Tired of the classic movie and dinner date night combo? Us too. That's why we're always on the hunt for new things to do, scouring the city for not-boring Melbourne activities — ones that are guaranteed to take your next date way beyond done-before beers at the pub. Whether you're taking someone on a second date or doing your 100th with your significant other, we've got some killer (and, yes, cute) ideas for dates to go on this week, no matter how much money you've got to spend. Just think of us as your cultural wingman. You're welcome.
WANDER THROUGH THIS MAGICAL MALVERN PARK
You'll need to tell your date to throw on their thickest winter coat for this one. The Glow Winter Arts Festival returns to Melbourne's southeast for its fifth year this weekend, and will light up Malvern East's Central Park oval with lasers, projections and neon flamingos.
If you rock up to the park between 6pm and 10pm, you'll be able to wander through a maze of lights and glowing installations. Thousands of green lasers will cover you and your surrounds in The Laser Garden, while another area will be scattered with all things neon — flamingos, umbrellas and trees included. Between the Trees lets you 'play' the trees in the garden to create a sonic nature experience, while S1T2's Revive the Reef work will make you feel as though you're underwater. Best of all? It's all free to attend.
ROAD TRIP TO THIS MILK BAR REPLICA
If this was the 70s, the local milk bar is probably where you'd be holding your date. Things have changed since then — though there's still a few of them about, they're fast becoming a thing of the past. That's why Melbourne-based artist Callum Preston has gone to painstaking lengths to recreate one, detail by detail.
You'll find his incredibly realistic, immersive artwork Milk Bar in Hamilton Gallery, from Wednesday, August 15 though Sunday, September 16. Walking in, it'll be easy to imagine you're in a bona fide corner shop. But take a closer peek and you'll notice the chocolate bars, magazines and soft drink cans aren't what they seem. They're pretend versions of themselves — more than 500 of them — that Preston has created by hand. The exhibition is free to attend — and while you're in Hamilton, you can visit this creep Ansett museum, too.
EAT CHEESE WHEEL PASTA AT THE QUEEN VIC NIGHT MARKET
One of the beacons of light this winter has been the Queen Vic's Winter Night Market. But there are only a few weeks left to get amongst it before, well, it's no longer winter. So if you've been talking about it all season, make a plan to get down there this Wednesday. From 5pm you and your date can feast on traditional Italian loaded flatbread, churro bowls with oozy hazelnut sauce, African-style fish and chips, and That's Amore's spaghetti, which is tossed in a parmesan wheel before landing on your plate.
Top it off with mulled wine from ReWine and steaming hot cider from Coldstream and you've got one hell of a cosy winter situation.
TRY A NICHE NOODLE SOUP
If you don't fancy braving the elements at the market, you can be just as adventurous in the cosy confines of Hanoi Hannah. The beloved Vietnamese chain has launched a new soup series that sees three new soups added to the menu at the Windsor, Richmond, Elsternwick outposts each Monday in August. These soups move away from the well-trodden pho and give patrons a less frequented taste of the cuisine. This week you can try hi tieu and thiet heo, a soup with pork and mint meatballs, daikon and angel hair noodles. Get a bowl of each between you and try both. You can expect to pay around $50 for two soups and a couple of drinks.
The boys have transformed the space above their Russell Street wine bar Embla into the ultimate escape from all of that CBD hustle and bustle. Exposed bricks and reclaimed farmhouse benches lend a warm, rustic feel, completed by wooden banquettes with black leather cushions. Lesa has forgone an a la carte offering in favour of a four-course set menu. As such, you won't be getting out of there for less than $78 a person — but it'll be worth the damage to your wallet.