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Summertime is quickly approaching, which means the days are getting longer and summer Fridays are just around the corner. The warmer months also present a unique opportunity to plan some creative dates that will strengthen your romantic relationship, whether you’re seeing someone new or practically married (or, you know, actually married).
How? You know how knocking back a couple beers can make date night a bit more fun? Well, catching some rays with your significant other actually boosts the production of hormones that improve mood, giving you that buzzed, feel-good vibe we all love. Better mood = better dates = a better relationship and, often, hotter sex, too. In short, everyone wins.
To help you think beyond the tiki bar, we checked in with a gaggle of gorgeous women—plus Terri Orbuch, Ph.D., relationship expert and author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great—to bring you the 18 best outdoor date ideas of all time. So find the SPF, gents: It’s time to head outside.
Summer without baseball is like spring without flowers. Take advantage of the sunshine and head to a local batting cage or baseball game. And don’t sweat it if you don’t have an MLB stadium nearby. Local games are often a better time, anyway. “One of my favorite summertime traditions is going to minor league games with my boyfriend,” says Sarah from Pennsylvania. “Since the seats are cheap we can actually sit close enough to see the field and there are always fun events going on. It’s also far less crowded—which definitely has its perks…”
“A guy I was seeing for a while once picked me up for a date in a convertible he rented for the day,” Anna, a California native, tells us. “We drove to a nearby area neither of us had explored before and took in the sights with the wind blowing in our hair. The car was a huge surprise, and it was really fun to do some sightseeing in a creative summery way.”
If you sense that your relationship is starting to fizzle out, consider planning a day of river rafting or kayaking. “Water sports can be a bit scary and very adventurous,” says Orbuch. “The water, the exercise, the adrenalin-producing rapids, and the out-of-the-box nature of these activities releases hormones that can help strengthen a couple’s bond while re-igniting the passion and excitement.” Sounds like a good reason to hit the water to us.
“Where I went to college, there was a huge state fair every August. You could check out some cute animals, catch a concert, grab a wine slushy and other interesting fair food, go on rides, and do some amazing people watching,” says Katie of New York. “If there is one in your area, it’s definitely something you won’t want to miss. It’s a great group or double date for summer.”
Most people hit up the movie theater in the summer to escape the heat, but on warmer summer evenings, a drive-in theater is actually a fun and romantic date. “There’s nothing better than watching a movie on a blanket under the stars with some movie snacks,” says New Jersey native, Samantha. “Be sure to pack some extra hoodies and blankets in case your date gets chilly!”
“My boyfriend took me geocaching last spring and it was by far one of the best warm-weather dates I’ve ever been on,” Tiffany from Florida tells us. “Once you download the Geocaching app, you look for a set of GPS coordinates in your area. Once you’re in the right location, you try to hunt down the hidden geocache container which always has a quirky prize inside. It’s like playing detective, which is really playful and fun to do on a date. Just make sure your lady friend dresses for the occasion. If she shows up in a dress and heels, she’ll be miserable.”
“In my opinion, the perfect warm-weather date would be something on the water. Maybe a late afternoon boat ride with some fishing and dinner,” says Cassandra of North Carolina. “When it’s just you and another person alone on a boat, it’s a great chance to spend quality time with each other away from distractions.”
“In long-term relationships, we forget to just relax,” says Orbuch. “Having a picnic lunch outside, making s’mores by the fire, or visiting an old-school ice cream truck, are not only great ways to take in some fresh air, they’re great ways for couples to enjoy each other’s company and remind themselves why they’re together in the first place. Plus dining al fresco is a bit out of the ordinary and mysterious. Both good ingredients for some added passion in a relationship!”
Trying to get beach body ready? Head outdoors and break a sweat with your honey. “This is a great outdoor date because it creates adrenaline and arousal that can transfer to your relationship,” Orbuch explains. “Any activity that creates arousal, particularly outdoors with fresh air, can help to reignite a couple’s passion and excitement. And in long-term relationships, we need to add a bit of spice now and then.”
“I’ve been on beach dates in the middle of the day, and also later on once the sun starts to set, and I’ve got to say, the latter is far better in terms of romance,” Andrea from Delaware says. “When you go around 4 or 5 p.m., it’s less crowded and you can grab dinner and walk on the boardwalk. It’s a chiller vibe, and your girl will appreciate that she doesn’t have to wear her bikini—trust me on that one.”
“Not only are outdoor concerts and performances really fun, they’re often free,” says Texas native Nicole. “I love sitting outside, enjoying the weather, sipping a beer, and singing along with the music with my fiancé. Without a doubt, it’s one of my favorite summertime dates.”
Walk a famous bridge, check out a sculpture garden or scope out something historic in your hood. Taking in some history outdoors “is a good way for couples to learn something new and interesting together,” explains Orbuch. “Learning a new fact, a piece of history, or trying a novel activity together is fun and can add excitement and passion to your relationship.”
“My boyfriend and I went on a sailboat tour around Manhattan a few summers ago, and it was spectacular! It was right at sunset so the sky was beautiful and we got to see a number of historic monuments like the Statue of Liberty,” Andrea from New Jersey says. “After it was dark out, the boat was docked for a bit and they served us beer, wine, and snacks, and handed out blankets which made the experience all the more romantic.”
Whether you rough it in a tent, rent a campervan or secure a night in a not-so-rustic cabin, braving the great outdoors with your boo is sure to be a memorable summer adventure. “These activities allow couples to escape from their daily lives and appreciate all that nature has to offer,” says Orbuch. “Look around, talk about what you see and reignite your senses. Becoming aware of your senses and the beauty of nature can be a powerful tool in bringing couples back to the joys of their relationship, rather than the business and stresses of their regular lives.”
Just note: Calling it “vanping” is optional, because that is a ridiculously difficult word to pronounce correctly.
Looking for a heart-thumping and exciting way to catch some rays with you honey? Rent a bike (or some roller skates) for the afternoon. “Once it’s warm out, I love breaking out my bike and roller skates with my boyfriend,” says Jenna of Rhode Island. “We’ll go into town and grab an iced coffee or something from a food truck and just hang out and people watch. I love that I can fit in some physical exercise while enjoying the weather and the company of the boyfriend. There’s no better combination!”
“Last summer, the guy I was dating took me to this really cool driving range in New York City that was right on the water and had amazing views,” Anna from Connecticut says. “We went at night so he could give me some hands-on adjustments with my swing without fear of onlookers. It was really fun, and different than a typical summer night of mini-golf.”
“I love being out in the fresh air in the summer and spring. So any date where I get to hike, walk on a nature trail, and see some cool sights and animals is ideal,” Rebecca from Colorado says. “I’ve even been on some dates to the zoo that were pretty great, too. It’s a fun way to spend the day.”
In the warmer months, there are tons of horse races and polo matches across the country—you just have to seek them out. “I went to see the races at the Saratoga race track one summer with my boyfriend and it was great!” Lauren from New Hampshire tells us. “You get to dress up, eat great food, and place small bets on the horses. I’ve also been to a few polo matches with guys I’ve been seeing and those were also really fun.”