When was the last time you went out on a hot date with your significant other? Date night isn’t a luxury … it’s essential. “When I see couples in trouble, I often wonder which came first — the growing estrangement in their relationship or the lack of effort put in to nurture it?” says marriage and family therapist Winifred M. Reilly, MA, MFT, author of the book “It Takes One to Tango.” “As a client once said, ‘Date night is cheaper than therapy, much cheaper than divorce, and a whole lot more fun.’ I couldn’t agree more, which is why I regularly suggest date night and make it a priority in my own marriage.” Research by the National Marriage Project confirms that couples who make time for a one-on-one date night, at least once per week, are 3.5 times more likely to report being “very happy” in their marriages.

Amp up the excitement factor in your relationship by setting off on an out-of-the-box date night to remember in Chicago. Here are seven ideas to get you started.

1. Bake up some love at a Read It & Eat hands-on culinary workshop.

Date Night in Chicago: Read It & Eat

Photo courtesy of Read It & Eat.

At Read It & Eat, a charming, locally owned bookstore in Lincoln Park, patrons are invited to have their cake and read all about it, too. In addition to an unparalleled selection of all the latest and greatest cookbooks, gourmand travelogues, and foodie-focused memoirs, the bookstore boasts a state-of-the-art, in-store test kitchen where patrons sit on comfy bar stools, gathered around a table, to learn how to bring recipes from the page to the table.

“Whether you’re on your first date or have just started dating, the interactive nature of the class creates a setting that allows you to get to know your date in a no-pressure environment,” says Read It & Eat founder Esther Dairaim. “If you’ve been dating for a while, you’ll especially love our couples cooking classes, which were created by a couple, Jason Garland and Stephanie Johnston, who have been dating and cooking together for the last two years. Who better to learn about collaboration in the kitchen than from two people who do it in real life?!”

2. Reignite the spark as you paddle along the Chicago River on a fireworks kayak trip.

Date Night in Chicago: Kayak Chicago

Photo courtesy of Kayak Chicago.

Cuddle up in a cozy kayak for the best seat in the city to catch Navy Pier‘s awesome fireworks display. Kayak Chicago offers guided paddles that coincide with the launch of the fireworks (every Wednesday at 9:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 10:15 p.m., through Sept. 1, 2018). Plan on paddling 6 miles, down the North Branch of the Chicago River at night, through the city, and out to Navy Pier to watch the fireworks. Your 3-hour guided tour includes a paddling lesson, paddle and PFD, and a tandem kayak perfect for a floating party of two.

3. Fly off to cloud nine on a helicopter tour of Chicago. 

Date Night in Chicago: Chicago Helicopter Experience

Photo courtesy of Chicago Helicopter Experience.

There is nothing quite like soaring over the city in a helicopter, a thrilling experience best shared with your sweetheart. The Chicago Helicopter Experience offers the perfect date night package for couples looking for a heart-pumping adventure. You’ll see Chicago from a totally new perspective on a private, guided aerial tour with spectacular views of the stunning skyline, followed by craft cocktails and a locally-sourced menu at a nearby, cozy gastro-tavern.

4. Challenge your partner to an adrenaline-pumping axe-throwing competition.

Date Night in Chicago: Bad Axe

Photo courtesy of Bad Axe.

Science shows that adrenaline rushes can actually lead to sexual attraction. At Bad Axe, located in the West Loop, couples can throw their frustrations with one another into the wind as they compete to hit a target with the toss of an axe, Viking-style. The sport is similar to darts, with axes adding a spine-tingling edge to the game. Coaches are always on hand to give lessons so newbie couples can try out various techniques, including two-handed, one-handed, overhand, and underhand throws.

5. Pack a picnic and dine on a blanket in a secret garden.

Date Night in Chicago: Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool

Photo courtesy of the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool.

A special date calls for a hidden picnic spot, where quiet, relaxing moments, perfect for reconnecting as a couple, are guaranteed. Tucked in a gated corner of Lincoln Park, the wild yet intimate Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool is like your private, secret garden. Prairie-Style architect Alfred Caldwell wanted his lush landscape to resemble an Illinois river valley dotted with wildflowers. A gate, located just off Fullerton Avenue near Lincoln Park Zoo, guards the entrance to the almost-secret 2.7-acre garden. Follow the stonework path that meanders along the lily-spotted lagoon past the gurgling waterfall and pitch your blanket at the circular council ring, where you’ll find the perfect, concealed spot for a picnic date to remember. Need some ideas for what to pack in your basket? Check out these 10 perfect summer picnic recipes.

6. Set off on a water taxi adventure to Chinatown.

Date Night in Chicago: Chicago Water Taxi

Photo courtesy of Chicago Water Taxi.

Hail a taxi — a water taxi! — and get ready for a date you’ll never forget. Chicago Water Taxi is a cheap, convenient, and fun mode of city transport, with tickets starting at just $9. Hop on at one of the stops conveniently located near major attractions including the Ogilvie and Union train stations, Navy Pier, Millennium Park, and the Riverwalk, and set sail to Chinatown’s PingTom Park. From there, you can walk to Chinatown Square where you can take your pick from a number of acclaimed Asian restaurants. Consider heading to a Sichuan-style hot pot restaurant, where you’ll be able to cozy up together and cook your own raw seafood and meat delights in a pot of rich broth boiling upon your tabletop burner.

7. Make it a bicycle date for two on the 606.

Date Night in Chicago: The 606

Photo courtesy of The 606.

Chicago’s latest, greatest trail, The 606, makes for the perfect date night on wheels. Though you can always walk the length of the 2.7-mile trail, renting a Divvy bike is the easy and fun way to explore the 606. There are 17 Divvy stations located within a block of the 606. Your best bet is to park your car near Julia de Burgos Park (or arrive via public transportation), one of the trail’s main entry points. Exit the trail at Humboldt Boulevard and make your way to Parson’s Chicken & Fish (2952 W. Armitage Ave.) for frozen cocktails on the always-bustling patio. Hop back on the 606 and then exit at Western for gourmet Italian antipasti, pasta, panini, salads, and more at Langhe Market (1904 N. Western Ave.), casual sister restaurant to the acclaimed Osteria Langhe. Cap your date with a sweet treat: Bike a block down Western to Margie’s Candies (1960 N. Western Ave.), a Chicago original that has been serving patrons — including Al Capone and The Beatles — their signature sundaes, splits, and housemade chocolates from its small parlor since 1921. Summer in Chicago just isn’t summer without sharing a Margie’s sundae with your sweetie.

 

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Amy Bizzarri is a Chicago-based freelance writer focused on food and travel. She has a keen interest in Chicago history and is the author of “111 Places in Chicago That You Must Not Miss” and “Discovering Vintage Chicago.” Amy is also a proud member of [email protected], a movement that works to ensure children around the globe have access to the vaccines they need.