Austin Date Ideas You’ll Both Actually Enjoy

Spice things up.

Antonelli’s Cheese Shop
Courtesy of Antonelli’s Cheese Shop

After these months of quarantine, everyone’s craving some connection as much as they are craving, well, anything to do besides deciding what show to binge watch. However, how do you meet your new someone without threatening your health (or theirs) in the process? By going on any of these Austin dates that are not only safe, but fun (remember fun?). So, grab your mask, ditch the sweatpants for some real clothes, and get back out on that dating scene.

Get cheesy with a cheese tasting 

While Austin’s go-to cheese shop, Antonelli’s, may be closed for walk-ups, they are offering a chance for you and your date to sample (and learn) about their fine dairy selection from your very own home. Their popular virtual cheese and wine tasting classes have expanded into a plethora of various online events—upcoming stand-outs include one dedicated to the flavors of formaggio in Italy and, in what might be a pairing straight-out of our wildest dreams, one featuring the combination of cheese and Girl Scout cookies. You simply register for the class you want online, pick up your cheese supplies from the Antonelli’s store, join the Zoom meeting, and get ready to impress all your other couple-friends with the foodie knowledge you're bound to pick up. 

See a drive-in movie

Various locations
With trucks of every shape and size barraging the roads of Texas, you may as well put those spacious flatbeds to use. Pile lots of pillows and blankets in the back and park that big mac truck right in Doc’s Drive-In Theatre or The Blue Starlite Drive-In. Check out offerings of film favorites like “The Goonies” or “Beetlejuice,” playing virtually every night of the week. The open air, the stars—ah, the rom-com of it all—all to be enjoyed in the comfort of your own plushie vehicle. Both places have concession stands, so you can still get your popcorn fix, but with The Blue Starlite you have to be sure to pre-buy your snacks with your ticket online.

Tap into your animal instincts

Johnson City
Show your date you’re the next Steve Irwin by taking them on a drive-through zoo visit at The Exotic Resort in Johnson City. There, you can roll through the zoo in the socially distanced comfort of your car while feeding animals, like antelopes, ostriches, and buffalos, that come right up to your vehicle’s window. We recommend you buy tickets, as well as pre-buy bags of feed,  ahead of time on The Exotic Resort’s website—especially if you are planning on visiting during the weekend when the park is busiest.

Hit the breweries 

Various locations 
Take “let’s grab drinks” one-step further by going straight to the source of the libations themselves—one of Austin’s local breweries. East side favorites Central Machine Works, Celis Brewery, and Hops & Grain not only have delicious drinks, but also spacious outdoor space so you can get to know each other without the threat of indoor germs. If you’re organized enough to plan ahead, make a reservation to take your date to Jester King in Hill Country, which specializes in sour beers—with seating available in such scenic locations as a vineyard and a pasture, you can guarantee both beauty and brews. 

Rent a private movie theater

Alamo Drafthouse
For long-term loves celebrating an anniversary, or those just willing to shell out some extra bucks to really impress their date, take in your own personal screening at the Alamo Drafthouse. Yes, that’s right—one huge movie theater to yourselves, with a full menu of food and drinks to order from while you enjoy your film. The Alamo Drafthouse does make you choose a movie from a pre-selected list to watch but, with everything from romantic classics like “Casablanca” to horror classics like “The Thing,” to choose from, you are bound to have a much easier time deciding on what to watch than you do when browsing Netflix.

Have a picnic in the park

South Austin
You know what they say—if it ain’t broke, don't fix it. The same can be said of this classic date idea, and with the added factors of, you know, a national pandemic, grabbing some grub and hitting the park has never been a better (or safer) bet. With all the diverse takeout options available in South Austin and a beautiful view of the city skyline, Zilker Park is the ideal location to get your picnic on. Grab some burgers and milkshakes at Sandy’s Hamburgers before walking over or, if you’re more of a foodie, you can pickup Loro’s brisket and cocktails in just a quick five-minute drive from the park.  

Acrylic fruits painting
Courtesy of Creative Box Studios

Create your way to the perfect date night 

Why not forgo the standard Valentine’s presents of chocolate and flowers for a unique and long-lasting gift that, bonus points, you made yourself? With the virtual art workshops offered by local business, Creative Box Studios, you and your sweetie can learn a new creative skill in a COVID-safe way. Upcoming workshops include Embroidery Portraits and Paint a Frida Kahlo, but be sure to check their ever-updating schedule for a variety of ways to unleash your artistic expression. After you sign up for the class you want, you can choose the option of using your own supplies, picking up supplies, or having them shipped to you. Just be forewarned—that giant Whitman’s Sampler may never cut it again. 

Take a tiki drink tour 

Various locations 
Let’s be real, it’s probably been a while since either you or your date have gone on a vacation of any sorts. However, you can evoke all the memories of a tropical vacation, with none of the TSA line waiting, by taking your own Tiki Drink Tour of Austin. Start off at Pool Burger with a classic Mai Tai, then head to Wu Chow for their pineapple-tequila cocktail concoction the Green Dragon. Finish off the bar crawl at Nickel City, where you can choose from three “levels” of Painkillers based on how strong you want your drink.

Make your own pottery

What’s a better way to get close to your date than recreating that scene from “Ghost?” You can get as close as possible by taking an adult class at Austin Pottery. They offer one-time wheel throwing classes, as well as hand-building ones for those less inclined to connect with their inner Swayze. Not to worry if your only experience with clay goes back to the Play-Doh days of preschool—both classes are perfect for beginners. Due to COVID, however, space is limited, so be sure to call them to make a reservation.  

Ride the bike trails

Various locations
Roll off into the sunset together at one of Austin’s many gorgeous bike trails—like the Southern Walnut Creek Trail in the East or the Ann and Roy Butler Trail which hugs the banks of Lady Bird Lake. If you don’t own your own bike, you can rent one through Barton Springs Bike Rental—they even have tandems for the true love birds. If you’re less nature-inclined, rent one of the city’s Metrobikes and tour the landmark locations of Downtown, such as the Capital or the Willie Nelson statue. 

Play your heart out at the arcade

Various locations 
There’s nothing like the nostalgia of playing Pac-Man, mixed with the adult ability to have a beer while doing so. A tried-and-true Austin staple, The Original Pinballz Arcade, allows you to do just that—enjoy their huge selection of games, including their room of vintage pinball machines, in a space that is BYOB-friendly. A newer edition to the scene in South Austin, Cidercade, boasts unlimited play, pizza, and, as the name suggests, a plentiful offering of cider on tap. 

Explore outdoor art 

Various locations 
Show off how cultured you are by taking your date to one of Austin’s outdoor art museums. At the Umlauf Sculpture Garden, you can take in the work of renowned American sculptor Charles Umlaut while walking through the lush greenery which blankets every step of the space. In West Austin, there’s Laguna Gloria which features pieces by contemporary artists on the grounds of a 1916 villa that sits on the shore of Lake Austin.

Rate the city’s breakfast tacos

Various locations 
Challenge your date to help you settle the ultimate question: which place in Austin has the best migas? Start your journey at Radio Coffee & Beer where you can pair a drink with the selection from the Veracruz taco truck. Save room though for the massive portions at your next stop—Juan in A Million on Austin’s East side. Finally, figure out if you're meant to be by going to both local chain rivals Torchy’s and Taco Deli. Be warned though: disagreement over which one is best might be a huge red flag for a future relationship. 

Get off the beaten trail 

Various locations 
Test their Tinder profile’s claim that they “love the outdoors” by suggesting a hike through one of greater Austin’s lesser known, yet incredibly beautiful, trails. About an hour north in Belton is the Chalk Ridge Trail at Chalk Ridge Falls Park, where you'll get to both see a waterfall and cross a suspension bridge—all in the space of three miles. For those looking for a longer adventure, check out Crockett Garden Falls in Georgetown’s Cedar Breaks Park. Pack a lunch and bring your bathing suit for a six-mile trail that will lead you to the most gorgeous grotto you've ever seen for a well-deserved dip. 

Go mini-golfing at Peter Pan 

Bouldin Creek
To arrive at Peter Pan Mini-Golf, and see the giant neon green T.Rex that adorns the front of the course, is to know this place goes way beyond the standard windmill hole-in-ones. Add to this the further collection of wacky acid-trip animals that decorate the green and a BYOB atmosphere, and you have a great outdoor date on your hands. Be sure to bring a mask and while they have sanitized golf equipment, for those who would like to prevent further contact by bringing their own, that is also allowed.  

Stroll a farmers market

Various locations 
Multi-task by going on a date and getting your groceries for the week by meeting up at one of Austin’s weekend farmer’s markets. On Saturday, from 9 am to 1 pm, head to the Barton Creek Farmers Market at the Barton Creek Square mall where you can grab fresh tomatoes and bell peppers from Johnson’s Backyard Garden. The Texas Farmer’s Market at Mueller, which runs from 10 am to 2 pm, is the Sunday favorite. While there, those who missed the quarantine sourdough can, instead, grab a loaf instead from Texas French Bread. Don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone you bought it. 

Take a boat ride for two

Various locations
For those who want to reenact their own version of the “Jack, I’m flying!” scene from “Titanic,” just rent a boat, via Boatsetter, to cruise one of the Austin area’s many lakes. There’s a variety of options and locations available—whether you want a romantic sunset sailing cruise on Lake Travis, or an epic adventure wake-boarding over the waves on Lake Austin. All are available to book online and, for those who may be aquatically challenged, also have the option to include your very own captain for the day. 

Take your dogs with you 

West Austin
We all know what’s really important in any potential relationship: What does your pet think of them? Throw them right in by bringing your furry friend along with you, especially if they have a dog of their own to join the party. Red Bud Isle, which sits on the right in the middle of the west side of Lady Bird Lake, is the perfect off-leash location for your meet-cute. Bring beer for your date and treats for their dog—you want to be sure to make a good first impression. 

Hotel Saint Cecilia pool
Photo by Nick Simonite

Have a romantic staycation 

Various locations
It’s hard to be romantic when you have seen each other in the same dog-hair-covered sweatpants for the past eleven months. Get out of your rut (and out of your house) by taking a mini-staycation to one of Austin’s great hotels—many of which are offering great Valentine’s Day deals for couples who need a change of scenery, but don’t want to risk traveling far in a pandemic. South Congress oasis, Hotel San José, is offering a free bottle of bubbles and late check-out—which is sure to be helpful depending on how many of their signature frosés your and your Valentine sip down. Just down the road, Hotel Saint Cecilia is also bringing the champagne, along with a flower arrangement, to any sweethearts looking to stay over the 14th. 

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Molly Moltzen is a Thrillist contributor.
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