Fun Dates For Single Parents

You, your sweetie—and the kids? Yes, all of you can have a blast with these clever ideas custom-tailored for the fall season.

By Bob Strauss

t’s a lazy autumn Saturday, and rather than the usual routine — depositing your kids in front of the TV and sneaking onto the deck with your beau and some fresh coffee
Even if you don’t live near a large body of water, you should be able to find an out-of-the-way lake equipped with a rowboat rental.
for a bit of peace and quiet — you’ve decided on a fun “family” date that will allow the whole lot of you to get to know each other. Rather than toting everyone to a football game or an animated blockbuster, why not try one of these more creative (and more intimate) options?

A boat ride. Even if you don’t live near a large body of water, with a little research, you should be able to find an out-of-the-way lake (natural or artificial) equipped with a rowboat rental—or perhaps something even more offbeat. "I thought my boyfriend was crazy when he suggested we take the kids on a canoe ride on the Gowanus Canal," says Kate Pennell, 42, of Brooklyn, NY. "But it turns out the Gowanus is really nice, not full of garbage, as I feared, and we were the only people on the water." Be sure to give all the kids life vests, just in case you’ve overestimated your rowing skills.

A spin on a Harley. This isn’t recommended for more fearful parents, parents of very young kids, or anyone who isn’t going to get the right safety gear, but the rewards (in terms of “cool-boyfriend” points) can be enormous. Even better, unless your girlfriend happens to be a Hell’s Angel, you can’t all go riding together, which will give you the much-needed opportunity to bond with her kids one at a time. “I once offered to take my date's six-year-old for a ride on my motorcycle," says David Day, 33, of Richmond, VA. "She was a bit nervous at first, but once I had him strapped on wearing a kid-sized helmet, she relaxed a bit. Later I found out he told all his friends in school about it.”

A long, leisurely walk. If you want instant tension and bickering, nothing beats piling everyone into the SUV and taking a two-hour drive in the country. A better idea is to identify an historic landmark or site of interest that’s within a reasonable distance, pack a bag of cookies and juice boxes, and tell the kids they’re taking a hike, whether they like it or not. There’ll still be some bickering and exaggerated complaints of tired legs, but you’ll be surprised how soon the little ones get into the spirit, noticing acorns and colorful leaves—and how they’ll actually listen to you (and have something to say in return) during the trip.

A day at the amusement park. Granted, this usually isn’t as much fun for adults as it is for kids, but if you’re trying to make a positive impression on your boyfriend’s 10-year-old son, nothing beats accompanying him on the tallest roller coaster in a five-state radius (which will probably be called something like “The Atomic Gutbuster”). Most big parks are open on weekends in the fall, especially as Halloween approaches. Signing on for this scheme is a true sign of devotion. “One man I was dating volunteered to take me and the kids to a theme park on the weekend, even though I knew he needed to catch up on work,” says Linda Goldman, 45, of Boca Raton, FL. “The kids loved it, and we all appreciated the time he gave us.”

Bob Strauss is a freelance writer and children’s book author who lives in New York City. He’s also written the Dinosaur guide on, the online information network owned by the New York Times.
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