Dating during COVID-19 is weird and hard in the best of times — by which I mean, in the spring, summer, and fall, when the world might be hanging on a razor's edge, but at least the weather is somewhat nice. Dating during COVID-19 in the winter? Ugh. Who really wants to eat cold fries and make witty conversation while looking like Bernie Sanders at the inauguration?
Still, since December, the microscopic section of my brain that skews toward optimism kept screaming that despite the odds, 2021 could be my year when it came to dating. I just had to be smart, safe, and willing to think a little outside the box to come up with solid winter date ideas.
“Creativity is the name of the game right now,” agrees Damona Hoffman, a dating coach and host of The Dates & Mates Podcast. “We can be frustrated about our lack of dating options or we can do something different.” Break out your layers (including your face mask), then check out these unique and winter-friendly date ideas for every stage of a pandemic-era relationship.
Virtual Winter Date Ideas
"Meeting up" via FaceTime or Zoom is a great option for winter. It's the safest bet while we wait for the vaccine, and you don't have to freeze your toes off while outdoor dining.
Sip & stream
Sign up for a streaming Sip & Paint event. To make it even more seasonal, pick a snowy painting (like “Winter Landscape” by Wassily Kandinsky) and opt for hot cocoa instead of wine. If painting isn't your thing, sign up for another virtual course or event. “There are so many online experiences, from virtual escape rooms to drag queen shows,” Hoffman says. “Just because it's happening online doesn't mean it has to be dull. Most virtual performers and entertainment venues have now figured out ways to make their offerings interactive and sometimes even more fun that they were offline.”
Hook up via FaceTime, and cook the same warming dish — maybe a stew or chicken and dumplings — in your respective kitchens. After you’re done with the prep, sit down together and “share” the meal over Zoom. This idea is great for a newish relationship; cooking gives you plenty to talk about.
Cue up an old-school video game together online. Bonus points for anything that includes winter sports, such as Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games. Or play a conversation-starter card game, like the currently trendy We're Not Really Strangers. “The New York Times did an article a couple years ago on The 36 Questions that Lead to Love and showed that strangers can feel more bonded by asking certain questions of one another,” Hoffman notes. (The questions in the article are another great place to start, if you don't have a deck of WNRS cards.)
Social Distancing Winter Date Ideas
Remember: Outdoor dates aren't 100% safe, Hoffman says, so be informed before you take this risk with someone. Wear your face mask, and stick with activities that really let you stay at least six feet apart.
Opt for sledding or tubing over ice skating. “While you might be outdoors and masked, depending on how busy the ice skating rink is, you could come in close contact with other people,” Hoffman notes. Instead, pick an empty hill and stick to separate sleds.
This is is a cool, unique idea for a distancing date (that takes a page from The Bachelorette). There is a downside though. “You can't really have deep, in depth conversations, which doesn't make it ideal for a new couple or first date,” Hoffman says. If you’re still getting to know each other, follow up your ride with a socially distanced walk with some warm coffee or cocoa.
We know: Walking with a warm beverage is a great date, but it can get a little old. So mix up your location. “If it's cold, some of my clients have tried visiting snowy nature preserves where they can walk and talk to keep warm,” Hoffman says. Another option: If you’re both into exercise, consider running with each other, which will keep you even warmer.
At-Home Winter Date Ideas
So you’ve gone on some great virtual and distanced dates, gotten tested, and have decided to officially bubble up. Being able to safely stay inside together opens up a whole new world of winter date activities.
Grab a scarf and turn it into a blindfold. Then… do a trust walk. Not where you thought we were going, I'm sure. But you can do other blindfolded stuff later, if you so choose. “One of the best ways to build intimacy is to put your complete trust in your partner,” Hoffman explains. Yes, you've already established some trust, since you're seeing each other in person. But a trust-building game can solidify this feeling — and it's fun.
Make a meal together, in person this time. There's something about navigating a kitchen together that's intimate without being too intense — perfect for a date night. "Preparing a meal together fosters important relationship skills including patience and communication," adds Hoffman. My friend and her pandemic SO made gnocchi on one of their first in-person dates, but Hoffman like box meal kits. "Most require you to order by midweek for the following week, which could even build excitement and anticipation for the date,” she says.
Go back outdoors
We know, we know — you are quarantining together, why would you head back into the frigid temps? But winter stargazing without needing to socially distance is pretty darn romantic. “Gazing at the stars provides two people with the perfect opportunity to talk and keep each other warm under a clear night sky,” Hoffman says. It’s been years since air and light pollution was this low, which is giving us a darker-than-usual night sky," she continues. "If you can’t name the constellations on your own, try an app like Star Walk to guide you.”