It doesn’t look like the pandemic is going away any time soon, which means socially distanced first (and second, and third?) dates are sticking around, too.

Here’s to more aimless walks around the neighborhood, awkwardly dodging maskless people while trying to answer questions like, “So what do you do for fun these days?”

Or, you could get more creative. In some ways, it’s the creativity of pandemic dating that may actually improve your chances of finding someone you want to be with long-term.

“People are getting to know each other better because you have to take a more thoughtful approach to dating,” says Kristi D. Price, a local dating coach and matchmaker. “You have to think through a date idea together, and if you’re doing something socially distanced, that means taking the ‘When do we have sex?’ and ‘Who pays for the meal?’ distractions off the table.”

Sure, date planning won’t be as simple as suggesting your favorite restaurant or dive bar. (Unless it’s miraculously open with outdoor seating, and both parties are comfortable with the idea. And you’re each sitting at your own table to truly social distance.) But once you come to accept that, you can learn to embrace the fun in trying something different.

Here are a few socially distance ideas — use them as inspiration to create your own.

A meal al fresco, on your own blankets

Picnics are a classic. And given that 2020 is the year of socially distanced picnics, you’d be remiss not to plan one.

BYOB — that goes for booze and blankets — and find a quiet park where you can spread out for the evening. Add candles to set the mood. Make it a citronella flame, one for both you and your date, to keep the bugs at bay.

Then think about other simple touches to make the experience feel special, whether bringing fresh-cut flowers or a Polaroid camera to capture a few picnic snaps.

Be sure to discuss mask-wearing and sharing food in advance, both new outdoor dining challenges that require open communication. Do you and your date feel comfortable removing your masks to eat and drink? (If not, there are other date options below.) If you decide to share food, choose items that are easy to portion from a distance, like prewrapped sandwiches, and bring your own cup, cutlery, and hand sanitizer.

Your favorite restaurant together, over Zoom

So you think you may have found the fellow foodie of your dreams, but, you know, COVID-19. If you’re both feeling a little hesitant to meet in person, try a Zoom dinner first.

Ask your date to share their favorite restaurant, or suggest your own, and then order from the same place. If you want to go above and beyond, offer to take turns purchasing delivery, and place two orders, one that goes to the address of your date. (Don’t be offended if your date declines. Not everyone wants to share a home address before meeting in person. But if your date accepts, add a surprise dessert to the order.)

Dining from the same spot detracts from some of the awkwardness of a virtual dinner by creating a common denominator. You can both discuss your meal, almost as if you were at the restaurant, shifting the focus to the food. Get to know each other one meal at a time, alternating restaurants until you’re ready to meet.

An outdoor movie screening — or make your own

Drive-in movies are making a comeback. There are a dozen within driving distance from Philadelphia where you can pull up with your date, in separate cars, and enjoy a film together. To avoid conversation through rolled-down windows, bring lawn chairs to camp out front of your cars. Afterward, stick around to discuss the movie.

If you have a spacious yard, make your own outdoor theater. With a projector and a white sheet, you can create a more intimate experience where the movie choice is yours. The sheet serves as the “TV screen,” which you’ll attach to an exterior wall of your house (or a homemade frame). Projectors can cost well over $1,000, but there are budget options, such as the $120 Vankyo Leisure 430, recommended by Consumer Reports. To get watching, you’ll also need a DVD player or streaming device, like Roku or Chromecast, which you’ll plug into the projector.

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Almost time for the show

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A low-risk sport

Exercise releases endorphins that make us happier. Why not share that with another person? Plus, we could all use a little extra playfulness right now.

Singles tennis, frisbee, kicking a soccer ball, and playing catch are all considered low risk, says Dr. Eric Sachinwalla, medical director of Infection Prevention Control for Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia.

“Going for bike rides is probably fine, also. You just need to make sure you’re maintaining distance during stops, like at lights or when you’re getting together to start and end the ride,” says Sachinwalla.

If you prefer not to get too sweaty, try a yard game, like paddle ball, croquet, or Wiffle Ball. If nothing else, these games are bound to get you and your date laughing together. Just make sure to bring some hand sanitizer along for post game play.

A joint playlist for a listening party

If you both dig similar music, suggest making a collaborative playlist. Music service Spotify makes this easy, allowing you to create and share playlists that your friends, or date, can add to and rearrange. Once it’s complete, schedule a time to listen together, whether virtually or at a park. If you’re feeling bold, be sure to mix in a few tunes that’ll encourage you to distance dance.

More than a handful of locations across the area offer canoe and kayak rentals, inviting you to paddle on the rivers that run right through Philadelphia and along some of the region's most majestic waterways.
GRACE DICKINSON / STAFF
More than a handful of locations across the area offer canoe and kayak rentals, inviting you to paddle on the rivers that run right through Philadelphia and along some of the region's most majestic waterways.

Paddle boarding and kayaking

For an adventure, consider kayaking. Social distancing is easy when you rent your own boats, and there are places to do so all across the region. Most rental shops remain open. Some offer paddleboarding options, too. Call ahead to find out about any new safety protocols, and research nearby parks for an optional post-paddle hangout.