Iowa is a beautiful place, but let’s face it: winter here can be brutal.
Ice, snow, and 30-below windchills are not for the faint of heart! It can be tempting to just hibernate until spring. However, for people in recovery from substance use, that can have its own challenges (hello, boredom = hello, cravings).
Despite the cold outside, there are many awesome things to do that likely won’t cause frostbite. While any date can be done without including alcohol or other substances, some are more entertaining than others.
1. Concert/Live Music
This one can be tricky. Many (especially larger, commercially-sponsored) concerts are overflowing with alcohol and illegal substances. Nonetheless, there are many alcohol-free venues, college campuses, and smaller clubs that have great established and new talent performing. Just think, the act you listen to this weekend could be on the radio next year and playing to arenas the year after that—and you heard them for free (or a small cover charge) and sat close enough to touch the stage? You don’t need alcohol or anything else to know that’s a great story to tell!
2. Try a New Restaurant/Cuisine
For a rural state whose claim to fame is corn and pigs, we have a wide variety of ethnic food choices. Even in your smaller communities, you can easily find Italian, Asian, Mexican, or other cuisine from around the world. Try that rustic Algerian place along the river. Brave the heat of Indian curry. Enjoy noodles and creamy sweet tea at the Thai restaurant in the next town.
Worst case scenario? You both dislike it and end up with a frozen pizza at home. But you learned something and stepped outside your comfort zone—together.
3. Cultural Exhibits or Museums
I know what you’re thinking: “boring!” Hear me out. The advantage to dating while sober is that you don’t have a substance blurring your thought processes. You can communicate better. Going to a museum or exhibit dedicated to a passion or interest of one (or both) of you can be a learning experience about each other! You will be surprised at the amount of history Iowa holds in its local museums.
Art exhibitions and galleries on small college campuses are also a great—and generally free—idea. They will often have guest speakers or special exhibits with cultural references where you can learn more about the story behind what’s being shown.
4. Comedy/Magic Night
Comedians are great entertainment when you’re sober and can understand their jokes. Again, these shows can be found on college campuses—where substance use is usually kept to a minimum as few on-campus venues will risk the underage laws and security is more vigilant about illegal substances. The smaller venues are more fun for a comedy show as well, because the comedian can interact with the audience more easily and everyone gets drawn into the set.
The same criteria apply to magicians. Up-close magic tricks are always more entertaining, and volunteers are often used. Own your potential 15 seconds of fame.
5. Take a Class Together
On any given night, within driving distance of a majority of Iowa towns, there is someone teaching. Painting, cooking, dancing, yoga, building crafts, woodworking, or even music can be learned together—or as part of a larger group. Whether it’s a one-off class to paint a vase of daisies or a 6-week course to play the ukulele, it’s a night spent together with something to show for your time at the end! Win-win!
6. Coffee Shop Date
Even if you’re not a fan of the caffeinated bean-water, most coffee shops have a variety of tasty options like flavored teas, steamed milk, hot cocoa, or spiced cider. While you’re there, you might get lucky and see local artwork. There may even be a live band or open mic night showcasing solo talent. Maybe a local hypnotist, magician, or comedian is making the rounds entertaining tables for tips. If not, your hands get warm around a steaming cup and you get to spend one-on-one in a dim, cozy booth with someone.
Okay, we’re going old-school here. This is teen date 101, but it’s classic. The genre and film choices are limited only by what’s available. Want a price-saving tip? Your smaller communities will generally have the lower ticket prices or run specials on certain times and days. Some may even show old movies or indie films and documentaries on occasion so there’s that “something outside-the-box” again.
8. Sporting Event
There are so many options to this one. From local high school games and meets to college and university-level or even semi-pro. Iowa has at my count (thank you, Wikipedia) 22 team sports at the semi/pro level across the state including football, basketball, baseball, soccer, hockey, and volleyball. While there is likely alcohol going to be present at the higher-level games, most of your colleges and universities do not allow it so there is less temptation if that was your substance of choice.
9. Arcade or Indoor Fun Center
Feel like a kid again, together. Arcades are like taking all the fun and chance of the county fair midway games, putting them inside, and removing the creepy carnival workers yelling at you. It’s the best of both worlds. Challenge your date to a Pac-Man duel or see who can win the biggest prize at skee-ball. Maybe even find out who’s got the sweetest dance moves or who’s a real guitar “hero”!
If video games or pinball aren’t your thing, there are many options for laser tag, indoor sport fun, or even rock climbing. There are even indoor aquatic centers for the couples looking to become fish for an evening or lazing around a “lazy river” on an inner-tube.
Last, but not least. As with the classes, this can be a one-off date or you can join a league (together or individually) and make this a recurring “date night”. Go mano-a-mano or invite friends along to share in the fun. Guys vs gals or couple vs couple, everyone wins when you have a night of competitive fun completely sober and can safely drive home afterwards.
Enjoy the One You’re With
The important part of a date night isn’t what you do, but who you’re with. Taking the time to be with someone shows them you care. All of these activities lead to great conversation (yes, even the movie—you get to discuss it afterwards) and learning about each other. Whether you’re just starting out with date number one or you’re going on year 50 of marriage, there is always something to learn about people because we are forever changing, evolving, and growing.
Embrace this stage of your life—this clean and sober life—by discovering all the things you didn’t realize about yourself.