You’ve all heard of “Netflix & Chill.” It’s not a new term. We all know what it means… right? It’s the “dating” invitation that pretty much means neither party expects anything out of the evening but a little bit of… you know. You might say it’s a “date,” but it’s not a very substantive interaction. It’s a hookup. Usually assumed to be purposefully meaningless. And if we’ve learned anything over the past couple of years, one is that humans are craving meaningful connection—deep, lasting, genuine relationships that inspire trust, empathy, and action. “Netflix & Chill” may bring us temporary comfort, but if we’re looking for something more significant, it’s time to try other “date” ideas, if you can really call “Netflix & Chill” a date.
But what constitutes a date?! What if asking someone out or spending time with them sans screen fills you with anxiety? What if you have zero ideas for activities you could do with this person you like? Or what if you’re both broke and fancy dinners or expensive excursions aren’t an option? Fear not. There are plenty of ways to get you and your date off that couch, and I’ve come up with a shortlist here to get you started.
Alternatives to Netflix and Chill
1. Spend the day on the nearest river or beach! It’s summer. Get out there and enjoy the sunshine and the water. Maybe you can rent or borrow a canoe, kayak, or paddleboard for the day. You can lounge in a giant flamingo pool float or you can hunt for rocks and shells. As long as you remember to wear sunscreen, this is a great, low-cost way to spend some time with your date.
2. Plan a picnic. This is a classic! Find a local park. Make a couple of sandwiches. Bring a way to play some music. And treat your date to a lovely morning or afternoon in a shady spot on a pretty blanket. You might enjoy it too.
3. Visit your local museum, gallery, zoo, aquarium, or botanical gardens. Most of these kinds of places have days when you can visit for free or at a discounted rate if you’re a local resident, teacher, or student. Do a little research and see what kinds of coupons they might offer for their guided tours as well! You can see some amazing art, meet some cute baby animals, or gaze at the pretty fishies all while getting to know a little more about this person you’re trying to date.
4. Create a “Get to Know You” scavenger hunt. If you’re the creative type, this could be a blast! Check and make sure your date is okay with a little bit of running around town, because scavenger hunts can be a bit labor-intensive. If your date’s in, great! Pick a place to meet, give each other a shortlist of places to go or objects to collect that will help you learn about each other, then pick a final meeting place where you’ll compare your results and experiences.
5. Go thrifting. Whether you want to check out the local thrift store for wacky home decor items or pick out unique or silly outfits for your date, a little bit of shopping can be a fun way to break the ice with someone. This is a good one for combining with other dates! You could choose each other’s outfits and then go to a concert in your funky getups.
6. Play some music and dance. Maybe you do this one while you’re on that picnic, or maybe you do it in the parking lot of your date’s job because their lunch break is your only chance to hang out. Either way, play some music on your phone or car radio, and dance with each other.
7. Go on a roaming lunch or dinner date. Start at one place for appetizers, walk to another for your main course, and finish up at another place for dessert. This ramble can be as fancy or as casual as you want to make it. The point is that you’re spending a little more interesting time together than just staring at one another across a table.
8. Play putt putt or go bowling or roller skating. These are the kinds of things we did for fun as kids! The number of roller skating birthday parties I went to… astounding! Playing the way we used to as children can also be a really sweet way to get to know someone you’re dating.
9. Check out the sunrise. Agree to get up early and meet each other at a spot in your town where the view of the sunrise is breathtaking. Starting your day with a moment of awe and a little bit of quiet might create a lovely, intimate memory between you and this person. Make sure you bring them their favorite coffee drink! And if it goes well, invite them to breakfast afterward.
10. Reading… I’m serious. If you or your date are book nerds, there’s nothing quite as romantic as sharing a blanket in the park while you both read your books.
11. Free concerts, shows and screenings. Lots of cities and neighborhoods offer free outdoor activities during the summer. Check out what’s going on near you! It could be a Beach Boys cover band playing outside the local Mellow Mushroom, or it could be a showing of How to Train Your Dragon at the elementary school’s playground. Both sound like fun to me!
12. Food sample tour. Farmers’ markets and grocery stores often have plentiful sample booths on the weekends. Take a tour of the free samples! If you’re strapped for cash, this is a great way to go on a walk and enjoy a few treats. But be careful… you might end up tempted to buy that specialty olive oil.
13. Go to fancy open houses. You don’t have to be interested in buying a house to go to an open house. It’s open! Says so on the sign! As long as you and your date are well behaved and respectful of the others at the event, it can be fun to get super dressed up and visit homes you might dream of owning one day.
14. Do a photoshoot together. You don’t need a photographer or a fancy camera. Whip out your phones and start snapping shots of each other. Have fun with it! Play. You can also combine this one with any of the other dates on this list to get some excellent photo opportunities.
15. Volunteer at the local community garden or animal shelter. What better way to spend time together than snuggling with puppies or getting your hands in the dirt? This is also a great way to get to know the heart of the person you’re dating. What causes do you both care about?
Wait! Don’t panic. It’s important to clarify that when you’re talking to someone you might be into romantically, of COURSE it’s okay to watch movies and TV with them. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying entertainment together! These are just options for when you want to be extra clear that you don’t want a “Netflix & Chill” encounter. Just try to mix it up. Remember the world beyond your front door? It’s still there, and what better way to get to know yourself and your partner than to experience something off-screen? Especially if you’re looking to date or get to know someone. Step out into the sunlight. Make eye contact. Have a conversation. It will be fun!
If you’re wondering about ideas more specific to your interests or hometown, I recommend Googling local events and venues to see what’s coming up in your area this summer. From farmers’ markets to outdoor concerts and sporting events, there’s sure to be something you and your date could enjoy together. Look at that work again, enjoy. We are meant to find joy in the way we spend our time. We are meant to live abundantly. Maybe it’s just me, but staying home in my sweatpants watching a show I don’t care about just so I can get some “cuddles” with a person I don’t really know doesn’t sound abundant to me.
Do yourself, and your date, a favor this summer and find something to do with your time that does not fit the descriptor of “Netflix & Chill.” But if you’re feeling anxious or worried about the idea of dating right now, or you don’t feel that you deserve to live abundantly, please reach out to TheHopeLine. We’d love to talk to you about your feelings and share resources with you that could help you on your journey.