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21 First Date Ideas

How to think beyond dinner and a movie in planning a first date.

Key points

  • First dates need two things—a chance to get to know each other and some energy.
  • First date anxiety can be minimized by doing a fun activity together.
  • On a first date, it's important to address any "deal breakers" right away.

Sometimes, it’s hard to come up with novel and interesting first date ideas. To help you out, I polled a group of my expert colleagues for their ideas. They're all fellow bloggers here at Psychology Today.

Here's what they said.

From Art Markman, Author of Smart Thinking

1. First dates need two things—a chance to get to know each other and some energy. So, try to get both involved. First, find a place to walk and talk. A stroll through the streets or in a park is great.

Walks are nice because even if the conversation falters for a bit, the scenery itself can stand in. If things are going well, then try to find someplace to hear some music. Music is a great source of energy. Plus, you can learn a lot about someone from the music they like.

From Toni Bernhard, Author of How to Be Sick and How to Wake Up

2. Take a cooking class together. Many of the most popular cookware chain stores, such as Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma, offer these two- or three-hour classes in the evenings. Sur La Table even has special Date Night classes, with names like: "Tuscany for Two," "Spicy Latin America," "Parisian Romance." Just Google "cooking classes."

3. Go to an aquarium. It is a great place to chat and stroll, as you feast your eyes on colorful fish and other sea creatures, some of which are quite comical to look at!

From Susan Newman, Ph.D., PT Blogger and Author

4. Don't do lunch, or dinner, or drinks. Center that first date mingling in an environment that allows you to chat, yet gives you subjects to chat about other than "Where did you go to school?" Consider a local flea or farmer's market, or visit a zoo or local park. Go bowling even you can't keep the ball in the alley all the time. It makes for good laughs if conversation stalls.

5. Arrange a date around a gift you need for your mother or sister or dad or brother. Shopping should give you opinions and some insight into each other's sense of style, feelings about money, and those should lead to more answers to the things you want to know at the beginning of what might turn into a long-term relationship.

From Barb Markway, Ph.D., PT Blogger, Author, and founder of the Self-Compassion Project

6. Minimize first date anxiety by doing a fun activity together. Establishing that you have one shared interest or passion in common is a great foundation for the start of a relationship.

If you each have dogs, for instance, why not go to a dog park? Who doesn't love cute animals? There will be plenty to talk about, and probably a lot to laugh about, as well! Of course, this could get complicated if your dogs don't like each other :)

From Meg Selig, PT Blogger and Author

7. Here's my best first date idea, and it worked for me: Meet for a quiet coffee. Talk. Allow no more than one hour. Be prepared to be assertive if you know it won't work out, for example: "I enjoyed meeting you, but I don't think this relationship would work for me. Best of luck to you in your search." Be prepared to hear those words from the other person, too. Save time and money with a screening interview rather than a first date!

Mary Pritchard, PT Blogger and Author

8. Rock climbing—doing a physically vigorous activity will make you seem more attractive to your date (and vice versa).

9. Bowling—doing a fun activity where you can laugh a lot will show your date that you know how to have a good time.

From Glenn Alperin, a writer who has prosopagnosia

10. As a person with a disability that is not entirely obvious to the observer... you need to bring any "deal-breakers" out of the closet right away so they can be addressed. It is better to determine if there is any incompatibility before engaging in a longer-term relationship than to find out later that something isn't going to work no matter what.

For me, that means my date would need to be open and accommodating to dealing with my prosopagnosia in a way that allows me to interact with them with relative ease. Compared to others with prosopagnosia, mine is on the more severe side, so not all people with prosopagnosia will agree with me, but my point is more that that would be my deal-breaker.

If a person isn't willing or potentially able to be accommodating to me in order to make social situations, let alone potential romantic ones, easier for me to navigate, then it is better I know that right away than waste my time, and theirs, on a relationship that won't work for either of us in the long term.

From Vinita Mehta, Ph.D.

11. Trivia night! Most quiz nights cover a range of topics, so this will give you a sense of your date's interests and humor. It might also tell you if they are a graceful winner or loser...

12. An amusement park. This may be an ideal date if you're particularly keen on someone—sharing an experience that conjures up physical arousal tends to forge an emotional bond.

From David Gussak, Ph.D.

13. My response to a positive first date experience ties in beautifully with my own focus on the arts and creative therapies. If the two people are so inclined, there are wonderful arts activities that are as structured or open-ended as you would want to make it.

But, to be creative and engaging, I would recommend going to one of those "make your own pots" ceramic studios for a first date, or programs like Painting with a Twist, in which it has less to do with making good art, and more to do with socializing while creating. This also helps lower inhibitions in that the two people would be engaged in an activity in which they can focus on, freeing them up to be more likely to talk to one another with less social awkwardness. It also levels the social playing field.

Of course, personally, I have found that a long bike ride has also been conducive for an initial date—especially one in which a picnic was involved, or a destination where two could dine or "hang" like the beach, cafe, or winery. Two people focusing on the road may make it easier for them to speak to one another, and bike clothes are so ridiculous, it takes the stress out of "looking your best."

From Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D.

14. Hiring someone to teach a private lesson on some skill or hobby you both agree that you'd like to learn, such as photography or cooking a type of food, or fly fishing. This levels the playing field while engaging in something that both want to do.

15. A historical house tour, where you can both comment on things you like or don't.

From Guy Winch. Ph.D.

16. Dining in complete darkness: There is a growing number of restaurants all over the world (e.g., New York, Paris, Tel-Aviv) that offer the experience of dining in complete darkness. What makes this a special first date is that by having no visual clues your senses are heightened and distractions are minimized. You, therefore, judge the food purely on taste and texture, not color or presentation.

Similarly, you judge your date purely on the connection you make; how you communicate, the flow of conversation, how you respond to the uniqueness of the situation and whether you have fun with it, how you describe your food and your general reactions, and the insights you gain by functioning as if you were blind (indeed, the waiters are all visually impaired). If dining in darkness doesn't create a bond between you, it probably wasn't meant to be...

From me, Alice Boyes, Ph.D.

17. Give your date a chance to show off their skills.

If your date knows how to do something that you're interested in learning, ask them to give you a lesson. It could be anything from taking fancy SLR photos to expertly navigating a computer game.

18. Express your vitality.

According to research, vitality is one of the key qualities most people look for in a mate.

Active first dates can work for expressing your vitality. e.g., a short hike to someplace with a beautiful view (and a cafe at the top!) Since people are unlikely to want to get sweaty on a first date, I mean something not so strenuous you'd end up sweaty and disheveled.

19. Express your adventurous side.

Adventurousness is another quality that most people look for in a mate. It's one of the top 18 qualities people desire in a partner. If you're both adventurous eaters, for example, you could try a restaurant with a tasting menu.

You don't want to pick something that will make the other person uncomfortable, since thoughtfulness and considerateness are also among the top desired qualities.

20. Introduce your date to something they'll love.

One of the ways relationships help individuals grow is that we get introduced to our partner's interests and likes and adopt some of these as our own. For example, if your partner introduces you to Korean food, you may discover that you love it. It's a bit of a risk that the person won't like what you introduce them to—so calculate if you think it's a risk worth taking, based on what you know about them already.

21. Show off your status/resources.

I might take some flak for this but the reality is that status and resources is also on the list of most desired qualities in a potential mate. If you've got a nice car or a nice house, you might want to invite your date to a group situation (for safety/comfort, unless you already know them well as a friend) that shows off your assets.

More from Alice Boyes Ph.D.
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