Why do first dates seem to be an endless cycle of grabbing drinks or dinner at restaurants we’ve been to dozens of times before?
Don’t get us wrong — we enjoy (responsible) drinking just as much as college students. 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, make you feel bored.
These 29 alternative first date ideas will get you out of your comfort zone and into some fun and, at the very least, will 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.
It’s like a potluck, but better. One person is responsible for drinks, and the other brings along bites. Pick a fun location like a park, a riverside, or really anywhere with a nice view.
Though this outing is optimal for warmer months, it could even be fun to bring hot chocolate in a thermos and stroll through the snow. Chat it up about your love of grilled cheese or “The Walking Dead.”
2. Take a cooking class
Cooking is always a great alternative to going out, but it can feel a bit awkward to go 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 Groupon often offer amazing discounted options. And keep your eye out! You never know when your new queso-making skills will come in handy. ¡Que romántico!
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 their 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, meet at a park, and read the description on the back of the wine bottle when you try each type.
Make sure to set a price limit or things could get awkward. Not a fan of wine? 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 with 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 just for 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, theme parks are a great excuse to eat a funnel cake. And who doesn’t love that?
9. Go to an outdoor movie or concert
When the warmer months hit, calendars explode with opportunities to take your favorite activities outside. Outdoor movies, concerts, theater performances — the options are endless.
They’re often free, too. Check out local newsletters or magazines that aggregate events. Also 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 also suggest splitting a baked good (or two).
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 and have some laughs while you’re 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, it’s easy to organize one yourself.
Simply make a list of a few things you’ve been dying to try and don’t be afraid to get creative. You can make it as simple or complicated as you want, and you can always throw in the towel and grab a drink if needed — alone or with your date.
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 fresh air will 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 a bite before or after.
15. Watch the sunset
… or the 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 you’re opting out of booze (teatime, anyone?) or ending the day with a long-awaited glass of vino, the rainbow sky is a great backdrop for getting to know someone.
16. Check out the minors
We’re talking minor league sports. Going to the majors can be great, but tickets are often pricey. The better option: a smaller stadium and a much smaller price tag.
The athletes may not be as well-known, but the beer and hot dogs taste just as great — and the extra funds don’t hurt either.
17. Zoo it
An accredited zoo or aquarium 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 (aka undercover, on-the-go cocktails).
18. Embrace your inner sk8r boi
Whether you’re heading to a skate park or an ice rink, skating 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. Embrace the weather, bundle up, and snuggle up.
19. Try a painting class
Picasso ain’t got nothin’ on you. Well, he actually had decades of professional painting experience under his belt, but that shouldn’t deter anyone from trying a painting class.
You can also buy painting supplies and go DIY with this activity. Bonus: The worse you are, the funnier the date will be. And it’s not hard to find classes that are BYOB or serve wine.
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.
Bowling is a great idea because it’s 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
Miley, Ariana, Justin… 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 (and too much beer).
22. Try trivia night
If you’re a little apprehensive about a solo hang-out sesh, try a group activity like trivia. Like 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’ll 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 newspaper. And when the weather warms up, keep an eye out for outdoor shows you can bring snacks to.
24. Choose a bar with games
Gone are the days of sipping drinks, staring in silence, and forcing conversation. In are the days of shuffleboard, darts, pool, and even some chess (if you’re feeling extra classy). Pick your poison — giant Jenga, cornhole, Uno — and let the friendly competition commence.
25. Go to a dance class
Running and yoga are awesome date 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 rock 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 little game can take away the pressure of maintaining a conversation with someone you just met, and you can keep it as simple as you like!
Plus, if things are going smoothly, you can always dare them to kiss you at the end of the night. Ow owww.
27. Go to a planetarium or museum
When it’s too chilly to go stargazing outdoors, turn to a good ol’ planetarium. It’s a fun excuse to visit a place you likely haven’t explored in ages, and it can be pretty romantic, too!
Don’t forget to explore other museum opportunities nearby. Exhibits change pretty frequently, and whether art, dinosaurs, space, or history piques 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 be a serious buzzkill, depending on that fortune…)
29. Choose your own adventure
So many ideas, so little time. It can be tough to suss out exactly what your crush would like best, so prep for the date by printing out some pictures of your favorite ideas (e.g., a picture of art for an art museum, coffee for a coffee date, Miles Davis for a jazz night).
Next, choose a meeting place, have a glass of wine, and let your date choose the adventure! It’s pretty much a guaranteed good time. Plus, you’ll get all the points for creativity.
First dates are nerve-wracking as it is, even without all the pressure of planning. Keep it simple: Pick your favorite idea from our list, relax, and focus on having a great time. With such a memorable first date, you’ll be moving on to the second date in no time.