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.
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.