So you managed not to make a fool of yourself on a dating app, and you actually scored yourself a date. Congratulations, good sir!
Now that you’re done patting yourself on the back, you’ve got a first date to plan. You don’t want to mess this up and suggest she watch you play video games or give you accounting advice—unless you’re trying to get ghosted, that is.
Drinks or coffee are a lot of guys’ go-to options, and that’s fine. But if you want to stand out from the 45 other Tinder dates she’s been on, here are some first date ideas that’ll almost certainly help you score a second.
Have a picnic
Sure, you could go to a great restaurant. We’re sure she’d love it. But if you’re looking for alternative food-centric first date ideas, read on.
If your date is during the day, head to your local market, pick out your favorite fruit, cheese, and bread, and have a picnic in the park. This will show that you’re sophisticated without being over-the-top.
Learn about food together…
If your date is in the evening, try a cooking class or a food seminar, such as this goat cheese seminar at the French Cheese Board in NYC. It’ll be romantic, educational, and also highly delicious.
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…or learn about booze.
If you’re both drinkers, a wine- beer-, or liquor-tasting seminar is a good way to go. If that kind of class is outside your budget, you could always hit up your local brewery and order a flight.
Go to an art gallery
If your date is more into art, check out your local or nearby art galleries. Exploring new places and submerging yourself in culture will not only ease the tension of strained conversation, but will give you things to talk about for many dates to come. We think it’s safe to say that the less awkward silences on those first few, crucial dates, the better.
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Check out a museum
No matter where you are, there is always a cool museum to see. Even if it’s the local historical society in your town, you’ll always learn something. It’s cool to learn something with someone you’re interested in dating.
“We went to the science museum!” Redditor Finnona wrote in a thread where women shared the best first dates they’d ever been on. “Hours of walking though the various exhibits and talking about nothing in particular, it wasn’t very luxurious but it was heaven spending time in my favorite museum with someone special. Afterwards we walked around the area holding hands and admiring the architecture, a great date for a student on a budget that’s for sure!”
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Check out the local arcade
With shows like Stranger Things all but taking us back in a time machine, our nostalgia for the ’80s—even for those of us who weren’t even born in the ’80s—is kind of huge. If they have the bug, bring them to the local arcade. There’s always something for everyone, even if you’re not great at video games.
Grab a Tab, saddle up to Ms. Pacman on Atari and have an awesome afternoon of no-frills fun. You’ll get to see if they have a competitive side and how they manage themselves under pressure.
Or make it a bar-cade
If your local arcade is crawling with kiddos—in other words, it doesn’t really set the mood—opt for bar with arcade games instead. Even if you don’t plan on drinking, the vibe will be a bit more ~adult~.
Visit the aquarium
Little mermaid references aside, this date will be one for the books. It may sound like something right out of childhood, but a trip to the aquarium could potentially greatest first date of all time if your potential boo is an animal lover.
Going through the overhead glass aquariums in the moody, oceanic light is weirdly hot. Score extra points by taking them to one of the dolphin shows. Everyone likes dolphins. Otherwise, they are a MONSTER.
This Redditor swears that a trip to the aquarium was the greatest first date of all time. In this case, the silly username does not discount from the legitimacy of the advice:
From TheyCallMeShitHead: “I took a girl to an aquarium about 2 months back and she fucking loved it. My friends said girls would think it was lame. We had a great time, though. We actually walked through the whole thing twice. I mean we also went to a nice dinner and a few other things, but the aquarium was the highlight of the evening.”
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See some casual live music
You don’t have to shell out to see some awesome live music. Google around and see where local pubs have live bands playing. Whether it’s jazz, country, or rock, you’ll be able to find something to fit your needs. Check in with your date and see what kind of music they’re into. Most of the time, seeing live music is free. If there’s dancing, even better! Show off your moves, even if you don’t have any rhythm.
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See some fancy live music
From Redditor kaitlynjean24: “The first real date I went on my date got us tickets to the Trans Siberian Orchestra. Christmas is my favorite season, and the concert was beautiful. Still my all time favorite date.”
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Trivia night at the pub
Trivia is a fun and cool way to show off your knowledge. There is usually very little pressure, and if you keep it light, you won’t embarrass yourself or look silly. Everyone gets stumped and everyone gets some questions correct.
Hit up a pub trivia night on a weekday (you don’t want to get over-sauced on a first date). You might be delighted to learn you both have an encyclopedic knowledge of South American geography, summer hits of the ‘90s, or legendary sports commentators.
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Do an escape room
An escape room is where you’re locked inside a room with various clues and need to use teamwork to solve a series of puzzles in order to find the code to unlock the door. Don’t worry, you won’t be trapped forever. There’s a timer that determines how long you have to get out of the room.
This is not a date for someone claustrophobic so, be sure to ask your date before planning this little adventure. It’s a good opportunity to see how they work as a partner in solving in mysteries… and maybe as a partner in life.
If you’re good at pool, it’s sexy. If you suck at pool, it’s funny. Sounds like a win-win to us.
A hike in the great outdoors
If you paid attention to their Instagram pics, you’ll know whether or not this sexy person is into outdoor adventures. If you see a lot of gym pics, biking outings, or rock climbing, ask them to go on a wilderness adventure you with.
Head out on a day hike! Check out our list of the best hikes in America—and don’t forget your CamelBak, because dehydration is not sexy, my dudes.
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If you’ve successfully determined they’re into athletics, you could also go for a bike ride. If you don’t have wheels of your own, that’s okay: Your city might have a bike share program, or a bike shop that offers rentals. (Please remember to wear helmets, even if it messes up your hair!)
If you’re feeling fancy, you could always do what Redditor hayguucifrawg’s partner did: “We went on a 30 mile bike ride, during which we stopped at vineyards and a brewery. It was awesome because he knew I was into biking and he wasn’t. To prepare, he’d bought a bike and started riding to get in shape. The effort was really cool. Later, he proposed at our first stop from that day.”
Grab a paddle and go kayaking
If you live near water, chances are there’s a spot to rent kayaks. Some places, like New York City, even have programs that let you do it for free!
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Take a swing at the driving range
This one works best if at least one of you knows how to swing a golf club. Whack your way through a few buckets of balls—and then, if you still have time, drink your way through a few beers.
It doesn’t matter how cool you think you are, you are never too cool for miniature golf. And if your date thinks they are too cool for it, they are not the person for you!
This is a hands-on date. You pretty much have to put the phone away, hold your putters, and chat while you’re playing. It’s a excellent opportunity to get to know one another, while focusing on a (somewhat) physical activity.
Plus, it’s super affordable and you don’t have to be a professional golfer to play. Anyone can do it so, it’s a game without and frustrations. Unless, of course, your ball keeps getting swallowed up by one of those monster-themed holes.
Brunch on a sunny day
Depending on the time of year (and weather), brunch is always a wonderful idea for a date. Nothing says, “I dig you” like waffles and a mimosa. Brunch has a sexy appeal like a dinner date, with all the convenience of a day date.
Do not—and we repeat, DO NOT— go somewhere with bottomless drinks. This may be a fun thing to do with friends, but on a date, it has potential for disaster. Keep it to one or two drinks, have some pancakes, and enjoy a nice walk around town afterwards.
If you’re looking for something creative, invite your date to do Karaoke. Showing someone you’re not afraid to make a fool of yourself is a huge turn on. Being willing to get up there and show vulnerability is straight up cool.
Does singing to The Killers sound absolutely mortifying? Then you should do it for a first date. There is no time like the present to face your fear of public singing. You can’t break more ice than by singing to Celine Dion in a dingy dive.
Anyone who would be willing to sing in front of a first date is someone worth dating.
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Take a painting class…
Doing an art project is a great way to get to know someone, according to Scott Stanley, Ph.D., co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver and the author of The Power of Commitment.
“Being creative together reveals parts of the self — your values, dreams, fears,” Stanley previously told MensHealth.com. “And no one has to be interrogated or feel threatened or exposed. It comes out very organically in creative expression.”
Why not do a BYOB paint class? There’s no pressure: Even if your finished project isn’t Louvre-worthy, it’ll give the two of you something to laugh at.
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…or a pottery class
Take it from Ghost: pottery is hot AF.
Go for the classic movie date
A movie date will always be a winner, no matter how obsessed with streaming we become. A dark theatre, candy, popcorn, and an opportunity to be silent and not make any small talk is pretty much an idea scenario.
A movie ticket a little out of budget these days? Work around it. Make a fun game out of going to the local shop to buy candy to sneak in. Everyone can appreciate saving on those insane concession stand prices. Plus, matinee shows are way cheaper. Opt for a day movie to break up the weekend.
See an improv show
Improv comedy can be a ton of fun…when it’s done well. There are few things on Earth more painful than a lousy improv show, so make sure you do your research before you opt for this plan. Find a group that gets positive reviews, and watch their past performances on YouTube to make sure you like ’em.
And hey, even if they do end up bombing, at least you’ll have something to laugh about afterward.
See a play
Unleash your inner theater nerd! Again, do your research; read reviews, and find a show that might appeal to your partner’s interests. (Ideally, something cheaper than Hamilton. We’re not asking you to re-mortgage your home, here.) When executed correctly, this date will make you seem like an artsy savant.
Grab dinner or a drink after the show so you can talk about what you just watched together.
Check out the local farmer’s market
Farmer’s markets make for great first dates because you’re on your feet, walking around, and there is plenty to look at and see. You don’t have to worry about finding things in common because you have plenty of flowers, produce, and eclectic art to offer an opinion on.
Offer to buy your date and ice cream and see how they feel about the local flavor. You’re surrounded by food so, do they like to cook? Do they have a vegetable they can’t stand? What do they think about hokey, handmade wine stoppers? What’s not to love about this?
What’s more, if there is’t a farmer’s market that weekend, look up if your town or city is doing anything special. For instance, Lafayette, CO, has Peach Festival; Long Grove, IL, has Strawberry Fest. All of this information is available online.
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Wander through a botanical garden
From Redditor Snowypaton1: “We went to a botanical gardens while it was raining and chatted for hours. He was a great swing dancer and taught me how to dance while it was raining. Made a move at the perfect time. Just a really lovely first date.”
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Hit up a book store
Do some research to find a bookstore that’s hosting an interesting talk or reading—ideally involving a topic or genre your partner’s interested in. (Bonus points if you can find one at your local independent bookstore—not only does the environment tend to be cozier, but you get to support a small business, too.)
Go ice skating…
It’s okay if you suck at it. If you’re wobbly on the ice, you have a ready-made reason to hold each other’s hands. And if one of you is better than the other, you can always do that thing where the good person skates backward and guides the newbie around; that way, you get to skate face-to-face.
…or roller skating
’50s attire optional.
Get your astrology birth chart done
Better to find out sooner rather than later if the two of you just aren’t meant to be.
Kidding! We definitely don’t recommend you make romantic decisions based on astrology. But it can still be fun to talk about what your signs mean, and how much (or little) you embody your supposed astrological traits.
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Explore a flea market
Perusing the stalls at a flea market can be a great way to get to know each other, says Redditor WaffleHouseNeedsWifi: “She was an awesome negotiator and every time she bought something, she and the seller were left happy. Plus, we could suss out how high-maintenance the other was (not at all) and find a million things to laugh at.” (They’re now married, FYI.)
Even if you’re not in the market to buy anything, a flea market gives you plenty of things to look at and talk about; you won’t feel pressured to constantly come up with conversation topics.
Go for a long walk
If you live in a city with lots of things to see—or, conversely, somewhere with a gorgeous natural landscape—a long, meandering walk is a great way to get to know someone.
“It wasn’t super exciting, but we met up for coffee and then went for a walk and then because neither of us had any plans that day, our date ended up being 5 hours long,” Redditor actual_kronos wrote. “We got lunch, more walking, went for a drive, sat in his car, and then I finally had to leave. If I hadn’t, it probably would have been longer.”
And as c_rummel pointed out, kicking things off with coffee gives you an easy out if the chemistry just isn’t there: “If you set an expectation (go get coffee) and things don’t work out by the end, ‘Well, we got our coffee, I have to go now.'”
Go on a geocaching expedition
Known as “the world’s largest treasure hunt,” this delightfully nerdy date idea can be a whole lot of fun. If you haven’t heard of it, the activity involves going on the hunt for “geocaches”: little containers hidden in specific locations around the world. To learn more about geocaching—including how to download an app that shows you where the containers are hidden—click here.
Hit up the dog park
From Redditor missnysa: “We were both students living in the dorm that doesn’t allow pets. It was a perfect afternoon, breezy and sunny, laying on the grass and petting all kinds of dogs!”
If you have a dog of your own, great! If not, it can still be fun to watch other people’s. Of course, check to see if your date is a dog person. (And if not, consider a cat cafe instead?)
Volunteer at an animal shelter
Some animal shelters let volunteers drop in and walk their dogs. It’ll feel good to do something charitable together—with a heavy dose of cuteness!
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From Redditor TallMidget96: “My first date with my partner involved us sitting on a park bench watching people fall off of skateboards. We’re both dicks, but now we’re dicks together.”
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Netflix and chill
Sex on the first date? If you’re both into it, who are we to judge?
Or actually watch something on Netflix.
Oh, you mean you actually wanted to watch Netflix together? Allow us to help you pick what to watch. Check out our roundups of the streaming service’s best food documentaries, sports documentaries, action movies, thrillers, sports movies, superhero movies… Or, you could always just binge The Circle.
Need some more budget-friendly ideas?
Despite what you’ve seen on The Bachelor, you actually don’t need to shop for jewelry, rappel out of a helicopter, or attend a private concert in a Medieval castle to woo your partner.
“Whether you are on a budget, or you are just cheap, there are plenty of date ideas that can be both engaging and affordable,” Brittney Smiejek, a matchmaker with the dating website Three Day Rule, previously told MensHealth.
The possibilities are endless, honestly: You could go to the beach, visit a local tourist attraction, or hit up a free night at the museum. If dinner is part of your plan, skip the restaurant and do a home-cooked meal instead. You could even head to the park and watch the sunset — just don’t spend the whole time Instagramming instead of getting to know each other.
For even more low-budget date ideas, click here.
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