Whether you’re a transplant or have lived your entire life in Raleigh, date nights can seem stale and insignificant in our state’s capital. With a little exploration, you can expect nothing but a good time for you and your significant other. I’m serving up some fun date ideas in Raleigh!
Boxcar is a bar and arcade in the Warehouse District. Play some classic 80s and modern arcade games and scope out how your date reacts to winning and losing. Or in my case, how they react to how much I like to win! Please don’t get Boxcar confused with Dave and Busters. At Boxcar, you can get games, live music, tournaments, craft beers, and a full bar all with the local feel of Raleigh! This place gets jam-packed weekend nights, so I like to hit it up Saturday afternoons for a little day drinking. Pro tip: the games scores are reset daily, so it’s easy to impress your date by getting your name listed in the top 10.
2. Rialto Theater
The Rialto Theater is a staple in Raleigh! It’s one of the oldest theaters in Raleigh, having been open since 1942. Those new fancy-smanshy movie theaters are great and all, but nothing beats watching a film in a historical cinema as one of the best date ideas in Raleigh. The Rialto plays new films, classics, indies, and foreign films with beer and wine at concessions! Before you embarrass yourself and whip out your card to pay for you and your date, note this is a cash-only cinema.
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Monday at the Movies is the place to be! THE GODFATHER happening now! Next up: BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S on 2/19 and THE DEER HUNTER on 3/19! Tickets available at our box office any time we are open. #rialtoraleigh #historicrialtotheatre #mondayatthemovies #thegodfather #thanksforyoursupport
3. Father and Son
While you and your date might not be in the market for a midcentury modern coffee table, you two could spend the afternoon spanning the three floors of Father and Son. This retro and vintage thrift shop located downtown is the home to the most unique finds in Raleigh. Bring your camera along for cool photo ops in the store, try on some funky fits, or sift through a huge collection of vinyl. My Father and Son date ended with us buying a $3 record of a band we’d never heard of, then going back to my place to groove.
4. North Carolina Museum of Art
The North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) is one of the classic date ideas in Raleigh opportunity! It has free admission to view its permanent collection and certain exhibits. It also features super cool exhibitions that cost a little extra but they’re always worth it. The outside of the museum has walking trails and huge art installations along the way. If you want to experience something really cool, the restaurant located inside the museum, Iris, is now doing ‘Iris After Dark’ every Friday night during typical museum after hours. Beginning at 5:30 p.m. the resultant serves up delicious small plates, paired with musicians and DJs. When summertime rolls around the museum also does outdoor movie nights and concerts where you can pack a picnic for underneath the stars. This is definitely one of the more romantic date ideas in Raleigh!
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We love this #MuseumMatching picture of Instagram user @e_lyonswoodphoto standing in front of “The Raising of Lazarus,” from 1585–1590, by Domenico Tintoretto. . Do you have a great picture of you matching a piece of art in the NMCA? We’d love to see it! We pick our favorite visitor photo and share it every Tuesday, so be sure to share it and tag us @ncartmuseum or use #NCMAgram!
5. Neptunes Parlour
Hidden underneath Kings, Neptunes is a glorious dive bar downtown. It seems Raleigh is constantly popping up with posh bars and restaurants, so sometimes it’s fun to dance your butt off while drinking cheap beer. If beer isn’t your thing, there’s a full bar that will judge you if you ask for “the lowest shelf tequila.” Don’t hesitate to check out their calendar beforehand to plan a proper date where you can catch live music or a comedy show.
6. Watch the sun set at Hunt Library
We can’t continue dating unless you can sit back and watch the sunset with me. Raleigh is home to many beautiful sunsets. However, it can be difficult to find a great spot with a view. What’s worked for me is driving to the top of the parking decks near Hunt Library on NC States Centennial campus. There’s typically no one else up there, so you shouldn’t have a hard time finding the perfect parking spot. Impress your date by having a groovy playlist already queued and ready to go. This is one of the easiest and most spontaneous date ideas in Raleigh that you can whip out whenever! If you’re a little more romantic feel free to plan ahead with a blanket, snacks, or maybe some literature.
If you’re a boy and we’ve dated, we’ve definitely gone here. And by ‘boy’, I mean literally anyone I’ve ever known! I don’t mean to sound dramatic but Gonza’s nachos are the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth within city limits. Let me break these bad boys down for you. The tortilla chips are topped with your choice of meat or beans. I get refried, which is their vegetarian option, queso fresco, pico de gallo, guac, and Mexican cream which is a mixture of sour cream and sugar. You know when you get to the bottom of the nachos and there are dry tortilla chips? Well, not at Gonza! Get this- they fill the bottom of the bowl with hot queso so even when you’re nearing the end there’s more! It’s the perfect combination of delicate spice, freshness, and originality. It’s a great dish for sharing but if you’re still hungry, ask what they’re serving for dessert! You won’t be disappointed.
8. Thrift shop arts and crafts
I know I mentioned thrifting before, but this is a different kind of thrifting date. This recommendation from the list date ideas in Raleigh was inspired by both Raleigh’s ample thrift shops and the most perfect couple tweet by comedian Zach Fox. Go to one of your favorite Raleigh thrift stores such as Salvation Army, Goodwill, or Bargain Box with the mission to find a painting you can give new life. Pick up some paint and brushes on the way home and see where the creative juices take you! You don’t have to be artsy for this date, it’s something silly and fun to do together.
I got this giraffe painting from a yard sale and my gf asked me to "freshen it up a bit" pic.twitter.com/riLmqLQY1t
— Zachary Fox (@zackfox) January 3, 2018
9. Trivia Night at the Flying Saucer Draught Emporium
Find out more than you needed to know about your partner at the Flying Saucers dirty Trivia Nights on Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m.. This can be paired with a couple of beers and ciders off their extensive menu. If you’d rather not find out so soon if you’re dating a shroud or a deviant, join the 7 p.m. game for regular trivia. I would recommend offering both regular and dirty trivia as options before selecting dirty trivia and coming off as a creep. Oh my gosh, am I a creep?
10. The Ultimate Date- Sunday Brunch
Two very important things here. First, please note it is not brunching unless it is on a Sunday. The term brunch originated in the late 19th century England for “Saturday-night carousers,” or the people that were having a good night the night before that couldn’t quite make breakfast. It was to “promote human happiness in other ways as well.” Therefore, brunch deserves all the hype it gets! Don’t fight me on this. Second, if you’re asking someone to or being asked to brunch, it’s a big deal. You don’t ask just anyone to meet you at 11 a.m. on a Sunday morning. If you’re not ready to send serious I’m-into-you-vibes, don’t go to brunch. If you are ready, you better take them to Taza Kitchen in Cameron Village. While they don’t offer bottomless mimosas, their food selection has great range without being overwhelming. I go there frequently there and can recommend the breakfast pizza with 1-3 mimosas.