The dating game has never been easy, and sometimes it can feel like you’ll never win. Add lockdown to the mix, and it may seem nigh on impossible to get anywhere close to a relationship. Even established couples who live apart have likely been struggling with not being able to see each other due to the restrictions, but now that we have a roadmap out of the national lockdown which began in January 2021, things are starting to look up.
While, for the time being, you’ll still have some restrictions in what you can and cannot do, there are plenty of date ideas that socially distanced couples can enjoy together. So whether you’re meeting someone for the first time through an app, or you’re reuniting with your partner after a torturous three months apart, here are our picks of the best socially distanced dates.
A perfect choice for any couple, virtual dates give you the chance to speak to each other face to face without risk. In fact, experts are even expecting video dates to outlive the restrictions brought on by the pandemic. Around 64% of Hinge users have been on a virtual date, and 61% have admitted they’ll continue to do so even after the pandemic ends. But after the initial ‘getting to know you’ of a first date, there’s only so many online quizzes you can do to stay entertained, and the idea of simply staring at a screen chatting can seem a little too much like a work meeting.
Instead, bring all the aspects of a classic date to the desk. Agree to order food together and eat with each other on camera or, if you’re comfortable handing out your address, order food for each other. To add a more personal touch, you could even cook a meal for your significant other and arrange for a courier service to deliver it. It doesn’t even have to be prepared ahead of time — some London-based couriers, such as CitySprint, offer a priority service, which means a courier will collect it from you and deliver it to your other half straight away. Depending on how far away your partner is, they might not even have to spend time reheating it.
Picnics in the park
As the rules start to ease and you can begin seeing another household outdoors, take advantage of the spring weather and organise a picnic in a park that’s local to you both. Stop off at a supermarket beforehand to load up on snacks and drinks, or plan to make a dish you can bring with you while you relax and reminisce about the lockdown together. Take a portable speaker with you and take turns choosing the music — find out each other’s favourite songs and maybe their guilty pleasures, and take the opportunity to see where your tastes align.
If you want to add a competitive element to your date, pack a board game to play. A study found that couples who play board games together release more oxytocin, which is also known as the love hormone. And there are plenty of games suited to two players, or you could go for a classic game of cards, or even our personal favourite: Guess Who? But it might be a good idea to hold off on Monopoly for now.
Forest hikes and outdoor walks
There is no denying the benefits of walking outdoors and, thanks to the lockdowns, you’ve probably consciously gone out for a walk more than you ever have before. Being outdoors in nature brings a host of mental and physical benefits, including improved concentration, vitamin D, a good amount of fresh air, and reduced stress levels — which is especially handy if you’re nervous on a first date. London is blessed with a variety of stunning parks and forests, so you can easily find a route that’s convenient for you both to get to. Epping Forest, on the outskirts of East London, offers beautiful views with the rich history of being a royal hunting ground. On the opposite end lies Richmond Park, which is famous for being a prime location to spot wild deer in the city. Just be careful to keep a safe distance from them.
You can easily continue chatting while walking through the forest, but you could challenge each other to take the best photo of your surroundings while you’re out. If you’re both feeling particularly adventurous, you could even explore some off-trail areas, being careful that you don’t get lost.
Even though you’re based in the city of London, you can still enjoy the farm life. There are plenty of urban farms dotted around the city for you to visit, giving you an activity-packed date while still maintaining social distancing rules. Vauxhall City Farm and Mudchute Farm are both close to central London, making them relatively easy to get to via public transport, regardless of what side of the city you live in. Meet the animals on the farms, and even try your hand at feeding them, depending on the time you choose to visit. You can expect to see alpacas, birds, chickens, donkeys, goats, llamas, ponies, rabbits, and sheep, and many more.
Keep in mind that the farms are closed during national lockdowns, with plans to reopen as restrictions ease, so it’s worth checking the website for opening times before planning your date.