The Manual wants you to get a second date. That’s why we compiled this list of 20 first date ideas to do instead of going to dinner, seeing a movie, meeting at a bar, or agreeing to go on a hike. (Side note: hiking is fun but do not for a second think trekking into the wilderness with someone you don’t know will end up fun.)
Whether your go-to activity is “grabbing a drink” or awkwardly sitting in a movie theater for two hours and not talking, we have more memorable and inexpensive first dates to plan instead.
Instead of a Dinner Date
Insert apple, cherry, blackberry, or any other orchard or farm harvest. This date gets you outside in a beautiful setting and won’t cost more than a couple pumpkins/bag of apples/etc. Particularly genius for the fall when the heat subsides. If the date goes well, suggest taking it back home for pumpkin carving or pie making.
A hands-on approach to the “dinner date,” cook personal pizza pies and turn up the heat in the kitchen together. Make sure everyone feels safe and comfortable at your/their place, throw on some aprons with a bottle of red, and get saucy. Grab a box of Calipower frozen pizza crusts, swapping dough for a veggie crust to leave you both full, but not weighed down by dough, add a bottle of marinara, shredded cheese, and a few playful toppings (i.e. spinach, mushrooms, pepperoni, etc.) This activity allows you both to be inventive and can tell you a lot about the other person based off how messy they are and how adventurous their topping selection is. More importantly, it’s a first date that has the potential to start a long-lasting relationship: one, because you’re establishing a ritual with the other person, and two, after the first date they’ll be reminded of you because pizza is everywhere.
Plan a Picnic
Daytime first dates often go over better than evening affairs. There’s a level of comfort, safety, and less insinuation that goes along with meeting on a Saturday afternoon. Find an idyllic park or mountaintop overlook with panoramic views of the city and pack a blanket, olives, cheese, bread, grapes, and a flask. Better yet, don’t feel pressured to guess their favorite snacks. Stop by a Whole Foods together on your way and have fun shopping. A picnic allows you both to control the timeline of the event, unlike a restaurant date. Stay or leave whenever it feels right. Brownie points for packing a Frisbee.
Coffee and Pie
If someone expects you to drop bills on a luxury 5-star restaurant on your first date, be wary. That’s third or fourth date material. Instead, measure your date’s genuine interest by suggesting coffee and pie at a vintage diner. If they’re truly interested, they’ll love the idea. Find a quaint spot, chat, make straw snakes, and people watch. Order a couple different slices of pie to share and let the Americana ambiance and old married couples lull you into smitten kittens.
Bonfire and S’mores
Whether on a beach, in your backyard, or at an apartment common area, coordinate for each party to bring half the ingredients for s’mores. Light the fire pit and enjoy a no-pressure evening of roasting marshmallows. The casual activity might prompt a greater willingness to open up and really get to know each other (versus awkward banter at a stiff restaurant).
Instead of the Movies
Thank you, geeky 13-year-old self for being single and spending hours at the local arcade. Those Pac Man skills are about to earn you major points with your crush. Arcades are the perfect setting for a first date because they’re packed with semi-physical games that divert your nervous energy away from the fact that you’re on a first date… but not to the extent of taking all your attention (like a movie). The rush of playing will spike your endorphins and promote bonding. You’re also sure to smile. Try going to an arcade and not smiling (it doesn’t happen.)
We do not suggest you drive your date to a deserted field 50 miles from town even if your intentions are simply to stargaze. Go to the planetarium. Not only are the tickets inexpensive (more cash for post-planetary drinks), but planetariums are quiet, intimate, and darn-right cool. There’s something innocent and romantic about stargazing, and unlike going to a movie, you can talk during the show and without being “that guy.” Plus, I can guarantee this spot will make your date’s friends gush over the originality.
Humor is sexy. Laughing is sexy. Plus the two-drink minimum will help you loosen up. A comedy show can help you gauge if you and your potential S.O. have a similar sense of humor… a must for any type of relationship.
Order a couple beers and cheer for your favorite face while booing the heels. Both lighthearted and exploratory (first dates that aren’t too serious allow both people to explore activities they would have never done by themselves), a wrestling match will give you plenty of fodder to make flirty jokes during your text conversations later that week. Eventually take the match to the privacy of your bedroom, a la Edge and Lita.
Unlike taking your date to a football match or basketball game where you’ll likely ignore them (possibly without knowing it), a rodeo blends all the elements of a sporting event with the down-home charm of a small fair. Rodeos are often tacked onto a local carnival where the two of you can share a funnel cake, win a stuffed animal, and watch a bit of barrel racing. Once again, adventures that ditch the norm are the best way to solidify yourself as the biggest bull in the stalls. Plus that stuffed animal will act like a silent wingman, reminding them to call you.
Instead of Drinks at a Bar
Or whiskey, wine, vodka… you get it. The best first dates are activities that involve some type of lighthearted learning. After all, that’s why we get into relationships. We want to learn about a new person, new places, and new things. Pick a spirit you both enjoy and reserve a spot at a local distillery tour and tasting. Along with leaving a little tispy, you’ll both have a new skill set connected to each other.
Meeting at a bar is tired … unless of course that bar happens to offer a Trivia Night where you and your date can flex your mental prowess in front of each other. Remember, intelligence is a major turn on. Trivia night will also give you a chance to be on a team and possibly win a free round for date number two.
Just kidding. Unless they’re the non-permanent ones you buy from a vending machine in which case, that’s a super cute addition to a first date.
Yes, sometimes it’s easiest to resort to “let’s grab a drink,” but if you do make sure the bar is a spot worth remembering. Whether it’s a traveling pop-up Bourbon Legends Boxcar Tour, a Korean BarbieQ night, or hidden Tiki-themed spot, a bizarre bar can give you a leg-up by making your relationship unique from day one. They’ll likely tell their friends and brag about your savvy bar IQ. Let them.
Yes, you need to talk on a first date but do not underestimate the power of sight and, uh, keeping your mouth shut. Get tickets to a silent disco and put on your individual headphones for dark, glow-light filled dancing session. Being both close but separate may cause sparks to fly as questions and conversation topics stack up in your head. Take a time-out from dancing and as the headphones come off the conversation will turn on. Side note: some of the best first kisses happen while dancing.
Instead of Hiking
Oh yes, we did. Knock it all you want but striking out can be good on a first date. Bowling alleys are laid back and old-school, offering a physical activity that doesn’t involve touching (let the tension build!). You’ll get a chance to show off if you’re a self-proclaimed Big Lebowski and if you gutter-ball each roll, it’ll come across as endearing. Add a couple cheap beers and fries, make up silly nicknames for the scoreboard, and you have the makings of a perfect first date.
Water, swimsuits, splashing. Whether it’s a community pool, nearby beach, or reservoir, swimming is a sexy first date and there’s nothing else to say. Oh yeah, bring towels.
Flip a Coin
Planning a date can be nerve-wracking: let the universe do it for you. Decide to meet in the center of downtown where there’s plenty of room to roam. Bring a coin and flip it to walk left or right. Keep doing that until someone gets hungry or thirsty, or if you pass a cool record shop, bookstore, or bizarre building you simply have to go into. This date is a way of saying, I’m up for taking this adventure with you, which is oh so romantical.
There are two outcomes to a first date: it goes great or it tanks. Take them rock climbing and at least if it tanks you’ll have gotten in a workout. If it works out, you got in a workout and have a second date! Win-win. Studies have shown that working out with someone you like can make you feel closer, more attracted to them, and in the case of rock climbing, shows you’re there to belay them when they fall.
With plenty of people, activities, and music at a festival, your date will feel like a fun outing rather than a high-stakes Q&A round. Research a music, food, or hobby festival coming to town (they have them for beer, bacon, bluegrass, Battlestar Galactica, you name it!) and get two tickets. Having space to walk around, get food, and be a part of a larger experience are surefire ways to make a date great. Who knows, this could become a yearly outing. Imagine saying, “when I took them to the bacon festival, I knew they were the one.” It just sounds right.
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