21 Fun Date Ideas That Belong on Your Summer Bucket List (From Friendly to Flirty!)

published May 21, 2024
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Positive and happy girls walking on the city street with bicycles. Female friends enjoying a walking down the street with their bikes.
Credit: Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

As the sun lingers longer (and nights get warmer) during this time of year, it’s time to think outside of the box when it comes to summer date ideas. That means everything from spending quality time in nature to sipping a thirst-quenching, homemade farmers market cocktail. And don’t mistake the word “date” — these activities are great for anyone, from romantic partners to friends, and even solo adventurers.

Grab a pen and paper (or your Notes app), because you’ll want to keep this list of 21 fun summer dates handy when deciding on your next outing.

1. Spend a romantic evening under the stars.

Rent a telescope (usually available to rent for free through your local library with a library card, depending on where you live!) and find a secluded spot in nature to stargaze. Download a stargazing app to your phone like Sky Guide or Night Sky and see how many constellations you can find together!

2. Embark on a mystery road trip.

Flip a coin with every turn to set your course; see where you end up and explore a new area for the day. You could end up in a charming, sleepy little beach town or venture into a nearby metropolitan area — either way, you’ll have an epic road trip for the books.

3. Cuddle up with a DIY movie theater.

Set up a projector in your backyard or living room and have a movie night with a new film (or a beloved favorite) and a makeshift fort of blankets. You can find budget-friendly projectors on Amazon — just add popcorn and you’re all set for a cozy night in.

Credit: DC Studio/Shutterstock

4. Peruse your local farmers market. 

Picture this: The sun’s shining on a warm Saturday morning, you picked out the perfect summer outfit, and the farmers market is bustling with people and vendors in every direction. But before you get there, curate your dream cocktail made of (mostly) farmers market ingredients. Then, pick up what you need, and head home to make and sip on your farm-to-glass creation.

5. Volunteer for a beach or trail cleanup.

Feeling philanthropic? Participate in a local beach or trail cleanup. It’s a great way to see how well you and your date work together while enjoying some fresh air and leaving the environment a little cleaner than you found it.

6. Cheers to happy hour on a rooftop.

Find your city’s hidden gem happy hour — but the catch is that it has to be at a rooftop bar. (Why? Because it’s summer!) Make this rooftop happy hour a monthly (or weekly, or biweekly — that’s your prerogative!) summer tradition with this twist on the usual “dinner and drinks” type of date night.

7. Hike to a waterfall, natural swimming pool, or hot spring.

If you’re in an area where you can do so, plan a hike with your date and cool off from that summer heat with a refreshing swim in the natural pool or hot spring.

8. Create art together.

Spend a day on your patio or in a park creating a piece of art together, whether it’s painting, sculpture, or a digital project. Bonus points if your city has a secondhand art store where you can give old, discarded items a new life!

9. Go horseback riding together.

Escape on horseback this summer with a date that’s made for a fairy-tale book. Saddle up and discover the magic of meandering through sunlit paths, lush fields, or winding trails through your local horseback riding outfitter. 

Credit: Photo: Jason Rampe; Food Styling: Amelia Rampe

10. Have a s’mores making competition. 

S’mores, a classic bonfire staple, are forever synonymous with summer. Gather around a cozy fire or a tabletop s’more maker (or, hey, your gas stovetop) and see who can get creative with their toasting skills. Whether you stick with the classic recipe or venture into new flavor territories, the challenge will certainly ignite the evening.

11. Savor a nighttime beach or lakeside picnic.

Nothing screams romance like a perfectly curated picnic basket to enjoy under the glow of the moonlight (not to mention: the privacy!). Bring blankets and a portable speaker, then watch the water glisten with each passing wave.

Credit: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

12. Set off on a quest to find the best mocktail in town.

Cocktails may be timeless, but mocktails are capturing the hearts of Gen Zers, leading to a boom in creative, zero-proof offerings at restaurants. Why not make your next date a quest to find the best mocktail in your city?

13. Paddle out for a full moon kayaking excursion.

Go kayaking at night, preferably during a full moon for ample lighting and plain awe. The water and surroundings take on a whole new persona after dark. Don’t forget your headlamps!

14. Attend an after-hours event at your local zoo, museum, or aquarium.

During the summer, many local museums, zoos, and aquariums will host special after-hours events — some for those that are 21 and over. Whether it’s a craft fair, sip-and-stroll, silent disco, or something else, they’re a unique way to enjoy these normally daytime attractions with your date.

15. Try an extreme sport.

For a dose of adrenaline on your summer date, try parasailing or skydiving to share spectacular aerial views. Or, opt for water skiing or wakeboarding to enjoy some high-speed excitement on the water.

Credit: Kiersten Hickman

16. Make pasta from scratch.

Take cooking a meal together to new heights by skipping the dried pasta in a box and opting to make fresh spaghetti or pappardelle together. Pair it with a bottle of wine and Spotify’s “Italian Cooking Music” playlist, and you have yourself an idyllic summer date straight out of your favorite rom-com.

17. Have a backyard or living room glamping “getaway.”

If you’re a bit more “outsidesy” than you are “outdoorsy,” transform your backyard or living room into a cozy glamping retreat for an epic summer date night. Set up a tent, drape some fairy lights above you, and pile up plush cushions for a taste of camping — minus some of the disadvantages of being totally vulnerable in nature. 

18. Challenge yourselves to a scavenger hunt.

Create your own or find a company in your area that you can register for, like Urban Adventure Quest — or try Apartment Therapy’s scavenger hunt in your own city. Up the ante and make it a photo scavenger hunt to help the memories last even longer.

Credit: antoniodiaz/Shutterstock

19. Treat yourselves to a day of pampering.

From unique cryo-treatments to pedicures (perfect for sandal season!) or DIY face masks at home, treating yourselves to any level of pampering together is the ultimate way to relax, rejuvenate, and bond with your date.

20. Start a summer book club for two.

It’s a date that can have many chapters! Find a feel-good, rom-com novel (or a genre you both enjoy), preferably set in the summertime and sit down for an intimate, two-person book club meeting over drinks or dinner.

21. Have an at-home oyster night.

Head to your local grocer and snag a variety of oysters for an affordable way to enjoy these ocean delicacies. To step it up a notch, prepare them in a variety of ways: on the half shell served with mignonette, oysters Rockefeller, barbecued — the kitchen is literally your oyster. 

I’ve gotten into the habit of partaking in what I call “Oyster Friday” on an almost weekly basis with my boyfriend (we often take advantage of Whole Foods’ 12 for $12 oysters on Fridays). I know what you’re thinking: “It’s summer, and I’m nervous about eating oysters.” Rest assured, that myth has been busted.