Pandemic-friendly date ideas to help you keep your game sharp

Setting up a date now is nearly impossible. So here's our list of pandemic-friendly date ideas fit for first dates or long-term lovers, for the romantic or the casual, all to help you maintain your love life through these troubling times.

by Maria Murriel
February 9, 2021

Everyone says dating in New Orleans is extremely hard. Transients flooding and leaving the city, everyone battling their personal level of alcoholism, seemingly no one able to make it past a few lackluster dates that peter out to ghosting. 

The pandemic has, of course, exacerbated our collective frustrations. The apps now seem like useless vestiges of a carefree time when fruitless weeknight dates were just a way to pass the time in between stints at our regular bars.

Setting up a date now is nearly impossible. So, I am here to offer a little respite: pandemic-friendly date ideas fit for first dates or long-term lovers, for the romantic or the casual, all to help you maintain your love life through these troubling times.

Patios/outdoor bar date ideas

If you’re missing the sublime experience of sitting in a crowded bar hollering first-date questions and compliments over the din of raucous patrons, a classic bar date is the way to go.

At these spots, you can sit outdoors and maintain social distancing while still getting to know each other among dim lights and full glasses.

Note: As we know, the city needs to adjust bar and restaurant ordinances according to pandemic infection rates, so it’s always best to check a particular establishment’s website or social media before heading out.

Parleaux Beer Lab, Bywater

Social distancing is no problem on the patio of this dog-friendly brewery. It’s comparable to sharing space with others at a park, except there are heaters and food pop-ups on the weekends. Parleaux is known for its sour beers, but bartender all beer drinkers are welcome: The tap list features trusty IPAs and regular ales and lagers for more traditional palates. 

The brewery no longer offers flights, you can order several 10oz pours of their wide-ranging beers and get to know each other by learning what you like and don’t like together.

 

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Bourrée, Carrollton

If you can’t share chicken wings and daiquiris with your date under a canopy of oaks across the streetcar line, is it even worth dating them? I don’t think so. 

In case the patio here needs to close for whatever reason, y’all can take a stroll through the neighborhood and reminisce about what you liked to do the most in the beforetimes, and end up kissing at Palmer Park.

 

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Bacchanal Wine, Bywater

This classic romantic date spot is still going strong through the pandemic, featuring a heated patio, live music on weekends and required table reservations. 

If you’d like a more private Bacchanal experience, or if your date’s virus risk tolerance is low, you can order wine and a cheese plate to go and stroll on down to Crescent Park and set up a fancy picnic in time to watch the sunset. What better way to fall in love?

 

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Delachaise, Uptown

The little patio outside this St. Charles Ave. wine bar is the focal point these days, and it can fill up quickly since reservations are not required (at least not at the time of this write-up). The space is not huge, so it might not be comfortable for the more anxious types, but it is outside with a nice view of the streetcar and some New Orleans-style hustle and bustle to help keep things exciting.

 

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Pal’s, Midcity

When this beloved neighborhood bar reopened in late 2020, Midcitizens rejoiced. Bring your date here for a whiskey and beer combo and a delectable meal from whichever mouthwatering food truck sets up outside. There are some tables on the sidewalk but I’m partial to Pal’s go cups, which look mighty fine against the murky glow of Bayou St. John.

 

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Outdoorsy date ideas

Since the start of the pandemic, a lot of us have become more outdoorsy. This applies to dating, too. Meeting someone for the first time on a casual park hang rather than a bar-hopping tryst is increasingly common.

Luckily, we have some prime outdoor spots in New Orleans, several of them along the waterfront.

Picnics and park dates

If you’re on the chill end of the outdoorsy scale, The Fly, Crescent Park and Bayou St. John make lovely settings for daytime picnics or sunset-watching with your beloved. These spots get crowded on the weekends, so bonus points if you’re Team Irregular Schedule and can get away on a weekday afternoon.

Active dates

If you want to share a physical activity with your date, kayaking, cycling or hiking are at your disposal. I’m not a morning person, but a sunrise paddle out of City Park with a cute partner might get me out of bed before 9. You can rent two singles and race, or go for the tandem if you want to make sure your relationship fails from the get-go.

If you prefer a terrestrial vibe, check out some of the city’s bike routes and nearby walking trails — and if you’re ready to introduce your date to your dog, you can take them both on a hike through City Park. Make sure you pack enough water and snacks to ensure no one goes hangry halfway through a sweet time.

Cultural date ideas

If you appreciate the arts, go a little high-brow and take your date to share some cultural experiences with you. They’re limited these days, so enjoy what we can still take part in.

Ogden Museum of Southern Art

The Ogden is spacious, requires masks, and consistently shows interesting and evocative pieces from across the South. Bring your date here if you want to feel inspired together. It’s free on Thursdays with your Louisiana ID, and you can reserve a specific time for your visit to limit crowdedness.

JAMNOLA

This interactive art gallery opened at the height of our first pandemic summer, so it’s always operating at Phase 1 restriction levels: masks required, groups of up to six people, and social distancing inside. The installations are larger-than-life and all primed for the ‘gram, so you can gauge how skilled your sweetheart is at capturing you in all your glory. 

 

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New Orleans Botanical Garden

Wednesdays are the day to stroll through the Botanical Garden. You can check what’s in bloom ahead of time at the year-round garden’s website, make a reservation at the Kitchen in the Gardens, and enter free of charge with your Louisiana ID. Admission is free to the gardens but you have to purchase a boxed meal, then find a socially distanced spot and share your catered picnic with your date.

New Orleans Jazz Museum

The Jazz Museum has started live streaming concerts on its Facebook page last year. You can see all of them from home, but you can catch the balcony concerts from the side of the museum and get a taste of what it was like to see live music. Remember to bring extra masks in case one of you forgets, and maintain your distance if other people are watching. It’s more intimate that way anyway.

Maria writes about beer, arts & culture and the occasional nostalgic essay about home. She’s worked in public radio newsrooms, newspapers and alt-weeklies, and is the co-founder of Pizza Shark Productions, a podcast house making media more equitable. She also teaches sometimes. Read more about her work at mariamurriel.com.

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