A Year of Dates



This past holiday, I was brainstorming a present for Alex (beer-of-the-month club? a book? yet another tie?) when my friend Linsey had an idea: She was giving her husband a Year of Dates. “I’m trying to get out of our normal rut,” she said. Every month, she would plan a creative date and handle all the logistics. Such a great gift, right?

Inspired, I decided to do the same thing for Alex. Here’s my basic plan of attack (we’ve done the first two)…

January: Watch people tell short personal stories — sometimes heartbreaking, often funny — on stage at The Moth.

February: Channel your inner octogenarian and play shuffleboard at Royal Palms.

March: Go for dim sum at The Golden Unicorn in Chinatown. Two words: Pork buns.

April: Stroll through the Brooklyn Botanic Garden during the annual cherry blossom festival.

May: See a movie at Nitehawk Cinema, which serves drinks and dinner right to your seat. (Or go to any old movie and sneak in Chipotle:)

June: Spend an afternoon at MoMA, The Met or the American Museum of Natural History. Because there’s nothing like Klimt or a T-Rex to spice up an otherwise ordinary Sunday.

July: Go swimming at Rockaway Beach, which is in Queens but feels a million miles away from NYC.

August: Sail a schooner down the Hudson River, right past the Statue of Liberty, as the sun sets. This is one of my favorite things to do in New York City. (We actually got engaged on a sail!)

September: Eat fried calamari and shrimp with feta at Taverna Kyclades, which is arguably the best Greek food in Astoria, Queens.

October: Laugh until you cry at Upright Citizens Brigade’s ASSSSCAT improv show featuring SNL regulars, including Amy Poehler and Horatio Sanz. Insider tip: Make reservations early, they book up fast.

November: Cozy up at home, once the kids are in bed, and make a special-to-you dish. (For us, it’s cacio e pepe, the dish we had on our honeymoon.)

December: Make your head explode at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, where magician Steve Cohen ACTUALLY DOES MAGIC. It’s crazy.

ucb Upright Citizen’s Brigade’s ASSSCAT show


Cherry blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens


Dim sum at the Golden Unicorn

What would you add to the list? Would love to hear any other recommendations!

P.S. The full Cup of Jo Guide to NYC.

(Photo from this birthday dinner. Botanic gardens photo by Jenna Park. Dum sum photo by JC Medina.)

  1. Love this concept, and really appreciate you sharing the list of ideas! Definitely will bookmark this. The sail is one of our all-time favorites too.

  2. Kelly says...

    I love this and am putting together a list right now for my husbands birthday this month.

    Before we had our baby, we wrote down 12 places (old or new) we wanted to eat at before we needed babysitters. Once a week we picked one out of a hat and just did it.

    Was so much fun. Although we go out still it often revolves around a big night out and a sleepover at Nanna’s.

    I love the idea of getting ice cream and waking around the neighborhood. Something simple that we used to do almost daily.

    • Kelly says...

      Ohh and we are headed to NYC for our honeymoon (with toddler) so some of these will be awesome to check out if we can.

  3. Gen says...

    See “Then She Fell” by Third Rail Projects in Brooklyn. It’s immersive theater- not quite for everyone and it’s a bit pricey ($90 and up pp) but it was one of my favorite NYC things I’ve done and is also great for a group of friends. You get separated from your party so even going on a date will lead you to see two slightly different shows.

  4. Jennifer Murray says...

    Did you tell him what you were doing? Or is it all a surprise?

  5. Ana says...

    Totally in!!!! I decided to do the same for our Christmas advent calendar!( but I dind´t made it…since we are having some issues…) I think its perfect for all cain of couples. Thanks for sharing and have fun!

  6. Nikki says...

    My fiance and I have been doing this in the past year leading up to our wedding – on the date our wedding will be on (the 7th!) every month we take turns taking the other one on a date. And it has to be all planned, no “what do you want to do/what do you feel like eating?” because that ruins the fun. This time around, I took him go kart racing and it was the MOST fun! It’s great because it’s forcing us to be creative – we’ve gone to museums, roller skating at the roller rink (that one was also surprisingly a blast), hiking, and a bunch more. It helps us celebrate our upcoming wedding and also keeps us from just binge watching Making a Murderer and True Detective for days on end :) I think we’re going to keep it up post-wedding!

  7. Myra says...

    After a tough week of work, my boyfriend and I get to Friday and realize we have not made any plans. This is a good reminder to get some stuff on the calendar in advance.

    Some other ideas on my list:

    – Touristy walking tour: if you like NYC history – there are walking tours on Free Tours By Foot, $ is your donation
    – Lower East Side Tenement Museum Tour (admittedly i was more into this than my boyfriend)
    – We love riding our bikes in the Hudson Valley. Lots of good routes you can find at this old school website:

  8. Caz says...

    I once went to a massage course with a boyfriend and it was really cool. We learnt a new skill and then of course you can practice at home later with some candles! ;)

    I recently heard about escape rooms – you go in a group and have to solve clues to move on and “escape” the building. That could be a fun double-date.

    I also think bowling and laser tag make great dates :)

  9. Melissa says...

    Genius! My boyfriend & I are coming up on a year together & I could not figure out what to “get” him….. I did have a print made of the latitude & longitude coordinates of our first date, but I felt I needed something else. This is it, for sure. Your blog is EVERYTHING. Thank you!

  10. Great idea, thanks!! We went to the cherry blossom festival in Brooklyn last year, it was so beautiful. The magnolias were lovely too. We just had to plant a yellow magnolia in our garden when we got back to Norway :)

  11. Gabriela says...

    Great posts and so many great ideas. How was the moth? They have an event scheduled here (San Francisco) at the end of the month and was considering going. Just wanted to know what your experience was like.

  12. You are creative in your gift giving and date ideas! Love the Upright Citizens Brigade as a date night. I’m dying to go. After almost nine years in NYC, I still haven’t! Maybe I’ll plan a date there in 2016. :)

  13. Such creative ideas! Not sure I could talk my husband isn’t dim sum, unfortunately, but I love that so many of these are active and exploring new places (or past sentimental ones). Thanks!

  14. Well I live all the way in Houston, TX so I have no idea what you can do around town. However getting a room for the weekend and having a staycation is more refreshing than it may sound. Allow yourselves to act like tourists in your own city. It’s kind of fun. I’ve done in before here in Houston and loved it. Also a small weekend away to some place that is either sentimental to the two of your or a place you’ve always wanted to visit but never had the chance to. If you give yourself time to plan it out, it should be amazing.

  15. A bike ride. The city lights by night are magical!

  16. I love absolutely everything about this post and the idea.
    This such a fun idea I will have to try it.

  17. Jen says...

    I love the idea. Have you thought of having dates that each time you try a new food? I do that with my boyfriend. Me being a New York native I have tried it all and love it but he’s just learning about different foods and at times I even get surprised. Though tonight it’s a fav “dim sum ” lol

  18. Gemma says...

    I had this kinda brainwave when it was getting close to New Year. Me and my partner have spent the last 5 years putting our child first and this year I’ve said we need to put our relationship first. So we are spending more time actually interacting, not just slumped in front of the telly. We’ve only managed to get out once so far because of our schedules and that was to a comedy night which was brilliant. On my list is take an archery course, book a couples personal trainer sessions, picnic (just the two of us in our special place). I’m hoping to get him to a cookery class. And then the usual night away, museum, theatre and the cinema. We haven’t been to the cinema just us for over 6 years. I’m now going to have a look at all the other comments and see if I can find anything else to add to my list :)

    • zewu says...

      OMG, this comment must have been written by me! Only we’ve been doing this, “parenting”, for only 22 months now and we’ve already got very distant. How can people keep the sparks still in the game, I wonder…

  19. Love the concept of a “Year of Dates.” We did this last year and alternated planning our dates. It was fun :) But a year of dates in NYC would be divine – so many options and everything you’ve planned out sounds lovely.

  20. So smart! Last year we chose something similar to get us out of our movie and dinner date rut, but instead of just saying I would do all the planning, we tried alternating. I wish I had just taken it on myself—I ended up planning most of them, and resenting it—but Brian, my husband, was up for anything I planned and loved the experiment. I would have appreciated aspect of him, and the few he did plan, if I had different expectations.

    Some of my favorites—we went to a TEDx event in Denver which was great fun. We went to hear George Ezra play live in Boulder, which was also hilarious (we were both exhausted—on a school night—standing room only in a crowd of mostly 20-somethings, and we ended up loving it). We heard David Sedaris, and went on a nearby hike we’d always meant to try.

    My goal this year is to try your idea of meeting after work without the pit-stop at home!

  21. Not just because I’m a Queens girl – but LOVE Taverna Kyclades! The lines are sooooo long these days, but worth it.

  22. Kristen says...

    Hi Joanna! What a cool idea – thanks for posting! Also – what beer of the month club do you recommend?! Kristen

  23. Yael Steren says...

    So cute! I don’t know if either of you like magic but if you do you could get him tickets to the Steve Cohen chamber magic show. It’s at the Waldorf and a small crowd and the magician is amazing! He’s even performed for presidents! Xx Yael

  24. Judy says...

    Thanks to your post about the schooner, my husband and I did that last time we were in NYC and it was great! (And we saw Katie Holmes at Suri’s gymnastic lesson as well–great celebrity sighting!) I’m going to keep this list for the next time we come to the Big Apple. Also, you can get some cheaper tickets to the US Open and it is a great night event, even if you’re not a huge tennis fan. For a first-timer, you just can’t believe how close you get to the athletes. Great fun.

  25. Rachel says...

    This is the gift I give my hard-to-buy-for husband every year! I try to do a mix of big, planned dates or events and smaller, cheaper ideas

    Some of my ideas that could be done no matter where you live:
    Read the same book and have a “book club” date
    Walk through our favorite neighborhood after getting ice cream
    A progressive dinner: drinks/appetizers at one place, entree at another, dessert at another
    A game night with a new-to-us two player game or card game
    Beer or wine tasting

    We both love this gift. It’s quality time together trying or doing new things and it gives us something to look forward to every month.

  26. Jen says...

    One suggestion: go line dancing at Big Apple Ranch (gay country dancing). So much fun!
    Also, a walk along the Highline. The Staten Island Ferry is fun and free, and the Ruben Museum is really cool.

  27. H Merkley says...

    you are seriously the best wife and friend! what a fantastic idea – inspired!

  28. when my bf visits me for a weekend (long distance relationship) and we don’t have specific plans, we’ll take a few hours to walk from the uws all the way downtown to soho near where i live. it sounds silly, but it gives us the freedom to pop in to stores or restaurants that catch our eyes! plus, it’s great exercise

  29. Lauren E. says...

    There are so many weird and wonderful things to do in this city.

    My suggestion: Accomplice NYC
    I’ve lived in NY for eleven years and I never thought I’d enjoy an improv/tour around the city (hey, jaded) but this was one of the most enjoyable things my fiance and I have ever done together. You basically go around one area of the city in a group of about 10 people and meet characters along the way who give you clues to try to solve a “mystery.” They’re all professional actors and it’s just SO well done. We did it in the pouring rain and still had a blast. Plus it’s a way to see the city you’ve probably never experienced before.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my goodness, that is SO COOL!

  30. rach says...

    If I ever visit NYC, I’ll just use this as my tour guide! That shuffleboard bar & Asian restaurant look divine!

  31. Please, pretty please, can I tag along??? I love all your suggestions and think you husband married a genius. Once my fiance has moved to Oslo, I’ll suggest a variation of this concept to him: Every month, each of us has to plan a date, preferrably at the weekend so we can get the most out of it. This plan is the perfect way to keep romance alive while also experiencing some of the best things the city (and its surroundings) has to offer!

    Anett | Tall Girl’s Fashion

  32. We sat front row at the Steve Cohen show at the Waldorf a few years ago and it was amazing! Highly recommend!
    This is a great list! Gets me thinking about getting out!

  33. Michelle says...

    I love this! What a wonderful idea. Gets you out of a dating rut and gives you something to look forward to each month!

  34. Alice says...

    My brother and his girlfriend are doing Alphabet Dates- 26 dates this year, each relating to a letter of the alphabet. They take it in turns to decide what to do- so far, they’ve been to the Aquarium, played Bingo, gone China painting… It’s such a great idea!

    • Lindsay says...

      That’s a fun way to brainstorm the ideas!

  35. I love the idea! I had the same a year ago, unfortunately we didn`t manage to do 12 dates in a year. And maybe this is because we didn`t plan them right away at the beginning of the year!
    Thanks for the tip!
    xx Caroline

  36. I love all these ideas and plan to steal about half of them! I’ve always wanted to check out The Moth. (Also, if you love Greek, I must tell you about Bahari–also in Astoria–which I think is even better than Taverna Kyklades and never crowded!).

  37. Going to the small space observatory near our house, in Northern Italy. They organize star gazing nights on Wednesdays, unfortunately the last times they did it was raining! And visit the new Samsung District in Milan to play.
    Here are mine. I love yours too, thank you for the inspiration. We just had a baby and I really feel we need to find tie for us two ❤️

  38. Hallie says...

    This post and all of the comments are so great!! I’m going to work on a list, and a jar this weekend (I love the color coding idea Asha)!

  39. I’ve thought about doing this as well, but honestly I think I would love it more than my husband would. Maybe I will still do it though haha
    xo Michelle

  40. Prudence says...

    It’s a great idea to think of something nice to do every month, I may just start my own ritual! Thanks for the inspiration!


  41. Rebecca says...

    Just FYI – I worked in an urban movie theater and the only patrons who ever saw rats were the ones who snuck in Taco Bell.

    Fun dates!

  42. Lauren says...

    I love, love this idea! Kind of reminds me of ‘100 things in 1000 days’ but more feasible. However, I would love to know your thoughts on similar planning for singles. I typically go where ever I’d like when not working, but it would be fun to commit to gathering a group together for something like your date nights (but maybe not as emotionally driven!) ;)

  43. Asha says...

    I’ve done this! I did it a while ago as an anniversary gift to my husband a few weeks before having baby #2, knowing we’d need to focus on spending quality time together. He had a new date to open each month, and I honesty think the anticipation I felt in each opening, and the joy I felt in planning, were better even than the dates! I had sooo much fun putting it together! This year I wanted more flexibility, so I made him a date jar with slips of paper color coded by the type of date: at home, going out, with friends, family (like park with boys, takeout after bed type thing), and by cost so we can just pull whatever we want from the jar depending on what we feel like. This one is lots of fun too, but the anticipation isn’t as great!

  44. Royal palms is so fun! We have also tried adding in more double dates which add a different twist to traditional “date night”.

  45. I just adore this idea. Simple things that make marriage so much more fun <3

  46. Love this so much! It’s right up our gift-giving alley. :) Plus, what better excuse to try out the fun things lingering on your personal bucket list for your city?

  47. Meghan says...

    Nitehawk is also something you need to book ahead of time. Tickets to feature films sell out almost immediately! We love it for dates because it covers dinner and the movie at the same time, maximizing use of babysitter $$$.

  48. I love this idea. I love going out on dates but my husband doesn’t love planning them and the pressure gets to be too much for him and then our date night turns into Chinese take out and Netflix. AGAIN. :P But this would be a great way to bless our relationship and keep things fun.

  49. Betsy says...

    What a wonderful idea. My husband and I have been in a date rut since our daughter was born, this would be a great way to force ourselves to try new things. Hope the rest of your dates go well!

  50. Paige says...

    I have a similar resolution for us, though it isn’t planned a year in advance. So far we’ve only done one, but it was to catch the Amtrak train (which my husband had never done) from the station by our house, ride 2 hours to a city with a great restaurant/bar, have lunch and play shuffle board, and get back on the train and ride back. The way the train schedule worked, we were at our “destination” for 2 hours which was long enough for an un-rushed lunch but short enough that as we were on our way back, we were both looking at each other like, “did that really just happen?” Magical, and we were only away from Seattle for 6 hours or so.

  51. Amy says...

    We did something similar the first year we were married. We took turns planning something on the 5th of every month (our monthiversary). It was fun to have something special to look forward to each month. Your post was a nice reminder to do something like that again…ten years and three kids later!

  52. This is so fun. Congrats on DOING them all. Sometimes the hardest part is leaving the house after a long week of work! xx

  53. Ali says...

    I was inspired by that idea, and my husband and I started our monthly dates in January. He took me to a Korean restaurant and to Tampa Theater to see “Youth” in January. Last month, I took him for a five course burger and beer pairing at a local brewery! He’s up for March. I would recommend Time Out for ideas in your local city. Thanks for the great ideas, Jo!

  54. Cynthia says...

    Wow, that dim sum looks yummy! My husband and I used to have picnics in front of the fireplace with a fresh baguette, salami, cheeses, olives, pickled vegetables, and a great bottle of wine. Of course, the lights were dimmed. We did this before we had children. You’d have to do this after your boys are in bed. I know you don’t have a fireplace, but spread a tablecloth or beach towel on the floor and enjoy it.
    After the boys are in bed, have a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine(Trader Joe’s has some great ones) and some high quality chocolate.

  55. jessica says...

    I just did this for his Christmas present! I bought a fun, little desk calendar and circled the dates I already planned (at that point, one day each in January-April). So far we have gone to a live taping of an NPR show at Bell House, ASSSSCAT 3000 and a concert at Webster Hall. Upcoming dates include a night of stand-up comedy, an outdoor concert at Prospect Park and a walking dumpling tour in Chinatown. It’s a perfect present for people who prefer “experiences” over “things”! Enjoy your year of dates :)

  56. Liesel says...

    I’m doing a variation of a yes day for my husband this weekend. It’s a surprise and he has no idea what we are doing. Our fave sitter is coming for the day/night. I’m taking him to the shooting range where he will show me how to shoot (I’ve zero interest and he’s passionate about it), then to a yummy lunch of his choosing, an action flick (Deadpool, no thanks), checking in to a local hotel for a nap, dinner with friends, and then sleeping in at the hotel. All of his fave things and I’ll do all with enthusiasm (fake it til you make it!). We had our second baby eight months ago and it’s been non-stop kids since. It will be so good for us to have a day off, together, that has nothing to do with the kids.

    I’ve always wanted to do a 365 reasons I love you book, too. Write a letter or even a just a little note every single day for a year about something I respect, admire, appreciate about him. And then give it to him at Christmas, his bday, our anniversary..whenever. I just never seem to be able to do it. Love the year of dates idea.

    • Liesel says...

      “Yes” days are also super fun to do with kids. Set a limit on how much you can spend through the day and have any kind of parameters you want but kids love it so much to feel like they are in charge and get very little no’s for one day.

    • Gemma says...

      I tried the “Yes day” with my then 4 year old over the summer holidays last year. We ended up in the library, visiting lots of family and a subway for lunch. I was slightly disappointed :( But he loved it. I’m hoping this year we might have something a bit more outthere!

  57. I’ve been thinking about doing something like this, you kind of get out of the habit of dating when you have been together for a while. Excellent date ideas too.

  58. My husband gave me this for Christmas this year and it’s the GREATEST! It’s such fun to anticipate the upcoming date, and a gift that truly keeps on giving, throughout the entire year! Have a blast this year!

  59. Stephanie says...

    Great ideas & great post, thanks for this :)

  60. This is genius, I’m stealing ALL of these date ideas :)

  61. Awesome idea! I will do this for my husband’s birthday!

  62. Diane says...

    What a great idea! Reminds me of the gift a friend gave me the Christmas after my husband died. She took a ‘planning book/calendar,’ marked a day for each month that we were to meet, and paper clipped a gift card to each monthly page. The gift cards were for restaurants, coffee shops, a bookstore, a theater,etc. Planning ahead like she did and like you’re doing encourages us to make time for what’s important!

    • Leah says...

      What a good friend!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is so, so sweet, and i’m so sorry to hear about your husband. xoxo

    • Katie says...

      What a thoughtful, fun, wonderful, sweet idea.

  63. Leah says...

    I love the Moth. Other ideas: a cooking class, day trip to city island (weirdly enchanting), an overnight trip to Ritz White Plains including spas services and dinner at BLT Steak in the lobby — this is Johnny’s favorite without question!

  64. Angela says...

    It wouldn’t be weird for me to invite myself in your dates, would it?

    Kidding, but these do sound amazing!

  65. Great idea! Husband’s birthday is in 10 days and I haven’t bought him anything yet so this is perfect timing. I’ll have to think of a few more home dates as babysitting is so expensive!

  66. Suzay Quinn says...

    Love this and my husband’s bday is coming up. One question – are you showing the list to him ahead of time, or will they be surprises?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i showed him a few, and a few more will be surprises (i might switch a few up now that i wrote this post, ha!)

  67. Sarah Grewe says...

    I did this for my husband too, since he doesn’t like material gifts, and prefers “experiences”. I put them together into a little book that my daughter helped illustrate, and he gets to choose one each month. He loved it! Since we live in SF, some of the choices were a sunset sail from sausalito and dinner at FISH, a hike to the secret hot springs near Stinson beach, a bike ride and lunch at Saltwater in Inverness, a night at the Symphony, a show, a lecture at the Commonwealth Club and drinks, and an afternoon of art and a sampling of the art cakes at SF MoMa, and an afternoon browse at City Lights bookstore (where we ended up on our first date). I love this idea because it’s fun for me too!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is such a cute idea!!

    • Jill Palumbo says...

      FISH is one of my most favorite restaurants! I love sitting outside when the weather allows.

  68. Lindsey says...

    Love this idea. I really need to step it up in planning some new things, My husband and I regularly go on dates, but we are the worst about planning what we do… Usually we decide last minute, and by then we just end up going out to eat most nights… But its funny, after having 3 kids, Im pretty content just getting out, I just enjoy having a break from the kids and eating good food that I didn’t have to prepare or clean up.. :)

  69. Liz says...

    Yes to Fuerza Bruta if you haven’t done it! It is AMAZING!!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you!!

  70. Such a great idea! I’ve been meaning to put together a list of simple (and affordable) date ideas so that we have a go-to list when the time comes. Our date nights (which are far to rare) always seem to be thrown together last minute because we are tired and often lack the energy to think of something creative. Great inspiration here!

  71. Christine says...

    Fun idea! We have baby #2 on the way in 10 weeks or it might be a while before we get into regular dates again. I’ll keep these in mind for his birthday in October or for Christmas.

    We do plan on getting tickets to the Carole King Broadway show when it’s in SF later this year. We are both old souls when it comes to music, and loves a pbs special we saw on her recently. She is amazing in so many ways.

    Some of our favorite date days are just going to new and old eating spots all day, walking and taking public transportation to the next spots. We were also able to catch a movie at the park last year (back to the future!) and it was such a fun date. We picked up food and picnicked with hundreds of others and then enjoyed the movie.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      congratulations on your baby news! xo

  72. Jane says...

    The Upright Citizen’s Brigade photo is actually from an untelevised performance of SNL performed on a Saturday night during the writers strike. Michael Cera was the host, with musical guest Yo La Tengo. It was epic for several reasons but mainly because they performed skits that wouldn’t have made it past the sensors of live TV, hilarious! The entire SNL cast with Lorne Michael’s in the audience, one of the best date nights of my life!

  73. Cooper says...

    Great ideas! My husband and I recently rented those audio tour headset at an art museum and it made for a really sweet date, walking from piece to piece and listening to scholars describe the work.

  74. INSANELY clever! And my boyfriends bdays were some days ago. Damn it! Next year. (This year I gifted him 6 months membership at Skillshare, to learn eeeeevrything. You were a big inspiration on that. ;) )

    love, from

  75. oleandra says...

    What great ideas!
    I’ll add :

    go to a poetry slam at the Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe in the lower east side.
    Indoor rock climbing at the Sports Center at Chelsea Piers
    Fuerza Bruta – the amassing interactive show where the audience member are part of the action. So exciting and unexpected.

  76. So fun! I’m going to have to give a list to my husband for his birthday this year. What a great idea! I would add a cooking class so we could learn together. :)