Why do first dates seem to be an endless cycle of grabbing drinks or (gasp!) dinner at bars and restaurants we’ve been to dozens of times before? Don’t get us wrong—we enjoy (responsible) drinking just as much as college freshmen. But there’s something unappealing about doing the same song and dance with each new dating prospect. Not to mention, who wants to wake up hungover after hanging out with someone you didn’t hit it off with (especially if there isn’t even a good story to share)? Thanks, but no thanks.
Dating should be fun! And it shouldn’t make you feel forced into making unhealthy choices (like boozing every night for a week straight), or even worse: bored. These 29 alternative first date ideas will get you out of your comfort zone, into some fun, and at the very least have you and your possible new boo bonding over the experience. Heck, use them for any type of date—first and beyond! They’re that good.
Food & Drink
It’s like a potluck, but better. One person is responsible for drinks and the other brings along bites, pick a fun location (a park, riverside, or really anywhere with a nice view), and chat it up about your love for cheese or obsession with the latest whiskey concoction. Though optimal for warmer months, it could even be fun to bring spiked hot chocolate in a thermos and stroll through the snow. (¡Que romántico!)
2. Take a cooking class.
Cooking is always a great alternative to going out, but it can feel a bit awkward going to a stranger’s home on the first date. Instead, get your hands dirty at a local cooking class. They can be a bit pricey, but deal sites like Gilt and Groupon often offer amazing discounted options. Just keep your eye out! You never know when that purchase (or the subsequent cheese-making skills) is going to come in handy.
3. Have an ice cream social.
And by ice cream social, we mean meet up at a self-serve ice cream or frozen yogurt shop. (That’s being social, right?) Aside from the awesome treat, it’s also pretty incredible how much you can learn about someone based on his or her topping choices. Rainbow sprinkle lover? Their personality is probably just as colorful. Cookie dough monster? You’ve found someone you can pig out with. Fresh fruit and coconut shreds? Hello, health nut, it’s a pleasure to meet you.
4. Do DIY wine tasting.
Sure, wine tasting at a wine shop or restaurant is super fun. But do you really retain the information sommeliers lay on you? And do you really want to spend $40 on the only bottle of wine you actually enjoyed? Nah. Instead, have each person bring their two favorite types of wine (make it even more fun by setting a price limit), meet at a park, and pretend to write the description on the back of wine bottles when you try each type. Not a wino? Try it with beer, champagne, or anything else you fancy.
5. Have a three-course dinner… at different places.
Sitting down for a long meal can feel stuffy—especially on the first date. To shake things up (and enjoy more cuisines), pick three different places to nosh at. Know a great tapas place? Grab an appetizer there. Excited about the latest ramen spot? Split one as your main course. Dying to try a cronut? Top off your night with a flaky, decadent donut. You can even do a dessert bar crawl!
6. Go to a food festival or street fair.
Who wouldn’t want to go to a pickle festival? Or hot sauce? Or oyster? The more adventurous and unique, the better. You can walk around, try new bites and sips, and reveal your secret love (or hate) for crowded places. At the very least, it’s a super convenient place to accidentally run into a friend if things go awry.
7. Have breakfast for dinner.
There’s something comforting about fluffy pancakes doused in butter, topped in sweet syrup, and accompanied by a side of bacon. So why not take the stress out of a dinner date by opting for all of the best brunch fixings instead? While diners don’t offer super fancy meals, they’re certainly good at setting a relaxed, fun tone.
8. Head to a theme park.
Theme parks aren’t limited to teenage birthday parties. The rides are actually pretty fun, and big roller coaster drops provide the perfect opportunity to initiate a little hand holding. Plus, nothing says romance like cotton candy. (Kidding!) But theme parks are a great excuse to eat a funnel cake. And who doesn’t like that?
9. Go to an outdoor movie or concert.
When the warmer months hit, calendars explode with opportunities to take your favorite activities outside. From outdoor movies to concerts to theater performances, the options are endless. And they’re often free too. Tune in to local newsletters or magazines that aggregate events, and check daily deal sites for the best options—you never know what you’ll find!
10. Take a coffee walk.
Sitting at a coffee shop can be a little drab, but picking up a coffee and walking around the neighborhood can make it that much better. Tip: Pick a neighborhood you’re both unfamiliar with to make it more of an adventure. (We suggest snacking on a baked good too.)
11. Sneak into a pool.
OK, trespassing may not be the best suggestion on this list, but it can certainly be fun. And sneaking into a pool is pretty harmless. Pick an easy place to break into (er, explore?), act like you’re a regular, and go for a dip! It’s a great way to build up adrenaline, have some laughs, and soak up the sun while at it.
12. Go on a scavenger hunt.
The days of scavenger hunts may feel long over, but they don’t have to be. Plus, they’re easy to organize yourself. Simply make a list of a few things you’ve been dying to try (don’t be afraid to get creative), and head out to find and experience them all. You can make it as simple or complicated as desired, and you can always throw in the towel and grab a drink if needed—alone or with each other.
13. Go au naturel.
No, we’re not talking about taking a stroll in the nude (though kudos to you if you do). Instead, take your workout outside. Whether you go for a long bike ride, try outdoor rock climbing (psst, an indoor rock climbing wall is an awesome option too), go for a hike, or take some swings on the golf course, the natural air make the date that much sweeter. And you’ll get fit while you’re at it!
14. Pretend to be a tourist.
No matter where you live and how long you’ve been there, there are likely things on your tourist bucket list. Use dating as an opportunity to check things off and tread unchartered waters. Visiting a historic site may not be the sexiest thing you’ve ever done, but you’ll never know until you try. You can always go for a drink or bite before or after.
15. Watch the sunset.
Or sunrise, if you’re feeling super ambitious. A beautiful setting makes everything more enjoyable, and it’s the perfect time (and place) to bring along your favorite snacks and drink of choice. Whether opting out of booze (tea time, anyone?), or ending the day with a much deserved glass of vino, the rainbow sky is a great setting for getting to know someone.
16. Check out the minors.
We’re talking minor league sports. Going to the majors can be great, but ticket prices can be crazy expensive. The better alternative: A smaller stadium and single digit price tags. The athletes may not be as impressive, but the beer and hot dogs taste just as great (and the extra funds don’t hurt either)!
17. Zoo it.
The zoo is an awesome place to explore and get to know someone on a new level—and it’s a great excuse to relive one of the best childhood activities. The abundance of animals also means there’s no shortage of conversation! If you want to kick things up a notch, bring road sodas (a.k.a. undercover, on-the-go cocktails).
18. Embrace your inner sk8r boi.
Whether heading to the ice or the skate park, putting on skates is a fun way to get active on a first date. It’s also another awesome activity for getting a little closer to that special someone. In colder months, look for inside rinks—or embrace the weather, bundle up, and snuggle up.
19. Try a painting class.
Picasso ain’t got nothin’ on you. Well, he actually has decades of professional painting experience under his belt, but that shouldn’t deter anyone from trying a painting class—or buying painting supplies and going DIY. Bonus: The worse you are, the funnier the date will be. And it’s not hard to find classes that serve wine or are BYOB.
20. Go bowling.
Funny shoes, bumper lanes, pitchers of beer, bar snacks… sounds like romance to us! But really, when you’re trying to break the ice with someone new, there are few greater tactics than combining conversation with a fun activity—especially one that is totally doable regardless of your skill level. To make it even better, place a silly bet on the game. (We like to reward whoever gets the most gutter balls.)
21. Belt it out at karaoke.
Whitney, Mariah, JT… sure, they have talent, but they’re nothing compared to you. Whether you’re a former musical theater star, a shower songstress, or someone who can’t hold a tune, karaoke is awesome. Besides busting out to your favorite tunes, karaoke also forces you be outgoing—and fast. Just try to stay away from too many romantic ballads.
22. Try trivia night.
If you’re a little apprehensive about a solo hang out sesh, try a group activity like trivia. Similar to karaoke, it’s a good time even if you’re the least knowledgeable person in the room. And hey, if it’s a bad date, at least you come out of it with a few new random facts up your sleeve.
23. See live music.
You don’t have to splurge on big-time concert tickets to enjoy amazing artists. Lots of bars have jazz nights and showcase great local musicians. If you’re not sure where to find ‘em, try resources like Yelp, Time Out, and the arts section of the local newspapers. And when the weather warms up, keep an eye out for outdoor shows you can bring snacks to.
24. Choose a bar with billiards or board games.
Gone are the days of sipping drinks, staring in silence, and forcing conversation. In are the days of shuffleboard, darts, pool, Dance Dance Revolution, and even some chess (if you’re feeling extra classy). Pick your poison—billiards, video games, or board games—and let the friendly competition commence.
25. Go to a dance class.
Running and yoga dates are awesome options when you’re looking to break a sweat, but it can also be fun (and seriously funny) to try something like a swing dancing class. Tip: Pick something new to both of you (that’s also within your comfort zone), and stick to beginner’s classes. If you’d prefer not to shake it, opt for rocking climbing, Tai Chi, or anything else that’s more up your alley.
26. Play truth or dare.
We know, this sounds so old school. But playing a simple game can take away the pressure of maintaining a conversation with someone you just met, and you can keep it as simple as desired! Plus, if things are going smoothly, you can always dare them to kiss your at the end of the night. Ow owww.
27. Go to a planetarium—or any museum!
When it’s too chilly to go stargazing outdoors, turn to good ol’ museums. It’s a fun excuse to visit a place you likely haven’t explored in ages, and it can be pretty romantic too! And don’t forget to explore other museum opportunities. Exhibits change pretty frequently, and whether art, dinosaurs, space, or history peaks your interest, there’s an option for pretty much anyone.
28. Visit a psychic.
OK, this may be a little out there, but it will certainly ensure you have PLENTY to talk about. Plus, you can find pretty cheap places to keep the date super affordable. Just make sure you stay away from deep diving into your love lives—a first date may be a tad too soon for that. (And it could also be a serious buz kill, depending on that fortune…)
29. Choose your own adventure.
So many ideas, so little time. Or rather, it can tough to suss out exactly what your date would like best. If you’re feeling adventurous, pick a few favorites, print out some pictures (i.e. a picture of art for an art museum, coffee for a coffee date, Miles Davis for a jazz night), choose a meeting place, have a glass of wine, and let your date choose the adventure! It’s pretty much a guaranteed good time.