so don't forget to bookmark the page and come back when you're stuck for ideas.

Crazy Golf

What is it: No longer confined to cheap seaside resorts, crazy golf is just one of many formerly tacky activities to be hipsterfied. And as with the majority of hipster things, it’s now entered the mainstream. Today’s urban crazy golf sites are trendy locations where millennials hang out and business-people attempt to be down with the kids.

Do: Play properly. Everyone wants a decent game so don’t let your date win - but remember crazy golf is meant to be a laugh.

Don’t: Get too competitive and go off in a huff if, despite your prowess when it comes to real golf, your skills fail to shine at crazy golf.

Top tip: Short skirts and stilettos may be sexy but they’re probably a bad choice when it comes to smashing the patriarchy on the golf course.

We tried: Swingers in The City of London. As well as two crazy golf courses, there are five bars and three legendary street food eateries: Pizza Pilgrims, Patty & Bun and Bubbledogs. One must refuel post-workout, after all.

Ping-pong

What is it: Exactly what it sounds like, but in an urban, often underground, trendy venue, with music, food and drink. Book a session and make a night of it. You may or may not have to dodge flying balls over the course of the evening.

Do: Have a drink first. You’ll relax a bit and actually have a chat, because it’s pretty difficult to keep up a conversation while whacking a ping-pong ball across a table.

Don’t: Get too drunk beforehand. You may find your hand-eye coordination severely off as a result.

Top tip: Booking ahead is crucial. Oh, and as everyone’s childhood tennis coach taught them: keep your eyes on the ball.

We tried: Bounce in London, who also do a spectacularly good fun bottomless pizza and prosecco ping-pong brunch. But maybe save that one for when you're past the first date so you don’t embarrass yourself by getting sloshed.

Go Karting

What is it: Like Mario Kart but real life. Pull on some racing overalls, squeeze on a helmet, then race round a track at speeds of up to 40mph. There are various options – a Grand Prix format will see you go head to head with a bunch of other competitors. It’s more fun but also more intense, as overtaking is frequent. A nicer date alternative is time trials, with the racer with the fastest lap declared the winner.

Do: Get competitive. Unlike many sports and physical activities, there’s no real advantage to being male. That means it’s a pretty level playing field, where you can both show off your competitive streak.

Don't: Crash into your date. Nothing ruins a romantic night out than an argument over your dodgy overtaking skills.

Top tip: Steadiness over speed is key. If you can keep your steering gentle and your speed consistent, you’ll soon overtake the reckless racers who’ve oversteered themselves into a mess. Think tortoise and hare.

We tried: TeamSport Go Karting at Tower Bridge. Part of a nationwide chain, the Tower Bridge branch just had a big refurbishment and has a new track layout and nippy karts. There are race deals from £35.

Wine Tasting

What is it: Find a wine bar that lets you charge up a payment card to sample endless taster measures for a couple of quid each. You can pull up the tasting notes for each wine on your phone and challenge each other to pick out each note, or explore the world of wine with some blind tastings together to find your favourite.

Do: Be open minded. The world of wine does not begin and end with the Cabernet Sauvignon that you always order. You’re sampling – so get creative and adventurous with your selections.

Don't: Pretend to know more than you really do. There’s no shame in knowing very little about something but wanting to know more, but you will sound like a prize plonker if you try to blag sounding like a wine pro.

Top tip: Use all of your senses. According to Wine Enthusiast magazine, you should be looking at it straight on, from the side, on its side, then watch it swirl. When you smell it, try to isolate each aspect that you’re registering; is it fruity, herby, spicy, or earthy? The potential goes on and on. When you taste it, there’s more to it than just deciding whether you like it or not – try to decide whether it’s balanced, complex, harmonious and complete.

We tried: The Kensington Wine Rooms. Good food and an even better selection of wine (as you’d expect from the name).

Cooking Class

What is it: Is your current squeeze a domestic god or goddess, or a kitchen nightmare? There's a simple way to find out, which doubles up as a date too. There are loads of professional kitchens across the UK that offer lessons in knocking up everything from a simple dish, to a three-course meal. You'll learn a few things about your partner, as well as food prep; how they cope under pressure, their attention to detail, and if

Do: Follow instructions. Most of the cooking classes we've tried after aimed at beginners, so if you follow the lead chef's instructions to the letter, you're likely to create something Instagram-worthy. If you're not a

Don't: Drop the plate. We've seen plenty of intrepid cooks conquering their kitchen nervousness, only to drop or spill their perfectly plated pile of grub. Not a good look.

Top tip: Pair the type of cooking class to the vibe you're trying to achieve. If you want to look like a butch hunter gatherer, something involving a bit of butchery could do the trick. If you're trying to look romantic, a cake-making lesson where you can etch your loved ones name on top with icing may be a better shout.

We tried: The Jamie Oliver cooking school, it's one of the better beginner-orientated cooking schools we've tested.

Boating

What is it: We'd estimate that 99% of dates take place on land - no matter how creative you get. Take your beau airborne or waterborne and you're already marking yourself out as a little more creative. Rowing can be exhausting, so only do it if you're fit. Instead, we tried an electric motor boat along the Regent's canal.

Do: Double date. We went out on the water as a pair, but given that one person is focused on steering the boat, it can leave one person feeling left out if there are only two of you. Take another couple along (or more, there's room for eight people on board) for the same price.

Don't: Turn up after too many drinks; they may not let you on board because you'll need all your skills to manoeuvre the boat.

Top tip: If you want to avoid zig-zagging around the canal like our writer did in front of his embarrassed date, then follow this advice: slow and steady to begin with is key. Small, easy movements when steering will avoid the need to overcompensate and screw up your confidence.

We tried: GoBoat London, which operates slick eight-man self-driven boats along the Regent's canal along multiple routes.

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