It’s easy to get into a bit of a rut when it comes to dating. Whether you’re married or single, if the relationship is more than a year old, it can get challenging to come up with new places to take your significant other. Some couples find themselves in an endless cycle: Restaurants. Movies. Malls. Rinse. Repeat. Or worse, there’s the non-date: staying home with a DVD and take-out.

While all of the above are nice in moderation, it couldn’t hurt to step outside your usual cache of dating spots to do something unexpected. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. The Nature Spot

Zoos. Aquariums. Topiary gardens. Aviaries. Believe it or not, naturalist environments can be pretty romantic. There’s something very… Return to Eden about a couple strolling through a space filled with exotic animals or vegetation. Though places like this are usually reserved for early in the relationship–when parties are still trying to impress, try this after you’ve been together a while, and see if it doesn’t reignite you.

2. The Walking Tour

A friend of mine who’s lived in the same city for most of her life surprised me recently by taking in a series of tourist-y attractions. One of those was a walking tour. You’d be surprised how many walking tours your city may offer, and if you’ve lived there more than five years, it’s probably never occurred to you to take one. But going on a walking tour date not only introduces you and your partner to little-known spots in your hometown that you may’ve taken for granted, but it also allows you to meet new couples and interact with them for a few hours of fun.

3. The Literary Spot

As a DMV area resident, I have the great fortune of living in close proximity to one of the best literary date spots there is: Busboys and Poets. Part restaurant, part bookstore, part live entertainment, this spot can give you a little bit of everything if you play your cards right. If you live near a spot like this, with frequent author readings, great food, and lively ambiance, don’t just go grab a quick bite. Go on a night when there’s a reading, stay for a few hours, and you’ll have even more to talk to your date about when the evening’s ending.

Attending an author reading/book signing with your date, if he or she is a big fan of the writer, is also a great way to connect with your date (and hopefully, to be introduced to a new writer you’ll grow to love).

4. The Art Spot

Gallery openings are better than museum attendance for an unconventional dating experience. There’s usually wine, for one. And it’s a less stuffy experience, with everyone in attendance experiencing the art for the first time. You can get genuine first impressions of the exhibit together, and the hors d’oeurves aren’t bad, either.

5. The Learning Spot

Have you ever gotten one of those adult education catalogs in the mail? You know the ones. They’re from your local community college or community center, and they list all the courses offered at night or on weekends for busy professionals. Don’t throw that away. Instead, flip through it with your significant other, and decide on a course to take together. Cooking, photography, calligraphy, taxidermy. It really doesn’t matter which one you take, as long as you decide on it and attend it together. There’s something truly exciting about learning in tandem with someone you love.

Where is your favorite unconventional place for a date? 

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