Dating can be fun and nerve-wracking and difficult and wonderful all at the same time. There’s so much to worry about: What to wear? What to talk about? Will they like me? Will I like them? Will this go anywhere? Will they be a cat person? A dog person? Does that even matter at this point?
Unfortunately, for people with allergies and dietary restrictions, this list of worries is even longer, with questions of food and eating safely popping up constantly. This occurs simply because most typical dating situations feature food as the main activity, with dinner and movie, lunch or coffee hangouts and picnics taking up the top spots for date ideas. Obviously, this situation makes dating particularly hard for those of us who have trouble eating out safely, or who don’t want to have their date try to cook around their dietary restrictions (at least not yet).
It can be impractical to find a place to eat out at all, or it might be that you don’t want to have the conversation about food restrictions just yet (take that at your own pace!). It also might be that a home-cooked picnic is a sweet idea in theory, but you don’t want to have to coach your date on cross-contamination procedures (that’s definitely less of a first date kind of activity). Regardless of why having a food-centered date is difficult or uncomfortable for you, you should never feel pressured to do it. As with all things, your comfort level and safety comes first, and dating is no exception. You deserve to have fun on your date without the extra worries about food!
But what should you do then? As Valerie Kraft mentions in her post on Dating with Celiac, you can absolutely find a food-free alternative. And to get you started on that, this list offers 10+ different ideas for exciting and foodless dates! Use this for all the dates in your life (whether they’re your first or hundredth with someone).
1. The Classic Park Date (minus the picnic)
Invite your date out to a local park, arboretum or botanical garden and have a long romantic walk (or sit-down, whatever is your speed) in the beautiful outdoors! Instead of centering your outside time around food, you can take in the sights and chat or bring some other classic park activity. Frisbee can be fun, or you can bring a radio or musical instrument (just be judicious with this, no need to play Wonderwall) to listen to or make some music. If you and your date are dog people and have a furry friend, bring them along!
2. Take on the Arcade
Find a classic video game arcade in your town and bring your date along for an afternoon of destroying top scores (or getting destroyed) in arcade games. I’ve found that this date can be a lot of light-hearted fun, where you can play with your date or make it a competition between the two of you. You can learn a lot about a person based on their favorite game, or how they react to losing horribly in a game of Pac-Man Battle Royale.
3. Games but take it up a notch
If you and your date are into the fun and competition of games, take it up a notch with a game of laser tag or even paintball. Again, team up with your date to take on someone else, or go against each other in light-hearted competition. This also makes for a fun group date activity (though maybe don’t start any serious competition, it can get ugly).
4. Romantic Bowling or Mini-Golf
Maybe a fun competition or game is something you’d like, but you’re not sure laser tag/paintball is your scene. Try going bowling or playing a game of mini-golf. Yes, these games might be associated with middle school birthday parties and older people on vacation, but they are classic fun activities for a reason, so don’t discount them as date ideas! I personally am terrible at bowling and mini-golf, which makes it that much more fun, but you can show off your point-winning skills to your date.
5. The Amusement Park or State Fair
Another classic date idea, this one also offers prize-winning games, or you could go on roller-coasters, or ride the merry-go-round or any kind of ride that strikes your fancy (no judgement if that ride is literally just the kiddie coaster). Food is present at amusement parks and State Fairs, but it’s easy enough to opt out (if you don’t want to say why or refuse without explanation, say that you would rather not ride roller coasters with food in your stomach, or the food is too expensive, or you’re just not hungry – all are legitimate reasons). If you’re at a particularly good amusement park, there might even be a haunted house or some kind of water slide for you to enjoy (fun that doesn’t require food)!
6. The Beach Date (or Pool Date if you’re landlocked)
This is a uniquely summer date idea, and it also can be adapted to be food-free. Go swimming with your date, or just find a lazy river or a particularly good floaty and relax and chat. Instead of the beach picnic, again, focus on other beach activities like building a sand castle, beach volleyball or the classic romantic walk on the beach (sunset optional but recommended). If you’re stuck with the pool as your option, you could focus on pool activities and games instead, and feel free to show yourself off in your favorite swim-suit.
7. Go to a Concert
Invite your date out to your favorite kind of concert, if they’re down to experience your taste in music. Maybe you like the same bands/artists – going to a concert you both know you’ll like can be an excellent way to get to know each other and spend time together. Or maybe you could expose your open-minded date to something new, or be the open-minded one yourself. Outdoor concerts can be particularly romantic (but don’t let that stop you for going to that rock concert and moshing in the pit together, if that’s your thing).
8. The Active Date: Hiking or Walking
If you and your date are nature lovers and want to experience more than just the stroll in the park, go find a nice trail to hike! This can be a really serene, completely food-free way to spend time with someone. The obvious caveat with this one is that it can be less public, depending on where you’re hiking, so maybe this isn’t a good date to go on with someone you only know from a dating app (also, wear good hiking shoes)!
9. The Cultured Date
Go to an art show or museum with your date. Depending on when you go, museums and art galleries can have reduced admission fees or offer really quiet spaces and activities to get to know someone. Find a museum that you both can geek out over, go learn something new, or experience some beautiful art together.
10. More Culture, But Interactive This Time!
Find an art class to take together, or go to a shop that lets you paint or create art together. There are an increasingly large number of stores that let you go and try your hand at different forms of arts, or make beautiful crafts for an afternoon. Go and paint each other’s portraits, or make candles together or try your hand at pottery, whatever suits your fancy. Don’t worry if you’re terrible at it, it can be something to laugh about together!
Bonus Idea for the Quietly Bookish
Instead of the coffee date, go on a bookshop date together. Yes, this may seem terribly quaint, but going to browse a fun local bookseller (or just your local chain) can be great if you are both looking for a quiet and yet still personal way to be together. I love getting lost in a book in a bookstore, but it’s even better when someone else found the book for me or if I have someone equally lost in a book with me! This can be a nice, food and drink free version of the coffee shop chat too, if you find a bookstore where you can talk without attracting glares.
These are just a few ideas for dating fun that is free of any food. Some of them can include food, but it’s easy enough to edit out as you need to, in order to be comfortable! Choose the date idea that suits you, your date and your situation the best. Dating can be nerve-wracking, but hopefully these ideas will give you the good feelings that you deserve in your dates (and food doesn’t have to even come up). Have fun, be safe, and go forth and date!