Ditch the Nightcap: 12 Sober Date Ideas That Are Anything But Boring

written by SYDNEY COX
sober date ideas"
sober date ideas
Source: @mizunokozuki | Pexels
Source: @mizunokozuki | Pexels

What comes to mind when you think of a romantic and fun date idea? We think of the classics: grabbing a drink at a cocktail bar, splitting a bottle of wine on the couch, or heading to grab a nightcap after a movie. These are all 10/10 date ideas, but they also all involve alcohol. Abstaining from drinking altogether or being sober curious has become the new normal for many millennials and Gen Zers, with health and hangover-related issues key factors in cutting down. But with “going for a few drinks” being a go-to date choice, thinking of sober date ideas is no easy feat, and I can attest to this.

I’ve become acutely aware of just how much drinking permeates our daily life—from happy hours at work to going out with friends on the weekend. My partner and I cut a majority of our alcohol intake at the beginning of this year and had a truthfully difficult time when it came to planning date nights. We’d get to the end of dinner and then… have no clue what to do. So we made it our mission to find fun and romantic things to do that could replace our traditional nightcap, and to our surprise, it’s been even more fulfilling than we imagined.

Whether you’ve completely removed alcohol from your lifestyle, are cutting down on your cocktail intake, or are just looking for date ideas that don’t always end in a large bar tab, rest assured that there are plenty of ways to enjoy alcohol-free date nights. Ahead, we’re sharing 12 sober date ideas to plan ASAP.

1. Go out for dessert

Going out for dinner can be slightly intense on a date, especially if it’s a first date. Instead, suggest grabbing dessert. This offers a low-pressure and no-alcohol chance to get to know each other better. Check out local bakeries, order a bunch of cookies, and test them out to determine your favorites. Or, head to an ice cream shop and get your go-to twist with rainbow sprinkles. (An ice cream order says a lot about a person, if you ask me). As someone who enjoys dessert more than dinner anyway, this is one of my favorite sober date ideas that makes enjoying each other’s company lighthearted and easy.

2. Play arcade games

I’m not sure there’s anything better than challenging your date to a competitive game of ski ball or Dance Dance Revolution. Head to an arcade or a bar you know that has games (yes, it’s OK to still go to a bar) and get ready to take out a lot of quarters. Spend the night playing your favorites and learning new tricks from your date. Then, end the night counting all of your tickets to determine who the ultimate arcade star is. If you’re lucky, you might be able to combine your tickets to claim one of the big prizes just like you did when you were a kid. This is one of the most fun sober date ideas by far, thanks to the childlike, no-pressure energy you’ll feel all night long.

3. Have a throwback night

This is one of my top recommendations for sober date ideas because it’s surprisingly intimate and only takes a bit of pre-planning. Start by preparing a favorite meal from your childhood (mac & cheese, please!), choosing your favorite old movies or shows, and getting comfy. Whether you spend the evening watching High School Musical, Avatar the Last Airbender, or a ’90s classic on the screen, tapping into your inner child allows you to let your guard down and relax with one another. You’ll enjoy some of your old-time favorites, but you’ll learn something about them—no matter how long you’ve known each other.

4. Go on a nature walk

There is nothing more romantic than strolling by the ocean, hand in hand with your date… but we don’t all live by the beach. I certainly don’t. Even if a seaside stroll isn’t in your realm of possibility, take your date outside! Any local park or walking trail is perfect for a romantic stroll, and it gives you an excuse to try out that cute athleisure you’ve been eyeing. A walk is great for an early date because it lets you be in public neutral territory, but still intimately connected. It is also good for couples deep into a relationship because you can get in some light walking exercise and connect via conversation. My partner and I love to book-end every date with a little stroll—weather permitting, of course!

5. Go see a concert

Hear me out: I’m all for enjoying a drink while listening to good music, but drinks at concert venues and events add up so quickly. Not to mention, the more you drink, the less present and engaged you usually are—with your date and the show. So why bother? Go see an A-lister perform their chart-topping set, or keep it low-key and easy by seeing a local gig. My partner and I have found some of our favorite artists by simply showing up to watch a group we knew nothing about. Plus, a concert is a prime time to test out that light arm touch or handhold—you can always pass it off as a happy accident that happened from moving to the music! Afterward, whenever you or your date hear music by that artist, you’ll immediately think of each other.

6. Head to a coffee shop

Just because you aren’t downing glasses of wine doesn’t mean other beverages are off-limits. Scout out a new coffee shop or head to your favorite, and channel your inner Monica Geller by throwing on your cutest outfit. I know that heading to a coffee shop seems like a standard date idea, but the simplicity makes great one-on-one conversation time. Consider ordering something you’ve never tried, or bring a game to play while you enjoy your hand-crafted drinks and pastries! There is something about a mug and a little coffeehouse acoustic that will get you in your feels, no matter the season.

7. Take a workout class or play a sport

This may not sound inherently romantic, but hear me out. Whether it is Zumba, weight-lifting, or tennis, moving your body will pump up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Doing a class together gives you so much to talk about afterward, and it helps channel that nervous date energy into something besides sipping on a marg. My go-to is tennis because it’s fun to be competitive in a lighthearted and flirtatious way with my partner. We always leave feeling connected and laughing—even though neither of us is very good.

8. Get crafty

One of my favorite places to find sober date ideas is on TikTok because I always discover something I never would have thought of on my own. There is especially an abundance of craft dates, which I love. If you haven’t painted your partner yet, trust me when I say you will both be laughing out loud before, during, and after. You can also take part in a clay date, where you craft and compare whatever type of figures you want. These ideas give you an activity to complete while tapping into your inner artist and letting loose with your partner. Plus, you’ll have your masterpieces to remember the night with.

9. Check out a museum

Museum dates can be extremely romantic and there isn’t a drop of alcohol in sight. Honestly, a shared learning experience is an excellent way to strengthen the romantic bond between two people. If there is a topic you or your partner are particularly interested in, look for museums within driving distance that offer related exhibits. Grab a hot tea or coffee and wander the halls, testing each other’s knowledge with trivia or by creating a scavenger hunt of names and dates. My partner and I love to hit up art museums and marvel at the pieces of cultural history before our eyes. I love Monet and he loves Van Gough, so there’s always a little argument when we stand in the gift shop. These dates always end in deep, thought-provoking conversations, though, and I leave knowing more and more about him and his tastes every time.

10. Head to a new-to-you neighborhood

If you’re looking for a unique sober date idea, pretend to be locals somewhere new! Put on a cute and comfy outfit, drive over to a new-to-you neighborhood or area, and explore. Look for open houses, estate sales, and new lunch spots that you might normally overlook when just passing through. My partner and I love driving to a new part of our city and wandering around for the afternoon, popping into local shops and real estate open houses when we’re able. It’s fun to fantasize about the future and what could be with your date alongside you.

11. Set up a spa date

If sober relaxation and romance are calling your name, set up a spa date! While maybe not great for a first date, a day at the spa can be a luxurious dive into romance for both of you. Research couples’ massages in your area, or keep it simple with a little mani/pedi action—here’s some nail inspiration if you’re in need! Some cities also have salt caves or ancient baths that tend to offer fruit-infused water or tasty hot tea. My fiancé and I spent his birthday in an ancient bathhouse complete with jacuzzis, salt pools, and polar plunges—it was potentially the most romantic place I’ve ever been. If you’re looking for the spa date vibe without the spa date price tag, consider pampering yourself at home! There is nothing like a little essential oil diffuser, homemade tea, and a duo-everything shower… if you know what I mean.

12. Watch the sunrise or sunset

Taking in the beauty of a sunset or sunrise is romantic no matter what. Plan a picnic or a drive around while the sun goes down. Then, pull over to watch the sky morph into a kaleidoscope of colors. You can watch from the beach, from your back porch, or from the patio of your fave dinner spot. However you experience it is great as long as you’re together. There is something deeply cozy about piling some blankets into the back of the car to catch the morning sun with a coffee in hand or snuggling a little closer on the porch to watch it set. Plus, everyone looks good in a little golden-hour light—including the two of you.