Couple holding hands

A couple holds hands on the campus of Virginia Tech. Different cultures respond differently to public displays of affection and other romantic behaviors.

We can all agree that dating is hard. Once you meet someone and get out of the dreaded talking stage, planning the first real date is a challenge. First, you must decide where to go on your date. You could go with the classic dinner and a movie, or something a little more interactive like bowling. Then there’s what to wear: dress up or more casual? Not to mention that none of this even begins to cover the date itself and the awkward small talk and nervous energy that accompany it. But then came COVID-19, and it placed dating on hold. As things have begun to open back up, couples have started getting creative with their date ideas, whether that be their first date or their 100th. COVID-19 may have placed some restrictions on going on dates, but you can still find creative ways to have fun with your significant others while back in Blacksburg this fall.  

Depending on the phase of quarantine, date ideas have had to change and evolve. For senior multimedia journalism major Renata Peña and her boyfriend of nine months, senior industrial systems engineering major Jacob Labinger, they’ve chosen to make the best of the unfortunate circumstances by altering their dates to be at home.

“I feel as if COVID has changed things in a sense that instead of us being able to go out and do things, that's now bringing things to the apartments,” Peña said. “So instead we order food and hang out and watch TV instead of going out and getting food and then exploring town or something like that.” 

One idea for a COVID-friendly date is a pre-COVID classic: a movie marathon. Peña and Labinger took full advantage of this during the first weeks of quarantine.

“When quarantine first started, we watched all the ‘Harry Potter’ movies in order on his projector every night in a row,” Peña said. “So that was really fun and really cute; it was just like a movie theater in his house.” 

One of the most common date ideas is going out to dinner; however, several bars and restaurants are still only open to hold a limited capacity or only for outdoor seating. In Blacksburg, all bars and restaurants are only open to 50% capacity, and all restaurants and bars are closed at midnight. This limits the ability to go downtown on dates, like many Hokies enjoyed before the pandemic, so Peña and Labinger have opted for another COVID-friendly idea: exploring cooking.

“The most common date we do nowadays, honestly, (is) just cooking food together,” Peña said. “We pick a recipe that we want to make, we go to the store, we have our little shopping spree and then we come back and make the dinner. It takes a little bit of time, which is nice because nowadays you want to spend as much time outside of your house as you can.”

Even though restaurants may be limited, it’s still important to support local businesses in Blacksburg so that they are able to stay open. As long as you’re following guidelines, downtown dates can still be an option for Hokies and other Blacksburg residents alike. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, getting outdoors has been a safe option for getting out of the house –– and couples can make a date out of it. Taking walks around the Drillfield or going down to the Duck Pond are both great if you want to stay on campus. If you’re willing to drive a little bit, hikes like McAfee Knob, the Cascades and Dragon’s Tooth are all well within reach of Blacksburg, and the fall weather and colors make for some pretty views and romantic dates. If hiking isn’t really your thing, a date to Mill Mountain Star in Roanoke is also a great thing to do. Whether you go at night or during the day, you’re sure to have a great date. 

Even though COVID-19 has changed how we go on dates, there are still plenty of things to do around Blacksburg and Southwest Virginia. As long as COVID-19 guidelines are being followed, there is no reason you can’t get out and support local businesses downtown on a dinner date. There are also options like at-home movie theaters, hiking trails and learning to cook with your significant other that make for quality time and a lot of fun. These may not make dating any easier or take the awkwardness out of a first date, but they can still make for safe dating around Blacksburg. 

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