21 of the Best First Dates You Can Go On (That Aren’t Dinner or Drinks)

published Feb 9, 2024
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First dates can be nerve-wracking, particularly in the era of dating apps, where meeting someone face-to-face for the first time often occurs on the date itself. So, why not shake it up (and shake off those nerves!) by partaking in an activity as unforgettable as it is unexpected? From quirky to downright daring, check out 21 of our best first date ideas.

Whether you’re looking for a plan that promises to turn nervous jitters into the kind of laughter that makes your belly ache, a story worth sharing on TikTok, or a first date so good a second one is inevitable, these first date ideas cover all the bases.

1. Test your teamwork (and puzzle-solving skills) in an escape room.

If you’re feeling adventurous, tackling an escape room on a first date is a clear-cut way to test your compatibility under pressure. Need I say more?

2. Get thrifty.

If you both have a penchant for scoring secondhand finds, pick up some iced coffees and plan to shop the afternoon away. Keep it casual by simply browsing the store or take it up a notch by setting a budget and picking out outfits or a knick-knack for each other!

Credit: Joe Lingeman

3. Take an [insert activity of your choice]-making class.

Candle-pouring, charcuterie board arranging, sushi-rolling, or cocktail-making — the world of instructor-led DIY classes is yours (and your date’s) for the taking. And, you might get to bring home something to remember your first-ever date by … for better or for worse.

4. Attend a local event or festival.

Choose a local carnival, festival, or special event for a date night filled with vibrant sights and sounds, keeping the energy high. Be it a wine tasting festival, county fair, or a drag show, these are foolproof events for sidestepping those dreaded awkward silences.

Credit: Leela Cyd

5. Pack a picnic.

Choose a unique theme, such as snacks and ingredients inspired by French cuisine or items that are all pink (or any color of your choosing), and take your picnic to a local park or beach to enjoy while watching the sunset. If you have access to a Trader Joe’s, their famously eclectic snack selection is guaranteed to make your spread a hit.

6. Get spooked on a ghost tour.

Many cities host guided ghost tours, steeped in local lore passed down through generations by word of mouth. If you know your date is down for some paranormal activity, this is one of the best first date ideas that’s sure to break the ice.

7. Boogie to live music.

Are you and your date both into dancing? Lace up your shoes and find a spot with live music you can’t resist swaying to the beat of. It could be the start of a “same time, next week” kind of romance.

8. Try a new cuisine together.

Sharing meals is a (delicious) cornerstone of human connection, and there’s a near endless list of amazing dishes to try. Step out of your comfort zones and sample a cuisine you’ve both never had before to get the conversation flowing.

Credit: Sarah Crowley/Apartment Therapy

9. Visit a bookstore.

You can get to know a lot about a person by what kinds of books they’re interested in. And there’s something to be said about the undeniably romantic ambiance of a local bookstore on a rainy day, paired with a hot drink and the calming sounds of classic jazz softly streaming through the speakers. 

10. Pay a visit to a kava bar.

Kava, a beverage deeply rooted in Polynesian culture, is made from the root of the kava plant and has been enjoyed for thousands of years, both ceremonially and recreationally. It’s suggested that it does not impair cognitive function, but many find this long-standing tradition to be a relaxing alternative to drinking cocktails. Recently, this drink has gained popularity across the U.S., leading to the emergence of kava bars nationwide. It’s a great option for a zero-proof date!

11. Embark on a zip-lining adventure.

Perhaps one of the few experiences to elevate your heart rate as dramatically as a first date does is being suspended hundreds of feet in the air, secured only by a harness and a cable. If you both are the thrill-seeking type, a zip-lining outing might be an excellent, ultra-memorable icebreaker.

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12. Visit your local botanical garden.

Plant the seeds of romance with a stroll through your local botanical garden, an activity I think people tend to overlook (especially when thinking about a potentially sprouting relationship). Together, marvel at native blooms, rare botanicals, and lush tree groves throughout the grounds — an ideal first date for those with a passion for flora and fresh air.

13. Sip your way through a brewery tour.

Consider opting for a brewery tour on your first date, where the hop-filled barrels of beer might not be the only thing brewing — there could be some undeniable chemistry bubbling between the two of you as well.

14. Have a sandcastle-building contest.

If you live near the beach, channel your inner child and challenge your date to a sandcastle-building contest. Have a friendly beachgoer pick the better architect and decide on some light stakes. Loser has to buy the winner ice cream or jump in the ocean! 

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15. Climb to new heights. 

Scaling the walls at an indoor bouldering or rock climbing gym is the perfect way to show that you’re both literally and figuratively willing to climb mountains for each other (or at least a 10-foot wall), even on a first date.

16. Set off on a food truck crawl.

Take dinner on the road with a visit to multiple tasty food trucks in your area. Rate each one along the way and end the date by picking your favorite for a possible encore visit.

17. Visit a “U-Pick” farm.

What better way to spend a first date by visiting a local farm to pick your own flowers or berries? If things are going well, you can extend the date to make flower arrangements or bake a fruit-filled pie together. Talk about farm-fresh fun (with a side of flirtation)!

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18. Go retro at a roller skating rink.

The ’70s called, and it said that couples that skate together, stay together. Level up your date by wearing your best flares and bell-sleeved blouse for an evening of hand-in-hand laps around the rink or your local park (and perhaps a hilariously memorable fall or two).

19. Sign up for a paint-and-sip class.

Color your first date unforgettable with a guided paint-and-sip class, where there’s still plenty of time to get to know each other between brush strokes and wine refills. (This was one of the first dates I went on with my boyfriend and I can attest, no artistic skills required!)

20. Attend an open mic night.

Attending an open mic night might scratch the itch of spontaneity on a first date without even having to get on stage, because you never know what kinds of performances you’ll see! Comedy? Slam poetry? Ventriloquism? The variety is part of the charm, offering endless conversation starters.

21. Take a self-guided tour of local murals and art installations.

Turn your first date into an urban treasure hunt with a self-guided art tour through your city. Certain neighborhoods might be bursting with public art, offering a budget-friendly yet enriching way to wander through a new-to-you area while also getting to know each other.