Actually Fun Date Ideas in Detroit
Now that we’ve suffered through a particularly brutal winter, let's all remember why we love to live in Detroit: the gorgeous summers. The perfect way to experience the coming warm weather is to take advantage of Detroit’s incredible outdoor activities -- because why relegate yourself to a stereotypical romantic dinner (if you're set on that, though, here are the perfect restaurants) when you could impress your potential sweetheart with something creative and actually enjoyable? Like, for instance, one of these seasonal date ideas. Feel free to take credit for any and all of them.
The Conservatory at Belle Isle can offer you tropical aromas, desert succulents, and gorgeously preserved Albert Kahn-designed architecture all year round. But since it’s summer, the full romantic potential of Belle Isle is at your tender command. Go swimming at the beach, steal a kiss at Sunset Point, or casually swing your arm around your date as you admire the gorgeous koi pond.
What’s more romantic than a beautiful walk next to the Detroit River? The ever-popular RiverWalk is more than sufficient for your dating needs, complete with luscious green parks, a merry-go-round, and a charmingly small lighthouse. One path off the RiverWalk also leads to the Dequindre Cut, a greenway that follows the path of an old railroad track all the way to Eastern Market.
If you and your special someone enjoy physical activity but don’t want to break a sweat in the hot sun, you can turn to a true Detroit sport: fowling. It’s more chill than your parents’ bowling alley, but not quite in with the annoyingly hipster crowd. Plus, there are brews on-site, so you can let loose and have some fun.
Check out some free entertainment Friday nights at the DIA
For couples looking for a culturally enriching experience that won’t break the bank, stroll on over to The Detroit Institute of Arts, which is free for Wayne County residents. Plus, on Friday nights, the museum offers up an incredible lineup of free (!!!) entertainment with its Friday Night Live! series in the Rivera Court -- one of the best rooms in all of Detroit. You can bond over coffee at the gorgeous atrium cafe in the Kresge Court before the show.
You used to make those cross-border trips to Windsor on a whim with your friends when you were just 19 and itching to order a drink. Those days are long gone, but now that your tastes have become refined, you and your SO can explore all the cultural charms that Ontario has to offer. Casinos, strip clubs, great restaurants, and the calmest border agents you’ve ever met (at least going into Canada) are all enough to induce unrivaled levels of passion.
Dinner and a movie used to be the quintessential date night. These days, it’s more like Seamless delivery and Hulu streaming. Detroit’s meticulously renovated Redford Theatre is an ode to the heyday of the silver screen. A live organ performance marks the opening of each show, and cult classics like Casablanca and The Little Mermaid (hey, the heart wants what it wants) are regularly brought into screening rotation.
Dating is this often painful process of elimination where you’re finding out if you like what he/she likes. A few hours pursuing the vast collection of John K. King Books can help along with the process. While the novio/a is digging the early American literature section and you’re knee-deep in vinyls, what you’re really doing is unlocking the secrets of your heart by getting to know each other better.
Ask any Detroiter -- or anyone in America, for that matter -- about their favorite love songs, and a sultry Motown track is bound to be part of their playlist. Go on a tour of the original Hitsville USA, and you and your one-and-only will almost sense Smokey Robinson belting out “Cruisin’” in Studio A.
If you’re looking for a true Detroit experience, take your sweetie to Eastern Market. Get the traditional farmer’s market madness on Saturdays or -- if your hubby hates crowds -- find a more leisurely experience on Tuesday nights. Head down on a Sunday to check out the work of local artists, jewelers, and cooks. Most excitingly, this year, the Market has brought back Third Thursdays -- so if you time your date right, you can find the various sheds of the Market full of food, music, drinks, and more.
Sometimes, it’s the little niceties that make dating worthwhile. And sometimes, it’s as simple as indulging in a piece of chocolate. Yeah, yeah, okay, we’re starting to sound a little saccharine, but once you and babycakes get a taste of the whimsical bonbons created by the Babes Babes Babes at Bon Bon Bon, you’ll understand. Each season, the chocolate shop rolls out a different “collection,” so you’ll be sure to enjoy delicious, summer-tinged chocolates with grade-A punny names (“Zac Saffron” and “Sunny Hunny” were highlights of this year’s spring collection).
Have a meal while you sit in the sun
Detroit’s getting a reputation as a foodie town, and as such, there are plenty of places you can go for an upscale dinner and/or drink -- and also enjoy the sun and a beautiful view. La Dolce Vita has earned the title “best patio in Detroit” for a very good reason; Lumen has a patio that overlooks Beacon Park; MotorCity Wine is great for those who love hip music and... well... wine; Slow’s has a great patio and some of the best BBQ anywhere (the mac & cheese!); Selden Standard has charming flowery murals and delicious food; The RattleSnake Club overlooks the river while offering steak and seafood fare; Campus Martius has a bar right on their “urban beach.” There are so many options!
You just had a beer while sinking your toes in the sand of the “urban beach,” and you’re ready for a way to cap off the evening. Walk a few blocks into Greektown and hunt down some of the famous baklava at Astoria Bakery. Or maybe macarons are your guilty pleasure. Or chocolate-covered strawberries. Or cannoli. Or a mini Key lime pie. Or a... okay, you get the picture. Your sweet tooth -- and your sweetheart -- will thank you for this date night detour.
This is the place to reveal your inner lumberjack. Detroit Axe is Metro Detroit’s self-appointed “first wholly dedicated, competitive axe throwing area.” Set above the former Local Kitchen and Bar in downtown Ferndale, the venue rents out 12 lanes for tournaments. If flinging heavy metal objects isn’t quite the thing that gets your mojo going, the first-floor Corner Tavern and Game Room offers a more relaxing vibe, with food, drinks, and, like, 600 board games (and outdoor seating).
Not that we have anything against a good snuggle at home, but if you’re in Detroit, you really should check out this unique, historic bathhouse. The incredibly regal-feeling Schvitz has been open since 1930 and offers ancient heat therapies, holistic healing, and food. It all makes for a restorative excursion, even with the hot sun waiting for you outside. Just be sure you go at the right time: The website clearly designates what times are allotted specifically for men only, women only, and coed.
Play retro arcade games
Release your inner-child/aggressive competitor at any one of the newer arcade bars that have hit the scene. Ready Player One near Greektown has some 40 machines, including 10 old-school pinball arcades. You and your beau can jam out to Ms. Pac-Man, Tetris, even Mario Kart on Nintendo 64 -- all with adult beverages on hand. If you’ve found yourself meeting up at Checker Bar, mosey on upstairs, where Offworld Arcade, partnered with Pop Pizza, also offers an array of vintage arcade games. Lastly, there’s Punch Bowl Social, where arcade games, bowling, darts, and board games all meet under one roof. You can have quite the time without ever really having to sit through those awkward silences.
A delicious glass of cold brew or the most beautiful cookie you’re even seen (courtesy of Warda Pâtisserie) is welcome anytime -- especially as a safe route for those Tinder dates that might not go anywhere. At Trinosophes, you get an inviting vibe, complete with art works in the adjoining gallery, vinyl shopping in the adjacent record store, and the occasional night-time show. Plus, if your night out somewhere went well, you can always stop in for brunch on the weekends.
Your boo is into Sky Ferreira, you just wanna boogie to '80s jams. Your SO likes plain pepperoni, you’re into experimenting with your pizza toppings. Chances are good that despite differing tastes in music and food, you’ll find a happy compromise at El Club on West Vernor Highway. The all-ages venue is home to an eclectic span of high-quality live shows from local and touring acts, plus dance parties and mouth-watering Pepe Z brick oven pizza. Plus, they have an excellent patio.
You’ve been meaning to check out this Dearborn institution, the largest and only museum in the US dedicated to the history and culture of Arab Americans. The building itself is gorgeous, and its affiliation with the Smithsonian makes it an excellent date destination. While the Global Fridays series unfortunately doesn’t extend into the summer (there have to be some perks reserved for winter!), the museum regularly hosts interesting events, such as the Arab Film Festival in June. Afterwards, you lovebirds can hit up any number of Dearborn’s treasured Middle Eastern eateries.
While Detroit proper has gotten crap within the last few years for its lack of a proper theater (the one in RenCen closed a few years ago, for example), there are a few gems within the city limits for your dinner-and-a-movie needs. Cinema Detroit is billed as the only indie film house in the city, and it also regularly holds screenings of some pretty big name shows. So check your listings, text your boo thing, and head over to the 3rd Street movie house. For a bite, there’s Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken down the street, the fancier Selden Standard for small plates, or laid-back diner fare at Honest John’s around the corner.
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