You don't have to drink to have a good time on a date. In fact, there are numerous benefits to keeping it virgin: You won't wake up in a fog, wondering where you are or who you're with. You won't suffer from a pounding headache the entire next day. You won't have to swear off Jack Daniels for life after overdoing it on whiskey sours. And you won't have to worry about scaring away your date by doing or saying something stupid. (Okay, you might still blow it, but at least you won't have alcohol to blame...)
Plan a night to remember by taking your date to one of these places instead of a bar or club. You can get to know each other and have a great time without risking a DUI on the way home. (Because getting arrested is definitely a date-killer.)
The Cafe Meow
Where: Minneapolis (Lowry Hill East)
What better way to break the ice than to fawn over some furry friends? If your date is on the "cat side" of the eternal cat-versus-dog debate, this is a surefire way to her (or his) heart. At this adorable cat cafe, you can share coffee, tea and treats, then head into the adjoining lounge to get your feline fix.
This unique place hosts a dozen or so rescue cats - all adoptable! Due to its popularity, reservations are recommended.
Bonus: Should your date decide to cut and run, at least you'll be in good company with a roomful of kitties eager to make your acquaintance.
Northern Clay Center
Where: Minneapolis (Seward)
If you haven't seen the movie Ghost, here's a spoiler: Throwing clay can be romantic. (Even if your partner isn't a spectral visitor from the spirit world.) And you don't need to have been an art major in undergrad to give a clay class a shot.
There's something romantic about massaging some wet, slippery earth, shaping and reshaping it to your heart's desire. And - bonus! - you'll get an awesome hand-crafted ramen bowl or coffee mug to take home.
Just because you don't drink doesn't mean other vices are off-limits, right? At this casino/racetrack/restaurant just north of the 35W/35E split, you and your date are bound to have a blast. Watch the harness horse racers whip past at lightning speed. Show off your poker face with a few rounds in the casino. Who knows? Maybe your winnings will be enough to cover dinner.
And speaking of dinner, if you're in the mood to show off your hunting and gathering skills, try the Trout Air Tavern. You can step out back and literally catch your own dinner in the fish pond, open seasonally. (Don't worry - you won't have to kill or clean it.)
Centennial Lakes Park
It's one of those storybook settings: A lazy river winding through grassy knolls; arched bridges, sparkling fountains, and benches overlooking the water. At Centennial Lakes, you'll find something romantic to do no matter the time of year. Try ice skating on the frozen river, play a round of minigolf, watch the remote-control sailboats race or admire the spectacular fall colors.
It's a popular spot for engagement photos and weddings. And, who knows? Someday, this might be the very spot where you say "I do." (How's that for a fairytale ending?)
Minneapolis Institute Of Art
Where: South Minneapolis (Whittier)
You and your date don't have to be art geeks to appreciate this place. From the impressive Greco-Roman facade to the vast, marble-lined halls, Mia (as it's now branded) is a world-class museum. There are countless works to spark conversation (or, perhaps, speechless admiration), from Rembrandt's heartbreaking Lucretia and van Honthorst's poignant Denial of St. Peter to the majestic Doryphoros, a towering ancient Roman statue.
Between the indoor and outdoor exhibits, you could spend days here, getting to know each other while getting to know fine art on a whole new level. All the more so since admission is free. (Donations are encouraged.)
Gold Medal Park
Where: Downtown Minneapolis
When the weather's good (or even when it's not), there's nothing like fresh air and great views to inspire good vibes. And this place has both. Take a serene stroll up the spiraling path to the 32-foot hill (modeled after a Native American burial mound) for sweeping views of Upper St. Anthony Falls. Then poke around the grounds at some of the sculptures.
Better yet, come here in the evening, when the lights of the city and the ethereal blue glow of the benches make it even more breathless.
Ax-Man Surplus Store
Where: Saint Paul (Midway), Fridley, St. Louis Park
Okay, so this isn't your typical shopping experience. And it's still worth a visit even if neither of you is into shopping.
An emporium of all things interesting, walking down the aisles here, you'll find everything from the bizarre to the brazen to the hilarious: An entire family of naked headless mannequins. A creepy pumpkin sprouting chubby-baby arms. A 1950s iron lung. A life-sized bobble-headed Jesus (sorry, not for sale).
Why not make a game out of it? See who can pick up the weirdest purchase. Or surprise each other with oddball gifts. Who knows, maybe years from now, they'll be cherished keepsakes from one of your best dates ever.
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
This place is a giant garden, an enchanted forest, a sculpture park, a working farm, a nature preserve, an art gallery, and a horticultural museum - all in one. With more than 1,200 acres of prairie, forest, and farmland, here you'll find plenty to do and see. And plenty of Instagram-worthy photo ops, too.
This is a bar of a different sort: an arcade bar. It's a haven for the '80s and '90s aficionados, featuring time-honored classics - think Tron and Donkey Kong - as well as modern updates like Game of Thrones pinball. Here, you'll feel like you're stepping back into that glorious era of Stranger Things.
Nothing ignites passion like some friendly competition. See who fares best at the skeeball alleys or pinball machines. Or challenge your date to a round of life-sized Jenga. Who needs drinking games when you've got so many others to choose from?
PinKU Japanese Street Food
Where: Minneapolis (Saint Anthony West)
Skip the sake, but go all-out with the sushi at this award-winning restaurant. Here, you'll find more than just a meal; you'll find a cultural experience.
A fast-casual eatery tucked between a pizza chain and a burger joint, PinKU features something different: authentic Japanese cuisine with fresh, quality ingredients. (A must when it comes to seafood in the Midwest.) And, trust me, this is some of the best sushi you'll find in Minnesota.
Trapped Puzzle Rooms
Where: Uptown, North Loop and Mac-Groveland (St. Paul)
Nothing builds camaraderie and connection like working together toward a common goal. In this case: Getting out of an escape room by solving mind-bending puzzles. Step into Hogwarts for "A Very Potter Escape Room." Impress your date with your Mission: Impossible skills in "The Heist." Game of Thrones fan? Work to free the queen in "A Room of Fire and Ice."
Where: Saint Paul (West 7th)
So she doesn't drink, but she's gotta like coffee, right? You can't go wrong with this popular spot. Here, you'll find some of the prettiest lattes in town - though not as pretty as her, of course.
Science Museum of Minnesota
Where: Downtown Saint Paul
There's no shortage of cool spots for photo ops here. At one of the most distinguished museums in the Midwest, you'll find fully reconstructed dinosaur fossils, a five-story-tall astronaut suspended in the atrium, and an interactive experiment gallery, among dozens of other exhibits.
Don't forget to wear your brontosaurus hoodie. The "thunder lizard" sweatshirt became one of the museum's hottest commodities after Dustin sported one in season 2 of Stranger Things.
Rose Street Patisserie
Where: Linden Hills (Minneapolis), Merriam Park East (Saint Paul)
Treat your sweet to some sweets at this mouth-watering French bakery. Whether you go for the gateaux (ahem - try the chocolat!), a raspberry-rose macaron or the canelé de Bordeaux (think miniature pound cake soaked in rum and vanilla with a deliciously caramelized crust), you can't go wrong.