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33 sweet first date ideas, according to relationship experts

Even if you don’t click with your match, you’ll still have a good time.

There's an art to a successful first date.

"First dates are inherently stressful — it’s hard to meet new people, let alone to meet a person that you hope likes you. Even harder if you’re the one planning the date,” Elizabeth Earnshaw, LMFT, author and co-founder of OURS premarital counseling, tells TODAY.

Once you take a step back and think about all the ways in which the date could be fun, Earnshaw says, “you’ll be more prepared to enter into it from a mindset of hope and excitement rather than dread and anxiety.” 

Sejginha Williams-Abaku, LMFT, C-DBT, practice director of Personal Life Wellness Marriage and Family Therapy also readily admits that the prospect of a first date can be daunting: “The pressure to make a good impression and the uncertainty of how well you’ll connect with your date can induce anxiety,” she says. However, Williams-Abaku says that the key is turning stress into an opportunity for shared enjoyment and connection. “By infusing creativity into your first date plans, you not only alleviate the stress, but also create a foundation for shared experiences and meaningful connections,” she adds.

If you’re looking for something besides dinner or drinks, then you’ve come to the right place for the very best first date ideas. We’ve rounded up 30 first date ideas — some cheaper and more low-key than others — that’ll leave a great impression. All have their own distinct benefits, but most importantly, all of these ideas receive the experts’ stamps of approval since they spark important conversations.

Now, what are you waiting for? Set a date, and get ready for a fun time.

General guidelines for first dates

Some practical things to keep in mind when planning or attending a first date. For starters, you'll want to do something that's appealing to you on a first date. Julia Storm, author of "5 Simple Steps To Manifesting Your Life Partner," stresses that first dates are designed to check your compatibility, so it's important to do something you actually enjoy. “They should also be as casual and un-date-like as possible,” she adds.

That said, certain standbys like happy hour or coffee dates still have their perks. "Getting a drink or coffee at a local spot that’s quiet enough to actually talk is the go-to for a reason,” Rachel Zar, LMFT, CST, a couple therapist and expert panelist, tells “Over-planning a first date can sometimes take away from what it’s actually about: getting to know each other.”

Since you're meeting up with a stranger, you should always err on the side of caution. Steer clear of any activity that you find scary or stressful because, as Storm puts it, "you don’t need to prove how fun you are by accommodating someone else or being out of your comfort zone."

Fun first date ideas

Have a coffee date at a bookstore

We’re one-upping the traditional first date at a coffee shop with this fun twist. “Save yourself a lot of unnecessary heartache by sussing out your prospective partner's appreciation of literature or lack thereof,” Storm suggests.  

Laurel House, one of eharmony‘s relationship experts, seconds this suggestion. “Books can say a lot about a person,” she says. “Pick a cool, funky, independent bookstore and walk the aisles together, each picking out your favorite book or something you want to read, then tell each other about it.”

Since many people are cutting back on alcohol or abstaining from it completely, picking a first date that doesn’t involve booze is always an excellent choice. To that point, recent surveys show that single daters are interested in dating someone who doesn’t drink. A first date without a hangover? We’ll take it.

Go to an arcade

In the same vein as the idea above, Roma Williams, LMFT, founder of Unload it Therapy, is all for embracing your inner child with some good old-fashioned games. “Visiting an arcade can be a perfect venue for a fun date,” she says. “You can play your favorite games, show your skills, compete and flirt.”

Swing by a museum or art gallery

If possible, plan this date for a weekday or during off-peak hours to avoid the crowds. While you're taking in the displays, Williams says you'll have "ample time to talk, share and get inspired."

Museums, in particular, "allow your natural curiosities and interests to run wild."

first date ideas couple at museum
SeventyFour / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Attend trivia night at a bar

“Having a fun shared activity can reduce anxiety about asking and answering all those tough first date questions,” says Zar, noting that the competitive energy is a good thing for forging a connection, too. Put your phone away before trivia starts to help you be more present throughout your time together. But, by all means, whip out your phone if you take home the top prize.  

Head to their part of town

Do your research to find out the top spots in their area, then ask them how your findings stack up. Earnshaw recommends leading with your suggestion: “For example, you might say ‘I’d like to come your way so you don’t need to drive! I did some research and it looks like XYZ restaurant is pretty good. Would you like to meet there?’”

Not only will this show your date that you’re comfortable taking the lead, but also that “you’re open to trying new things that you don’t know much about.”

Play at a board game cafe

There’s nothing like some good ol’ rivalry to get the conversation flowing. Track down a nearby board game cafe (or a bar with board games) and play your two personal favorites.”

Playing games “allows you to get to know more about how each of you navigate competition and have a glimpse into each other’s childhoods,” Earnshaw says. “The bonus is that it softens any awkward silences because when you’re not sure what else to say, you can just play!”

Scope out local events

When planning a first date, search for events in your area like flea markets, farmer’s markets or festivals. “They’ll give you lots to talk about beyond the usual first-date questions. Plus, they’ll provide a fun and energetic atmosphere,” Zar says.

Embrace your inner kid

Plan something like roller skating, paintball, or laser tag for an upbeat and active first date offered Darlene Taylor, LCSW, founder of Iron Sharpens Iron.  Doing so “allows you and your date to feel like a kid again, to laugh and let loose a little bit to make fun memories,” she says. “This will hopefully encourage you both to let your guard down a bit that will inspire conversations that will help you get to know each other a little better.”

Attend a sporting event together

Let’s hear it for the home team. “Whether you watch a Major League Baseball game or you go to a college football game, a sporting event is a good opportunity to see how your date handles their emotions,” says Amy Morin, LCSW, a psychotherapist and author of 13 Things Mentally Strong Couples Don’t Do. “Do they cheer loudly? Do they get mad when their team is behind? It’s a great opportunity to talk and get to know one another without the pressure of staring at one another face-to-face.” To save on ticket costs, consider attending a minor league or semi-professional sports team game.

Adventurous first date ideas

Engage in friendly competition

Sure, pickleball gets all the attention these days, but there are so many other ways to fire up some healthy competition. “It’s been shown that people who work out together feel more chemistry towards each other thanks to the release of sweat-induced endorphins,” House says. “Go play pool, ping pong or challenge them to a game of shuffleboard.”

If all goes well, House adds that you can “find a relaxed spot to grab a bite and deepen the relationship with great conversation.”

Opt for a hike

Take things up a notch by trading a leisurely walk for a full-on hike. “It’s often actually easier to have deep and personal conversations when you’re not looking each other in the eye. And any silences won’t feel so awkward as you take in the view,” Zar says.

If you pick a hiking trail or path in a large park, make sure it’s in an area that’s public enough that your date partner feels safe. “A fun idea is to start the walk on a trail that leads to a playground — being in nature is grounding, calming and the playground evokes a sense of childhood and play and laughter,” Earnshaw adds.

Try an escape room

Here’s one way to see if you’re compatible. “Escape rooms are all about strategy, teamwork and suspense. You can have an opportunity to save one another — in a non-life threatening way, of course,” Williams says. Plus, it’ll make for an easy icebreaker if there’s a second date.

Perform karaoke together

This date idea will definitely get your adrenaline flowing. Whether you’re a pop diva or a subpar shower singer, hit your local karaoke bar and belt out some tunes together. Doing a challenging activity is a great way to break the ice — after all, small talk is nothing compared to a stage performance. Take a cue from classic rom-com “27 Dresses” and belt out “Benny and the Jets” together, or go retro with “You’re the One That I Want” from “Grease.”

Hit the water

One of Earnshaw's most memorable first dates was a kayaking trip. “I got to observe a lot of things about my date — like how they manage being in line for a long time, what they are like when it’s time to collaborate (we had to row the boat together!) and more about their sense of adventure,” she says. “This helps to build experiential intimacy: the type of intimacy we have when we do new and novel things together.”

On the plus side, the water can put you both at ease. Whether it’s paddleboarding or renting a canoe at a local park, being on the water is a great way to relax and enjoy one another.

first date ideas couple kayaking
FlamingoImages / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Go dancing

Between ballet, tap and salsa, the options are endless. “Spice up your first date by signing up for a dance class. Whether it’s salsa, ballroom, or a fun and informal dance style, dancing is a fantastic way to connect physically and have a blast,” says Williams-Abaku. “Stepping out of your comfort zone allows you to observe your date’s openness, mental flexibility, and humility.” Remember, this is meant to be a fun experience, and it’s totally okay if you have two left feet.

Drive exotic cars

Many major cities have exotic car driving experiences you can book on a racetrack, or you can arrange to rent a fancy car from a dealership to take for a spin on a scenic road near you. Williams-Abaku likes this adrenaline-pumping date idea since “the excitement, combined with the rush of driving dream cars, creates positive emotions and an unforgettable bonding experience.”

Unique first date ideas

Go for a walk

Lace up, folks. “When you are moving your body, it activates ‘feel-good’ hormones in your brain, so you will both be in a good mood,” Sandra Myers, co-founder of Select Date Society, tell “Walking can help keep the conversation going as you pass different interesting things to talk about along the way.” If nothing else, you’ll log some extra steps on your fitness tracker.

Take a class

When you learn something new together, it creates a connection between the two of you. Choose something new you would both like to try,” Myers says, citing the examples of cooking, art, salsa or mixology.

The sky is really the limit, but be sure double-check that the class is beginner-friendly before signing up. But, hey, a challenge might be a good test!

Pick something from a farm

“Depending on the season, head to a farm and pick something. It’s playful and gives you the ability to have conversation while being active,” Earnshaw says. “It also gives you a great follow-up opportunity for a second date within the week.” If you pick a pumpkin, then you can set a time to carve them together. Same goes for peaches, apples and other farm-fresh finds.

Get painting

Painting classes are really the best of both worlds. They’re fun and all, but they also allow time for conversation. “You all will be able to explore your creative sides while getting to know one another in a non-intimidating way,” Williams says.  

Earnshaw echoes Williams’ suggestion, adding that creative classes (pottery and painting, especially) help relieve anxiety since you can put your focus on the task at hand. “Not only that, but it’s also a wonderful way to learn about each other through something other than talking. What’s it like to do something new with this person? Are they willing to play and be creative? How do they approach decision-making,” she adds.

Walk your dog

First things first: Confirm your date likes pups and/or isn’t allergic from the outset. If they’re all in, then suggest grabbing a coffee and taking a stroll with your dog in tow. It’s even better if you both have four-legged friends you can take with you.

Storm is a fan of this first date idea since she says it’s a great way to see if you want to spend three hours over dinner and drinks with this person. “Seeing someone you like be sweet to your pet is really attractive. If it’s awkward then knowing they aren’t going to fit into the fundamentals of your lifestyle is better figured out sooner rather than later,” Storm says.

“If your dog likes your date, it’s definitely a good sign.”

Do yoga together

First dates can be stressful, and a yoga session is a great way to help calm those justifiable jitters. Whether you take a class together or just flow through some simple poses, you and your date will feel relaxed and grounded. To up the ante, search for a goat or puppy yoga session in your area.


Why not combine meeting someone new with something that benefits others? “If you’re a charitable person and want to share that with someone, plan a date where you can both give back to the local community,” says Taylor. Ask if your date has a favorite organization that needs helpers nearby, or suggest a food pantry or soup kitchen that’s looking for extra hands at meal times. 

Go on a guided walking tour

Williams-Abaku singled this option out as one of her favorite unique first-date ideas. “It’s an excellent choice if you’re not a natural at small talk. The guide becomes a conversation point, alleviating the pressure of constant chatter,” she says. “Observing how your date engages with others and reacts to relinquishing control can provide valuable insights.”

To find a walking tour near you, Google your city location and “guided walking tour,” “food tour,” “historical tours" or terms related to your interests plus “walking tour.”

Or, take a graffiti tour of your city

For those who live in metropolitan areas, this is an off-the-beaten-path option that will let you two see your city in a whole new light. “Look for local murals and graffiti art on Instagram, then create a walking or biking tour to check out the local artwork. Discovering new sights in your own city will lead to a great first date conversation,” Myers says.

Rent a tandem bike

As Morin noted, renting a tandem bicycle means you’ll have to cooperate. “This can help you get to know how the other person communicates and how the two of you work together. You might learn about how they deal with frustration and whether they like to take the lead,” she says, noting that this activity of riding this special type of bike with one seat placed behind the other is a good opportunity to talk too while not staring at one another.  

Take online personality tests and talk about the results

Morin recommended taking online personality quizzes before you meet up and bringing the results with you to a coffee shop to discuss. “It might help you get a conversation started about your differences or parts of the quiz you don’t think accurately represent your personality,” she says. “While you don’t have to use the tests to determine your compatibility, talking about the results might be a good icebreaker.”

Romantic first date ideas

Dine at your date’s favorite restaurant

“If you’re the one planning the date, ask the person what their favorite cuisine is and find a restaurant that serves it,” Earnshaw says. “This shows that you’re a curious partner, up for doing things the other person likes, opens a great conversation.” An example: You can ask your date what they love about this particular food, and if they have a favorite dish.

The bonus is that it opens the door for more date ideas. Maybe you decide to choose a new restaurant each time you go out and rank them. Or, if you’re going ahead with a second date, they can the reins to research and make a reservation at a restaurant that serves the type of food you love the most. It’s only fair.

Share something you love

You can take this date idea in many directions, and part of what makes it so special is that it’s personal to you. “If you’re a diehard baseball fan, take them to a game. If your favorite band is in town, buy tickets to the show,” Zar says. “There’s a vulnerability in sharing something that’s important to you that your date will appreciate — plus it will help them get to know you better.”

Set up a picnic outside

There's something incredibly romantic about a picnic. “The planning that goes into filling your basket requires an extra level of care and thoughtfulness that will have both of you feeling more invested,” Zar says. Set up at a local park or beach to take in the scenery — and each other. "It's the perfect setting for an intimate heart-to-heart."

Go to a wine tasting

If you and your date both enjoy the finer things in life, a wine tasting could be the perfect choice for a romantic evening. Try each others’ favorite wines, or sample a few varietals with a wine flight and compare notes.

Feel the groove at a jazz club

Williams-Abaku encourages pairs on first dates to book it to the nearest jazz club where you can “immerse yourselves in the soulful tunes of a live jazz performance.” Plus, since part of the evening will be taken up by performance, there isn’t a ton of pressure to fill every second of your date with dialogue. “Who knows, you might discover your future wedding song on this enchanting night,” she adds.

Go stargazing

Why not take Morin’s advice to look for a good place to watch the stars together? Fresh air is always nice, and there’s something so special about staring up into the universe, marveling at it all. “Some state parks allow for stargazing and may even offer information sessions, telescopes, and guides who can help you understand what you’re seeing,” says Morin. “Alternatively, download an app that gives you a map of the sky and find a dark place to enjoy the view together.”