Let’s face it: Dating isn’t for the faint of heart. Whether you’ve been in a relationship for three days or 30 years, it takes effort to keep romance alive and well.
This may come as no surprise, but most studies of love and relationships reveal that over time romantic intensity declines. Feelings of being “head over heels” are replaced with the ho-hum of familiarity.
Having a regular date night is a good start, but according to psychologist Arthur Aron, PhD, doing new things together is even better. (Note to all male readers: Dinner and a movie isn’t exactly original!) Consider injecting some creativity into the routine.
Here are some specific ideas to consider for date nights. You won’t have to travel far, and whether you’re on a tight budget, looking for that just-right special occasion or seeking full-on adventure, you’re sure to keep the relationship vibrant.
ON A Budget
First Dinner at Gypsy’s Shiny Diner followed by Miniature Golf at Pelican’s Mini Golf. End with Snoballs/Ice Cream at Pelican’s
Who says you have to spend a lot of money to have a good time? This economical outing won’t cost more than a tank of gas.
Grab your significant other and head to Gypsy’s Shiny Diner, where ’50s and ’60s music spin on the jukebox, and hearty blue plate specials and creamy milkshakes get prime billing. Breakfast is served all day, and the cooks are bold enough to tweak the classics while respecting the basics, and portions are always abundant.
After dinner, take a short drive over to family-owned Pelican’s Mini Golf, where an 18-hole round is just $5 per person. “This is not putt-putt — it’s a challenging little course,” said owner Peter Whalen.
Once you finish playing, pick one of the more than 100 flavors of snoballs, starting at $1.50. All-natural, homemade ice cream is available in 22 varieties for $2.75 per generous scoop.
Be advised: Winter hours begin in November, so Pelican’s is open Thursday through Sunday from 2–8 p.m.
Gypsy’s Shiny Diner
1550 Buck Jones Road, Raleigh
Pelican’s Mini Golf & Snoballs
2815 Jones Franklin Road
(Swift Creek Shopping Center), Cary
start with Dinner at Ruckus Pizza, then savor Dessert at Coffee & Crepes. Enjoy Entertainment at Goodnight’s Comedy Club
Ruckus Pizza has quickly become one of the area’s most popular food haunts, and what’s not to like? Ridiculously good food, friendly service and an exciting atmosphere set up the ideal surroundings for a great first date. A large covered patio provides a nice alternative to the bustling main dining area.
While waiting for your meal, play the highly addictive bean-bag toss game cornhole. “The cornhole boards get six to eight hours of use every day,” said managing partner Ryan Pilz. “We also have a tournament every Tuesday night.”
Just up the road and within walking distance from the Crossroads 20 movie theater is Coffee & Crepes café. Open all day for anytime dates, you can have breakfast, lunch, dinner or just dessert and coffee. Outdoor patio seating is open all night if you want to stay later.
Entree and dessert crepe choices abound, and you can please even vegetarians and people with food allergies. If your date has never experienced a Banana Nutella crepe, you’ll become an instant hero for suggesting it.
“We feature locally roasted Larry’s Beans coffee and frappes,” said owner Terri Pastrana. “Our café will create a distinctive experience that will get you up for whatever comes next.”
Like to laugh? Take in a show at Goodnight’s Comedy Club in downtown Raleigh. This venerable nightspot features a wide variety of performers, including A-list comedians Like Greg Morton from Dec 2-5. This high-energy one-man show does impressions of James Brown, Mick Jagger and Tina Turner. His three-minute version of the entire Star Wars trilogy repeatedly brings crowds to their feet. Morton is a favorite on The Bob and Tom Radio Show, and he’s seen annually on the Jerry Lewis Telethon.
Goodnight’s also features two restaurants: a basement-level bar and grill and an upscale eatery located one level above the showroom. Dinner and show specials are available frequently.
8111-208 Tryon Woods Drive, Cary
Coffee & Crepes
315 Crossroads Blvd. (Crossroads Shopping Center), Cary
Goodnight’s Comedy Club
861 West Morgan St., Raleigh
Conquer Climbing at Triangle Rock Club then Dinner at Sushi-Thai Cary. Then realax with Beer at Hibernian Restaurant & Pub
You don’t have to be in great shape to enjoy Triangle Rock Club, the area’s foremost indoor place to try climbing walls, top-rope climbing and even bouldering (climbing without ropes or harnesses). A day pass is only $17 for adults, and one thing is certain: You will be challenged!
“We cater to beginners with no experience to the most advanced climbers,” said Andrew Kratz, managing partner.
For a surefire culinary adventure, head over to Sushi-Thai Cary. Choose from Japanese teriyaki and tempura to classic Pad Thai. Prefer sushi? First-rate nigiri, maki and sashimi are all available a la carte or on a combination platter.
“We also have love boat sushi meals,” said owner Sam Tedamrongwanish. “This is a fusion of sushi and sashimi that is plenty of food for several people.”
Right down the street at Hibernian Pub, the popular bar is well-stocked with quality beer, including more than a dozen on tap. The available brews, many of which are imports, include Guinness, Carlsberg, Harp, SweetWater 420 Extra Pale Ale, Sam Adams Seasonal, Newcastle, Shotgun Betty, Strongbow, Blue Moon, Fat Tire and locally brewed Aviator. Coors Light on draft is just $3 every day.
Hibernian now offers pitchers for $11.50 on special (pint specials are $3.50), but if you want something decidedly different, the bartender also pours a mean black and tan.
KID AT HEART
first Ride the Carousel at Cary Towne Center, then run wild at Frankie’s Fun Park and finish with a movie at IMAX.
Located inside the mall near Sears, the beautiful reproduction of a European-style carousel features imported oak flooring, hundreds of lights and intricate Venetian murals. Whether you choose the spinning teacup, the princess carriage or one of the exquisite full-sized horses, you’ll recall fond memories of yesteryear and enjoy an enchanting three-minute ride.
“Tickets cost just $1.75 per person,” said manager Yan Wang. The carousel is open seven days a week during regular mall hours.
At Frankie’s Fun Park, you’ll stay entertained for hours. Put the pedal to the metal in mini race cars at the Indy-style road course. Get wet and wild on the bumper boats outfitted with squirt guns. Let your competitive nature loose at laser tag, the batting cage, the arcade or one of three island-style miniature golf courses. Or, if you’re brave enough, take the plunge on the thrill-enduing Drop Zone.
Take your movie-viewing experience to the next level at IMAX, located in downtown Raleigh and recently added to Crossroads in Cary. IMAX theaters feature a specially designed screen that is slightly curved, as well as state-of-the-art digital surround-sound system. Both theaters boast 3D technology with larger-than-life imagery that will make you both feel like you’re actually in the movie.
START WITH Dinner at The Melting Pot followed by North Carolina Symphony THEN TRY Drinks/Jazz at The Mint.
Upscale fondue restaurant The Melting Pot has been an area favorite for more than 25 years. Offering a romantic, interactive culinary experience that’s unparalleled, couples are virtually guaranteed a remarkable evening.
A four-course meal involves first dipping skewers of fruit, bread and raw vegetables into melted cheese, followed by a gourmet salad and then succulent meat or seafood heated in oil and/or broth. It’s culminated with molten chocolate served with fresh strawberries, bananas, cheesecake, Rice Krispies treats, pound cake, brownies and more.
A typical dinner lasts two hours or more by design. “We don’t rush our guests,” said proprietor Mark Conway. “We encourage people to enjoy each other’s company and rekindle some flames.”
Exceptional service, an award-winning wine list and a gluten-free menu round out the restaurant’s tremendous attention to detail. “We strive to exceed expectations,” Conway said.
Hearing the North Carolina Symphony at world-class venue Meymandi Concert Hall gives new meaning to experiencing the ultimate live concert performance. Whether you prefer Brahms, Bach or Beethoven, you’ll be impressed with this renowned group of masterful musicians. Check the symphony’s dynamic online calendar for an up-to-date schedule of events.
While you’re downtown in the Capital City, visit metropolitan chic eatery The Mint for some drinks and live jazz. A 2010 Wine Spectator “Award of Excellence” recipient, the restaurant offers various drink specials nightly, including classic cocktails and $5 martinis every day.
Live jazz cranks up the first and second Thursday of every month either in the lavish upstairs lounge or on the spacious, 65-seat heated courtyard. “If the weather is nice, we take the music outside,” said Cara Zalcberg, managing partner.
Illustrious jazz/blues saxophonist Ed Wiley Jr. performs the second Thursday of every month from 8–11 p.m.