So you made a connection with someone online. You both swiped right, or you caught their eye with a witty profile or great pic. Now that you’re planning a first-date meet-up, where do you go?
First, do NOT go to the movies, unless that’s something you both really, really want to do. A movie is a terrible place to get to know a new person. You sit in the dark, in silence, for 2+ hours, not looking at each other or communicating much at all. Movies are a great “I’m already comfortable with you” venue, but not so much a “still getting to know you” venue.
Also, do not do anything involving either of your families. No one wants to be hit with “Hey, I know we’re just meeting in person for the first time, but my family reunion is this weekend, and I’m sure Grandma would love to meet you at the same time that I do!” Families are a lot of pressure and a lot of distraction, and they can also make you seem a tad clingy (or nuts) if you already want to bring your parents/grandparents/extended great-uncles into the mix. Keep it just the two of you for at least the first few outings.
One last don’t: Don’t go somewhere competitive if you’re a super-competitive person. If you tend to get angry when you lose at mini-golf, do not take a new date mini-golfing. Same goes for batting cages, go-karts and anything else with a competitive element. These things are all fun with someone that you know well, someone who knows not to take your pouting too seriously if you lose, but for a new person, competition can be a recipe for disaster unless you’re sure you can take the high ground and lose with dignity.
So where SHOULD you go? A lot depends on your personality, your budget and your local options, but here are a few ideas that we’ve put together in case you’re struggling for a creative date that won’t break the bank or exhaust your date.
- Hit up an aquarium. Giant fish tanks are soothing and beautiful, and you can still carry on a conversation with someone else while you enjoy them. While some people have an aversion to zoos (seeing animals in captivity can be unnerving), aquariums are almost universally enjoyed by those who like to stroll around, take in the scenery and maybe learn a thing or two. The lighting is low, which is flattering for everyone. Plus there are bonus points in it for being outside the realm of “normal” (read: boring) dates.
- Take dance lessons. I don’t mean dragging your date out dancing to a place where you know what you’re doing and he/she doesn’t. I mean find a local spot that does free or cheap lessons and go learn something new together. Where I live, there’s a little speakeasy bar that does free swing dance lessons on Sunday nights, and it’s a great place for new couples to go stumble and laugh through the unfamiliar steps together. If you have a sense of humor about yourself and don’t mind a little exercise, an outing like this could be perfect. It shows you’re adventurous, willing to try new things, and willing to not take it too seriously if you mess up.
- Take a cooking class. In the same vein as #2 above, this gives you a chance to both try something new together, and in this case, you get to eat, too. Local community colleges and rec centers often offer these classes for a reasonable price. You can learn to cook pasta properly, hard-boil a perfect egg, bake a loaf of delicious bread, or create something decadent in chocolate, all while getting to know your date better. Be warned, though: you should check to see if your partner has any food allergies or aversions before committing to this idea.
- Enjoy the outdoors, at your pace. Being outside can make most anyone feel good, and depending on the time of year and local climate, there are many great ways to enjoy an outdoor first date. For those who want to take it slow, a picnic or scenic stroll fit the bill. For the more athletic, go for a run or kayak a local waterway. Snow on the ground? Build a snowman together, followed by hot cocoa! Sun beating down? Ice cream at the beach can be a cool choice. Talk it out with your date beforehand and see what they’re up for, and then pick one or two outdoor activities that will give you a chance to get to know one another better.
- Go out to eat, progressive-meal style. My parents like to do something they call the “progressive dinner.” They eat appetizers at one place, then move to another place for dinner, and finally a third locale for dessert. This is fun for a lot of reasons: you get to try more than one spot on a single date, you get to mix up the cuisine a bit, and you get different ambiance with each place you go. Perhaps one place has a bluegrass band in the corner, while another is white tablecloths and candlelight. Go from venue to venue for each course you eat, and by the end of the night, you’ve had a culinary adventure with a new partner-in-crime.
Wherever you go on a first date, be sure to include your date’s input in the planning, unless they insist on being surprised. The more on board both of you are with the plans, the better they’ll go. Have fun!