These Are Chicago’s Superior Late-Pandemic Non-Virtual Date Ideas

Consider these non-virtual dates fit for people who like cheese, drawing naked people, and more

March 12, 2021 2:09 pm
The Bean in Millennium Park
The Bean in Millennium Park
Sawyer Bengston

Someday soon, “dinner and a movie” will again sound like a date, rather than material for a viral risk matrix. 

Until then, there are complications — so what to do if you’re not yet at the 30 Rock-rerun stage with your new plus one? Here, some COVID-safe date ideas from across Chicago that don’t involve the words “awkward zoom hangout.” 

Focus: Cheese

What it is: A Beautiful Rind — a cheese shop and restaurant located in the heart of Palmer Square — is offering a bevy of virtual events that are perfect for both cheese lovers and cheese dabblers alike, from basic Cheese and Pairing Classes to in-depth courses on the cheesemaking process. The shop also offers small-group in-person Private Cheesemonger Experiences. 

Cost: Not too much cheddar at all! (We’re so sorry.) Classes are $30-$40, and that includes a taste-along cheese platter that you can pick up from the shop beforehand. (P.S.: If you want to tell your date you made the cheese platter yourself, your secret is safe.)

Who It Is Great For: A hot date with a former Dairy Princess, Midwesterners and anyone with a spare drawer full of Lactaid 

Help! I Prefer Dates With … A Little More Liquid Courage: If you love the idea of a culinary class, but wish it involved more “big gulps of alcohol,” Koval Distillery offers a wide range of virtual tastings and cocktail classes for just $10, with an optional tasting kit available to pick up beforehand for an additional cost. 

Focus: Otters

What it is: Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium dared to ask the age-old question, “Would Zoom hangouts be way more fun if they were with sea otter pups?” And the answer was a resounding “100%, absolutely.” 

The Shedd offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to book a virtual sea otter encounter, where you can watch the otters play, see how their meals are prepared and ask experts your burning otter questions, like “How are they this cute?!” 

Cost: A virtual Sea Otter Experience costs $69.95 ($64.95 for members) for two links, or $49.95 ($44.95 for members) for one screen. The Shedd’s website takes all major credit cards — no word yet on if the otters will also accept payment in the form of fistfuls of fish. 

Who It Is Great For: Anyone with a heart, animal lovers and first dates with former-mermaids-turned-human who are missing their sea pals. 

Help! I Prefer Dates on … Dry Land: If you already know everything there is to know about otters, the Lincoln Park Zoo also offers a wide range of virtual animal encounters where you can get up close and personal with birds, monkeys, and even snakes. 

Focus: Steamy Art 

What it is: If you and your date are looking for a night filled with a little more art and a lot less clothing, Chicago’s Leather Archives and Museum has you (un)covered. The Museum’s Fetish, Erotic and Kink Figure Drawing Class is offered every other Tuesday and features live models. Attendees can either go in-person (15 people max, masks required) or join online via Zoom. Open to all skill levels. 

Cost: The class costs just $10 per person, with your admission fee going to help the models finally buy something to cover up with. (Just kidding!) 

Who It Is Great For: People who want to show off those Intro to Drawing 101 skills they learned in college and anyone mature enough to not giggle at the phrase “nude models” 

Help! I Prefer Dates…Rated A Little More PG: While nothing says “I’ve definitely read a Chicago guidebook before” like taking your date to the world-renowned Art Institute, may we suggest a visit to one of the city’s many other incredible museums? 

Chicago’s other gems include the DuSable Museum of African American History, Intuit: Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, the National Museum of Mexican Art and the International Museum of Surgical Science. Check on the museums’ websites for info on virtual events and in-person hours. 

Focus: Some Live(ish) Theater 

What it is: With live performances still temporarily on hold, the Neo-Futurist Theater has moved off the stage and onto Al Gore’s Internet. The show — “The Infinite Wrench Goes Viral” — still features 30 plays in just 60 minutes, including some brand-new pieces each week. 

Cost: Tickets to the virtual show range from $3-$100, but if you want to prove to your date that you’re a real patron of the arts, you can shell out for a special Annual Digital Subscription that secures you a front row (virtual) seat every week. 

Who It Is Great For: Couples who want to get in a little more culture than the typical Netflix and Chill session — but without leaving the comfort of their worn-in couch cushion. 

Help! I Prefer Dates with….a Box Full of Snacks Included: The Music Box Theatre is giving the people what they once could only dream of: movie theater popcorn at home. The beloved Chicago movie theater is offering to-go snack boxes of classic movie treats (like soda, popcorn and those fancy little rectangular boxes of candy), plus the option to watch new arthouse movies from home … or just eat the popcorn for dinner.

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