No matter if you've been together for what feels like forever or are still just getting to know each other, there are times when you'd both rather stay in than go out for a date.
“Dating is not about where you go, it’s about creating an opportunity for belly laughs and a deeper connection with the person you’re with,” Karen Donaldson, a communication, body language and certified confidence coach, tells TODAY.com. “Not much is needed other than good intentions and some creative ideas.”
More often than not, planning an at-home date night can also be a good idea for your wallet. "One of the great things about having a date at home is that you can still create a fun, intimate atmosphere without worrying about going out, crowds, or spending a lot of money,” Joni Ogle, LCSW, CSAT, the CEO of The Heights Treatment, tells TODAY.com.
Even though you don't have the outside world to inspire you, you can still get creative with what you have at home. With just a little bit of effort and imagination, you can easily turn your home — hey, even your couch — into a romantic getaway for an evening.
Ahead, an assortment of fun (perhaps, free) at-home date night ideas ideas from experts that do exactly that.
Turn the lights off
Donaldson urges couples to pretend that the electricity is out and enjoy a device-free date night. Even just reading that should conjure up images of cozy reading circles, playing board games on the couch, and romantic dinners by candlelight.
“Another great idea is to pretend you’re stranded in Aspen, Switzerland or somewhere exotic and can’t go outside because a blizzard has blocked you in and cut off the electricity,” Donaldson says. “That means you get to snuggle in big blankets, light the fireplace and use your imagination about when and how you might be rescued,” she continues, adding that you can close the curtains to keep you in your intimate cocoon.
Attempt a DIY project
“Perhaps you’ve wanted to paint a piece of furniture or give one of your home’s rooms a little facelift,” Jay Neill, the co-founder, owner, and managing editor of Love You Wedding, tells TODAY.com.
Love watching home improvement shows with your beau? “Take on a small home DIY project inspired by your favorite HGTV couple to give your area a beautiful makeover and give you both a sense of success.”
Have a picnic on the patio
Got outdoor space? Then have a date night under the stars.
"Set up a picnic in the privacy of your backyard. Roll out the picnic blanket and add comfy pillows to lounge on. Prepare your favorite picnic foods or level it up with charcuterie and champagne. Enjoy the sunshine, togetherness and conversation,” Allison Anderson, MD, certified life and relationship coach, tells TODAY.com.
As you eat, ask each other some out-of-the-box questions. "Adding a deck of question cards for couples can give you topics to discuss. Whether it’s your spouse of 20 years or someone you’ve just started dating, there’s always more to learn about them."
Plan your dream vacation
Throw on your favorite pajamas, plop down on the couch, and throw a bunch of random vacation ideas into a hat. “Pull one out and spend the evening planning your dream vacay. Not only will this help you plan something hopeful for the future and get you looking ahead, it will also help you work on communication skills and create space to share expectations," Annalyse Lucero, LMFT, tells TODAY.com.
Relax with an at-home spa night
A date night idea that involves hot tea, spa treatments, and zen-infused music? You don’t have to tell us twice.
"This creates a very intimate setting. You can do massages, facials, light some candles, and create a spa-like atmosphere.,” Keresse Thompson, LCSW and podcast host of “Diary of an Empath Podcast,” tells TODAY.com. As a bonus, you’ll save quite a bit of money by doing this at home instead of going to an actual spa.
Plant a garden
Embrace your green thumbs — or boost your brown thumbs — on your next at-home date night. “Working side by side on something that you both can nurture and care for over time can help forge deeper bonds and create something beautiful in the process," Dustin Sitar, CEO of The Groom Club, tells TODAY.com.
Maybe you can even plant a tree together and watch it grow over the years as a metaphor for your love.
Indulge in a restaurant-worthy dinner
Get the restaurant experience without going to, well, a restaurant. “Try recreating that experience in the comfort of your own home. Order catering from your favorite spot,” Anderson says. “Decorate your dining room with candles, mood lighting, beautiful silverware and flowers.”
To up the ante, you can also make a romantic playlist and get dressed up — just like you would if you were going out.
Camp out in the living room
Put an air mattress or sleeping bags in your living room, then cuddle up to your sweetheart. If you don’t have a fireplace, light some candles to set the mood. Anderson's tips: Add lots of pillows and blankets, turn on some music or press play on a romantic movie.
“Spending the night in a new place, even just a different room of your home, sets a new tone and sparks your sense of creativity. It’s the perfect way to spice up the romance and connection with your partner," Anderson says.
Dance it out
Remember the last time you danced your socks off with your better half? You don’t need to wait until the next wedding you go to in order to relive some of that magic.
“Clear some space in the living room and blast a playlist with all of your favorite hits,”Anderson says, adding that she loves the idea of challenging your partner to a dance-off as long as you keep it playful and silly. “This is an amazing way to bond with your partner by letting your guard down and dropping the need to look or be a certain way."
Related: Create some magic with these love songs
Host fondue night
Bring the cheesy fun to your dining room. “Break out the fondue pots (or just use regular saucepans on the stove) and create a spread of cheese and broth fondues with bread, meat, veggies and fruit to dip,” Anderson says.
End the night on a sweet note by trading cheese for chocolate and dipping fruit, marshmallows, pretzels or bite-size baked goods.
Play truth or dare
“Grab a truth or dare card deck or just make it up as you go,” Anderson says, noting that it's a wonderful way to get to know your partner more deeply. “You can keep it as innocent or as scandalous as you want."
Even if you’re not a fan of grabbing the controller, hear Lucero out: “It’s important to balance the time that you set aside for dates, and participate in activities that represent both partners. Video gaming may not be your thing, but it could make your partner feel really special if you set up a gaming night,” she says.
Stir up some friendly competition by asking a few other couples to join in — from home, of course. Don’t forget to set out an epic spread of snacks to fuel up between games.
Enjoy a movie marathon
An oldie but goodie. “Not only does it provide an opportunity for them to watch their favorite films or TV shows together, but it also allows them to share conversations about what they are watching which helps create deeper bonds between them," Sitar says.
Speaking of which, after the movie is over, ask two or three pointed questions about the film so you can get each other’s perspectives on something that transpired on the screen.
Related: Classic movies everyone should watch
Create a themed movie night
Take your movie marathon to the next level by setting a theme in advance, whether it's strictly rom-coms or superhero movies. “You can do this by getting creative with decorations, snacks, and drinks; dressing up in costumes; or playing trivia games related to the chosen genre of movies,”Ogle says. “This bonding idea allows you to reminisce on old favorites, learn something new about each other and have fun in a low-pressure atmosphere.”
Taste the world
You don’t have to leave your digs to get a sense of the world at large. Thompson says you can pick a country for a given date night and then take it from there. Say you settle on Italy: “You can pick out Italian wine, cook an Italian meal together, and theme the meal around your evening,” Thompson says. The way to someone's heart is through their stomach, right?
Learn something new
Learning never gets old — and it's even better when you have your partner by your side. “This could be taking an online class together, doing research for a project you’re both interested in, or trying new recipes and learning about different cuisines,” Ogle says.
The key is that you'll both learn more about something new — and each other. “It can spark meaningful conversations, teach you both something new, and provide a unique bonding experience."
Have a wine tasting
“Are you in a rut with wines? Go to the store and buy inexpensive to expensive similar wines. Write the names of each wine on the bottom of a glass with a felt-tip pen,” Donaldson says. “Then, taste each one and experience the color, smell and taste."
The challenge: "Find out if the inexpensive wines taste just as good as the more expensive ones — and expand your palate at the same time!" If you don’t drink alcohol, feel free to modify this at-home date night idea with nonalcoholic wine or beer.
Attend a virtual live concert or dance performance. “Stay connected with your partner or new love interest through exploring different cultures, listening to different types of music, or discovering new places together,” Ogle says. “No matter what you’re into, there’s bound to be something for everyone!”
Organize your closets
Why not cross something off your to-do list and have fun while doing it? Crank up some music, turn your partner for input and celebrate a job well done with some takeout.
“Given the likelihood that you only wear a section of your wardrobes at home, now is an excellent moment to review your individual collections,” Neill says. Make this chore even more enjoyable by staging a fashion show to aid in the decision-making process.
Do something interactive (whatever that may be)
Art projects, board games, cooking a meal kit together … the list goes on and on. But like many of the ideas on this list, the interactive component is key. “Doing something interactive allows you both to tap into your creative sides and to have a lot of fun together,” Ogle says. “It’s also something that you can do regardless of your relationship status — whether you’re already in a committed relationship or just getting to know a new love interest, there are plenty of activities that can spark conversation and create lasting memories.”