Book an after-dinner date

Date nights are great, but let’s be real — most parents don't have the time or money to spend a whole evening away from the kids. Schedules are tight, babysitters are expensive and, sometimes, disrupting the evening bedtime routine feels like more trouble than it’s worth.

So how about a date that begins after the kids have been fed and put to bed? After-dinner dates make sense — no long list to leave for the sitter and less money spent all around. Here are some romantic options for an after-dinner date for two.

After Dinner Dance WLearn to dance

What’s more romantic than spending an hour plastered together, learning the tango? Or, if the tango’s not your style, maybe the cha-cha?

Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis offers a variety of evening dance classes, starting at either 7 or 8 p.m. Some are one night only and others are once a week for a month or more.

“When a couple is able to dance together, it can bring [them] closer,” says Jennifer Gooding, a dance instructor who teaches a variety of classes at Maryland Hall and through her home studio, Annapolis Dance Academy. “Dancing could serve as a type of intimacy for couples with young children,” she says.

For details visit marylandhall.org.

Listen to music

The Annapolis-D.C.-Baltimore region is filled with excellent venues for listening to music, but nothing beats hearing a local band in a comfortable, hometown setting.

Jay Williamson plays guitar for The Bumper Stickers, a band that performs frequently in Howard County. A dad of two elementary school-aged daughters, Williamson and his wife know the value of an easy night out.

One of his favorite spots is Sonoma’s Bar & Grill, a restaurant in Columbia with a sports bar vibe and a music lineup that caters to all sorts of tastes, from danceable covers to funk to classic rock. Williamson loves Sonoma’s not only because he often plays there, but because it’s a place, “you can meet up with other parents and you don’t have to get in the Caravan to go down to Baltimore.”

If you are closer to Annapolis, check out 49 West. Known as “Annapolis's Living Room,” the bar/restaurant/coffee house has an intimate listening room with live music nightly. Catch jazz, American roots, folk, indie, bluegrass and more on any night. Reservations are recommended.

For more information visit sonomas.net or 49westcoffeehouse.com.

Late Date Dry 85 Allison ZauchaPhotography WGrab a drink

For parents who spend most of their time trying to have conversations over whining kids or in between reminders about after-school carpools, the opportunity to sit down and sip a well-crafted cocktail feels nothing short of luxurious.

If you’re heading out just for one drink, make it a good one. Try Dry 85 on Main Street in Annapolis, where the bourbon list will wow any aficionado, or Level on West Street, which has become famous for its seasonally driven cocktails.

For details visit dry85.com or lannapolis.com.

Photo by Alison Zaucha Photography

Eat something sweet

Noshing on something sweet is a lovely way to end a long day. To make the most of your last bites of before bed, head to a restaurant that does dessert justice.

At Ouzo Bay, an upscale Greek spot in Baltimore’s Harbor East neighborhood, dessert is anything but an afterthought. The restaurant’s executive pastry chef, Akis Anagnostou, is famous for his glamorous spun-sugar creations that look like glass art and taste like heaven.

For details visit ouzobay.com.

After Dinner Bookstore WBrowse for books

Bookstore browsing is a fun, casual alternative to heading out on the town. It’s something couples can decide to do at the last minute and it can be inexpensive (provided book-buying is kept to a minimum).

Bookstores can be found all over the region, including several Barnes & Noble stores open until 9 or 10 p.m. most nights depending on the location. The stores typically have a cafe, so you can grab coffee or something sweet and start to wander. Whether you get caught up in the history section, gravitate toward literary classics, or just want to check out the latest young adult release, it’s an easy way to spark conversation and kill a few hours together.

For details visit barnesandnoble.com.

Note: Anytime you go out, be sure to leave your children in capable hands if they aren't old enough to be left alone.

By Kit Waskom Pollard