Even the sturdiest of relationships need a little TLC. Cheaper than couples therapy, regular date nights could be the key to happy, lasting partnerships.
As parents, it’s sometimes hard to fit in one-on-one time sans kids (no, grocery shopping and doing the dishes together don’t count). While dinner-and-a-movie or slumping in front of Netflix after the children are in bed is an easy solution, it can get old fast.
We talked to Ottawa couples who gave us a boatload of great date ideas, ranging from winery tours and couples’ massages to archery and axe throwing. Here are 12 of our favourites, all of which are worth calling the babysitter for.
You had me at Merlot
What do you do when your husband is a certified sommelier and you’re working on your own certificate? You do wine tastings at home.
Ashlee Linton, who is currently earning her sommelier certification at Wine and Spirits Education in downtown Ottawa, also recommends doing brunch dates, because “it’s easier to find a sitter for the morning. Or we go in to work a bit later and drop the kids at daycare,” she says.
Sara Woodley and her husband Jason play golf, heading to glow-in-the-dark miniature golf or the driving range for their dates. “We just enjoy the sport, the quiet time and the challenge of a new activity,” says Woodley. “We are shockingly not too competitive with each other and my husband tries to help me correct my swing and teach me about all the clubs.”
Jamie Chin and her husband often drop off their child with the grandparents for the night before renting a room at the Hilton Lac-Leamy. “We do dinner/casino at night and pool/spa during the day,” she says. “Or we get adjoining rooms with the grandparents and they do night time duty with our kiddo and we go out to play. We like to play roulette and craps!”
Too hot to Handel
In the last few years, Erin Forward and her husband Philippe Gratton have been enjoying concerts at the National Arts Centre. They also attend shows at Bluesfest and Folkfest. “Our first date was at Bluesfest, so it holds a special place in our hearts,” Forward says.
Dan Sims and his wife also like to go to shows. “It sounds odd, but churches in this area are good venues for some great Classical music.”
Every so often, Hannah Irving and her partner Travis will go to the drive-in theatre in Templeton or Port Elmsley. “I don’t know what it is about the drive-in, but it seems like we’re kids again,” says the Kemptville resident. “We get the classic treats – popcorn and Glosettes – and we cozy up with blankets in our own little space in front of the big screen!”
Melissa Miller and husband Mathieu like to bowl. “We mainly like it because it’s not just sitting quietly,” she says. “We can talk and play together.”
The Great Escape
Karen McIntyre and her husband Jason like the thrill of escape rooms. “It gets your brain thinking and you need to work together as a team. It’s a fun date idea but it’s only 45-60 minutes, so you need to plan for something before or after,” she says.
Blast from the past
“When we lived in Ottawa, we used to love starting our date by walking around the Arboretum,” says Mariah Ferguson. “Then we’d hit up the midway. For $10 we’d get around 40 tokens – we’d end up spending close to two hours playing arcade games,” she says.
Ferguson and her husband, Shaun, who now live in Finch, also went to Dooley’s for pool, bowling, and Amigo’s for go-carting.
Laughter: The best aphrodisiac
Comedian Milton Berle once said that laughter is an instant vacation. Alana Waumsley and her husband love to go to comedy clubs like Ottawa’s Absolute Comedy. “We just pick a night and go,” she says. “We just love to laugh and enjoy listening to newer acts.”
Catch a few winks
Jessica Fraser and her husband, Jordan, do overnights at the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata. “We go every three-ish months on their $99 special,” she says. “We rent movies, get room service and sleep through the night. We love it! Check in at 4, get dinner, watch movies on our laptop, sleep, room service for breakfast and go home after we check out at noon. It’s a lovely getaway and the girls barely notice we’re gone as it’s really only a few hours the first night, and the morning the next day.”
“I used to teach ballroom dancing and a lot of the couples I taught used it as a great date-night activity,” says Deanna Wright. “If both partners enjoyed it, it became a regular activity so they always had something fun to look forward to every week.”
Couples who came in together often found a fun challenge in learning something totally new together, she says.
All you knead is love
Take your romance into the kitchen! That’s what Lisa Breault and her husband did. It started out with baking cookies with their kids, and evolved into taking cooking classes together.
Loblaws has its President’s Choice Cooking School, while Ottawa’s Le Cordon Bleu – one of the world’s foremost training institutions for culinary, hospitality and management – offers short courses ranging from one afternoon to four days for culinary enthusiasts. Upcoming courses include Master French Tarts; Cordon Vert, Vegetarian Cuisine; How to Make the Perfect French Macarons; The Art of Sushi and more.