Here is a lists of the best fun date ideas in Manchester to go with your softboy or lovergirl in summer. As your sweet match walks out the front door and into the fresh air, they may initially be shocked at the breeze and the harsh sunlight, having spent the last two-ish years lying on the sofa playing guitar in a shrimp-like position. You may remind your date that the times of “lockdown coffee walks” and netflix-and-chill nights with wine are gone. You can go on a romantic date to a restaurant now. Life is good. Or “a little bit better”.
Your date, your boyfriend, your girlfriend or your special someone protests at being outside? Simply remind them how important it is to get your daily Vitamin D from the sunshine. And then lead them gently towards the nearest romantic Manchester restaurant — or a gentrified-but-not-too-gentrified pub. Never forget this: wherever you are in Manchester, you’re never further than a five-minute walk away from one of these.
Terrace @ Oldham Street
IMO, one of the best things to come out of lockdown was the pedestri-fication of Thomas Street and Edge Street in the Northern Quarter. In 2021, these streets were filled with tables and outdoor seating, as their many bars responded to the government-imposed “You Must Sit Outside” rule. The tables have stuck around ever since, and as Manchester pint-drinkers, we are all communally very grateful.
I would recommend any of the bars or pubs on these streets. Terrace, however, is my absolute favourite, because of its rooftop garden — at the end of the day, if I’m being really honest with myself, I am nothing more than a slag for a rooftop garden. There are fairy lights; there’s Red Stripe; there is a wide variety of leaves and greenery — at Terrace, the entire human / softboi heirarchy of needs is catered to.
The Big Tables by the Marina in Ancoats
A more abstract date idea, here, for those of you who prefer not to be pinned down by things like 'actual venues': if you walk down through Ancoats, through the square and over the canal, you will find the New Islington Marina. Just beside the marina there are some massive wooden tables. On your date, you and your softboi can sit at these tables, and watch the ducks and the swans swim past (you will also have to look at the v. overpriced and slightly ugly 'Urban Splash’ new-build development across the water, which is a bit of a downer, but try to just focus on the ducks).
Choose your refreshments — if you’re feeling boujee, go to Trove or Pollen for a baked good; if you’re feeling less boujee, go to the Co-Op on St. Peter’s square and buy a four-pack of croissants — and enjoy soaking up the erotic vibe of one of central Manchester’s largest bodies of water. Bon Appetít.
This café is where I tried a smoothie that changed my life forever, and the same will be true for you and your softboi. Each drink served by Fuse is nectar sent to earth directly from the gods.
I recommend the Caribbean Iced Coffee, which contains an espresso shot, some ginger biscuits, frozen yoghurt and a few other bits (just trust me) — whichever smoothie you choose, though, make sure you take advantage of the many parks in the surrounding area and enjoy your drink whilst sat on a park bench.
North Tea Power
The best place to get a coffee in the Northern Quarter. Coffee dates are a fairly risky game, in my opinion — but if you must play the game, play it here.
Chapeltown Picture House
This one is by no means summer-exclusive, but I had to include it on the list, because I’m not joking: this venue is an absolute gem. The cinema itself focuses on showing cult classics at a very, very affordable price, and it’s attached to the GRUB bar, which is worth a visit in and of itself.
The beer garden here is the place of dreams: not only do they have fun seats that you can basically lie down in, but there are also different food vendors there most days, which means the whole place smells incredible. If you’ve not been, brave the short uphill walk and do a film-and-food night with your date (they’ve got a Nicolas Cage special coming up in May, which any softboi is guaranteed to love) — I promise you it’s worth it.
The softboi, statistically, is over 250% more likely than any other human-genre to either a) have a tattoo of a wave somewhere on their body, or b) have uttered the words “I guess I just feel more at home in the water than on land” at some point in time. That’s right: by their very nature, softbois are water babies, and this is where the vast beauty of Salford Quays really comes into its own.
Take your softboi here — for a drink (The Alchemist’s outdoor area is nice), for the Van Gogh exhibition, or just to sit for a while with your legs dangling off the waterfront — and listen to your date exhale with the relieved breath of someone who feels truly at home. (P.S. It’s me. I’m the water-baby softboi.)
Fletcher Moss Botanical Gardens
This has everything you need for a sunny day (fair warning: it’s in Didsbury, so it also has a lot of upper-middle-class yummy mummies and their equally yummy small children. Try to go on a weekday if you’d like to avoid this).
It has large expanses of grass and greenery which, if you live surrounded by lots of concrete like I do, is a welcome relief. It has a river nearby, which is also great (see the above point re: softbois / large bodies of water).
It’s also home to the titular botanical gardens — and, now, I am making a very sweeping assumption here, but hear me out — if you are the type of person who is taking a softboi on a date, you are going to fucking lose your shit at these botanical gardens. I’m not being dramatic: fairies live here, in a big way. The “really-into-flowers-ex-cottagecore-astrology-hoe gf/bf” is drawn to the softboi like a moth to a flame — and here, you can take your softboi by the hand and lead them through the flowers like you are in an actual fairytale. 10/10.
By far the nicest park in Manchester that doesn’t demand a 55-minute bus journey from the centre. This is only a short tram ride away, and you can also use the adrenaline rush that comes from trying to avoid the ticket inspectors to make your date subconsciously fall in love with you, which is fun.
This one may be a controversial addition to the list. I realise that; I accept it. I love a supermarket date. I also love this supermarket the best; it holds a very special place in my heart. I’m not going to elaborate too much more, because I can already feel you laughing at me through the screen — but I will say this: take your softboi on a date here, and then sit back and watch as your relationship blossoms like an Extra Special Daffodil Bouquet. You’re welcome.