11 Sober First Date Ideas That Aren’t Coffee

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

We've gotten to a point where dates and drinking seem to go hand-in-hand. So when you're sober and dating, the next suggestion is usually a coffee date. But what if you don't drink coffee during typical after-work date hours, or don't want to spend your Saturday afternoon on a date that might not pan out? You might be in search of some sober first date ideas that aren't coffee.

“When we think of sober dates, our minds go to coffee dates,” Randi Newton, an addiction and recovery assistant and contributor to The Temper, tells Bustle. “It’s as if drinking something goes hand-in-hand with dating, and if you’re not having a beer or glass or wine, you should be drinking coffee."

But why does this have to be the case? Aren’t there better and even far more options for sober dates instead of sitting around at Starbucks talking about how you wait all year, every year, for pumpkin spice latte season? I would hope so.

“Dates, especially first dates, are about learning about each other,” Newton says. “While you can do that over coffee with words, actions allow us to learn even more about each other.”

So no matter how much you love coffee, or how much you fear pumpkin spice latte season is going by too fast, here are 11 date ideas that don't involve a drop of alcohol or coffee.

1. Escape Room

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While it takes a certain type of personality to even want to walk into an escape room, Newton says if both you and your date are game, then definitely go for it.

“You’ll get to see how your date responds to pressure,” Newton says. “And it can be a learning experience for yourself, too. No one really know how they’re going to behave when put in certain situations.”

Because it's true that you'll never know how you'll respond in certain situations — whether you'll fight or flight — until it happens, being locked in an escape room will answer that very question for you. That is, if you want it answered.

2. Cooking Class

As Newton explains, if there’s one thing we all have in common, it’s that we all love food.

"I've yet to meet someone who doesn't love food," Newton says. Me neither.

And while you may not consider yourself an award-winning chef like Julia Child or José Andrés, the best part about taking a cooking class is that you get to eat what you make. You’re also guided by a professional chef who will help you from messing up too bad, therefore ensuring that the final product — although probably not worthy of a Michelin Star rating — will still be yummy.

3. Corn Maze

If the thought of being locked in an escape room that you need to get yourself out of wasn't daunting enough for you, then let's take things a little further, shall we?

“It’s corn maze season,” Newtown says. “While you could go apple picking upstate or try one of those haunted hayrides, getting lost with a stranger (if it’s a first date) is more fun and romantic, too.”

A corn maze can also be a little scary and lead to some mild panicking (or maybe that's just me). But either way, wandering a maze looking for a way out will definitely lead to some bonding for sure.

4. Holiday Shopping

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Whether you shop online or in stores, holiday shopping can be a pain in the ass. The stress to find the perfect gift for family members, especially those family members you only see once a year is intense!

Newton suggests taking the holiday shopping you have to do and doing it on a date. “It gives you a chance to talk about your family [and] share stories about them, all while trying to find that perfect gift that doesn’t exist,” Newton says. It’s also a fun way to reassure yourself that all families are dysfunctional and, if your date can listen to those whacky stories about your Uncle Eddie and still want to hang out with you, then you may have hit the jackpot.

5. Hiking

If it’s corn maze and apple picking season, then it’s definitely hiking season. As Newton points out, foliage is to be admired and there’s no better place to do that than from atop a mountain — it's also very short-lived, so you should get on that before all the leaves hit the ground.

Even if you’re not an avid hiker, most mountain ranges have paths for those hikers who are basically walkers out for a stroll through the wilderness. You can make a whole day of it by packing a lunch and, because we’re ditching coffee, bringing a thermos of hot chocolate to keep things cozy.

6. Dance Class

Learning a new skill together, you'll see, is a bit of a theme on this list.

“When I was single, I loved dates that included classes,” Newton says. “Especially dance classes, like really hard dance classes. If you sign you and your date up for something complicated like flamenco, then you’re bound to have so much fun because it will be non-stop laughter.”

You don't have to have two left feet, as they say, to totally fail at dances like flamenco or tango. And, if you’ve ever dated someone funny, you already know that laughter is quite the aphrodisiac.

7. Hang Out With Animals

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Just like food, who doesn’t love animals? Big animals, small animals, furry animals, furless animals — they’re all our friends and they all need our love! Newton suggests either volunteering at an animal shelter on your date or, if you’d rather not be so hands-on with cleaning their cages and such, finding a place that needs dog walkers. Just remember, no matter how cute the little love nuggets are, you have to return them to the shelter at the end of the date. Unless, of course, you’re looking to be a foster parent to a dog — but that’s a totally different article.

8. Rock Climbing Class

If you're looking to do something active and a little out there, another sober date idea that pushes boundaries and can be quite challenging is a rock climbing class. According to Newton this is another date — like the escape room — that will reveal certain aspects about both yourself and your date. Especially if one of you has a fear of heights. Or just a general fear of dangling from a cliff by just a single piece of rope — good thing it’s just a mock cliff! Unless you decided to take one of those rock climbing course that actually outside on real rocks... yikes.

9. Have Your Tarot Cards Read

Who wouldn't want to know if a relationship's going to work out on the outset? Seeing a tarot card reader — or a palm reader, or another form of fortune teller — might not give you all the answers you need to plan your life together, but it'll definitely give you something to talk about.

“It’s fun,” Newton says. “Dates are supposed to be fun and silly and surprising. Seeing what a Tarot card reader has to say about your future and the future of your date is perfect for that."

If you believe in Tarot readings, then great! You just found out something you probably needed to know. If you don't believe in Tarot readings, then also great! You just had an entertaining time that didn't involve alcohol or coffee.

10. Get A Pedicure

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Because a couples' massage might be a little too intense (read: too romantic) for a first date or a date early on in a budding relationship, then another idea where you can both treat yourself to a little luxury is getting a pedicure. Not only is it relaxing to just sink into those cozy chairs, but getting a pedicure side-by-side also gives you and your a chance to talk, joke around, and get to know each other.

Sandal season may be over up here in the northern hemisphere, but that doesn't mean your toes (or your date's toes) should be neglected.

11. Festival

Although music festival season is over, that doesn’t mean festivals have closed up shop until next summer. Now through the spring, if you’re looking to inject your sober, coffee-free date with some culture, then there’s no shortage of movie festivals, art festivals, craft festivals, book festivals, apple festivals — lots of festivals!

“At first, a festival might sound boring, but I promise you that they’re not,” Newton says. “Any place where you can go and people watch is always a good time. And apple festivals have apple cider donuts and you can’t go wrong with those.”

If you've ever had an apple cider donut, then you already know you totally can't go wrong with those. Like, ever.

As is the case with any date, it is what you make it. And there's a lot to be made out of an afternoon or evening that doesn't include alcohol or coffee.

If you or someone you know is seeking help for substance use, call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357).