Couples across the country are planning alphabet dates as a way to escape the perpetual dinner-and-a-movie trap and instead date out-of-the-box. You can date your way through the alphabet by planning a letter-themed date from A to Z, or you can opt for a shorter series of dates by using the letters in your last name as a guide.
A is for art. The Minnetonka Center for the Arts turns 60 this year and plans a special celebration on June 30. Browse through the exhibits at the Art Center or take a class as a couple on anything from ceramics or jewelry making to drawing. 2240 N. Shore Dr., Wayzata; 952.473.7361
B is for brunch. Start your B-date early—or at least by mid-day—by eating at one of several fabulous brunch spots on Lake Minnetonka. Taste made-to-order omelets, prime rib, fish or fruits while sipping on signature cocktails overlooking the lake. If you'd rather forego the patio and eat your brunch on a boat, check out the American brunch cruise on a BayView charter. 687 Excelsior Blvd., Excelsior; 952.470.8439
C is for canoe. Take your sweetheart for a canoe ride by the light of the moon in a popular Three Rivers Park District program, Canoe When the Moon is Full. A guide will lead canoes at six area lakes on a two-hour excursion. You can listen to folklore while you watch for wildlife like deer, heron and muskrat. Various locations, Three Rivers Park District; 763.559.9000
D is for dining. Instead of going to the same local joint, try a new place. Go for an old fashioned drive, then dine on a great burger at the Minnetonka Drive-In in Spring Park. If you want a fine dining experience on your list, try the Hazellewood Grill and Tap Room in Tonka Bay. Also, don’t forget about Al & Alma’s dinner cruise that docks out of Mound. Minnetonka Drive-In, 4658 Shoreline Dr., Spring Park; 952.471.9383; Hazellewood Grill and Tap Room, 5635 Manitou Rd., Tonka Bay; 952.401.0066; Al and Alma’s, 5201 Piper Rd., Mound; 952.472.3098
E is for education. Always wanted to learn to make pasta or sushi? Brush up on your Norwegian? Learn CPR? You can find just about any of class you could possibly want through community education offered by local cities and school districts. By planning in advance for your E-date, you could schedule a one-night course or have this date stretch over the course of a few weeks.
F is for film. Use this date as an opportunity to patronize local movie theatres. If you want a different type of movie experience, opt for a Movie in the Park, which is offered by several cities during the summer and generally features a family-friendly flick. Sometimes, you can even bring Fido along.
G is for get-away. If you can’t escape for an entire weekend, opt for an in-town get-away. Some B&Bs require a two-night stay, but the Bird House Inn and Gardens on Water Street allows single-night stays during the summer at very reasonable prices. All rooms come with a private bath, snacks, wireless internet, DVD player and access to the inn’s DVD collections, plus a tasty breakfast spread in the morning. 371 Water St., Excelsior; 952.474.0196
H is for happy hour. Opt for a casual weeknight date out and use the opportunity to check out one of the many bars surrounding Lake Minnetonka. Enjoy live music or a volleyball game at Lord Fletcher’s in Spring Park. Come early to get a spot on the deck at Maynard’s in Excelsior. Check out the latest blues bands and $5 specials at The Narrows Saloon in Navarre. Want to keep up with the H-theme? Order a hamburger. Lord Fletcher’s, 3746 Sunset Dr., Spring Park; 952.471.8513; Maynard’s, 685 Excelsior Blvd., Excelsior; 952.470.1800; The Narrows Saloon, 3380 Shoreline Dr., Navarre; 952.471.3352
I is for ice skating. Beat the heat on your I-date with an ice cream cone, then skate hand-in-hand with your date at several area ice arenas. Since this is the off-peak time at ice arenas, you can depend on a bit of extra space to practice your twirling tricks as long as your partner is prepared to catch you when you fall.
J is for jump. People of any age and ability can jump sky high at the Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park in Plymouth. You have to sign a waiver before jumping and the trampolines might get a little crowded on Saturdays with birthday parties in full swing, but you can buy tickets online to guarantee your jump time. 13310 Industrial Park Blvd., #160, Plymouth; 763.331.3511
K is for kid. Remember all of the fun you used to have as a kid at area carnivals? Relive it all at summertime festivals. Ride the scrambler. Win a stuffed animal. Eat cotton candy. Get your face painted. From Long Lake and Orono's SummerFest to Mound's Spirit of the Lakes, there's ample opportunity to be a kid. Have kids? This is one opportunity where kids will add to the fun and make your K-date complete. SummerFest; Spirit of the Lakes
L is for links. Play a round of golf with your honey for your L-date. If you both aren't avid golfers, opt for a few hours at a driving range. If you'd rather go for an inside date, you can swing away on a simulator course at Bunker Indoor Golf Center in Minnetonka. Make it a couples date and compete against friends on golf courses from around the country while you have pizza and beer from the snack bar. 14900 Hwy. 7 W., Minnetonka; 952.936.9595
M is for Minnehaha. One fun date on the Steamboat Minnehaha allows you to board in Excelsior, ride to Wayzata, disembark and listen to live music at the Gazebo, and board again for Excelsior. The Wayzata Concert Cruise costs $15 for adults and $5 for kids, and only happens four times during the summer. Want to eat while you listen to music? Call in your order ahead of time and some restaurants will meet you with dinner at the Wayzata dock.
N is for Noerenberg Memorial Gardens. Stroll what's considered one of the finest scenic gardens in Minnesota anytime in the summer from 8 a.m. to sunset. The English-Landscape-style garden features a variety of annuals, perennials and rose beds, but it’s known for its daylilies. The grounds used to be the estate of Grain Belt Brewery founder Frederick Noerenberg and his family bequeathed the estate to the Three Rivers Park District in 1972. 2865 N. Shore Dr., Wayzata; 763.559.6700
O is for orchestra. Enjoy one of a dozen community concerts offered by some of the nearly 300 musicians of the Music Association of Minnetonka. Listen to the Symphony Orchestra at Minnetonka SummerFest on the grounds of the Minnetonka City Hall June 23. Or make plans to attend the 40th anniversary of Music in Plymouth July 3. If you plan to go, be prepared to take a blanket or a few lawn chairs and stake out your space early in the day. Minnetonka Summer Festival; Music in Plymouth
P is for picnic—on an island. You have to find your own way to Wild Goose Chase Island, Wawatasso Island or Big Island, but there are picnic areas available for an afternoon lunch. Much of the land is undeveloped and doesn't have restrooms or drinking water; however, portions of Big Island, owned by the City of Orono, have informal hiking trails that allow visitors to see vistas of Lake Minnetonka as well as native plants, animals and birds.
Q is for quiche. Quiche is a savory egg dish that can contain ingredients like thyme, bacon, mushrooms, cheese, sun-dried tomatoes or even hash browns. The hash brown quiche is a favorite at Antiquity Rose in Excelsior, which offers tasty, home-style dishes prepared daily. Quiche is also made each day at the 318 Café in Excelsior. Plan your visit with time to browse in the different shops in the old refurbished lumber mill. Antiquity Rose, 429 2nd St., Excelsior; 952.474.2661; 318 Café, 318 Water St., Excelsior; 952.401.7902
R is for relax. Unwind with your honey at The Marsh in Minnetonka. Choose from a variety of massages or body treatments that can be customized to the two of you. You can stay for a single spa service, half a day or even overnight. Finish off your date with a meal at The Marsh's cafe or restaurant, which serves food raised locally. 15000 Minnetonka Blvd., Minnetonka; 952.935.2202
S is for sweets. Satisfy your sweet tooth by taking a tour of area sweet shops. Taste savory homemade chocolate creations, like Mexican chocolate infused with red pepper flakes, at Truffle Hill Chocolates in Excelsior. Pick up a Nut Goodie and other Minnesota favorites at the Minnetonka General Store. Continue your journey to Donamae's - A Sweet Studio in Deephaven, which has been serving up gourmet popcorn and other homemade goodies for 25 years. Truffle Hill Chocolates, 24320 Smithtown Rd., Excelsior; 952.470.1996; Minnetonka General Store, 14401 Hwy. 7, Minnetonka; 952.935.7131; Donamae’s, 18283 Minnetonka Blvd., Deephaven; 952.926.8784
T is for trolley ride. Step back into the days of the trolley by taking a ride on the Excelsior Streetcar Line. On the half-mile trek through parts of Excelsior, you can stop to learn about 1880s trains, paddlewheel boats, hotels and see a trolley as it is restored.
U is for the ultimate date. Let the U-date be a sort of design-it-yourself date. If you were to pick one ultimate date for you and your significant other, what would it be? Sushi and extravagant shopping? A long dinner? Ice cream and strolling by the lake? Or just hunkering down at home and enjoying a backyard fire with s’mores? After all of the letter-dictated dates, this is your opportunity to dream up your favorite local experience and make it happen.
V is for volunteer. Instead of focusing on yourselves, use this date to focus on others. Stop by a food shelf, like Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners at County Road 6 and Highway 101. Find out what items are needed and plan a shopping trip with your sweetie. In the summertime, food shelves take on the extra job of feeding students out of school on summer vacation. Spend the money you would've spent on dinner and a movie on snacks for kids. Take a trip to a wholesale warehouse, pick up items like granola bars, cereal cups, juice boxes and fruit, and assemble breakfast or lunch bags.
W is for wine tasting. Sample more than 150 wines from 20 area wholesalers at Wine on Wayzata Bay, a fundraiser by the Wayzata Yacht Club June 15. Taste food from area restaurants, bid on items for the silent auction or take a ride on a sailboat. If you can’t make it on that date, stop by Wayzata Wine & Spirits to taste local favorites from a certified sommelier. Wine on Wayzata Bay; Wayzata Wine & Spirits, 747 Mill St., Wayzata; 952.473.5286
X is for X marks the spot. Ever been treasure hunting? Try geocaching to explore hidden parts of nature as well as to discover trinket treasure in suburban areas right underneath your nose. Three Rivers Park District supports geocaching in most parks, and some parks even have GPS equipment available to help you find it. If you intend to take an item from the cache to remember your X-date, follow good geocaching etiquette and leave a trinket of your own. Various locations, Three Rivers Park District; 763.559.9000
Y is for yard sale. If you can't shop on Thursday or Friday when sales generally start, rise early, grab a cup of coffee and see what you can find on a Saturday morning. Challenge yourselves to find a perfect teacup or a special album to remember your Y-date. Find the sales the old-fashioned way by looking in the paper or flyers on street corners, or you can search the new way: on Craigslist or by downloading a garage sale app for your smartphone.
Z is for zooming. For your Z-date, try zooming on a jet ski or a jet boat. If you prefer a slower pace, zig-zag around the lake on a slow pontoon ride. Rent a wave runner or a pontoon from rental companies like Minnetonka Boat Club & Rental. Prices vary by hour or half-day, and include gas and oil, parking, life jackets and instruction. 4850 Edgewater Dr., Mound; 952.472.1220