15 ways to catch up with friends that aren’t grabbing coffee or a cocktail

ways to catch up with friends

“Hey, remember that amaaaaazing time we grabbed a latte at Starbucks and talked about work?”

“Yeah! And remember how we had $11 cocktails and discussed the plotlines of The Mindy Project?”*

I could be wrong, but I’m 97% sure these are not things that Real Life Humans say.

We don’t strengthen friendships or make memories over coffee and cocktails. We check in with each other and we catch up, but we don’t actually deepen our friendships or help them move forward.

If you want better, more meaningful friendships – or you’re just sick of whispering personal things in a crowded coffee shop – there are many ways to catch up with friends. Here are 15!

*zero sarcasm here because I really, really want to talk about what’s going on with The Mindy Project

1. Invite them to your house
A few months ago, I was supposed to meet a professional contact for coffee and I very awesomely locked my car in the garage like the genius I am. Both our calendars with filled to the brim so rather than re-schedule, I invited him to my house. I’d never met Anthony in person but making coffee for him in my kitchen and drinking it on my patio made him feel like an Immediate Friend. (Also, he’s super nice and warm, so that might have had something to do with it.)

It’s hard to really connect with people in coffee shops and restaurants – even people we know and love! I don’t want to wax vulnerable and weepy in the middle of Starbucks. You probably don’t want to tell me about your work issues while the waitress hovers awkwardly. As cheesy as it sounds, relationships thrive in ‘safe spaces’ and safe spaces aren’t usually  public ones.

2. Go on a walk or hike together
There are so, so many reasons to do this! It’s free. It’s healthy. Being outdoors is good for your mental health, your creativity, and your focus. Some companies are even making ‘walking meetings‘ a thing!

Here in the Twin Cities, I regularly convince friends to walk around Lake Nokomis with me. If you’re more of a hiker, here are 10 great places to hike in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metro area. You could also, theoretically, go for a run together, but I totally hate running so you’re going to have to invite friends-other-than-me to join you in that endeavor.

And don’t be dissuaded by winter. Remember: there’s no bad weather, only bad clothes!

3. Run errands together
This is SO MUCH MORE FUN THAN IT SOUNDS. My BFF and I share a common hobby of Feeling Good About Myself Because I Just Crossed An Easily Achievable Item Off My To-Do List. Running errands together works best if you combine your lists and treat yourself to a fancy to-go coffee that you drink while poking around Target.

4. Take a low-key class together
Yes, you could also take an intellectually and mentally stimulating class together, but then you’ll spend most of your time learning, rather than catching up. Also: your yoga teacher would probably prefer that you don’t spend the whole class talking loudly about your dating situation.

Favorite low-key classes include: cooking classes, pottery classes, and rock climbing.

5. Do non-awful outside chores together
It sounds weird, but when I was an apartment dweller I looooooved helping my homeowner friends garden and rake leaves. Your friends might not want to clean the gutters or shovel out the driveway, but they might enjoy helping you landscape or fuss with your tomato plants!

6. DIY your space together
True story: my friend Meredith once bribed five of us with wine to help her put plastic on her windows for the winter. AND WE LOVED IT. We still joke about a particular couple who completed one window to everyone else’s three!

If they’re handy and interested, your friends might genuinely enjoy helping you paint, spackle, hang shelves or – let’s be real – wander around the house with a glass of wine, saying things like “I think a little mid-century slipper chair would look really nice right there.”

7. Invite them on a long drive
It’s a scientific fact: time + car = bonding. Long car rides bring out the deep-and-meaningful conversations. Turn on the radio and reminisce about what was going on in your life when Wonderwall was popular. Pull over for weird roadside attractions or diners.  Stop and buy cheese curds and New Glarus as soon as you cross the border into Wisconsin.

Pro tip: it’s particularly awesome to bring a friend with you on a long-distance Craigslist run! They’ll help you load things into your car and make you feel less weird about meeting strangers from the internet. And if you want to make your long drive more roadtrip-esque, use Roadtrippers.com to find cool, weird stuff along your route!

8. Explore your city’s touristy stuff
If you’re like just about every other human, you’ve lived in a city for years and not seen many of its tourist attractions. I lived in Cathedral Hill for five years before I took a historical tour and learned anything the neighborhood! Gather your more curious, adventurous friends and work your way through your city’s biggest attractions.

If you’re in the Twin Cities, here’s a list of 50 things to do in Minneapolis before you die. (I’ve only done 13!)

ways to catch up with friends

9. Host a clothing swap
Nothing makes you bond faster than stripping down to your skivvies and trying on each other’s clothes. Invite your favorite ladies to bring their best gently-used items, throw some Trader Joe’s frozen appetizers in the oven, open a few bottles of wine and build yourself a new wardrobe! Here’s a better, more involved tutorial on how to host a clothing swap.

10. Rent a cabin together
Two or three times a year, my friends and I rent a cabin and spend the weekend making huge meals, playing board games, building fires, and jacking around on a pontoon. Getting away from our day-to-day shakes things loose and helps us connect with each other in a way that doesn’t feel possible at dinner parties or quick, cocktail catch ups.

11. Have a co-working date
Invite your friend over to your house (see #1), make a big pot of coffee or tea, vent about work and clients, and then hunker down for a few hours of work. Even if you’re not a freelancer, most of us have outside-of-office-hours work we could be catching up on.

If you don’t have any big projects in the works, read industry-related articles, update your resume, or spend an hour following peers and thought leaders on social media.

12. Craft together
Invite your friend to bring over their current, portable craft project and futz together. You don’t even need to be working on the same type of craft! You g’head with your swear-y cross stitch, they can knit this cute bumble bee toy cat toy and you’re catching up and being productive all at once!

If you want to be really productive, here are 25 DIY gifts that people will really, truly love.

13. Make a complicated, involved recipe together
The recipe that’s arduous and overwhelming when you’re making it yourself is awesome and fun when you’re making it with friends. You can even make it a reoccurring theme – try to find The Perfect Recipe for cheese souffle, or meet once a month to try a new fresh pasta recipe! The added bonus here is, obviously, that you get to eat something delicious at the end of your time together!

Some recipes that are best with a friend: soft, seasoned pretzels, cream filled donuts, potstickers, homemade ravioli.

14. Have an Article Club (rather than a Book Club)
Now, don’t get me wrong, I loooove a good Book Club. But if everyone you know has a demanding job/a long commute/people in their life who require attention and care, it can be really hard to find a date that works for everyone, let alone find time to read a novel.

Maybe an ‘article club‘ is more realistic. It’s the same idea as a Book Club – we all read the same, thought-provoking piece – and then we hang out, eat, and talk about it. Because we all know that the “hanging out and talking” part is the most important part of Book Club, right? Here’s a round-up of interesting Article Club-worthy articles if you’re interested.

15. Write a ‘New Things’ list and rope them into trying these new things with you
My ‘New Things’ list is one of the ways I live my life on purpose. It also happens to be a great way to create memories with my friends. My friends have joined me in my efforts to shoot a bow, try miracle berries, do a five-day cleanse, and even jump into a frozen lake on January 1st.

I’d like to believe I’m a braver, slightly more interesting person and that my friendships are more awesome for having tried those things.

But tell me about you and your friends! How do you get out of the coffee and cocktail catch-up rut?

make more friends

P.S. How to make friends as an adult + How to show your friends you love them

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64 Comments

Magatha May

Grocery shopping with friends is my go to way to spend time together lately. Everyone is so busy but groceries still have to be bought and you get to chat about life, and family, and cooking, and gym stuff. So totally productive ☺

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Caz

I have one group of friends (from undergrad, so 10+ years ago!) and we all play on a softball team together in the summer. In the fall we watched the MLB post-season together and in the winter we go to the local Legion and play darts and shuffleboard and pool.
Another group of friends goes hiking and camping and skiing together, and we regularly host cards or games nights at each other’s houses.
I’m also in a “non-snobby wine club” where every few months we get together and try new/different wines.
Yes we do still have the Friday happy hours and birthdays at bars, but for the most part , through intention and effort, I don’t really have too many “coffee or cocktail” friends.

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Sarah Von Bargen

I’m in a non-snobby wine club, too! We each kick in $20 and then the team at Solo Vino puts together a flight for us! So fun!

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Anonymous

Ha, my husband has a “non-snobby” beer club. Everyone brings a different 6-pack and they swap flavors.

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K

I try to get friends together to do things like camping, hiking, watching sports, movie nights, game nights… nobody wants to. I’m pretty sure I’m that “friend that nobody likes”… I’m always contacting other people to do stuff with me, nobody ever messages or calls me. I’m trying to improve myself, but it’s a work in progress

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Kate

I adore this list. And reading through it made me think of my very best friends. It’s less important what we’re doing and more about the fact that we’re all together.

I think this is also a good way to make time for friends who have kids. In the past year, my group of friends has gone from 2 kids to 14 (not kidding. It’s nuts.) We used to do happy hours and dinners out and long coffee dates, but that’s not really a possibility anymore. Now it’s closer to “sit on my couch while my kids are sleeping and we’ll drink wine” or “I’m going to Target after the kids are in bed; come with me.” It’s different but it works.

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Sarah Von Bargen

Yes! It’s so hard when there are kids involved! I have a friend who likes ‘family sleepovers.’ Everybody brings their kids and the parents drink wine in the dining room while the kids play in the basement – and they all sleepover and make breakfast together in the morning!

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Anonymous

Ddeborah. This is an eye opening article! I love it! I spend too much time alone but you have given me great ideas.

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Calluna

This is a great post!

I’d like to add “coloring” to the list. I visited my mom last weekend, and we were initially going to play a board game, but she thought that was too stressful (she had a rough day) and we decided to color instead. We hadn’t colored together since I was… like… 12 or something… it was really fun!

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Sarah Von Bargen

Fun! I’ve got an adult coloring book that I’ve been meaning to try out – I’ll have to see if any buddies would be into that!

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Katie

I really want to introduce coloring as a side activity during staff meetings at my super bureaucratic job. And I love crafting parties because they’re low pressure and structured so they’re perfect for introverts.

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sarah

LOVE these! a friend and I regularly go to auctions and have a blast! Sometimes we even buy silly things while there for fun.

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Daniela

Yo, I really want to talk about the Mindy Project, too. I just finished the latest season (and I assume you have) and the dilemmas being shown are so…not commonly shown on TV or in movies, I think! And it seems like something that I would say “pfft I would never stand for that” if someone described it to me but then I see her, a “strong woman,” really struggling with how to handle it and I wonder how I would handle it! Ahh so complicated and interesting.

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Sarah Von Bargen

Ahhhh! Yessss! None of my lady friends have finished it yet and I need, like, a discussion group about it. It’s so sad and hard and I’m so proud (?) of her for doing what she’s doing!

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xtine

Running errands together: My BFF and I were both in grad school when she had her first child. For a long time, the only thing that fit both our schedules and locations was going to Target. So that’s what we did together, and she often brought her daughter. One day, after her daughter had started talking in full sentences, she spontaneously pulled into Target to pick up a few things. Her daughter asks, “Is Aunt Xtine here??” She says, “No, why would you think she would be here today?” Daughter says, “Because she LIVES here!!”

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Catherine

Love this list!! Some of these I never considered! I love coffee outings and grocery store runs, but I’d like to switch it up making our outings more intimate, fun and/or creative. Thanks for thinking outside the box!

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Alison

Hiking with friends on local trails is one of my favorite ways to catch up! Really love the other alternative suggestions on this list – definitely going to try a few in the new year!

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Hayley

This list is so great. I definitely love to run errands with my best friend. It’s practical, we both get stuff done, and we get to spend the rare time with each other. Another suggestion along the same lines that combines #1, #3, and #13 are to spend time at someone’s house preparing your weekly lunches together. That way you can cook together and have all your meals ready to bring to work!

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jay

ay girl! these are amazing ideazzz. however, a note: true friendship can stand the test of coffee and/or cocktails! I was disappointed to see that you stated this:

“We don’t strengthen friendships or make memories over coffee and cocktails. We check in with each other and we catch up, but we don’t actually deepen our friendships or help them move forward.”

it’s okay if you don’t do this! assuming so, outside of your experiences… this is possible. friendships can be strengthened over coffee and cocktails. memories can be made over coffee and cocktails. friendships can be deepened over coffee and cocktails. friendships can be moved forward over coffee and cocktails. why? because sitting and talking with a friend is always intimate and relationship-building, no matter the environment. any interaction with a friend is contributing to a relationship.

just wanted to state that! no need to counteract this list with this fairly negative way to put down other interactions. a more positive spin would be to simply state these ideas as an alternative!

keep on keepin’ on, keep on attaining wisdom through your life!

-withlove.

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SunnyDay

I really agree with your comment! I find it hard to divide my attention and really prefer chatting over coffee, when possible. I went shopping and did errands with a new friend yesterday and found it really challenging to look for the item I needed, navigate the crowds, and also listen to her / respond appropriately. For me, deep connection and truly listening closely requires attention. I enjoy doing activities and tasks with friends, such as swimming, road trips, going for walks, crafting, cooking for people, hanging out at home, and co-working, but when serious life events or worries need to be discussed, in that moment I prefer to focus on the discussion, and only on the discussion, rather than dividing my attention – and, for serious discussions, I prefer to receive the same attention. There is really nothing wrong with that!!

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Melody

Totally agree. Sometimes a swap is necessary and sometimes it’s nice to switch things up, but as an adult I’ve found that the bulk of my friendships consist in long conversations about our lives and that those are easiest over a glorious cup of coffee. Though I never say “no” to combining it with a walk.

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Eve

I loved reading this! I just met a friend for a catch-up lunch yesterday and we didn’t even get into the catching-up part until we started running errands. The lunch was OK, but our chat in Lowe’s shopping for lighting fixtures got us caught up on projects for our homes, in Ross we updated on families, and at Kroger we got to work hopes and dreams. It was an awesome day. We’ve done this since grad school when we would wander Whole Foods and Home Depot chatting and generally having a great time.

We also book trips together and went to Barcelona for a cooking class.

Again, loved this.

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Christine

Go to a museum together. Go shopping for art supplies together (for artsy & crafty people). Go to thrift store browsing & shopping together. Go antiquing (even if only looking).

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Anonymous

So many good thoughts and ideas in your post and the comments! I have one friend that I have known since HS that gets a group together for pub trivia most Wednesday nights. It has been a great way for me to stay connected to her and to get to know some of her other friends. She holds a big holiday shindig and I felt a bit out of place the first few years. Now I look forward to seeing all of my pub quiz friends! I am also a sucker for outdoor summer concerts and make a point of doing those with friends. You can cover so much ground over a couple of glasses of wine waiting for the band to start . . .

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Marion

So funny…I, a Twin Cities native, read this at home in Korea because a Canadian friend liked it on Facebook. A couple other ideas…
Go with friends to your favorite “secret spots,” whether that be the perfect bridge to catch a sunset or a nifty memorial or cute art gallery. This works for field trips out of the city, too. Bring a picnic in warm weather or a thermos of mulled wine and cookies in winter.
Have movie/TV show marathons (or anime marathons…had to interpose my nerdiness) where you both know them so well you needn’t pay full attention. My best friend and I get together for Game of Thrones days where we eat tons of popcorn, drink wine, and launch into long conversations that only sometimes interplay with what is on the screen.
One final note…catching up at a restaurant/bar/coffee shop is totally possible…it just needs to be an Event. Like getting the ONLY legit burritos and margaritas in all of Seoul and blabbing away for hours. Find a special place to become regulars and/or try for the first time with your people.

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KB

We do some of these already but I love many of these suggestion. We do a “stitch and bitch” once and a while with crocheting. And clothing swaps big annually. Occasionally Friendsgiving or Christmas dinner out. Love the chores or gardening together. And the cabin renting too!

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rochelle

When I first moved to Chicago, there was a knitting and needlepoint store in my neighborhood where people would bring in their projects and spend the afternoon crafting and talking. That was great,

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Duran

I have a friend that decided to ask everyone she knew to teach her something they are good at for the year of 2015. So fun and full of first time experiences from
Surfing to putting on make-up, anything goes.

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Lee @ BaldThoughts

I LOVE the idea of an “article club” rather than a “book club”. I read and share tons of articles with friends that I think will help them, but few repay the favor. It would be fun to have people read and share articles and explain their interpretation of the article, or even how the lesson can be applied to other things!

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Catherine

I’m trying to wrap my head around how you locked your car in the garage so you had to invite the guy to your house. If you’re at your house, why can’t you open the doorand enter your garage?

Besides that mystery, good article and good ideas.

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Sarah Von Bargen

We have two garage door openers. Our garage doesn’t have a ‘normal’ door – just the garage door. My husband had one garage door opener with him at work and the other opener was in my car, in the garage. 🙂

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Elizabeth

This is a really great list full of fun things, but I just don’t see what’s wrong with coffee or cocktails. Maybe the cafes and bars you are choosing are too loud? From my pov, going out for coffee means you can get away from your house, your chores, and your cares, plus you don’t have to cook or clean, and you can just focus on connecting with your friends!

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Stephanie L

My friend and I were talking about needing to give back to the community and having limited time available… and we ended up going to the Red Cross together to donate blood. We went quarterly-ish on a Saturday morning and would go out for a good lunch afterwards. She and I both got our gallon pins, and a lot of people got the plasma/cells/whole blood they needed.

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Melody

Well, I do love coffee shops and I have spent an enormous amount of time chatting with friends in them, getting to know baristas, and developing favorite spots that I absolutely do cherish. But it’s true that when friends start getting loaded down with babies and time is scarce, a grocery run is a fantastic way to squeeze in a chat that otherwise wouldn’t happen.

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