Everyone has there go-to spot for the perfect first date. It could be a chic little French restaurant that serves the best fondue for two, or a coffee shop if you like your interactions easily escapable, or maybe it's just a scenic walk feeding swans by the lake and figuring out what emotional damage they’re hiding from you.
Most of us reuse that ideal first date, rinsing and repeating for every new suitor. But when you’re dating the same person over and over you can’t rehash that one spot. My partner and I have been together for over a decade, which means I don't need to suss out his red flags and he doesn't need to woo me into the bed I already share with him, but an active dating life is still key to a happy relationship.
And yet, over the ten years we’ve been together, we've done them all. The mundane cinema trips, the picnics in the park, and even the dire bowling nights. So now (like an old couple desperately getting weirder and weirder in the bedroom), if something is going to tear us away from a take away and bingeing our latest box set, the date better be worth it.
So here are the best unusual date nights in London not for the first date but the 500th, because who said you need to stop dating when you settle down?
1. Cemetery tour
Best for: the morbidly curious
A tour of a cemetery might not sound like your typical romantic activity, but nothing makes you want to stay together more than the fear of dying alone. Besides, while graveyards are portrayed as scary ghoul-filled locations in films, in reality they're one of the only places where all you see is love. The stones are covered in superlatives about the best husbands and the kindest wives highlighting the importance of connections and the loved ones you leave behind. Brompton Cemetery is one of my favourites because you can pay your respects to Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the suffragettes, and then Luisa Casati whose extravagant parties and iconic style has inspired everyone from Dior to McQueen — two women that help set my standards to my partner.
Price: Tours are £5 (keep your eye out for tours of the catacombs too)
2. Novelty Automation
Best for: the satire lovers
This strange satirical arcade is tucked away in Holborn and is as delightfully entertaining as it is bizarre. Each game is concocted from the strange mind of cartoonist and engineer Tim Hunkin, who made many of the games by hand himself. We spent 40 minutes playing the games which involved flying a paparazzi drone into a celebrity mansion, being illegally frisked, controlling a game of ping-pong by bicycle, and letting an art expert decide whether our goods were art or not. We even played ‘divorce’ the game which (spoiler) resulted in everything including the family dog getting ripped in half — a good warning for all couples. This arcade is not for the gamer looking for fast powered graphics but the kind of person that likes to feel smug when they get a pub quiz question right (definitely me).
Price: free to enter but you’ll want £20 of tokens between two of you.
Best for: the artsy couple
Remember that romantic scene from Ghost, with the clay, Patrick Swayze and Unchained Melody? Well, this is nothing like that. Gashtray describes itself as handmade educational ceramics and was started by Hani Dresner. Their most renowned works are their namesake: ash trays that look like vulvas, but they also do nip cups, penis vases and even necklaces emblazoned with the word ‘perv’. Crucially, they host events which are perfect for the couple who thinks they’ve done it all. As well as vulva sculpting and taboo-busting sex-ed, they offer mixed workshops like their upcoming Clay with Bae, a life drawing and clay sculpting workshop. There's no better way to show your partner how much you appreciate them than by having them be your model and muse; turning their body into a permanent piece of art to display in your home. Just note: good intentions don't always translate to artistic skill, so don't be offended if you’re reclining sculpture comes out as more Jabba the Hutt than Burt Reynolds. The intention is what counts.
Price: From £33
4. Taste film
Best for: the film buffs
Taste film combines two of my favourite things: great film and great food. This immersive dining experience lets you eat along with a classic movie while each dish is inspired by the scene you're watching. I’ve had muscle pasta while Julia Roberts played with her ‘slippery little sucker’ in Pretty Woman, I’ve eaten an ‘I’m sorry carrot cake’ while Kristen Wiig gave an identical one to her boo in Bridesmaids, and my boyfriend fed me a bite of his pie while Christian Slater pulled the same move in True Romance. The events are often hosted at Parlour where the food is fantastic, but if you're the kind of person that likes complete uninterrupted silence in their films it might not be for you. Instead it’s best experienced not with a film you’ve never seen but with a favourite you could watch over and over and can’t wait to taste beside your leading lady/man.
Price: from £75
5. Drag King night
Best for: lovers of comedy
Drag queens have for a long time been on our televisions, our magazines, our bottomless brunches, but their counterpart, Drag Kings, have traditionally garnered far less attention, but not for long. Drag Kings shows are on the rise and there's no better way to spend an evening. While you might be familiar with fabulous fellas donning heels, it’s time to get to know the incredible kings, adding facial hair, mullets and even some impressive six packs for your entertainment. Whether you're looking for comedy, or epic dance performances, there's a king for everyone and, of course, they’ve got some great names too. Shivani Dave becomes Dishi Sumac, a Rishi-inspired King, and, Jodie Mitchel becomes John Truvulva, a hilarious Glaswegian comic. This Christmas you can feast your eyes and ears on six incredible kings at Soho Theatre as Pecsmas returns from December 12-22, promising a big queermas cabaret. And to be honest if your partner doesn't enjoy the show it’s such a red flag you should dump him immediately.
Price: from £13
6. Chess boxing
Best for: sporty intellectuals
Chessboxing feels like a sport invented in a fever dream, but we’re here for it. Two competitors go up against each other in both chess and boxing, playing each interchangeably. They battle on the board and slug it out in the ring with the winner being the first person to checkmate their opponent or deliver a KO. There are ring girls holding up the round and the chess is narrated in the same fashion as the boxing. The events can become incredibly tense, especially when it becomes clear that each competitor is slightly better in the alternate field and there's a race to win on your turf before the round is over. After bickering over little annoyances with your partner, it’s good to go see what a real fight looks like.
Price: from £20
7. Butchery & Barbecue masterclass
Best for: the meat eaters
The ideal date is one that also improves your partner, which is why Temper’s butchery and barbecue masterclass is the perfect night to add to your calendar. Temper are masters of meat and now you can become their apprentice (or force your other half to become one). After learning all things beef and watching a live butchery demonstration, you’re then rewarded by tasting your new knowledge in action with an indulgent three-course lunch, which includes steak, sausages, brisket, cheeseburger tacos, and beef-fat fries (if it wasn't already obvious this probably isn't one for the vegetarians). There’s a reason this isn't a first date recommendation because there’ll be no funny business after all that food, rather expect a glorious slovenly afternoon of engorged snuggles and meat sweats.
Price: from £100
8. The London Zoo
Best for: the young at heart
The Zoo is completely wasted on children. Recently I visited and watched a child 'ooh' and 'ahh' in captive amazement, his eyes lit up as he tried to get closer and touch the majestic animal… he was staring at a pigeon. Before then I hadn't visited since I was a kid and I’d forgotten just how incredible it is. Many of the animals like lemurs and monkeys aren't even behind glass or cages, but just wander in front of you like a scene from Madagascar. Don't wait until you have kids and your trip is a terrible day of negotiating them away from the gift shop and carrying them when they get too tired. Instead, go now on a date where you can fully appreciate it all. Regress together and get your face painted while you down large sugary drinks and run around comparing each other to the animals — maybe you’re a sloth in the kitchen but a tiger in the bedroom.
Price: from £27
9. TT-Liquor’s tasting class
Best for: the drinkers
Set in the converted cells of a Victorian police station, these tasting sessions are fun and intimate with strangers quickly getting chummy as the alcohol flows. And, boy, does the alcohol flow. I’m sure I learnt a lot during the two-hour session but unfortunately very little has stuck with me given the quality and quantity of the pours. There’s rum, gin, whisky, beer, and agave to choose from, but be warned, if you’re taking your partner to try and win them over to your preferred tipple you may be disappointed. I watched a distraught man wince as his girlfriend merged two single malt whiskeys together and then asked for a diet coke to mix it with.
Price: from £65
10. Hot martinis in a Winter Garden
Best for: the snugglers
Navigating decisions can be the hardest part of dating in a relationship: where to go, what to drink, the endless back-and-forth of "I don't mind, I'll have what you're having." The Ham Yard Hotel's Winter Martini Garden provides a welcome solution to at least one of these dilemmas. Usually exclusive to hotel guests, the rooftop has temporarily opened its doors to the public and transformed into a snug winter retreat serving Sipsmith's hot martinis paired with comforting sharing plates. And for those who grew up on Buzzfeed quizzes, there's even a questionnaire to help you decide which drink to get next. Answering questions about your dream brunch or post-party habits guides you to your perfect martini match. Whether it's the venison-infused gin martini or (my personal favourite) the orangy hot espresso martini, the only back and forth you and partner will be doing is loving looks as you snuggle up beneath blankets and enjoy a cosy winter night.