If you are looking for some out-of-the-box first-date ideas, know that you’re not the only one racking your brains trying to solve this puzzle. After all, first dates are where you make that favorable first impression, and it’s only natural to want them to be perfect. But sometimes the classic wine and dine becomes a bit too predictable.
Dates are meant to be exciting. First dates, even more so, given that this date is your first real chance to know this person from close proximity, ease yourselves through the awkwardness toward beautiful conversations over common interests. From cooking class to board game battles, karaoke, and trivia night – there are so many ways to beat the cliches. Your dating coach, Bonobology, is here to elevate your first-date experience, helping you pick out the right setting to make a real connection with a potential partner.
We bring you some cool and creative first date ideas in consultation with counseling psychologist Shivangi Anil (Master’s in Clinical Psychology), who specializes in pre-marital, compatibility, and boundary counseling. She says, “One of your first-date goals could be to see if the other person’s behavior aligns with your core values. For example, if punctuality is non-negotiable for you, see if they show up on time. If you value treating people with compassion and respect and they are disrespectful to the server, move on. People are most likely to put their best foot forward on the first date. If their best version isn’t good enough for you, it’s better not to waste your time on a second date.”
30 First Date Ideas That Never Fail To Impress
Yes, we know that you are not always looking for that fine-dining experience on your first date. You don’t want to scare your date off, leaving them fretting over whether they’d have to pick the tab or you’re going Dutch (we do know of some appalling relationship ghosting stories that unfolded right when the time came to pay the bill). If you keep the first date ideas low-key and simple, then you could actually concentrate on the date better instead of fixating on the venue, ambiance, and bill.
Shivangi suggests, “Any activity that allows you to have a conversation is a great idea. Talking is the best way to get to know someone. You may have a good time playing games or watching movies but it’s not a great way to get to know anyone.” On that note, here is our lowdown on the 30 best first date ideas that never fail to impress:
1. A rooftop rendezvous
If a classy indoor date night is what you are into, this is a perfect idea for you. Set it up at night. A little breeze, preferably a starry night, and the city view from the terrace. Light up the place with little nice lights, some music, and possibly, a self-cooked dinner. It’s one of the cool first date ideas to keep it low-key, pocket-friendly, and yet let your effort shine through.
2. Enjoy a ride on a roller coaster or carousel
A date in a theme park is a sure-shot success for a fun bonding experience. What’s better than going on a roller-coaster ride, shrieking like twelve-year-olds, holding hands (possibly), and splashing about in the water at the end of a water ride? It guarantees a crazy, fun-filled day. First, make sure you both are roller coaster fans because you wouldn’t want your date throwing up when you go out the first time.
Related Reading: How To Impress A Girl On A Date And Make Her Want To Go On More
3. Go bowling
Even if you suck at it, plan a date in the bowling arena. When you are trying to open up to someone, mixing conversation with a fun activity takes the pressure off. Imagine the sound of dropping the pins, with music, maybe beer, lots of snacks, and a friendly bet on who can score more. Well, okay. Maybe not romantic in a traditional way but a bowling date sounds just right if you’re looking to establish a rapport with the other person.
4. Meet for breakfast
A good low-key first date idea is to meet for breakfast instead of an elaborate fancy dinner. There is something very fulfilling about the first meal in the morning. You don’t need to worry about what to order on a first date because waffles and maple syrup, sunny-side-up eggs, and crisp bacon strips truly make for soul food. Instead of meeting up for dinner or lunch, how about planning a breakfast date?
5. Buy tickets to a music concert
We are not talking about famous bands here. Just go and hear a local band play. If live music is your jam and your date’s too, then swaying to some new tunes is sure to bring you closer. Besides, the electric energy of the concert is sure to charge you up, and things can escalate quickly from there. Also, you get to check whether your musical preferences match, which is important because surveys show that 54% of men and 46% of women won’t consider dating someone with bad taste in music.
6. Haunted mansion
No one wants a screaming first date. But remember the zombie flicks where a boy and a girl escape the apocalypse, holding hands and being there for each other? Well, your first date in a haunted mansion will be something like that and you can make it a memorable experience. For instance, if you are both brave people, find a dark corner in the middle of it and share a deep, long kiss and watch people disguised as a ghost either boo you or try harder to scare you. If you’re looking for creative first date ideas, you’ve got to keep this on your radar.
Related reading: What Should A Woman Talk About On Her First Date?
7. Open-air theater
Looking for romantic date ideas? Something other than typical dinner dates? If you are both movie buffs, then this ought to check that box. Whether you love black and white classics from the 1960s like the Casablanca or are into action-intense, superhero cinema, this can be a perfect date for you. All you need is a backyard, a hired projector, and a screen, and you are good to go. Get wine and pizza, a mat to sit on, and have an amazing first date.
8. Explore an off-beat food joint
This is actually one of the cheapest first-date ideas because exploring an off-beat place won’t cost you a bomb. There are plenty of small joints in every city serving African, Ethiopian, Lebanese, or even tribal cuisine. Most of these places have intimate seating arrangements, which make for a cozy first-date setting. Add to that the unusual, and in all likelihood, delectable cuisine, and you have the perfect recipe for a memorable date to kickstart a meaningful connection.
9. The sunset point
Is there a place in your vicinity that’s known for its breathtaking view of the sunset? Fix a date there. You can also go for a stroll as the sun goes down. Carry some munchies with you like sandwiches and juice to share in a picturesque setting. This is one of the cheapest and the best first date ideas that we strongly recommend.
10. Take a ferry or a boat ride
This is one of the most fun first date ideas and romantic as well. Taking the ferry or an exclusive boat ride is a great way to enjoy a date. Any waterbody, be it a river or a lake, has a kind of serenity that does something to the senses and makes the ideal setting for a beautiful summer date. Just sit back and savor the views and the ride. Some places have water taxis. You can give that a thought as well.
11. Hit an ice cream parlor
There isn’t anyone in the world who doesn’t like ice cream. If your date is on a strict diet, entice them to let the diet go on your first day together. This is one of the cute date ideas on the low-end because even if you hit an ice cream parlor that boasts the most exotic varieties, you wouldn’t be spending anywhere close to what you would be spending at a Michelin-starred restaurant.
Related Reading: Dating etiquette – 20 things you should never ignore on a first date
12. Explore a religious place
No, we are not saying that you have to be religious, even belong to the same religion, or have religious views to explore this idea. We are just saying that some religious establishments like churches, temples, mosques, or synagogues have magnificent architecture and can be very soothing places to go on dates. Just visiting a place like this might make your first date a different experience. If you both like history, then you will also have a lot to talk about.
13. Create your own photo walk
People don’t have to own DSLRs these days to take great pictures. There are plenty of features in the smartphones we own. Chalk out a photo walk route and just embark on the journey. You will be astonished at how you see things in a new light because of your new company and because you are seeing through your lens as well. This is hands-down one of the most creative first date ideas. We guarantee your date will be blown away.
14. Try an open-air coffee shop
When it comes to places to go on dates, a coffee shop may seem run-of-the-mill and boring, yes. But not if you add an interesting twist to it. Look for open-air cafes in your vicinity, and take your date there. This is one of our most popular first date ideas because you can actually spend hours sitting in the open, sipping coffee, and talking. Of course, the weather has to be on your side.
15. Attend an art class
Speaking of creative first date ideas, why not do something that brings out your artistic side? There are a lot of art places nowadays that provide you with all the supplies like canvas and paint and you can just let your imagination flow. You don’t really have to be painters to be here. You can do anything with the colors and may even end up creating art, you never know. Studies say that couple activities like art class and playing board games together increase the level of oxytocin, which eventually makes partners feel closer and connected.
16. Hiking trails
Hit the hiking trail if you are both fitness freaks. Hiking is a great way to discover nature and each other. The flowers, the pebbles, and the animals that you see together could make for an experience you savor for a long time to come. This is one of the off-beat first date ideas that can hit all the right notes.
17. Try the street food walk
How about we dodge the fancy restaurants for once and give street foods a shot? If you live in a place that has a street food walk, then nothing like it. But if there isn’t any, then you can create your own route and surprise your date with new tastes and sights. This is one of the fun first date ideas that any foodie partner would love.
18. Take a duo cycle ride
A cycle ride together is a great way to bond on a first date, but if you can manage a duo cycle ride, nothing like it. Cycling together and trying to match each other’s pace can be a great way to find out how much you are in sync. It could give you an opportunity to have a good laugh at yourselves.
19. Meet at a bookstore
A shared love for reading can strengthen a couple’s connection. If you’re both into books, then meeting at a bookstore could be a brilliant first date idea. Nothing like rummaging through books and having a conversation around them. Some people get all excited when they enter a bookstore, if your date is as excited as you are, then you have ticked a few right boxes. A lot of bookstores these days have coffee shops too, so you’re sorted in case you want to sit down to chat over a cuppa.
20. A picnic in a park
This is a cheaper first date idea because you just need to get the sandwiches, and maybe throw in some pasta and juice (or wine) to enjoy a picnic at a park. Sitting under a tree, soaking up the sun – the romantic setting is just perfect to stir things up between you two.
21. Why not karaoke it?
Do you want a pop culture-inspired date idea? Then this is your gig for sure! Karaoke is a great way to prove you are a gutsy, outgoing person. And who doesn’t like a memorable night where you get to bring out the Beyoncé in you? Be it cheesy pop tracks or Indie-blues, or some track you have just heard, a karaoke date night will surely make your first date an amazing one.
Related Reading: How To Date A Girl Out Of Your League
22. Opt for a comedy movie
It’s a great idea if you want your first date to be a big success and that too in a fun way because you can really have a good time at the movies if you can laugh your head off and the nachos and cola don’t come with a huge price tag. It’s a great way to find each other’s funny bones and could pave the way for more such dates at the movies.
23. Register for a fitness class
From Pilates to Zumba and yoga, there are so many different fitness programs that you can choose from depending on your preferences. Umm…if you are more adventurous, try CrossFit. Your search for good first date ideas doesn’t get any better than this. Plus, it’s a research-backed idea, as it’s proven that the level of adrenaline and attraction are directly connected. As one goes up, the other increases too.
24. Go to the museum
Chances are you have one of the best museums in your city and the last time you went there was on your Grade 3 field trip. Try it out again as a grand venue for a first date. Exploring a museum together can turn out to be a wholesome experience provided both of you have some level of interest in history and art.
25. Become a tourist in your own city
In your city, do they have those buses with open-air seating? Just buy a ticket and hop on and hop off. You will have a ball exploring your own city and discovering all the things about it. This is one of those cute first date ideas that will give you endless opportunities to strengthen your bond and common ground to connect over.
26. Go swimming
A lazy day at the pool in the summer is a great idea. If you have a heated one in your locality, then you count this among the great first date ideas in the winter as well. If there’s a beach close by, then nothing like lounging at the beach on your first date. You can try a bit of snorkeling also. Or, if you can, drive to a nearby lake to enjoy a swim and a small picnic. A great first date idea, isn’t it?
Related Reading: 11 Reasons Why You Must Date Your Polar Opposite
27. Camp in your backyard
Super romantic date idea alert folks! Set up a tent in your backyard, grill some sausages on the barbeque, and wash it down with wine or beer. It’s a wonderful way to have some fun right there in your backyard. What could be more romantic than spending your time talking, eating, and stargazing? This is truly a winner among the best first date ideas.
28. Hit the mall
Going to the mall is always among the good first date ideas because you can rarely go wrong with this one. You could buy each other small date-night gifts, do a bit of window shopping, check out a movie, and have a simple lunch at the food court. A visit to the mall allows you to throw in a lot but you can do all that under one roof and on a budget.
29. Go to a garden
Talk about creative first date ideas and here we are. Every city has a garden or a horticultural park as they call it. A walk on the pavements crisscrossing the flower beds is a great way to spend your first date. You could pick each other flowers on the walk that you can later press in a book and hold on to for a long time as a keepsake.
30. Check out a flea or a farmer’s market
The lively ambiance of the place can instantly elevate your mood. You can actually go on a buying spree here without having to spend much. Your date could just love that old mantelpiece or that organic papaya that you pick up for them. Needless to say, there are always home-cooked savories to try out. Yum!
What are the safe choices for first-date conversation topics?
Now that the ‘planning the date’ part is taken care of, let’s get you prepped with some first-date questions to keep the conversation flowing. With these, you can easily beat the awkward silence and come off as a smooth talker. It goes without saying that overbearing topics like political or religious ideologies, parental issues, and unpleasant experiences should be off-limits for a first date.
You are not going out for a debate or therapy session. Talk about your hometowns, discuss your hobbies, favorite books and movies, and your taste in music – it can be as simple as that. In his book Quirkology, Richard Wiseman observes that 9% of the couples who discussed films on their first date landed on a second one while it was 18% for those who talked about travel. Here’s a list of questions to keep the conversation going on a first date:
- Would you rather spend a day with me at home, cuddling and sipping coffee, cooking a meal together, or go out roaming around the city?
- What chases you away about your date on the first meeting?
- Tell me about something that you are extremely passionate about
- When was the last time you traveled? How was the experience?
- Do you wish you were better at something?
Shivangi shares her insights with 5 super interesting questions that can help you see your date for who they really:
- What’s been your proudest moment ever?
Notice what are some of the things that truly make your date light up and make their eyes glitter with joy. You may be a very good match if similar things make you light up too.
- If you had a magic wand and could create your perfect life, what would that look like?
This question provides a wider perspective – it’s a bird’s eye view into what a successful and happy life looks like for them. It’s the answer to what they are striving for in life
- If you had the chance to seek advice from anyone living or dead, who would you seek advice from and why?
Whom they choose to speak to gives you a sneak peek into what they value, whom they admire, and whether they are creative or logical
- What can you spend your entire day chatting about?
This question tells you about their likes, dislikes, priorities, and passions. If the person says something like work, you know you need to book your next cab unless you are looking for a work bestie
- What is the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you?
Soon you will know whether they are willing to be vulnerable and how they behave when they are. Do they do it with humor or is vulnerability something that infuriates them?
Related Reading: 20 At-Home Date Night Ideas For Couples – Romantic Date Ideas
What are some of the first-date red flags that you should keep an eye out for?
The first date decides the trajectory of the upcoming dates with a potential love interest. Your date’s body language, the way they talk and listen to you talking, and conduct themselves (not only with you but everyone else around) speaks a lot about how good a match they are for you. And, this would be a good time to spot the red flags that are deal-breakers for you.
Shivangi says, “The biggest red flag to watch out for is a mismatch in core values. If you don’t feel like they treated you the way you want to be treated in the long term, then it’s probably better not to get your hopes high.” Here’s a lowdown on the most common red flags to spot on a first date:
- Comes late to the date
- Speak too much about themselves and barely show any interest in you
- Orders without discussing with you
- Overly critical of everything and everyone
- Pushes you to come back to their place or for a second date
- You don’t like their vibe
- On a first date, you should get to know each other better and find common grounds to bond over
- Avoid any serious or controversial conversation topic on this day
- Keep an eye out for the basic red flags
- Try to explore new places and date ideas given that you are both comfortable with it
Decide on the kind of date you want and the interests you have in common. If you are both adventurous, go rock climbing. You will be sweaty but you will be sexy. Work on your common interests and you can come up with brilliant ideas on your own. If you need help, do give this list a try.
The article was originally published in 2018 and has been updated in 2022.