I've got nothing against picnics.
But if you think a wicker basket full of French cheese and Chardonnay is going to put a guy in the mood, think again. It'll just put him to sleep. Ditto for walks on the beach, bike rides, sunsets and other summer dating cliches.
Want to wow a guy's mind? Climb inside it first. We're goal-oriented and adrenaline driven. Given that, a picnic in the park isn't going to fire us up—unless it's a ballpark and we're washing down bratwurst with Old Style in the bleachers at Wrigley Field.
Just like a good action flick, the best dates require a climax, a story arc, and something to learn, fix, or experience. These suggested dates won't just keep him from checking the score on his iPhone, they'll also bring you closer together, faster.
Why? Learning new skills and completing tasks drop deep anchors into our memory banks, and solving problems or surmounting obstacles bonds you and teaches you to communicate as a couple. The following dates will capture his attention—and his heart.
1. The cliche: Dining at an outdoor cafe
Break it by: Going from farm to table (to bed)
Food writer Gael Greene once penned, "Great food is like great sex. The more you have, the more you want." In fact, a 2009 Men's Health and Women's Health survey found that 68 percent of men said cooking with their partner is a turn-on. This date is a combination of scouting out an organic farm and spending an evening at the stove, so it's best saved for a lazy Saturday when you might otherwise be, you know, working your way through a crossword puzzle in the park. The best part about organic grub: You don't have to be Mario Batali to whip up a decent spread, thanks to the tastiness of fresh local produce and meat. You could pop down to the farmers' market, but visiting a nearby farm makes it more of an adventure (to find both, visit localharvest.org). Start by snagging some arugula or rocket lettuce and harvesting organic tomatoes, then move on to a dairy farm for milk and cheese. Top it off with a visit to a local butcher for some grass-fed beef or free-range chicken.
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2. The cliche: Having brunch
Break it by: Making a barbecue pilgrimage
"Let's do brunch," you say. Splendid, he thinks. And afterward, we can go antiquing before stopping by a department store for a refreshing spritz of summer perfume! Right.
Look, most guys don't consider cramming into a tiny French bistro to sip Bellinis a great way to grub, and for many of us, breakfast is just sustenance. So decamp to your local barbecue joint, preferably one with picnic tables out back, for a brunch of porcine and bovine delicacies. Having the foresight to scout out this hog heaven will score you major points, and as he powers through wet wipes and drains his brew, his defenses will drop. You'll get even the most tight-lipped of men in the mood to talk. At least, that is, until the protein coma sets in.
3. The cliche: Soaking up the sun
Break it by: Going swimming (or surfing or boating)
Let's start with the obvious: Stripping down in the sun lets you check out each other's beach bodies. No-brainer, right? Now consider this: A 2009 study by Austrian and German researchers found that vitamin D (which you can get from just a few minutes in the sun) significantly increases testosterone in men. Since lounging is for the elderly (shuffleboard! bathing caps! no splashing!), try adding some adrenaline to the hormonal cocktail coursing through his veins. Start by provisioning properly.
Never surfed? Rent a soft-top board and take turns pushing each other into the waves. Itching for speed? Get a WaveRunner for an afternoon trip up a river, and have lunch midway through. And if you happen to be landlocked, consider the co-ed car wash: You'll do his, then he'll return the favor...before turning the hose on each other.
4. The cliche: Going for a jog
Break it by: Turning your city into a gym
Ever watch The Amazing Race? You're either convinced you and your man would slay the competition, or that you'd devolve into a hot mess of tears and accusations. Now's your chance to find out (with much lower stakes), thanks to a 10-city adventure race series called City Chase.
The events unfold throughout the summer and early fall, pitting teams against one another in a multi-discipline competition set in the urban jungle. Evading dodge balls, wielding high-pressure fire hoses, rappelling down buildings, and charming snakes as a team will make you appreciate your partner's strengths and weaknesses, help you get used to working through conflicts—and even boost your libido. No dice with City Chase? Find more events at warriordash.com. You can also plan your own challenge, creating feats of endurance—and absurdity— throughout your hometown.
5. The cliche: Visiting the driving range
Break it by: Blowing off steam at the firing range
There's more than one reason guys ogle video-game vixens and drool over gun-wielding, ponytail-sporting action heroines. The curve-baring costumes don't hurt, but a woman with a weapon oozes confidence and strength, and has an edge that guys find alluring. Your move: Hit the firing range with your man to unleash your inner Lara Croft. If he knows his way around a .45, maybe you'll even buff his ego by asking for some help with your stance.
Squeezing off a dozen rounds is an instant release, and the implicit sense of danger—one wrong move and things can go bad—dumps dopamine into your system, which may boost your sex drive. Let's face it: Smacking little white balls at the driving range pales next to shooting a handheld weapon capable of stopping a charging rhinoceros. Visit wheretoshoot.org to find a range near you. If guns aren't your thing, check out archeryretailers.com to locate an archery range instead.
6. The cliche: Watching the sunset
Break it by: Painting the sunset
Diego Rivera had Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dali had Gala, and Pablo Picasso had, well, a lot of women. Point being, the primal release of slathering a canvas with pigment releases something in a man. Here's how to unleash his inner artist: Grab a couple of canvases from a local art store—they won't set you back more than $15—as well as a starter kit of paints, a few brushes, and a blanket. You don't need anything fancy, and the back of a pizza box can even serve as a mixing palette. Bring a lantern, some bug spray, and maybe even an actual pizza, and set up shop on top of a big hill in town. By the time the sun has set, you'll have added the finishing touches and you'll be waiting for the paint to dry before packing up to go home. Which is when the second part of this date comes in. Blanket? Night sky? You do the math.