Warm weather seems to keep our evenings busy and ever-changing, but the winter months can start to feel a bit redundant. Make dinner, clean the kitchen, pick out something on Netflix (or Hulu, or HBOMax….you know the drill). And while I absolutely love the hygge season and a good couch session…I get antsy for more variety and engagement.
So a couple of years ago we established a few theme nights and also came up with a list of ideas we could pull from when winter got the best of us. If you’re looking for ways to spend your evening that aren’t watching Netflix, I hope these might help!
TedTalks Tuesday: This is one of our longest-standing traditions. I think we’ve been doing it for nearly a decade already?! If you don’t know what a TedTalk is, they are “a video presentation that introduces a great idea in 18 minutes or less”. How to do it: You are each in charge of browsing TedTalks and picking 3-5 you are interested in watching that week. They are typically short (10-15 mins). You’ll also select a new beverage recipe to try out. You can choose it together or alternate weeks. Then, after dinner, spend a little time whipping up your bevvie of choice and settle in for some TedTalks. How you do this part is up to you, but we take turns choosing which one to play next. I recommend taking a few minutes between each one to discuss it. Do it for as long as it’s enjoyable! If you only want to watch 2-4 before switching to a movie or something more mindless, go for it. If you could do it for hours, do it! If you’re single, try doing this with a friend and curating lists for each other. Resources: Need recipe inspiration? Check out my Cocktail Pinboard or my Hydration Pinboard for n/a options. Browse TedTalks on their website or YouTube channel.
Have a themed meal + movie night. Make dinner more of an interactive evening activity by making a themed meal + movie night! We did this a ton during the pandemic, so we have plenty of recommendations for you. Check out our list, below:
🌮 Tacos, margaritas + 🎬 Chef
🥪Croque Monsieur, wine + 🎬 It’s Complicated
🌭 Hot dogs, cheap beer + 🎬 Rookie of the Year
🥧 Savory Pie, Tom Collins 🎬 The Help
🏕 Tinfoil dinners, s’mores martini + 🎬 The Package
🍝 Pasta, Negronis + 🎬 The Italian Job
🍕 Homemade Pizza, beer + 🎬 Mystic Pizza
🥖 Bruschetta, dry martinis + 🎬 Julie & Julia
🍔 Hamburgers, Long Island iced teas + 🎬 Waiting
Best Self Co Cards. Life gets busy, and it can be easy to feel disconnected from your partner…and maybe like you have nothing to talk about except work. We are longtime fans of these Best Self Co Cards, and have several sets that we take with us on trips, on date nights, and sometimes use at home for a cozy evening! How to do it: Basically, they are just a box of cards containing questions. They help get the conversation started and can help you explore new topics. You can also use them as writing or journaling prompts on your own. Resources: You can browse all the cards at BestSelfCo.com. Our favorites are the Edison Deck and the Intimacy Deck.
Go for a walk w/ podcast or shared playlist. Did you know you can create a remote listening session on Spotify and listen to a playlist or podcast in tandem? We love doing this and have used it to listen to playlists on a long evening walk or episodes of This American Life while sitting on a beach in Greece (pretty sure we both cried in public, NBD). How to do it: In the Spotify App, click on the “device” icon that lets you choose which device your Spotify account is playing from (your phone, desktop, a nearby tv, etc.), and from that list, choose “Start a Remote Group Session”. From there, you can invite up to 7 people to listen along with you. This ensures that whatever you are listening to is synced up, and if anyone in the session pauses/skips forward, etc., it will happen for everyone. Worth noting that you don’t need to be together to do this so that it can be a fun date activity for long-distance relationships, too. Resources: Here’s Spotify’s official tutorial for how to start a Group Session.
Combine puzzles and trash TV. Okay, hear me out….but puzzles are cool again. I think one of the reasons people are loving them is that the activity occupies both your mind and your hands, helping reduce that urge to grab your phone. We take it a step further by watching trashy reality TV in the background while working on puzzles. Did we watch every episode of Teen Mom while doing this? Possibly. But there are actual benefits! Jigsaw puzzles can help improve spatial reasoning, short-term memory, and problem-solving skills. From a marriage perspective, we often joke that puzzling together makes us way better communicators. How to do it: This one seems pretty self-explanatory, right? Grab a puzzle. Pick out a trashy reality show. Resources: Our favorite puzzles are Martin Swartz or Galison. So gorgeous! Such great quality! We never tire of it. Our favorite reality series so far have been: Teen Mom, Below Deck, The Circle, and Too Hot to Handle.
TLC/Spa Night. Before hunkering down on the couch for three episodes of White Lotus, try spending 20-30 minutes swapping a little TLC. It’s a great way to connect with your partner after a long day and show your affection before zoning out with the TV. How to do it: If you’re solo — treat yourself to a spa night! As a couple, you can keep it simple by swapping 1-3 minute hand massages (so underrated if you both work on computers all day) or go for a 20-minute full-body massage if you’ve got the energy. You could also try couples yoga or breathwork. Resources: Glamour is comin’ in hot with 29 At-Home Spa Night Ideas.
Read, but romanticize it. We both enjoy reading and want to do more of it, and we’ve found that making it an activity we can do together helps us prioritize it. Saying you’ll read for 30 minutes before turning on the TV is a great way to make it part of your evening routine. How to do it: Romanticize it by lighting some candles or a fire, getting your favorite blanket, maybe pouring a glass of wine, or putting on an instrumental playlist. Resources: You can find all my favorite books organized right here.
Teach Me Thursdays. This one is a bit of a spin-off from TedTalks Tuesday, but can be a fun alternative if you’re a hands-on person. How to do it: Pick a topic, and then spend 5-10 minutes teaching each other about it. You can make it as intense as you want. Stand up and wing it, or prepare an entire slide deck. The topics can be funny or as serious as the rise of fascism in Western Democracies. Up to you! Resources: My only resource here is that Canva is a great place to whip up a fast presentation that you can easily cast to your TV.
Have a productivity night. Who says your evening has to be lazy or unproductive? If you’re in the mood to get something done, do it! We often call these a “Productivity Night” and while it can sometimes mean working late, we also use these as an opportunity to collaborate together on new ideas, plan our next trip, or tackle things like taxes or visa applications. How to do it: I recommend deciding in advance that you’re having a Productivity Night so everyone is on the same page. It’s also helpful to identify what you’ll be working on or how the time will be spent (working together, independently, etc.). It’s nice to plan something easy for dinner or order in so you can optimize your time. And to make it more fun, try working in a new space, like at the kitchen table with some candles or next to each other on the couch with a classic movie on in the background.
Learn a new board game. Boardgames have been a really big part of our marriage since the very beginning and have always been a fun way for us to connect. Sometimes we’ll get on a roll with a new game and play it every evening for weeks (not competitive at all). How to do it: Stick to the classics like Monopoly or Pictionary, or branch out into more complex strategy games. Resources: We’re big fans of Dominion, Hive, Farkel, and Wingspan. Here’s a post with all of our favorite board games. Most of them are 2-player and are a great place to start!
Okay, after I finished this entire post, I remembered a few other creative things we’ve done, so I’m adding a few bonus ideas below:
Write Nights. There’s the obvious suggestion of inviting friends over for dinner or a game night, but maybe you also have creative friends who love to write. When we lived in Minneapolis, we used to host “Write Night” on Wednesdays and had a friend who we’d invite over for dinner + writing. We’d mostly sit around and brainstorm ideas for television shows or movie scripts…sometimes we’d write out scenes. Nothing ever really came of it (yet!!!), but we had a ton of fun!
Livingroom camping. Have we actually set our tent up in our living room before? Yes. But you don’t have to go that far. Just pretend you’re nine years old again and build a pillow bed or blanket fort to make your movie-watching extra cozy. Bonus points if you watch a camping-themed movie like The Great Outdoors, Into the Wild, or The Package.
Make art! Draw each other. Watch a YouTube tutorial for drawing or painting. Try doing paint-by-numbers (actually so fun). Or wing it with some cheap paint and canvases. We’ve done this a few times, and it’s always a good laugh at the very least.
10 Ways to Spend Your Evening (that Aren’t Watching Netflix)