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Going solo: Where to take yourself on a date

When was the last time you sat with your thoughts for a whole meal? No conversation, no phone, no Netflix or book, but just sitting with your thoughts.

In an age of excessive content consumption, when a world of ideas and stories are at our fingertips, this could seem like a waste of time. But as anyone who remembers childhood days of lying in the grass and watching the clouds pass by can say, sometimes you need time to let your brain think, free of distractions and other people.

Some call these social time-outs "self-care." It seems that Millennials and Generation Z have shifted the culture pendulum from "work hard, play hard" to self-care, and with that shift, time previously spent around other people around-the-clock turns into more solitary time at home. Still, that time is usually spent consuming content on a TV, laptop or phone.

There are certain activities that we reserve for pairs and groups -- dinner, movies, drinks -- but neglect to appreciate for going solo. If you're going alone, you don't have to worry about finding a menu your date will enjoy or choosing a movie with both of your interests in mind. Or making conversation when you really just want to sit and enjoy your surroundings.

For many of us, being content with being alone in public doesn't come easy. Emily Schildt wrote about a few of her dating tips for Buzzfeed -- dating yourself, that is. In her article "How To Take Yourself Out On A Proper Date," Schildt writes that she takes herself on a date every Thursday. Initially, she started dating herself because she wanted to try new foods more often than her friends did, but now, she does so out of tradition and a love for alone time.

Among other tips, Schildt recommends selecting a night that isn't too busy, so you can sit at the bar, which is better for solo dining than a table. She writes that you should put down your phone or book, and soak up the surrounding atmosphere, letting your thoughts meditate instead of anxiously distracting them with a flow of content.

The best part of going solo is that you don't need to do anything for anyone else. The ideas in this guide are for all kinds of self-daters. And you don't need to put the phone or book down either. If you would rather consume content, consider a movie date or an afternoon perusing a bookstore and reading at a cafe. For a temporary escape, try virtual reality.

And if you'd like to truly be alone with your thoughts, take yourself to a fancy dinner or a springtime walk around the park.

Go forth with no one to impress or please, but yourself.

Dinner and a movie

Screening Room Cinema Cafe, Boulevard Mall, Amherst

If you really want to feel like the slightly angsty star of an indie flick, see a cult classic by yourself. Make it an occasion. Dress up in a vintage moviegoer outfit and wear sunglasses (but not during the film) or your comfiest clothing because you're not there to impress anybody. Grab popcorn and wine, or coffee, at the small kiosk and choose a place to sit among the cinema's eclectic array of arm chairs, sofas and small tables.

[Related: From creepy to campy, Screening Room sets the mood]

Pick the movie you want to see and sprawl out in one of the comfy recliners at Dipson Amherst Theatre. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News file photos)

Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St.

If you're used to the comfort of a recliner and can't give that up, Dipson also shows indie films. They're the kinds of films that might not be everyone's cups of tea, but the only person who needs to want to see them is you. Looking for a mainstream movie? Dipson shows those, too. Its theaters are small, with ample leg room and enough space between you and others that no one will notice you softly crying during the tear-jerking scenes.

[Photos: Smiles at Terrors Prom in Dipson Amherst Theatre]

Coco, 888 Main St.

As soon as you walk through Coco's doors, you'll notice the mural. The back wall is covered by a painting of a woman laying her head down, blonde ringlets cropped close to her head. She's alone and seems to be enjoying herself, so take this as inspiration to sit at the bar by yourself with a glass of pinot noir.

Treat yourself to something indulgent -- since you're alone, you won't have to share it. Your food could be messy, too, and the only one around to judge is your server. In his recent review, Andrew Z. Galarneau recommends the Portuguese-style mussels with bread to soak up all of the extra broth.

[Related: At Coco, timeless French classics served with style]

Drinks and music

Buffalo Iron Works, 49 Illinois St.

Iron Works is rarely packed wall-to-wall. Even for sold-out shows, the Cobblestone District music venue keeps it breathable, with the option of joining the dancing masses near the stage, seeking out a bird's-eye view up the spiral staircase in the loft, or bopping your head at the bar while devouring a plate of chicken wings.

The venue holds mostly ticketed shows, ranging in genres from rock to funk to soul and alternative.

Lockhouse Distillery, 41 Columbia St.

Just a short, wobbly stroll away from Iron Works, find your way to Lockhouse for a complicated cocktail you probably can't concoct at home. Inside, bulb lights dangle between ceiling posts. If you're lucky (and going on a weekend), a band will play toward the back. Cocktails are distinctive, but not too quirky that you'll have to Google the ingredients.

Bartenders use Lockhouse spirits when possible, blending vodkas and liqueurs with cacao, Oreo dust and blackberry lime in drinks with catchy names, such as Coupe of Dirt and The Butterfly Effect.

Vivid VR Gaming provides an immersive video game experience that you can play alone. (Robert Kirkham/News file photo)

Out of your comfort zone

Vivid VR Gaming, 3125 Walden Ave., Depew

Sure, you can play video games at home. But unless you have a home virtual reality setup (and maybe you do, this is 2019), then you'll need to venture out to Depew for some realistic troll-fighting action. Don a headset and grab controllers: it's time to fight some robots.

Virtual reality is as technologically close as we can get to escaping physical reality. In the virtual world, a measly controller becomes a strong bow and arrow. It's a solitary activity, too. With a headset on, reality slips away and your inner "Lord of the Rings" character comes out.

[Read more about gaming places around Buffalo in our 2018 guide]

Literary date

Talking Leaves, 951 Elmwood Ave.

While conversation runs dry with some coffee dates, a book is guaranteed to stimulate your mental conversation the whole time. Browse the racks at Talking Leaves for a  book (just don't judge it by its cover), then bring your purchase to the cafe next door for a latte, wine or beer.

Caffe Aroma, 957 Elmwood Ave.

If you took my above recommendation and grabbed a book for company, great. But if you're looking for human interaction (to at least observe), consider Caffe Aroma's open mic poetry nights.

Usually, a couple of nights every month, a crowd of philosophical, literary folk gather to read their poems in five-minute slots. At the very least, you'll hear something thought-provoking. Perhaps, you'll make a new friend.

[Related: Caffe Aroma in spots to feel French, as well as best hot chocolates in the area]

Taken by drone, this aerial photo shows Bidwell Park at the intersection of Bidwell Parkway and Elmwood Avenue. (Derek Gee/News file photo)

Bidwell Parkway

Right next door to Talking Leaves and Caffe Aroma is Frederick Law Olmsted's arbor-filled parkway. Maybe something interesting will be going on -- a protest, a market, a street musician -- or perhaps you'll find peaceful solitude among the busy avenue, with an earbud in one ear, listening to your favorite playlist, enjoying your own company.

[Related: Three date nights on Elmwood inspired by romantic comedies]

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