It started, as many great ideas do, with noodles.
My husband and I are both self-employed and work in creative fields, which means our schedules are completely unpredictable (especially his: as a photographer, he’s pretty much always working while other people are playing). Our jobs make it tough to carve out time with each other; and on those occasions we do get to hang out, we don’t really want to waste it staring at a TV screen or posting up at the same old bars.
Most “date night” ideas for boring marrieds like us tend to prioritize food or drink. I’m deeply dedicated to both of those things, but there’s something to be said for experiencing something new—and dare I say, healthy?—together. So, we came up with a formula: physical activity + corresponding food item + embarrassingly corny name. (That last part is non-negotiable. It’s crucial to making the whole thing work, especially if rhyme or alliteration is invoked. Why do you think “Taco Tuesday” is such a thing?)
Enter: “Noodle Night.” What started as a jokey way to reward ourselves for going to a yoga class turned into one of my favorite ways to spend an evening together. And, as cheesy as it sounds, having a couple of go-to, pre-planned activities like Noodle Night offer us a way of not just setting aside time to spend with one another, but also a way of doing that with intention: in other words, Noodle Night and its ilk have ever-so-slightly lowered our odds of spending a free weeknight evening or Sunday afternoon together by binge-watching Frasier yet again.
From yoga and pho to rock climbing and bagels, here are a few ideas for dates that go a little beyond the literal implications of Netflix and chill:
Rocks ‘n Lox
Wall Crawler Rock Club has been an institution in Candler Park for two decades. The 8,000-square-foot climbing gym is like an indoor playground, and you don’t have to have experience summiting Half Dome to enjoy it, either. Beginners are totally welcome, the space offers climbing options for all levels, and the staff is really great about helping newbies like me get situated with gear, which you can inexpensively rent on the spot. (Speaking of pricing: a day pass is $15 per person.) Oh, and they’re also conveniently located next door to Candler Park brunch favorite Radial Cafe, which makes it a no-brainer to cap off a morning of rock climbing with a lox bagel and Bloody Mary. If you’d prefer to make this more of a date night, Radial also serves dinner from Thursday through Saturday, and Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q is right down the road. Hit the gym on a Monday evening for half off the intro course.
Pick a beginner-friendly, deep stretch restorative yoga class. Preferably something that involves minimal effort. I’m partial to Form Yoga’s Thursday night “Stretch It Out” class, because it takes place in the dark, it’s a nice way to cap off the week, and also because (full disclosure) my sister often teaches it. Then, after an hour of rolling around in a cozy, chilled-out environment, find a nearby noodle spot. Ours is Soba in East Atlanta Village. Why noodles? Simple: be the noodle, then eat the noodle. Corny, yes, but don’t say I didn’t warn y’all.
The Sunday Scramble
In hiking parlance, a scramble typically involves a stretch of steep, loose terrain that requires both your hands and feet for ascent. In breakfast parlance, a scramble usually involves something a little less labor-intensive. The Sunday Scramble combines the best of both worlds. (Don’t worry, the metro area’s relatively gentle hiking terrain doesn’t usually involve an actual scramble.) And a good hike is the perfect justification for indulging in a greasy breakfast fry-up. My personal favorite? A scrambled egg biscuit at the Mt. Paran Country Store, which is a stone’s throw from the 6.5-mile West Palisades Loop trail.
Squats and Brats
Weightlifting is enjoying a new and well-deserved moment in the sun, and you don’t need to be Arnold Schwarzenegger to do it. You’ll see proof of this at Atlanta Barbell, where people of all shapes, sizes, and ages gather to get stronger in a low-key, unintimidating environment. If you already know a thing or two about lifting form, you can snag a $20 drop-in pass and have free reign of the equipment; if you need a crash course or refresher, the gym offers strength-training classes and coaching packages. Afterward, celebrate your newfound gains and enjoy some post-workout protein with a smoked pork brat at Doggy Dogg or a sausage plate at Decatur’s Brick Store Pub. (Can beer count as a post-workout drink? I’m going with yes.)