9 Alcohol-Free Dates For Sober January

Doing Sober January? I find that there's an irony in January being the most popular month to give up alcohol and the busiest dating month of the year, considering pretty much everyone I know relies on being a little bit tipsy to get through dates. In fact, I used to rely on being way more than a little bit tipsy. Now, with 44 months sober (but who's counting?) I've gained a lot of insight into how to make sober dating work. Because it can be so, so nerve-wracking at first.

First things first, if you want to experience sobriety for a month, no matter what your reason is, it helps to make a list of why you're doing it in the first place. “Keep it close to you, preferably on your phone or in your wallet, to refer to when temptation strikes,”  Jaime Gleicher, LMSW, tells Bustle. "... Remind yourself how good you are going to feel the next day, when you are not hungover, and remember all the wonderful memories."

Now that you're ready to commit, how the hell are you going to date? Well, it's not that hard. There are plenty of dates you can do that aren't about getting drunk— and give you a great opportunity to get to know each other. Here are some date ideas to get you through sober January:

1Go Ice Skating

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January is probably the last month you'll be able to get out on the ice, plus being active together is always a fun move.

“You create intimacy by doing,” Rhonda Milrad, Founder and Chief Relationship Advisor,Relationup, tells Bustle. “People create connection by experiencing and engaging in a task together. The event itself creates an opportunity to interact in ways that don’t occur when you are sitting politely across the table from one another. In an activity, you are negotiating, compromising, collaborating, demanding, sharing, and often working toward a common goal.” And an activity on ice? Talk about thinking on your feet.

2Do Dinner And A Movie

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If you don't want to do something too out there, but you don't want to draw attention to the fact that you're not drinking, dinner and a movie is a great compromise. It's a classic date night, where the fact that you're sober probably won't even come up. Plus, if the date is bad then at least you can enjoy a good movie.

3Visit The Museum At Night

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It's a fun way to learn something — and a quick way to figure out if you and your date have similar interests. "It’s a great way to do something interesting and you can get to know each other at the same time,” April Masini, aka “Ask April,” New York–based relationship expert and author, tells Bustle. “It’s very romantic to be surrounded by art — and conducive to eliciting any feelings of romance on your date!”

You'll gain a lot of insight and feel cultured at the same time. Just skip the wine.

4Go To A Bar

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If you think you'll struggle to stay sober, a bar may not be a good idea. But for me, I found that I quickly got used to ordering lime and sodas and ginger ales, and it made the not drinking feel like less of a big deal. So you don't necessarily have to shy away from it — I mean, you're probably not going to shy away from bars the rest of your life. In fact, I went on my first date with my girlfriend to a pub, even though I wasn't drinking. Try going on a trivia night or when there's live music. It can totally be done.

5Try An "Escape Room" Event

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Talk about learning under fire. “This is a group activity where you have to solve mind games in order to ‘escape,’ Kali Rogers, Founder of Blush Online Life Coaching, tells Bustle. “It’s a great way to work together as a team with others and get to know each other outside of the typical ‘interview’ first-date rhythm.” Plus, you'll be so distracted that you won't even remember that you're not drinking.

6Just Head Out For A Walk

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An easy option, especially for a January afternoon. “I’m a big fan of a casual stroll through a fun neighborhood or street fair,” Jeffrey Sumber, MA, MTS, LCPC, psychotherapist and bestselling author of Renew Your Wows!, tells Bustle. “I think it helps a person witness how the prospect interacts with others and with general input from the external world.” And, if it's a little awkward, you can call it quits quickly.  

7Go To A Winter Market

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Whether you have a specific winter market or just any farmers' market, the wandering around gives you a good time to chat. Plus, it can be telling. “Shopping together is a great way to get to know someone — how they choose food, how they eat, and how they deal with money,” Masini tells Bustle. “This date lets you get to know each other on many levels — and to have fun, as well.” And because it's in the day, the not drinking won't come up.

8Grab A Quick Coffee

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I know it may not seem exciting, but I think coffee dates are great. In fact, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble with some horrible long dates if I had just met them for coffee first. No expectation of drinking, plus you can easily bow out after 45 minutes? A January dream.

9Take A Class

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If you feel like being active but something too sporty isn't for you, look at a cheap and easy class in your area. “Learning something new together is a great way to bond and learn about how the other one takes in new information and whether or not they’re a good sport,” says Rogers. “I once took an ‘intro to DJing’ class with my current boyfriend and it was a blast! We were both terrible, but it was a lot of fun.” If you can laugh together while you both try (and fail) to learn something, it's an instant bonding experience.

Getting to know someone without any social lubricant can be difficult at first, but you'll get the hang of it in no time. Stick to activities that distract you— or you can get out of easily — and you won't even notice you're not drinking.