Shake Up Date Night With These Stay-At-Home Ideas

This author provides 5 dinner ideas for Valentine's Day at home.

Going out on a date can be a ton of fun. But that doesn’t mean that staying in with a significant other has to be boring.

Whatever your reason for sticking close to home, there are plenty of ways to approach a stay-in date night to make it as memorable as the most cheesy romantic comedy scenario.

Mix up the meal

Making dinner is the easiest way to have a romantic night in, but just like dinners in restaurants can get old, candlelit dinners in-doors can start to feel a little tired if you do them regularly.

The easiest way to transform your indoor date night is to mix-up the meal. Instead of a romantic candle night dinner, push things earlier to a lazy brunch or a light and festive lunch. This not only changes your menu but shifts the entire schedule of a date, allowing the meal to either start or split your time together. Plus, in these winter months, an earlier meal allows for eating amid natural light, a definite mood booster.

If you’re set on dinner, think about ways to inject some creativity. Do a riff on the classic blind date by making a blind dinner date —each of you can choose a recipe and buy the necessary ingredients. When the date starts, swap baskets and make the recipe your date picked out for you. If you want to get really creative, style the date off of the cooking show Chopped and just give each other a basket of ingredients with no recipe!

Some coordination beforehand will help avoid food waste, but don’t let your date on to what meal you’re cooking!

Change the narrative structure

After dinner at home, a stay-in date tends to flow naturally into a cuddly movie night. While fun, these too can get stale and repetitive. There are other ways to have a relaxing, narrative-driven date night.

Reading aloud to each other is a beautifully intimate way to spend a quiet evening indoors. Just like a movie, it gives you the chance to cuddle-up — except this time it’s to the sound of your partner’s soothing voice. Reading aloud also gives you the opportunity to pace the story yourself, repeating particularly beautiful passages or stopping to discuss a question about the plot. Plus, because it takes longer to read a book than to watch a movie, you’ve got a nice stay-home date idea to take you through the end of the month!

If reading aloud doesn’t sound appealing, a two-player, story-driven video game can be an engaging endeavor to share. A game has some of the same benefits as reading in terms of being able to choose your own pace for the story, though you might lose a bit of cozy chatting time. Fight against that with regularly scheduled pauses that make sure you pay as much attention to each other as you do to the game.

Puzzle things out

Ok, so this advice comes from my fiancée, not me. Before we started dating, I hadn’t looked at a puzzle seriously since I was a little kid. But if you want to mix up the “dinner and a movie” monotony, puzzles are a fun way to add a shared activity without being too distracting.

Puzzles serve as a low-stress challenge that the two of you can face together — which means it will help you work on communication and problem-solving skills in a low-stakes environment. It also gives a nice feeling of success when you finish the puzzle. If you’re trying to deepen a bond, associating time together with feelings of success doesn’t hurt.

Most importantly, puzzles are noiseless — which means you have the necessary space to talk to each other, something which activities like movies don’t do. And you can use the opportunity to share favorite music together.

If competition is more than your speed, turn date night into the opportunity to test out a new board game. This will give you a similar amount of activity and interaction, but someone comes out the winner (and winner chooses the board game the following date night!).

Bring in a little company

This one might be going out on a limb, but offering to babysit for a friend can lead to a memorable evening for both you and the parent couple.

Babysitting gives you an opportunity to learn a new side of each other’s personality. Yes, this date requires a little more responsibility than normal, and certainly a different set of activities, but if there is one thing that kids know how to do, it’s to have fun.

So have a night where you and your partner play with blocks, color with crayons, or make silly faces with a toddler. I guarantee it will be a date night like one you’ve never experienced before — and it’ll give mom and dad the chance to have a date night of their own. Win for everyone!


Date nights don’t have to be either in or out. If you want to have a particularly memorable date together, consider mixing in a walk in the park with a low-key brunch, or matching an evening reading aloud with a stop at the bookstore to pick a novel together. When it comes to dating, creativity is key — don’t be afraid to color outside of the lines (which is, as it so happens, also another date night idea!). 

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