Choose Your Own Columbus Date Adventure

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

To say dating can be an adventure is an understatement. If you need evidence (or a good laugh), however, just check out our staff answers to this issue's question of the week - "What was your worst date?" - on Page 10. But just because dating's an adventure doesn't mean it should be a bummer, too. To help add some diversity to your date life, such as it is, we've compiled a (not even close to exhaustive) list of options to be found in Columbus. Think of it as a Choose Your Own Date Adventure, just like that old book series we loved as kids.

For structure, we organized the options into three courses, or acts. The first part can be considered the ice-breaker, a fun chance to get to know your date a little better without all that awkward getting-to-know-you chit-chat. The middle part is dinner, because food. And the last course, or act, is the nightcap. (Of course, feel free to disregard these instructions and arrange your date in whatever fashion you'd damn well please.) We even hand-picked a few dates we'd like to go on ourselves.

Have fun! And remember, if your date still bombs, don't blame us, but please share the excruciating details.


Rivet Gallery's "Be My Valentine Group Exhibition"

+ DIY candles at Candle Lab

+ dinner at Till

+ the Bruce Munro exhibit

Total cost: Money ain't no thing for your valentine, right?

Want a more traditional Valentine's Day date? Is money not an issue? Excellent. You've come to the right place. Start your evening at Candle Lab, where you'll each make some smell-goods for the other. Walk hand-in-hand for the half-mile or so it takes to get to Rivet Gallery, where you'll peruse the corny/sweet/sadistic Valentine's cards made by local artists. Regale your love with stories of your first valentine. Laugh with your belly. Smile with your eyes. When you're done, it's time to dine like kings at Till Dynamic Fare. Go ahead, get that mac and cheese. And those cocktails. And that dessert. When you can take in no more, it's splitsies. But not with the bill. You pay for it all, dummy. It's time to head Downtown for the elegantly romantic Bruce Munro light exhibit. If you were planning to pop the question, now might be the time. It doesn't get better than this. -Justin McIntosh


Get lost at the Book Loft (free, depending on purchases)

+ hot dogs at Dirty Frank's ($6)

+ coffee and people watching at One Line Coffee in the Short North ($5)

Total cost: $11 (give or take)

It's totally possible to spend an afternoon on the town without spending yourself out of house and home. Start the day in German Village's labyrinth-like Book Loft, a sprawling-yet-carefully organized reader's mecca. Since you'll be saving money the rest of the date, go ahead and spring for a book or two (paperback, of course). We'd recommend grabbing any of the myriad "Calvin & Hobbes" collections to gear up for the upcoming Bill Watterson exhibition at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum. After that, head Downtown to Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace, where wieners are available starting at just $3, and order up a dog with your favorite toppings (we'll take ours with a healthy slathering of mustard). Cap the night with a dark, aromatic cup of coffee and some primo people watching at One Line Coffee in the Short North. -Andy Downing


"FFN's Date Night" at MadLab Theatre ($20)

+ Romantic dinner at Third & Hollywood ($60-$100)

+ Reliving childhood with toys at Big Fun ($1-$10)

Total cost: ($81-$130)

Planning the perfect date is totally subjective to the couple, but a good general rule is to make sure it's a lot of fun. Another good idea is to make sure there's some excellent food. So start with the fun, charming, slightly irreverent "FFN's Date Night," a play inspired by the audience's best/worst true dating stories, that's ideal for those looking to eschew the Hallmark holiday-ness this weekend. To add an element of (requisite) romance, swing by Third & Hollywood where upscale meals are served in a cozy, dimly-lit atmosphere for a relaxed and intimate dinner. Plus, the extensive wine list and classic cocktails will surely take the edge off, generating carefree conversation for first-daters. Wrap up with a stop at Big Fun, a shop with a host of retro toys (for boys and girls), perfect for making judgments about your date based on his or her favorite childhood toys. If you were a "Star Wars" kid, you've got good heart. Barbie, she's a princess. My Little Pony and/or TMNT - sexual dynamo! Make sure to commemorate the date with snapshots in the photo booth for a buck. -Jesse Tigges


Trapped in a Room with a Zombie ($28 per person)

+ dinner and drinks at Strongwater Food and Spirits ($30-$50 for two)

+ drinks and random entertainment at Rehab Tavern ($10)

Total cost: $100-120

Don't think of Franklinton as a date destination? Think again. Start off the night by challenging your brain and your survival instincts with the new Trapped In a Room with a Zombie adventure at the Columbus Idea Foundry. A big hit in Chicago, it's a fun update on those dinner theater murder mysteries, only with a zombie ($28 per person, Then grab dinner and a drink at Strongwater Food and Spirits. If one of you loves meat and the other is vegan, it's the best place in town for you both to be satisfied. Slip across the street for a nightcap at Rehab Tavern, where you may stumble upon anything from hip-hop karaoke to a string instrument performance. -Brad Keefe


North Market for the Fiery Foods Festival ($0-$20) + Angela Perley and The Howlin' Moons at Natalie's Coal-Fired Pizza ($10 +drinks) + "Shaun of The Dead" screening hosted by Nina West at The Gateway Film Center ($10)

Total cost: $30-$60

"The Notebook" was a dirty, dirty lie, and I am glad you recognize it too. There's a reason every movie made about Valentine's Day is awful. It's not just because of the trite storyline and cliche characters, it's because Valentine's Day is genuinely awful. Instead of doing the "romantic dinner for two" thing (which, by the way, never lives up to expectations), find something that you both might actually like at The North Market's Fiery Foods Festival. There's no cover for the event, and even if your date doesn't do spicy, all the North Market mainstays are on hand. Then head to Natalie's Coal-Fired Pizza in Worthington to see Angela Perley and The Howlin' Moons shake the stage. Once the ringing in your ears stops on Sunday, and you have sufficiently nursed your hangover, end Valentine's Day weekend the way God intended: With drag queens and flesh-eating zombies at the screening of "Shaun of The Dead" hosted by Nina West at The Gateway Film Center. -Abernathy Miller

FIRST COURSE (think of this as an appetizer/ice breaker):


See off-the-wall Valentine's Day cards at Rivet Gallery's "Be My Valentine Group Exhibition."

Tour the world's largest collection of comic-book art at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.

Get lost in the Book Loft's maze-like corridors.

Set your mouth ablaze at the Fiery Foods Festival at North Market.

Go old school with drinks and video games at 16-Bit Bar + Arcade.


Laugh off the Hallmark holiday with "FFN's Date Night" at MadLab Theatre.

Tour a local distillery, fantasize about making your own hooch.

Rent a CoGo bike and ride along the Scioto Mile.

Take in a "Shaun of the Dead" screening with Nina West.

Create your own candle scent at The Candle Lab.

$30 and up

Make art together with First Experience Glass Blowing Class at Glass Axis.

Go shopping for vinyl records at any of our city's great shops.

Down the hatch! Order up oysters at The Pearl.

Think of the children. Attend the charity event Bowl for Kid's Sake at Columbus Bowling Palace.

Soar over the forests with a ZipZone zip-line adventure.



Split the Motherclucker sandwich at Knead.

Woof down some cheap, quality eats with Little Palace's snack sandwiches.

Sample affordable wieners at Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace.

Go outlaw country with cheap whiskey and tacos at Bakersfield.

Share the large hummus platter at Lavash Cafe.


Sip quality local beers and munch quality food truck eats at Seventh Son.

Split a pizza at Natalie's Coal-Fired Pizza.

Calm date jitters with comfort food at Katalina's.

Wine and dine her with chocolate at Franklin Park Conservatory's Valentine's Day special.

Satisfy the vegan and omnivore at Strongwater Food and Spirits.

$30 and up

Third & Hollywood offers a relaxed, romantic setting ideal for first dates.

Eat like vegan kings at Till Dynamic Fare (tip: get the mac and cheese).

Go raw with sushi at Kihachi.

Dinner and a movie at Studio Movie Grill Arena Grand.

Take a road trip to Delaware to check out Veritas Tavern's molecular gastronomy.

THIRD COURSE (post-date nightcap/



Relive childhood fun with toys (and a photo booth) at Big Fun.

Sip old-timey soda at Rambling House Brewery.

Go rock climbing at Grange Audobon Center.

Get coffee and people watch at One Line Coffee.

Say yes to a nightcap at Rehab Tavern.


Desserts to die for at Rigsby's Kitchen.

Cheap whiskey goes best with Dick's Den's Tuesday bluegrass jam.

Pop in for a concert and after-dinner drinks at Ace of Cups.

Take in the lights at the Franklin Park Conservatory's Bruce Munro exhibit.

Drink some booze and play board games at Kingmakers in the Short North.

$30 and up

Hey homebodies, "Let's Get it On" with "High Fidelity" and a good bottle of wine or booze.

Paddle around the Alum Creek State Park with kayaks.

Take in some legitimate thee-ay-ter with "How We Got On" at Available Light Theatre.

Get all romantic-like with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra's "Romeo and Juliet" at Ohio Theatre.

Laugh your ass off with Amy Schumer at Ohio Theatre.