19 Unique and fun date ideas for Raleigh (from a couple who does them)

Even though February is the month of love with Valentine’s Day, we believe love, date nights, and day time togetherness can happen year-round and if you’re looking for Raleigh date ideas and fun things to do in Raleigh for adults, read on!

Residence Inn Raleigh Downtown, North Carolina
We love the rooftop views from the 10th & Terrace Bar at Residence Inn Hotel, downtown

We tend to skip Valentine’s Day (it’s not that big in Australia where we grew up), and it’s one of the busiest nights to go out, but are happy to use its romance power to inspire you to spend quality time with someone you love (or are considering falling in love with).

A couples experience does not always have to be an expensive dinner and a night out on the town. We believe the best date ideas can be those where you simply spend time together and learn together, adventure together, and have loads of fun – day or night!

It’s so easy to fall back on the romantic dinner date when you’re too busy to think outside the box.

We’re here to make it easier for you with loads of Raleigh date ideas for all occasions. Be sure to join our free email community so you don’t miss our future ideas for enjoying Raleigh. 

What makes us knowledgeable about date ideas in raleigh? 

Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing, Raleigh
Drinks at Wye Hill, Raleigh

Like most things in our life, we feel like we’re just throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks! But, after 20 years of traveling together (and marriage), Craig and I feel confident we know how to experience a city in fun and unique ways. Everything on this list we’ve personally experienced.

Whether you’re newly dating, engaged, married for 20 years, straight or LGBTQ, these date ideas for Raleigh will suit any kind of couple. 

people posing for the camera in front of a bar
Haymaker Cocktail Bar

If you have kids like us, consider more day time dates, or early evening, especially if you have an older child who can mind the younger siblings. We love that our teen can now do that and we don’t have to worry about hiring a sitter. 

You will find a few traditional date ideas in our list, just because traditional and normal can sometimes be good. All you have to do is spice it up with a good view, live music, a spicy cocktail and you’re making memories! 

Don’t keep this list of Raleigh date night ideas just for Valentine’s Day. Work your way down the list for at least once a month.

Fancy romantic dinners

Looking for a quieter, more intimate date night with a meal and ambiance to enhance the romance?

There is no shortage of romantic restaurants in Raleigh perfect for a Valentine’s Date or a couples date any time of the year. Out of all the date ideas listed below, this is probably the one we’ve done the least, so far, due to babysitter challenges but we’ve done a ton of lunch and coffee dates and always enjoy fancy dinners when we do!

But, we are planning to do way more dinner-dates this year, and we usually add in pre-dinner drinks somewhere before hand.

Two fantastic dinner date experiences we’ve had include:

A couple of restaurants still high on our list:

Cocktail Crawls + Secret Speakeasies

Killjoy Cocktail Bar, Raleigh
Killjoy Cocktail Bar

If you’re searching on your phone for romantic things to do near me, a few cocktails at a cool bar or speakeasy is hard to beat and we have some cool bars in Raleigh!

After my first speakeasy encounter walking through the locker door in an old middle school building into a hidden world of class and cocktails, I was hooked on finding more.

Raleigh has a couple of classy speakeasies and cocktail bars waiting for you and your romantic partner to explore. This is the wild fun night on the town for those dates when you’re ready to let loose.

A few of our favorites for their vibe and outstanding cocktails:

  • Watts and Wards is my favorite bar in Raleigh and has a pure 1920s Prohibition vibe. Don’t let that door leading underground deceive you into thinking you’re walking into a tiny space. Believe me, there is plenty of room for everyone here. Pre-COVID their jazz night here was CLASSY. I don’t think they have returned.
  • Whiskey Kitchen – a beautiful open space and hip venue with a repurposed industrial feel. Over 300 whiskies plus craft cocktails, beer and wine options you can’t go wrong. Not sure which whiskey to drink, try a flight.
  • Dram & Draught – excellent range of whiskeys from around the world, plus seasonal cocktails, wines, and draught beer from Raleigh and beyond.

  • The Merchant: Find the non-descript vintage door on Salisbury St, next to (and leading above ) Virgils, and esaceo to a sultry and sexy speakeasy space with mood lighting, eclectic decor and creative libations. (Side note: Their Halloween decorations were pretty cool!!)
  • Killjoy Cocktail: Not a speakeasy but possibly my favorite cocktails in Raleigh served up in a fresh, fun and colorful vibe. This is the kind of bar where you can tell the mixologist how you feel and they’ll whip up an elixir to match.
  • The Greenlight – that vibe you want hidden behind a bookshelf in the Architect Bar. Be warned this dimly-lit, old architect’s office is small and may involve a wait. Get there as early as you can.
  • 10th and Terrace – cool rooftop bar and lounge at the top of the Residence Inn hotel in downtown Raleigh. Read our full review here.
  • Level7 rooftop bar at AC Hotel in North Hills. Read our full guide to North Hills.

Craig and I often sit at the bar when we get time out from the kids. It’s a special treat as we still get our alone time talking and tasting cocktails, but it’s mixed in with a fun chat with the bartender, or someone ordering a drink. This is also a good idea for those first kinds of dates where they may be a little awkward. Nothing like a good bartender to rescue the conversation!

Live out your Travel Dreams

two people holding glasses of beer and smiling at the camera
Enjoying a Guinness in Dublin, Ireland 2003

Way back in the year 2000, Craig and I would walk around our local RV park on the beach in Australia pretending we were on vacation. We’d walk and dream about making travel the center of our lives. 

22 years later, over 50 countries traveled including two RV trips that went from 10 months ( USA) to 18 months (Australia) and to permanent life as a foreigner in Raleigh. I think I can safely say, living out our travel dreams from where we were helped us to make them a reality!

This is probably my favorite of all our date ideas and we still do this all the time.  

Lately, it’s been lunches on the Greek patio at Taverna Agora, watching live soccer games at London Bridge Pub, or Scottish road trip planning at home with a Lonely Planet and a glass of Sassenach whiskey (thank you Outlander), and you could even do this idea in a Raleigh coffee shop.

Whatever country you are dreaming of, Raleigh will have a restaurant, or drink, to help you travel there in an instant. 

Dreaming of Italy, consider:

Dreaming of France, consider:

Dreaming of the UK, consider:

Dreaming of Mexico, consider:

Dreaming of the Mediterranean, consider:

Couples who dream together, create fun-filled lives together!

Tour Raleigh Murals

Mural in Five Points, Raleigh
Cool mural in Five Points

Instagram husbands are you ready? Raleigh’s mural scene is flourishing with what feels like new public art pieces (color) popping up every day. We love exploring murals, discovering new articles, and connecting more deeply to what Raleigh values.

Mural tours are something we frequently do together in new cities we visit. It is loads of fun and the photos make awesome memories and fun wall decorations. This one we did on Melrose Ave in LA is still one of our favorites and we recently loved exploring the murals in the River Arts District, in Asheville

Welcome to Raleigh, mural
Address: 514 New Bern Ave, Raleigh

A fun date experience would be to bike around to the murals in Raleigh and see who can strike the best pose.

Plan your mural tour around coffee, lunch, and drinks. The Warehouse District and downtown Raleigh would probably be the best place for this day date.

  • Black & White Coffee in the Warehouse District has delicious seasonal lattes and a Raleigh Pride mural on the ground. 
  • Videri Chocolate Factory is in the same building, which only makes your date more sweeter.
  • Trophy Brewing on Morgan St has several noteworthy murals on the back of their building related to Black American history and culture. That would be a top spot for a lunch or beer break.
  • The Dogwood Bar & Eatery on Glenwood South has fire pits, cocktails, and an angel wings mural. 

 

Here’s a mural map to help plan your day. 

Why not up the romance and have a professional photographer capture your mural moments? Jen Bauldree took many of our photos around Raleigh for this website, including in front of many murals and she was great at helping us pose!

a couple smiling at each other
Photo by Jen Bauldree

Flex that Competitive Edge

Drive Shack, Raleigh
Drive Shack, Raleigh

Looking for fun things for couples to do? A little bit of competition will always spice up the romance. In our 20 years of marriage, I think I have beaten Craig once in tennis and pool, and never in golf, but I run rings around him on the netball court.

There are a lot of fun experiences and attractions in Raleigh to help you flex your muscles – or brain – and battle it out together. 

Make it that whoever wins gets to pay for the next date – or make it more erotic if you want. Up to you!

  • Swinging golf clubs at Drive Shack is always a laugh. I hate normal golf, but enjoy this.
  • The retro vibes of Boxcar Bar & Arcade makes for a buzzing date with hundreds of arcade-style games, pinball machines and console games.
  • Drink beer and throw some axes together. In Morgan Street Food Hall, you’ll find Epic Axe and sometimes breweries have mobile axe throwing. Fortnight Brewing Company in Cary regularly does. 

Check out this video to see the tough competition I have. Craig nails a bullseye on his very first attempt WHILE filming it for a commercial. As we say in Australia, “This was fair dinkum

Head to a Sporting Event

Keep that high energy vibe going by taking in a sporting match together. While we may not have many professional sporting teams in Raleigh, we have plenty of college games to attend. I think the energy is more electric with college sports anyway. 

Except for ice hockey, the one pro sports team we do have in Raleigh. It’s one of my favorite sports to experience: action packed, fast paced, with very entertaining chants and songs. And a night at the Durham Bulls baseball during the summer is always loads of fun!

A large crowd of people watching an ice hockey game in an arena
Raleigh is home to the Carolina Hurricanes

If you can’t make it to a live game, head to one of the many sports bars in Raleigh to watch it on the big screen – Carolina Ale House, Tobacco Road Sports Cafe & Brewery, and The Players Retreat are good ones!

Go Vinyl shopping

hunky dory raleigh
Love this Raleigh date idea – Hunky Dory Records

One of the most fun ways to get to know your partner, or new date, is to see what records (vinyls) make their carry home bag.

This is one of our favorite things to do in Raleigh – even as a family. The vinyls we discover lends itself to sharing our memories and stories – even from before we got together. It usually ends up in a dance party once we get home and play our newly bought records. 

Do not miss Hunky Dory Records (also a location in Durham). Craig and I frequently pop in here without the kids to sit at the bar, drink a local brew, chat with whoever comes in, and buy a few records for our collection.

Pour House Music Hall has another great collection of vinyls on the second level of their popular live music venue. The record shop also features a full-bar with 5 draft beers, and once Covid restrictions lift, they will resume free live performances, album release parties, listening parties, record signings and more!

We have a post with some of our favorite vinyl stores in Raleigh.

Take a hike

Bond Park, Cary, NC
Bond Lake, Cary

Craig and I have been hiking since we first set off on our honeymoon in 2002. I remember often feeling scared to scale great heights, especially if ladders were involved, and feeling like I was okay as Craig was behind me looking out for me.

It’s a great team bonding experience – any kind of outdoor adventure is. 

Granted, you won’t find those kinds of challenging hikes in Raleigh, but you will find the kind you can relax together on, talk on a deeper level with no distractions, and just feel good out in nature. And, if you ever need serious relationship conversations a hike could be the place to help make it a less heated conversation – now there’s a date with a difference!

Lake Johnson West-Loop Trail
Lake Johnson west loop

Our favorite hike is Lake Johnson Nature Park and the Loblolly trail in Umstead State Park, and now we regularly walk Bond Lake together. You’ll find more hiking ideas here.

Why don’t you challenge yourselves? Aim to walk x-amount of miles together each month. You could turn that fun date challenge into a way to explore a little further afield for romantic day trips from Raleigh or weekend getaways. 

Don’t think weekend getaways can be romantic if a hike is involved? You have not yet lived. There is nothing better than unwinding together after a challenging hike at a brewery, around the fire, or over a farm-to-table dinner.

Go for a Paddle

Lake Raleigh, North Carolina
Paddling on Lake Raleigh

Let’s keep to the outdoor adventure for a second. Raleigh may not be on the beach, but it’s filled with many lakes and waterways waiting for you to explore in a kayak or on a paddle board. You could even do it during the cooler months.

During a Raleigh summer, Craig and I will regularly take our stand up paddle boards out on Lake Johnson, Jordan Lake, or Lake Raleigh. This year we have it on our list to paddle the Neuse River and Robertson Millpond Preserve.

Bike the Greenway Trails

Walnut Creek Trail, Raleigh

One of our favorite ways to explore Raleigh is on any of the 104 miles of Greenway trails (or hike them if you want).

For Craig’s birthday last year, we had a fantastic daytime date. We cycled along the Walnut Creek Trail from Lake Johnson to Lake Raleigh, then onto the Rocky Branch Trail into downtown Raleigh and Hillsborough Street where we stopped for coffee at Jubala, and then lunch at The Players Retreat.

The Players Retreat, Raleigh, North Carolina
Birthday beer & burger at Players Retreat

So plan your date bike ride to include some favorite local places to eat and drink on the way. Another great trail is the Art to Heart Trail from the NC Museum of Art to downtown Raleigh. You can spend time at the art museum beforehand and stop at cafes along the way (Lucky Tree Cafe), and finish with a brew and a view at Wye Hill Kitchen and Brewing.

two people posing for the camera in front of a city background
Drinks at Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing

On our list for this year is to ride the Neuse River Greenway Trail, the White Oak, and maybe even the Tobacco Trail all the way to Durham!

Video: Biking the Walnut Creek Trail (our daytime date)

Explore art and more on First Friday 

Speaking of art, why not embrace the fun of First Friday with that special someone.

Craig and I are definitely not the type to visit an art museum together (even on our own). BUT, we really did enjoy walking around the art galleries and studios in City Market Artist Collective and Artspace (Moore Square district) on a First Friday date.

We wandered through and made sure to incorporate pit stops like a beer at Burial Beer and dinner at Sitti Restaurant.

While I’m not a huge fan of art museums, I do love walking through living breathing art studios, seeing the work in progress, meeting the artists, and supporting locals. It’s a lovely way to get to know your city and discover the artistic tastes of your partner.

Live Music – From Bluegrass to Rock and in between

World of Bluegrass
Having fun at the World of Bluegrass

A date that involves live music goes straight to my heart. Craig gets it. Here are the live music dates he’s organized for me over the past couple of years:

  • Chris Stapleton live at Walnut Creek
  • The Talbott Brothers live in Nashville (make that a date weekend!)
  • Imagine Dragons live at PNC Arena!
  • Even, the Nashville cast at Red Hat Amphitheater.

We’ll chase down any style of music in any kind of venue from dancing to cover bands at Tony’s Taps & Oysters in Cary to jamming at the World Bluegrass Festival in downtown Raleigh.

Raleigh’s music scene just keeps getting better and better.

Dinner and a Movie at Once

How do you put a spark into a movie date night? Visit a cinema that delivers delicious meals and cocktails straight to your reclining seat.

As Aussies, I still can’t get over that you can purchase alcohol at a movie theater here, let alone have a meal delivered. 

Can you imagine the cultural thrill we experience going to a dinner and a movie cinema concept?

MX CinéBistro in Cary is a more luxury dine-in theater feel with cozy, oversized leather seats, chef-crafted American Bistro cuisines, fine wines, and signature cocktails. Extra romance bonus: CineBistro is a 21yrs+ date-night-bliss venue after 6pm

A little more casual is the Alamo DraftHouse in East Raleigh. Alamo Drafthous’s menu features burgers, pizzas, salads, snacks and desserts prepared fresh from locally sourced ingredients. The gluten free pizza I had here was very good. They also have over 30 beers on tap supporting local microbreweries, handcrafted cocktails and award-winning milkshakes.

This Valentine’s Day they have special menu items inspired by romantic movies, like the GREASE inspired Eat your Heart out Pizza and the Big Freakin Cookie Shake from BRIDESMAIDS.

Watch a movie under the stars

Why not take a trip back to the nostalgia days of romance and make your date a drive in movie?

Or, during the warmer months, you will find outdoor movies under the stars in places like
Koka Booth Amphitheatre
in Cary, the Raleigh Rose Garden, and North Hills’ Midtown Park.

Dorothea Dix Park is pulling out the romance this February 12 with their Drive in movie, The Big Sick. Even better is that it’s free! Get your tickets in advance. Bring a blanket, grab a meal from the food truck, and cuddle up on the hood of your car under the stars.

Enjoy a night of Comedy

Comedy club date night raleigh
Got our laughs on at the Comedy night

Right before COVID changed everything, Craig and I went to a comedy show in the makeshift tent out the back of Cotton House Brewery in Cary. 

We had a blast and it has been one of our favorite Raleigh date night experiences. The comedians were so funny, the drinks great, the atmosphere cozy, and at only $10 a ticket an affordable date night experience. 

This may be a great date experience for newbie daters. Laughter can ease all kinds of awkwardness.

 Goodnight’s Comedy Club has been Raleigh’s premier comedy venue for more than 30 years and has seen comedians such as Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and Ellen DeGeneres.

For this Valentine’s Day, you can get chocolate and strawberries with your reserved seating for an evening with comedian Liz Miele.

Umstead Hotel & Spa: The Ultimate in Luxury

Alright, time to unplug and reconnect the body, mind, and, spirit. While Craig and I haven’t done an Umstead Spa Experience together, I have done one on my own, and Craig and I have had couples spa experiences in other places. A $5 Thai massage was almost a daily thing when we lived in Bangkok. 

The Umstead Spa and Hotel in Cary is the ultimate luxury escape. Hidden on 12 acres of beautiful landscaped gardens and woodlands, it’s the only Forbes Five-Star Hotel in North Carolina. The Umstead Spa has two levels of relaxation and rejuvenation with whirlpool, steam, sauna, and separate lunges for men and women.

There’s a spacious co-ed lounge, outdoor pool and meditation garden for you to relax together after a couples massage. 

Spend the day there and make use of the facilities you can access with your treatment and see why it’s consistently acclaimed among the best spas in Raleigh.

Many have told me a meal at Heron’s Restaurant here is the ultimate splurge in fine dining. You could up the ante on this romance and stay the night! See prices here.

This Valentine’s Day they have a special five course dinner designed for romance with choices created by Executive Chef Steven Devereaux Greene available on Saturday February 12th and Monday February 14th, with service beginning at 5:00PM until the final seating at 8:30PM. This is definitely a high ticket experience at $225 pp with wine pairings an extra $90.

Stretch out together in a Yoga Class

women doing yoga on a grass covered field
A couples Yoga class in a winery

Why not Zen out together? 

When Craig and I first started dating, we’d do weekly yoga classes together. It blew my mind at how flexible he was, and we still, 20 years later, laugh at the jaw yoga exercises we had to do. 

Yoga does not have to be an individual practice, doing it with a partner can have a positive effect beyond the physical that includes increased relationship satisfaction, increased communication and trust, and improved intimacy and sex life. (read more here)

Who’d have thought a downward dog and an om could do that? Unwind with a nice cup of tea after, or a delicious brunch. 

CAM Raleigh (contemporary art museum) in the Warehouse District has Soul yoga sessions each Saturday morning. You can follow up your yoga session by perusing the contemporary art collections after. Although it doesn’t open until 12, so grab yourself a drink at Heirloom Brewshop for an hour, and a beer after it at Crank Arm Brewing!

Take a class together

two people smiling for the camera while making food
Couples cooking class

Why not learn a new skill together? 

Craig and I have had fun on our travels enjoying a cooking class at Jacob’s Creek Winery (one of Australia’s best) on a couple’s getaway, and we once took a barista course in Sydney – probably one of the reasons we are such coffee snobs. 

Whether it’s cooking, cocktail making, dancing, or art, Raleigh is bound to have a class you can take your date to for a couple hours of creative fun.

  • Wine & Design is the perfect date to create memories and masterpieces. Enjoy a glass of wine as you compare canvasses on a two hour class.
  • Killjoy has a special Valentine’s Day Cocktail making class. You’ll be learning how to woo that special someone with a sweet libation from some of the best mixologists in Raleigh.

Sunset picnic at Dorothea Dix

dorothea dix sunset
Dix Park – such a pretty sunset spot

It may be a little chilly for you in the month of February (and possibly a little bleak), but with Raleigh you can never quite tell, and you may not even care.

Sometimes even a romantic picnic in winter can boost our spirits and deepen our bonds to that special someone.

Dorothea Dix Park is one of the best places in Raleigh for sunset. There is plenty of space for a walk before sunset (or even to kick a ball around if that is your thing!) It’s also a perfect spot for some couple’s portraits.

Dorothea Dix Park
Dorothea Dix Park

It’s even more of an unmissable Raleigh moment during the warmer months. Look out for the many festivals on in this park and cool things like the Sunflower Fields!

There you have it, a list of unique and fun Raleigh date ideas. Now it’s your turn, share with us one of your suggested Raleigh date night (or day) ideas in the comments below!

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