When it comes to first-date ideas, sure, you can meet somebody for drinks or dinner, but with all the other options out there, you may choose to do something else. After all, you may be nervous, and doing an activity-centric date may make you more relaxed. For instance, if you and your date go bowling, you’ll have to focus on hitting down some pins instead of the primary focus being answering question after question. Plus, you can see someone’s competitive side and how they react to winning (or losing).
Wellness life coach Sheena Jeffers of the Grit & Grace Project also believes in activity-centric dates. “Beyond the obvious first-date ideas (coffee, dinner and a movie, walks on the beach), I like creative, action-based dates or learning opportunities that show you a bit of their personality,” she tells Bustle. “You can sign up for a class together (cooking, dancing, yoga, etc.) or have an action-based date (bowling, hiking, flying a kite, etc.). Or, you can do something together that’s also a learning opportunity (whale-watching, an art museum, a book-signing, etc.). The goal is to get to know the person in different types of stress, environments, and challenges. Dinners and coffees don’t always reveal that!”
An activity date definitely has more layers to it than a standard one, though it’s a case-by-case basis. Perhaps you only have an hour or so to meet, so meeting for coffee is easiest. In any case, here’s what 13 women prefer as their go-to first dates.
“Taking a cooking class together is a great first-date idea for many reasons. Cooking is always a great alternative to going out, but it can feel a bit awkward going to your date’s home, especially if you don’t know a lot about them. Instead, try your hand at a local cooking class. You can get great deals if you keep an eye open. By taking a class, there isn’t pressure for small talk: You get to open up and show off your personality and awesome cooking skills — all while having a great time.”
“Miniature golf is my go-to first-date idea. I've found that the ‘inner children’ of two people in a prospective relationship must align in order for it to work. Miniature golf is the perfect opportunity for the inner children to connect. Innocent, good fun makes for a wonderful atmosphere. It alleviates pressure that people often feel going into a dinner/drinks first-date setting. Miniature golf can either be completely goofy or slightly competitive, depending on the two people. Either way, it’s a fantastic first date.”
“After 25 years of marriage, I found myself in the dating game again. I suggest morning coffee. If the coffee goes well, then order a pastry so you can continue the conversation. But if your date isn’t a morning person, then do a mid-day beverage. I say: Never commit to anything more than an hour — if the date is painful, then your committed time is limited; if it’s great, then you have something to look forward to.”
"As a woman in her mid-20s, I find it extremely hard to steer away from ‘grabbing drinks’ — I feel that drinking is often the icebreaker activity that everyone is comfortable with. My go-to first-date generally involves a neutral activity, such as mini golf, bowling, or, if all else fails, coffee. Sometimes, I have found that when suggesting one of the non-drinking activities, it deters people from wanting to hang out."
“If you want something cheap and quick just to get a feel for a person, a coffee during the day is your best bet, and I feel then there’s not a ton of pressure to continue hanging out with them. Plus, if it’s a date during the day, you will avoid that lingering question of if you’re going home together. Getting a drink at night just seems like an easy way out, especially if you meet someone on a dating app. I got so annoyed with this ‘go-to’ for men that when a guy actually took me to dinner and a jazz show, I was like, wow, this is what dating is supposed to be like. This particular date was really fantastic, and I’m still seeing the guy. It got me thinking: A classic dinner and a concert or show is a great first date. You get to talk during dinner and then enjoy some music afterwards."
“I love the idea of going to watch live sports. This gives you an opportunity to engage in something, but unlike a movie, you have the ability to roam around and talk. It is always a conversation-starter because you can comment on what’s going on and, if you don’t know a lot about the sport, you can ask a lot of questions. But you can also veg out and get into the game! It’s no pressure to keep the convo constantly going as if you were at dinner — awkward pauses allowed! You also can dress down or make it a more nighttime look (think Beyoncé on the basketball sidelines). Another thing that makes this a great first date is that it shows you are adaptable and don’t take yourself too seriously (like maybe going to a fancy bar or restaurant might).”
“My favorite go-to first dates are grand opening or good-cause events! It really takes the pressure off when you attend a grand opening event, such as a gallery opening, a new bar or restaurant opening, a charity event (doesn’t have to be expensive), or the launch of a new product. I love this as a first date because it adds an extra layer of excitement: You get to experience something new with someone new. You can navigate the crowd together and enjoy the planned activities for that event. Usually, food and drinks are included, as well. What I also like about these events is that they usually start pretty early, so if you had a great time, you can continue onto to something else or, if not, just end the date when the event is over 2-3 hours later. Plus, I am a social person, so this also gives me the opportunity to see how my date handles these types of situations and can be revealing about his personality.”
“I always look for a local festival or farmers’ market to attend on a first date. That way, we can be relaxed, stay as long (or short) a time as we like, walk, and talk about mutual interests. It’s much more fun than the standard ‘dinner and a movie.’”
“My go-to first-date idea is a simple dinner and a movie. The point of a date is to have fun with the other person, so I love the idea of combining two things I like to do into one night. The movie provides entertainment and a great conversation piece for later. The dinner gives us the chance to get to know each other or some quiet time to talk and create memories. This is perfect for a first date because it’s public, pretty safe, and can be inexpensive.”
“I like to browse sites like Groupon or LivingSocial to find what’s going on locally, and I buy concert tickets or discounts at restaurants. Also, I keep a running list of restaurants that I want to go to and suggest them when I’m asked about where I would like to go. Sometimes, I even talk to my date about a Groupon deal that I’d like to try together.”
“An afternoon walk in a large, busy park like Balboa Park in San Diego or Central Park in New York City, is my favorite first-date idea. The movement and changing scenery prevents awkwardness or lulls in the conversation; plus, you can control physical contact, i.e., if they move closer to you in a way you don’t like, you can easily move away, or, on the more positive side, you can walk closer to your date as you become more and more interested. If you decide you like them enough to share a meal or a beverage, you just suggest stopping when you see a café or restaurant you like. If you decide you don’t like them, you can leave at any time — no bill to pay and nothing to hold you up.”
“I suggest that a first date is always kept brief and somewhere mutual. If you are meeting someone you have spoken to online, then an hour of your time to meet for a drink in a standard bar is fine. Any dedication to eating, sitting through a film, etc., can mean you are stuck wasting your time and the other person’s. You tend to know immediately if you and your date will get on, so if the signs are not there from the start, don’t force yourself to spend time together. If you are more confident that you will get on and like each other, then maybe branch into something new: I once organized a first date and it was indoor surfing — new for both of us, something I wanted to do, it made us both laugh, and I got to see the adventurous side of the date.”
As you can see from the above, it’s good to have a go-to first-date idea in mind, but it’s also good to have back-up ideas, too. Whatever you and your date decide to do, remember that the point is to get to know each other — while having fun in the process, of course!