A close-up image of a woman holding a sandwich

When you are with friends or loved ones, getting lunch, grabbing a midday coffee and pastry or going out to dinner is an easy default. A girl’s gotta eat! Why not make it social time too?

There’s nothing wrong with multitasking, and gathering around the table is a great place to build community. Yet, if we were to get a little creative with how we spend our time, it could easily become an opportunity to deepen our relationships. Always opting for food-based hangouts can become a routine that leaves us it a rut. It can also get expensive and unhealthy eating out.

Next time you’re making plans to meet up with a friend, try something a little different. Challenge yourself to think outside of the box of how you spend time with the people you love. It can be fun and offer an opportunity to develop memories in a whole new context.

Take a hike.

Sure, it’s a bit basic, but going on a walk is pretty much the opposite of sitting down to eat. Most cities have easily accessible greenways or trails, and plenty of them will take you somewhere new and exciting. Try something challenging, or just take a picnic basket out to a local park for the afternoon! Other adventurous outdoor options include renting bikes, kayaks or paddleboards.

Become a tourist of your town.

What do people know your city for? When was the last time you visited that monument, museum or natural wonder? Even if you have spent some time at your town’s biggest site, there are plenty of other ways to see it. Spend a few minutes searching for travel guides of your city, and check off a few spots you haven’t seen. There are bound to be a few obscure museums you haven’t tried yet. 

Also, there are always some cool alternative tours. Call up your most adventurous friend to try a ghost tour or an underground tour to see something well-known in your city in a whole new way. 

Create something.

Head to an arts and crafts store and see what you can get for $10 or $15. A canvas and some paint can make for a few hours of therapeutic bonding. It truly doesn’t matter if you have any artistic talent or not, as long as you’re ready to laugh about the results. At worst, you end up with a funny reminder of time well spent. At best, you get something nice to hang on that blank spot on your wall that you’ve been meaning to fill.

Plan a dream trip.

Planning a trip can be almost as fun as actually taking it, and planning one with a potential travel buddy doubles the potential fun. Spend some time on Hostelworld or Airbnb drooling over the coolest places to stay or pick out the tours and hikes you want to go on. You don’t have to actually intend to take this trip, but tossing around possibilities with a friend might make that dream trip a reality.

Learn something new. 

There are all kinds of classes happening on any given day, and plenty of them just might be free! Those paint-and-drink wine places are a popular option these days, but plenty of gyms, universities or arts centers offer seminars or free first classes. Take a friend to aerial yoga or pottery a few times. Who knows? You might just find your new favorite hobby!

There’s also always the option of a DIY version of these classes. Gather a few friends and have them give you a quick presentation on something they care about. It could be anything from a favorite hobby to a cause they care about. No matter what, it’s a cool opportunity to learn about both your friends and something they love.

Volunteer.

Lots of nonprofits won’t take you on as a volunteer without an initial training or two, but finding a place to volunteer is definitely a better way to multitask with your friend rather than eating. Find something you both care about. It could be volunteering at an animal shelter, a food bank or an after-school tutoring program, and make a commitment. Even if it’s just once a month, you’ll get to see a friend regularly and do something good for your community. 

View local art.

There are so many different art forms to appreciate—whether it be music, art or dance to name a few. The possibilities are endless. Try out a new music venue with a local band you’ve never heard of. Look for galleries showcasing art from local artists. Check out a local comedy club. Going somewhere unfamiliar is always easier with a friend, and supporting local art is always worth a few bucks!

Image via Ben Cope, Darling Issue No. 21

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