EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 14, 2013

Date Night Revisited

Spark up romance this Valentine's Day weekend with off-beat date-night ideas

By Alexandra Pecci

---- — It’s a familiar piece of advice: Even when the responsibilities of kids and work reduce their daily lives to basic routines, married couples should make sure to have regular “date nights” so they can stay connected.

And yet, it may not be as simple as that, because research shows that merely getting out of the house together and going to the same old restaurants isn’t enough to shake you out of the long-relationship doldrums. Rather, couples need to reinvent date night by seeking out novel experiences, experts say.

Why? By regularly trying new things together, couples actually stimulate the parts of their brains responsible for those exciting, romantic feelings that are the hallmark of new relationships. So instead of sticking to the tried and true this Valentine’s Day weekend, why not use this most romantic of holidays to inject some new life into your marriage?

Here are some thoughts for how to get those brain love waves flowing locally:

Make Cheesey Love

At The Home Brew Barn in Hampton, N.H., couples can take classes about everything from brewing beer to making cheese to fermenting vinegar. Students in the beginners’ cheese-making class, for instance, learn how to make mozzarella, which only takes 30 minutes at home. They also get a chance to sample some homemade cheese while learning about the differences between making cheese with raw versus pasteurized milk and milk from different animals, like cows or goats. You can also try the intro to wine and cheese making or intro to home brewing classes and raise a glass to your love.

Channel your inner child

Strap on your vest and grab your laser for a game of grown-up hide-and-seek at a laser tag venue like LaserCraze, with locations in North Andover and Woburn. You’ll burn off some energy and get your competitive juices flowing as you run through the darkened, multi-level maze together (or on opposite teams!). Or hop into a racing suit and helmet to zoom around the track in go-karts at Checkered Flag Indoor Karting in Haverhill. They’re open until 9 p.m. on weeknights and 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; perfect for a fast-paced date night.

Get high on romance

You’ll learn about teamwork, trust, overcoming fear, and the thrill of vertical ascent together when you indoor rock climb at a local spots like MetroRock in Newburyport or Vertical Dreams in Manchester or Nashua. There are also climbing walls at local gyms. Programs cater to beginners and experienced climbers. For example, at MetroRock, there are bouldering walls for newbies, rope climbing for more experienced climbers, and lessons for folks of all abilities. In addition to indoor climbing instruction, MetroRock also offers outdoor climbing courses at locations like Den Rock Park in Lawrence and Pawtuckaway State Park in Nottingham, N.H.

Choose the right ingredients

Do an Internet search for “cooking classes,” and local results will yield lessons about everything from Indian cuisine to pastry-making. But there’s one that’s especially geared toward couples at Chez Boucher in Hampton, N.H., a cooking school that hosts Couples Night Out on the last Saturday of every month. The evening includes a cooking demonstration and hands-on instruction, and at the end of the night, couples can enjoy what they cooked together during a plated, sit-down meal. Couples Night Out events alternate between wine or beer pairings with the meal.

Brew up some chemistry

Massachusetts and New Hampshire are home to some great craft breweries, so instead sipping suds at your favorite local haunt get your brew fresh from the source (and see how it’s made while you’re at it). In Boston, check tour the Harpoon and Samuel Adams breweries for samples and a look behind the scenes. Or head north to New Hampshire for tours and tastings in Portsmouth at Smuttynose Brewing Company or Redhook Brewery or in Merrimack at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. All tours include tastings and are either free, $1, or a $2 donation to charity, giving new meaning to the words “cheap date.”

Play dirty -- with clay

If you’ve been intrigued by pottery ever since you saw the movie “Ghost,” then why take a seat at the wheel at Clay Dreaming Pottery Studio in Beverly? The studio offers private classes and paint-your-own pottery nights, as well as evening classes that let adults try their hand at the potter’s wheel. Or if clay’s not your thing, check out some of the local community colleges, which offer multi-week, non-credit classes in other media, like photography, and watercolor painting.

Laugh. A lot.

What’s more fun than hours of hysterical laughter? Comedy nights at local restaurants and clubs kick date night up a notch by making the evening more interactive and lively than your typical dinner and movie. Hit up the China Blossom Restaurant & Lounge in North Andover on Saturday nights for dinner and a show at Lots Of Laughs Comedy Lounge. Other area comedy venues include Improv Boston in Cambridge, Giggles Comedy Club in Saugus and Headliners Comedy Club in Manchester, NH.

If You Go Visit these websites or call for scheduling and pricing information. * The Home Brew Barn, Hampton, N.H., thehomebrewbarn.com, 603-601-2548. * LaserCraze, North Andover and Woburn, lasercraze.us, 978-689-7700. * Checkered Flag Indoor Karting, Haverhill, MA, checkeredflagindoorkarting.com, 978-374-7223. * MetroRock, Newburyport and Everett, metrorock.com, 978-499-7625 (Newburyport). * Vertical Dreams, Manchester and Nashua, N.H., verticaldreams.com, 603-625-6919 (Manchester). * Chez Boucher, Hampton, N.H., chezboucher.com, 603-926-2202. * Harpoon Brewery, Boston, harpoonbrewery.com, 617-574-9551. * Samuel Adams Brewery, Boston, samueladams.com, 617-368-5000. * Smuttynose Brewing Company, Portsmouth, NH, smuttynose.com, 603-436-4026. * Anheuser-Busch Brewery, Merrimack, NH, budweisertours.com, 603-595-1202. * Clay Dreaming Pottery Studio, Beverly, claydreaming.com, 978-927-1414. * Lots of Laughs Comedy Lounge, North Andover, lolcomedylounge.com, 978-687-1789. * Improv Boston, Cambridge, improvboston.com, 617-576-1253. * Giggles Comedy Club, Saugus, princerestaurant.com/giggles-comedy, 781-233-9950. * Headliners Comedy Club, Manchester, N.H., jokersnh.com, 1-800-923-0879.