Dating in Houston can be great. Dating in the midst of a global pandemic? Maybe not so great. While it’s not an ideal scenario, it is still possible to make the most out of your romance game, because pandemic or not, Houston’s got some pretty ideal attributes. We have patio weather almost year round, our restaurant and bar scene continues to be off-the-charts amazing, and there always seems to be something cool going on. As such, we’ve come up with a bunch of really cool, foolproof date ideas that will hopefully seem cool to whoever actually agreed to go out with you.
Multiple locations Bayou City Outdoors regularly hosts 15-mile farmers market bike tours, but you can check out its farmers market guide and put together a ride of your own. You and your date will be able to bond over locally made jams and fresh-picked produce as you hit two or three farmers markets over the course of a few hours.
Multiple locations Geeks Who Drink hosts about a trillion trivia nights around town, and it’s doing its geeked out trivia thing both virtual and in-person right now. That means you can hit the town or participate from just about anywhere (and drink your own booze).
Throw some large axes at wooden targets
Houston Houston Axe Throwing offers up ax-throwing sessions, lessons, and games (with social-distancing and sanitation practices). The more rugged you look here, the better, so don’t worry about that quarantine hair.
West Oaks Relive your youth and/or bruise your butt at the Dairy Ashford Roller Rink, which is open for public skating Tuesday-Sunday with increased safety measures. And while you’re going old-school suburbs with it, you may as well finish the night off with a sundae at Baskin Robbins.
Slurp down Gulf oysters at Caracol
Galleria/Uptown Caracol’s’s raw oysters on-the-half-shell are a thing of beauty (and they’re natural aphrodisiacs, too), but its wood-roasted oysters with chipotle butter are the real winners here. Get them for half-off during happy hour; or try slurping down oysters by the bay at the new San Leon hotspot, Pier 6 Seafood & Oyster House.
Multiple locations Pick up a B-Cycle at Spotts Park and make your way to Market Square, where you can refuel with gyros and beers at Niko Niko’s in Market Square, tacos and margs from La Calle, or a quick slice at Frank’s.
Upper Kirby Head to House of Pies to get a giant slice of pie no matter the hour; the old-school diner is open 24/7.
Watch a top chef cook your meal without the reservations
Houston Bring a date to catch some hot chefing action from some of the city’s top talent at chef-driven food hall Bravery Chef Hall, where you’ll find Ben McPherson crafting Roman style pizzas and freshmade pastas, Uchi vets Daniel Lee and Patrick Pham doing some serious sashimi work, and Masterchef winner Christine Ha cooking up Vietnamese excellence, to name a few.
Washington On the second Saturday of every month, local artists open their studios to the public. Head to the repurposed Sawyer Yards warehouses to explore everything from paintings and sculptural works to jewelry and photography. You can even grab walk-around suds from Holler Brewing.
Needville Head to the nearby Brazos Bend for a romantic hike and finish it off with a sick stargazing sesh. Just make online rezzies before you go and be sure to check for closures due to flooding, too because #HoustonProblems.
Montrose The Menil Collection is hands down one of the most prized artscapes in Houston, so go there to stare at some pretty cool walls, discover art in its green spaces, check out the grounds near the Rothko Chapel, then hop on over to Bistro Menil to take turns sniffing wine and discussing existentialism.
Downtown This awesome 87,500-square foot, 25-foot tall underground cistern was built in 1927, but it only opened to the public a few years back. Public and private tours are now available with reservations so you can experience its cathedral-like magnificence in person. It’s a quick date, so you may want to also pack a bayou-side picnic.
Laugh yourselves clean at Improv Houston
Spring Branch Some pretty excellent comics make their way through Houston’s Improv, which is open and asking everyone to wear a mask when they are not eating or drinking. Get your tickets online (shows start at just $7 for open mic night, but bigger acts will run you around $25-35) and show up early to get a head start at the bar and ensure prime seating.
Strike out (just not with your date)
Houston While we love a good old-school bowling alley, there are some young guns on the block that add a bit more sex appeal to date night. The Kirby Collection’s Pinstripes combines bowling and bocce with a sophisticated bistro experience. Over in CityCentre, Bowl and Barrel has fancy cocktails, shareable pub grub, and a sultry mood lighting. And when it reopens, Lucky Strike in Downtown is always a good time.
Share popcorn at an al fresco drive-in movie theater
East End Rooftop Cinema Club is closed for the time being, but it’s popping up over on Navigation Boulevard in the meantime. This time, instead of a rooftop movie, you can enjoy a drive-in one. Your ticket will earn you a designated parking spot, and you can either BYO food and drink or purchase cinema snacks and local food trucks eats on-site.
River Oaks District Live out your Pretty Woman fantasies, minus that whole prostitution part (or maybe not), with a window shopping spree in the open-air River Oaks District, Houston’s version of Rodeo Drive. After drooling over everything Cartier and Hermès, pop into Avant Garden, a badass floral shop with ridiculously cool floral backdrops perfect for an “usie”; hit the raw bar and share a bottle at Loch Bar; then finish with Italian gelato roses at Amorino Gelato.
Heights Houston’s Well Done Cooking Classes is back open for classes, and it has also launched a series of virtual cooking classes, featuring experiences like “Date Night: Dinner on the Bayou” to “Sushi Rolling.” Each virtual class comes with a food kit you can pick-up (or get delivered if in radius) from its Heights locations.
Get fireside s’mores and an après ski experience at The Chalet
Montrose Rosie Cannonball has transformed its old Spritz Patio space into an après ski chalet for the winter season. Cozy up for fireside s’mores, treat yourself to oysters and bubbly, and warm up with boozy hot chocolate. No reservations necessary, just wear your masks and walk on in.
Chill out over CBD coffee
University Place (& The Heights) Meeting up at a regular coffee shop is so last decade. Meeting up at a coffee shop that infuses its joe with CBD oil, however, is where we’re at right now. Try part CBD apothecary, part coffeehouse Grinder’s Coffee Bar off Kirby or “the original cannabis coffee company” Amsterdam Co. in the Heights to be of-the-now.
Laugh it up at a Valentine’s Day “Battle of the Sexes” comedy show
EaDo The hilarious “Battle of the Sexes” comedy show has been going down at Warehouse Live for almost a decade. Bring you Valentine for a night of laughs featuring comics from Comedy Central, “America’s Got Talent,” and more. Tickets start at $20 GA.
Snap an “usie” at an technicolored immersive art museum
West Houston You’ll find the works of over two dozen emerging and established artists at Seismique, the new 40,000-square-foot art-fueled experiential museum over on the west side. It’s all lit up with over 9 million LEDs, with color, sound, holograms, and about a billion photo opportunities.
Splurge on a romantic meal
Houston Remember way back in the intro when we mentioned Houston’s food scene was off-the-charts amazing. Yeah, we still agree with that. Our Best Places to Eat in Houston Right Now covers what’s hot in the moment (many of which make a perfect choice for Valentine’s weekend), including but not limited to sexy new tasting menu restaurants Hidden Omakase and Degust; Bludorn, a true impresser where we’re guessing you’ll get the best meal you’ve had in a while; and 93 ‘til, a ‘90s hip-hop bar where the vibes are as on point as the food and drink. Sign up here for our daily Houston email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.
Brooke Viggiano is a Houston-based writer who just realized she’ll be planning all date nights going forward, and she’s fully OK with that. Find her being all romantic on IG @brookiefafa or on Twitter @brookeviggiano.
Phoenix is pretty great. There’s the burgeoning culinary scene, the diverse culture, the arts, of course, the sports, the great outdoors, and don’t forget about the more than 300 days of annual sunshine. We could really go on, and on, about how great this place is, but all of that greatness can blind you to all the excellence just outside it. The suburbs across The Valley are not to be missed. To encourage you to actually explore them, here’s what the best of ‘em have to offer.
Notably, Tempe is recognized as home to one of the largest universities in the country, Arizona State. But this Phoenix suburb is so much more than a college town, although it does add to its undeniable magic. Downtown Tempe plays hosts to epic arts festivals, dragon boat races, marathons and triathlons, and dozens of other events that all take place a short-distance from Tempe Town Lake, a two-mile long perennial reservoir and urban park that attracts cylicts, rowers, and active types. Break a sweat with a hike to the top of A Mountain and take in a panoramic sunset view. Or, just belly-up to the bar at one of Tempe’s innumerable craft breweries. Both are solid choices. And both can get you acquainted with this laidback Phoenix suburb.
Nearly half of Scottsdale’s land area is dedicated to open spaces and untamed desert. Outdoor activities like mountain biking, hiking, road cycling, horseback riding, and kayaking reign supreme here, and the city certainly leans toward an active, wellness-centered lifestyle. And while there’s no shortage of desert to explore, Scottsdale also claims some of the best spas in the world, award-winning restaurants, world-class golf courses, it’s the center stage for major events like luxury car auctions and sporting events, and it’s even got a bustling arts scene. This Phoenix suburb checks all of the boxes, really.
Not too long ago Gilbert was a sort of sleepy, far-away farm town. That’s certainly not the case anymore. Gilbert has grown exponentially, but its agricultural roots are still readily present in its personality and charm. Downtown Gilbert is home to dozens of restaurants and bars, most of which have a local, farm-to-table approach, naturally. And then there’s Agritopia, a friendly neighborhood with its very own shared garden and community spaces that include Epicenter and BARNONE, where you can order a wood-fired pizza, a can of experimental natural wine, and camp out under a canopy of trees in the open-air. It’s practically a utopia.
A gateway to Horseshoe and Bartlett Lakes, Cave Creek’s position on the outskirts of Tonto National Forest makes it a primo spot for outdoor activities like biking and hiking and adventure by way of air balloon or horseback. Modern cowboys and gals can mosey over to The Buffalo Chip Saloon where bull riding and swing dancing are just part of a typical day. Additionally, Cave Creek has its own botanical garden, raptor rescue, and a gallery packed with person-sized crystals. And it’s all yours to discover.
Point your GPS east and you’ll arrive in Mesa, Arizona’s third largest city. Whether you’re after outdoor adventure, looking to explore the arts and culture scene, or searching for locally made ciders and craft beer, Mesa has it all. There’s a hip, growing downtown area lined with storefronts, restaurants, theaters, and tasting rooms. And if you’re game for a little outdoor recreation, Mesa is your jumping-off point to scenic Sonoran Desert trails including Usery Mountain Regional Park, Lost Dutchman State Park, and San Tan Regional Park. Mesa is also just a short distance from The Salt River where you can cruise by wild horses and native wildlife via paddle board and Saguaro Lake is just up the road.
At the center of this Phoenix suburb is an expansive urban park and monumental water fountain that tops out at 560-feet. The fountain in Fountain Hills is larger than the Washington Monument, and it’s three times as high as Old Faithful. Pack a picnic and spread out in the park for an afternoon where you can traverse the walkable paths, cycle around the waterway, or play a competitive bout of frisbee golf. If you swing more towards traditional golf, there’s a shortlist of premier golf courses to tee-off at. And like many of the Phoenix suburbs here, Fountain Hills is surrounded by wide-open desert and scenic vistas just waiting to be explored.
Arizona sports teams including the Coyotes and Cardinals have home turf advantage in Glendale. Over the years Glendale has hosted three Super Bowl bouts and will host another in 2023. But Glendale’s not just a sports mecca for fans of professional football and hockey. This Phoenix suburb is homebase to Camelback Ranch, a modern ballpark with all the amenities where the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers take the field each season as part of Cactus League Spring Training. Take your time in Glendale into extra innings and visit Historic Old Town Glendale. Here you’ll encounter eclectic antique and vintage stores, restaurants, candy shops, and coffee houses.
Museums, urban parks, art galleries, and growing neighborhoods like Uptown Chandler and Downtown Chandler give this Phoenix suburb lots of appeal. Rows of palm trees line the Downtown area where you can start your day with a locally roasted coffee and organic breakfast bowl. Downtown Chandler regularly hosts community-focused events and it’s a popular hangout for craft beer drinkers. SanTan Brewery, Pedal Haus, and The Perch, with 40 beers on tap and tropical birds at every turn, all call this Phoenix suburb home.
Lauren Topor Reichert is a Phoenix-based multimedia storyteller, photographer, and content creator. Her work has been featured in travel guides, national publications, and the social feeds of some stellar local restaurants. Follow her around Arizona, and beyond, on Instagram @hungryinphoenix.