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 and 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.