Cover Story

A Providence Love Story

Perfect date ideas – plus one not required


So you’ve met someone you’d like to get to know better. Great. Now what? Take the object of your affection on one of these memorable excursions, whether it’s your first date, your first anniversary or your fourth decade together. Love is in the air this month. Don’t waste it.

Let’s get something straight right off the bat. Not all dates are created equal. Depending on how you met your beloved and how long you two have known each other, your choice of location, activity and time commitment needs to change. Choose carefully, and you’re guaranteed to make a big impression. Whether that impression is good or bad is totally up to you. We’re not experts in romance at all. We just know how to have fun in the city.

You're on a First Date with Someone You Met Online
Did your Match/Tinder/OK/Whatever profile say that you “love going out on the town and trying all the new spots”? Time to prove it. Impress your date with your knowledge of the city’s brand new hotspots.

The key to a great date – especially when you don’t know much about the person – is to choose a location that has some kind of interest factor built in. That way, when there’s a lull in the conversation, you have things around you to talk about. Biergarten, the new German beer hall, has a great beer selection and shareable Bavarian-inspired food. The fact that the place just opened in November and your date probably hasn’t heard of it yet? Bonus. 114 Spruce Street. 780-8975,

If things are going well, time to amp up the romance. Walk around the corner to DaVinci, where you have two options: head upstairs to the cigar bar, or downstairs into the dining room. The ambience is perfect for romance: low lighting, stylish decor and a bar where it’s easy to get closer to your date. Order a couple of martinis and the Antipasto Della Casa. 146 Acorn Street. 572-3911,

Since you just spent the last couple of hours cocktailing your way around Federal Hill, you probably don’t need another drink. But if you’re too enamored to call it a night, head for a nightcap just down the street at Pastiche. It’s not exactly brand new, but they make a great espresso, have a romantic fireplace and serve slices of Torta di Cioccolata with two forks. 92 Spruce Street. 861-5190,

You're Going on a First Date With Someone You Actually Know in Real Life
So you’ve captured that elusive unicorn: you met someone face to face, and managed to land a date. Even better, you’re turning a friend into more-than-friends. Focus on smaller venues where the two of you can get to know each other better without running into half of the city.

Start with a cocktail at The Eddy. The tiny bar serves inventive, delicious libations and has all the low lighting you want on a date. Your best bet is to go on slightly off hours – at 7pm on a Saturday, you’re probably going to wait a bit for seats, and those 15 minutes of standing there and staring awkwardly at each other aren’t going to set a great tone for the evening. On a Wednesday, though? Date perfect. 95 Eddy Street. 831-3339,

If you’d like to keep the evening going, head around the corner to Vinya Tapas. It’s a scientifically proven fact that tapas are the perfect date food. Not only do you decide together on different plates to share, but the order-as-you-go pacing of tapas means that you decide how long or short you want the evening to be. Vinya, the new tapas place on Westminster, has authentic European chops and a luxe, date-friendly ambience. 225A Westminster Street. 508-942-8918,

If you’re too busy making heart-shaped eyes at each other to possibly call the date to a close, head to The Duck and Bunny. There’s a reason that this “snuggery” is consistently full of couples – it’s basically the perfect date destination. Fireplaces in all three rooms + sparkling cocktails + gourmet cupcakes + plush banquettes to cozy up to each other = romance in the air. 312 Wickenden Street. 270-3300,

You Want to Ensure a Memorable Second Date
So the first date went well. That’s great (and you’re welcome). Now is the time to step up your game. The first impression is important, but you want your future beloved to know you’ve got more than one trick up your sleeve.

Start out the evening at The Avery. Yes, your date has heard of the tucked away West Side cocktail joint, but your date will know by your selection of said West Side cocktail joint that you’re a connoisseur both of watering holes and of companions to bring to them. Order an Aviation (a classic combination of gin, maraschino, lemon and creme de violette) or a Japanese whiskey – both are equally impressive – and get cozy on those banquettes. 18 Luongo Square.

Follow up your strong start with dinner at The Dorrance. It’s arguably Providence’s most beautiful restaurant, and so suggestive of romance that couples get married there on the regular. The nice part is that the food stands up to the decor for an irresistible epicurean one-two. Linger over oysters on the half shell, Pappardelle with Lobster or Salmon with Forbidden Rice – just maybe don’t pull any creepy Shakespearean “food of love” stuff. 60 Dorrance Street. 521-6000,

By this point you’ll probably have had enough of sitting at restaurants. Time for some fun. Head to a live show. Aurora has music, theatre or film screenings nightly. Monday nights have live music, Tuesdays are comedy open mic, some Wednesdays have salsa dancing. Get moving together – it’s a sure way to test the chemistry. 276 Westminster Street. 272-5723,

You and Your Significant Other Have a Day Off Together
The key to maintaining a long-term relationship is to keep things fresh. Instead of the same old Saturday night date, mix it up by taking a weekday off together. No kids, no errands, no chores. Just each other.

Start the day off right by treating yourselves to a super fancy lunch. The Capital Grille will do nicely for this. Sit by the windows overlooking Waterplace Park, share a half-bottle of red and a couple of petit filets, and have a real conversation. The most important thing: leave your phone in your pocket the entire time. This is about connecting, not looking up mid-season trades. 10 Memorial Boulevard. 521-5600,

Don’t be afraid to have some silly fun together. Try ice skating at the Alex and Ani City Center. Nothing will make you feel more like a kid – or more like you’re back at the beginning of your relationship – than wobbling around on skates for the first time in who knows how long. The upside? You’re guaranteed to have someone at home to ice your bruises. 2 Kennedy Plaza. 331-5544,

Cap off your downtown adventure with a couples massage at The Spa at the Biltmore. It’s conveniently right across the street from the skating rink, so no matter what condition you’re in after skating, you’ll be able to walk over. The spa offers 20% off all services to Providence residents, but that doesn’t mean you can’t book a room if you’re feeling spontaneous. 11 Dorrance Street. 455-3100,

You Want to Rekindle the Romance
Think unforgettably romantic nights are reserved exclusively for Paris and Rome? Think again. It’s possible to fan the flames of romance right here in Providence. Here’s how.

You know those gondolas that are always going up and down the river during WaterFire? It turns out La Gondola offers rides all the time, not just while there are thousands of people standing on either side of the river, watching your every move. The experience is a lot more romantic without the audience. The bonus: taking one in the cold weather means you’ll just have to try that much harder to keep each other warm. 1 Citizens Plaza. 421-8877,

There’s a lot of pressure surrounding Valentine’s Day, the most romantic day of the year according to Hallmark and the Lifetime Movie Network. Lucky for you, V-Day falls on a Sunday this year, effectively giving you three days to get it right. The restaurants at the Providence G are celebrating all weekend long. Both Garde de la Mer and The Rooftop are serving prix-fixe dinner with live music all three nights, and the Rooftop is serving a special brunch on Sunday. Romantic dining under the stars? Yeah, you’re getting this right. 100 Dorrance Street. 585-8005,

Whether you live in Providence or not, make a night of it and stay at The Dean. The stylish hotel has garnered attention from GQ and Town & Country magazines this year alone. Grab a surprisingly inexpensive room and see where the night takes you… whether to cocktails at The Magdelanae Room or karaoke at The Boombox, obviously. Why, what were you thinking? 122 Fountain Street. 455-3326,

You're Planning a Friend Date
There’s so much more to do with friends than sit around and drink beer. Try out one of these alternatives instead.

Ugh. Exercise. But it turns out there are some classes that are actually much more fun when you bring a friend, like kickboxing. The two of you will be sparring, gloves on, trying equally hard not to punch each other in the face or to laugh hysterically at how silly you feel. Trust us. It’s a really good time, and it’s a lot more fun than spending a Sunday morning over cold Eggs Benedict. Try Fight 2 Fitness (65 Blackstone Avenue, Pawtucket. 728-2039,, or Rondeau’s Kickboxing (12 Sunnyside Avenue, Johnston. 996-5425,, to start your own (hopefully less violent) Fight Club.

Put your brains, and your friendship, to the test at Escape RI. The interactive puzzle game locks you in a room for an hour, with only each other to help solve the puzzle and get you out. There are two different games: The Study puts you in the mansion of a reclusive billionaire, where you must rescue your fellow secret agents and discover his secrets; in The Gallery, you must rescue a famous artist by investigating her studio for clues before it’s too late. 385 South Main Street. 572-3889,

Find some inner peace at Urban Sweat at Raffa Yoga. The spa experience is a series of saunas and steam rooms, designed to detoxify your body, clear your mind and rejuvenate your spirit. Especially in the cold weather, it’s a great way to spend an indulgent couple of hours. Couple Urban Sweat, where you can stay as long as you like, with a facial or massage, before or after a yoga class, for a truly mindful day. 19 Sharpe Drive, Cranston. 463-3335,

You're Going Solo to Meet a Future Date
You’re not going to meet anyone to Netflix and chill with while actually Netflixing and chilling. Get out there and have some fun.

Get some culture. The RISD Museum is worth a visit just for your own enrichment, but who knows, you might bump into a fellow appreciator of the arts who’s just dying to get a cup of coffee with you. The exhibit that opened at the end of January, Jesse Burke: Wild & Precious, is a RISD grad’s photographic journey across America with his daughter. Plus, the museum is free on Sundays and the third Thursday evening of the month.

Dining solo at the bar gets a bad rep, but it’s actually a lot of fun if you go into the experience with the right mindset. Pick a lively place like XO Cafe (125 North Main Street. 273-9090, or Ten Prime Steak & Sushi (55 Pine Street. 453-2333, Strike up a conversation with the bartender, or some people sitting on either side of you. Just don’t spend the whole time staring into your phone. You’ll never see what’s happening in the world around you if you’re delving into the depths of social media.

Get out of your element and learn something new. Take a cooking class – Johnson & Wales ( offers one-day lessons in everything from knife skills to tapas to party appetizers. Look at your city from a new perspective on a Rhode Island Historical Society walking tour ( See an indie movie at The Cable Car ( Whatever you do, just get out of your routine and out of your own way. You never know what could happen.