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The 17 Best First Date Ideas


We all know that first dates can be a little, well, awkward. You want to get to know your date, but you also don’t want to feel pressured to talk continuously throughout it (and potentially say the wrong thing). While the old dinner-and-a-movie routine does allow a good opportunity for conversation, here are a few first date ideas you might not have tried yet that are more fun (and will probably take some pressure off of both of you!).

1. Challenge each other to a game of bowling.

Even if you get all gutter balls, nothing loosens people up like a little friendly competition! You two will be so busy placing bets and poking fun at each other’s bowling shoes that you won’t even worry about what to talk about next.

2. Take a hike

Get in touch with your inner adventurers by spending the day exploring a local hiking trail. “The first time I hung out with my boyfriend, he took me to check out this trail about 45 minutes from campus,” says Kristie Smith, a senior at Boston College. “Even though I tripped over a few rocks along the way, we had so much fun checking out the views that I forgot to feel nervous.” Visit a site like Trails.com to figure out a path so you two don’t get lost!

3. Get dressed up for a night at the theater.

Forget the movies — getting dressed up and seeing a play, concert or dance performance is a much classier upgrade. You two will find out a lot more about each other swapping opinions on the show then you would by discussing the latest Will Ferrell movie. 

4. Get in touch with your inner child at the aquarium.

Transport yourselves back to those elementary school field trips by checking out the sea life at your local aquarium. “My current girlfriend suggested we go to the Boston aquarium the first time I asked her out,” says Mike O’Donnell from Emerson College. “I thought it was weird at first, but we had so much fun running around looking at fish that it ended up being one of the best dates I’ve ever had.” You can visit the Association of Zoos and Aquariums site to figure out where you can find your nearest aquarium.

5. Show off your artsy side with a Paint and Sip.

Instead of staring at each other from across a table, why not take off some pressure by focusing on a palette? Drinking wine and testing your art skills is the latest craze, and you and your date may just discover a newfound talent (or lack thereof). Check out a site like Wine & Design or Pinot’s Palette to find a Paint and Sip location near your campus.

6. Get competitive at trivia night.

Show off your useless knowledge to your date by hitting up a trivia night at a local bar. You might learn some unexpected things about your date (like that he’s a total history buff or an avid Friends fan) that you wouldn’t learn from your usual get-to-know-you conversation. Go to FindLocalTrivia.com to find a bar or pub hosting trivia near you.

7. Help each other scale a rock wall.

Find an indoor rock climbing facility and spend an afternoon scaling some walls with your date (bonus—you can show off your bod in some yoga pants!). “This guy from one of my classes asked me out by suggesting we go rock climbing sometime,” says Rebecca Nelson, a junior at UMass Amherst. “I was so used to the usual coffee date that I took him up on it right away — and we had a blast!” Check out this site to find a climbing gym in your area. 

8. Share a laugh at a comedy show.

Seeing a local comedy show is the perfect opportunity to see just how compatible you and your date are — and it’s a great way to break the ice! Kristie says, “Nothing is a better indicator of whether a guy is for me than if we have the same sense of humor, and sometimes you just can’t figure that out over dinner.”

9. Have a photo sesh at a tourist hotspot.

If there’s a touristy place in your town that neither of you has been to before, play tourists for the day and go check it out. You’ll have so much fun snapping pics and learning about a new place that you’ll definitely learn about each other as well! Go to RoadsideAmerica.com to find some cool sites in your area.

10. Be daring with some new cuisine.

Whether you introduce your date to your favorite ethnic cuisine or you try something new to the both of you, taking food risks can be a great bonding experience. “I was the first one to introduce my ex to sushi on our first date,” Rebecca says. “I loved being the expert and being able to order for him — we ended up spending most of the date just talking about food!”

11. Stuff yourself at an ice cream parlor.

Forget stressing out about whether to order the salad or the salmon — with an ice cream date, all you have to worry about is agreeing on your favorite flavors! Order a giant banana split with every topping possible and two spoons, and you guys can bond afterwards about how stuffed you are.

12. Show some spirit at a sports game.

Take your new guy out to a ball game. If you’re rooting for the same team, it’s a great bonding opportunity — and if your teams are playing against each other, you can place some bets. Sites like CheapTickets can help you get discounted tickets to a game.

13. Sing your hearts out at karaoke.

Maybe you’ll go just to listen to some brave participants, or maybe the two of you will decide to take on the mic yourselves for a duet! Karaoke bars aren’t so loud that you won’t be able to chat, but entertaining enough so that you won’t have to worry what to chat about next. Visit Find Karaoke Tonight or KaraokeTraveler.com to find a karaoke bar near you.

14. Show your guy up at the arcade.

Spend an afternoon shooting hoops and racing virtual cars. “I took my ex from high school to an arcade the first time we hung out,” Mike says. “I was nervous that we wouldn’t have much in common, but as soon as she beat me at air hockey, I knew I liked her.” A place like Dave & Buster’s is perfect for a combination of food and fun.

15. Rock out together at a local music show.

Check out a local band that neither of you has ever heard of — you might be able to say you saw them before they became the next big thing! Local shows are often held in intimate venues, too, which is perfect for conversation between sets. Check out Local Music Vibe to find some artists performing in your area. 

16. Stir up some romance at a cooking class

Instead of going out a dinner, make a meal yourselves! Many popular cookware chain stores, such as Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma, offer two- to three-hour cooking classes in the evenings. You can bond over how great (or terrible) your soufflés turn out, and by the time you eat your meal together, you’ll have already worked out your nerves.

17. Plan your own picnic.

Create your own meal by packing up a picnic basket and setting up a lunch in the park. “I asked out a guy last week by asking if he wanted to have a picnic with me,” Rebecca says. “He was so surprised that he said, ‘Finally! A date that actually sounds fun!’ I think we both felt way more relaxed than we would in a stuffy restaurant.” Domestic queen Martha Stewart has some great tips for preparing the perfect picnic basket.


First dates don’t have to be nerve-wracking — they can actually be enjoyable! Focus more on the activity than what to wear or what you’ll talk about, and you’ll find that the conversation comes naturally. 

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