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The best part about dating -- besides the prospect of zeroing in on your "soul mate" -- is that you have the perfect excuse to plan interesting outings. True, the dinner-and-a-movie gambit is a classic, but sitting silently in a theater cuts down on the chance to get to know one another on a deeper level. And for more established couples, the "same old same old" can get stale fast. To spice things up, add these inspired ideas to your dating repertoire.
1. Meet Verdi, Puccini, or Mozart. Get tickets for an afternoon or evening at the opera. To keep costs down, check with a local college or university about campus performances. If you're concerned about keeping up with the plot, look up the basics of the story online or at the library beforehand.
2. Let loose your animal instinct. Head to the nearest zoo and visit the children's section; that's usually where you can feed friendly goats, sheep, and the like, check out cool interactive exhibits, and even pose for a souvenir photo with a harmless snake.
3. Be on the move. Instead of staying at one restaurant for a whole evening, plan a progressive dinner: have appetizers at one place, then move somewhere else for dinner and to a third place for dessert. Just be sure to scout out spots that aren't too far from one another; you don't want to feel like you spent most of the night in the car. If your stops are within walking distance of each other, all the better.
4. Go back to school. Whether your last foray into a classroom was months or years ago, give it a try on your next date. Check the continuing education department at a local college or the Y for classes on everything from cooking to computers. You and your date can partake in a one-day workshop, or perhaps a several-session course if you feel comfortable setting up a "standing" date.
5. Take him out to the ball game. A major-league face-off is always a blast, especially if your team is a hot ticket. But if seats are hard to come by, especially on short notice, don't overlook the fun of a minor league or local Little League game. All the elements of a pro game -- pride, ego, spirit of competition -- are there.
6. Let Mother Nature chaperone. Pack up some Power Bars and bottles of water, lace up your sturdiest sneakers or boots, and go for a nature hike. For specific information on thousands of locations to explore in the United States and Canada, visit www.trails.com.
7. Giddy up! While away an afternoon on horseback. No experience? Not to worry. Just tell the stable staff you're a complete beginner; they'll match you with an especially docile horse and teach you the basics before you set out. To search for stables by state, log onto www.horserentals.com.
8. Have a ball. Go bowling! Rented shoes that make your feet look big and the privilege of hurling a heavy ball down an alley make for major bonding.
9. Join the cultural elite. Museum-hopping isn't just for ladies who lunch or kids on school trips. Scour the listings section of your local newspaper or city magazine for news of special exhibits and events.
10. Pretend you're tourists. If you're like most people, you rarely partake of all that your hometown has to offer; that's why New York City, for example, is full of people who have never been to the top of the Empire State Building or to the Statue of Liberty. Think of all the places that visitors flock to see, and mingle with your area's guests for a good time.