(Phatforums News/ Match.com) - Life post-Memorial Day isn’t just great because of vacation-house shares and the freedom to wear white at will. “Summer is the best time to date, because all that sunshine lifts your mood,” says Katherin Scott, a dating coach in Snoqualmie, WA and founder of www.makinglovework4u.com. So it makes sense that taking advantage of the weather will be more satisfying than sticking to your year-round romance routine of coffee dates, movies which prevent you from talking to each other and repeated restaurant outings. “Being in a new environment helps you focus on the person you’re with instead of going on dating autopilot,” says Scott. That’s precisely why we’ve cultivated this list of nine super-fun, super-romantic ideas from couples’ experts around the country. Try these ideas and we probably won’t be hearing from you again until after Labor Day.
1. Be a social climber
After a few good dates with a new person, it might be time to take the next step together. And by “next step” we mean the “next several thousand steps — up a trail.” Hikes are great, notes Connie Magee, co-owner of Outdoor Bound (www.outdoorbound.com), a New York-area excursion operator that leads singles trips, “because you don’t need any special skills. You just show up with your lunch. Compared to sitting at a restaurant, moving around and surveying the environment dissipates tension and gives you way more to talk about.”
Plus, there’s a romance perk: Studies have shown that people feel more comfortable opening up when they’re not making constant eye contact, so any date that has you side-by-side instead of staring across a table at each other will pump up your communication.
2. Date with strings attached
There’s an inexpensive way to find out if your date has a sense of humor, a patient nature, a hair-trigger temper, a crazy competitive streak or a genuine love of fun. Sounds great, right? Here’s the deal: Scott swears by the dollar kites you can get at any grocery or toy store. “Find a park or a beach on a day with wind and let loose,” she says. “It’s so fun seeing how people react to their success (or lack thereof) with a kite, and if it gets caught in a tree, who cares?!”
3. Live out a legend
If you’ve ever read online profiles, you know there are piles of people who swear their hobbies include “walks along the beach” — but how many of them actually do that?! Well, now’s a good time to live out the cliché in all its glory. Suggest a stroll along the seashore — or lake, or riverbed, or whatever body of water is near you. “This activity feels really personal and sends the message that you want to get to know your date with no distractions,” says Rorri Green, relationship consultant and former president of Get the Girl in Chicago. “And since the water is calming, you lose a lot of those date jitters and inhibitions.”
4. Give a dog a… bath?!
Proud parents of canine-Americans know how badly their pets need a bath after a long day of playing in the woods. (Or just to help get rid of that summer shedding fur.) If you’re seeing a fellow dog lover, work that extra step into your date by finding a business where you can wash your (or your date’s) dog yourself or head home together to tackle the task.
“Bathing a dog together is a great way to get to know someone and break the touch barrier while still being totally casual,” says Sheryl Matthys, co-founder of Leashes and Lovers (leashesandlovers.com), which offers singles events for dog owners in New York City. “You’re both getting wet and having fun, and people naturally let their guards down when they’re dealing with animals.” Plus, nothing’s sexier than seeing someone summon his or her parenting instincts to benefit your beloved pup.
5. Get jazzed about each other
Lawn concerts are a summer staple, and hitting one with your date is the perfect chance to set off some sparks. “Choose some relaxing music, like jazz or classical,” says Green, who cites several pluses to this endeavor. “There’s great energy, you’re sitting closer than you would if you just had dinner together, and since it’s at night, everyone looks better.” The music gives you your own personal soundtrack as you two talk quietly about everything imaginable — and it offers a pleasant distraction when the conversation falls into a natural lull. Check your local paper’s entertainment listings for details on a show that could make your next date magic.
6. Float away together
If you ever thought the idea of taking a hot-air balloon ride together was corny, consider this: “When you get that kind of scared feeling of being up so high, it’s similar to the sexual tension you feel when you’re attracted to someone,” says Scott. “It’s one of the best suggestions for a couple to try within their first three dates, because it can really nudge along the attraction.” Convinced? We thought so. Just search online for your hometown plus “hot-air balloon rides” to find a floater near you.
7. Fall in love rapidly
From lolling along on a placid river to braving class V whitewater, hitting the wet stuff together is a great way to peek into your date’s personality. “Whitewater rafting requires teamwork and communication and can be a little bit stressful,” says Magee. “You not only bond, you learn a lot about another person.” For a super-ambient twist, join a group that’s going for post-sunset rafting under the moonlight.
8. Just bag it
One of the cutest ways to make any outing (from a zoo visit to a day trip) sweeter is by bringing along a picnic lunch. So toss your homemade specialty and some pieces of fruit in your cooler or stop by your favorite spot for a few sandwiches to go. “It’s a great way to give the guy a break from always paying for meals out,” says Scott. “It also lets the woman do the nurturing thing for your date, which is both enjoyable for you and endearing to the person you’re serving.”
9. Get in the driver’s seat
Sure, you’ve heard about that cool sushi/Moroccan/eat-with-your-hands joint a few towns over, but are you ever actually in the area? Solution: head there with a person you dig for a guaranteed memorable date. “Rent a convertible and drive to a restaurant that’s 50 miles away,” says Green. It’s adding to the cost of a really nice dinner, sure, but like the ads say: Feeling the wind in your hair, sharing the fun of a mini-road trip, and tasting the adventure of city-hopping “just because” is priceless.
Caitlin Ascolese is a freelance writer in New York City.