Tips love-in-the-afternoon

Last updated on February 20, 2014 | by Aet Suvari


Ten first date ideas to take the pressure off

So far we’ve given you advice on how to create a good profile and stand out from the crowd on a dating site, how to write a perfect first email and just generally how to get the best out of dating sites.

Let’s say you’ve done all that and are now looking for some good tips on what to do on the first date. You don’t want to commit to a dinner or drinks date as you’re worried it might get a little awkward and you’ll find it uncomfortable to just sit there. What if you run out of things to say? What if you’re not funny enough or clever enough? What if your date is just, well… boring? What if there’s zero chemistry? Here’s ten ideas that should take the edge off the first date and make the whole thing slightly more fun and a good deal less nervy.
So, here goes:

1) The breakfast date

Breakfasts are sooo much better than dinners for a first date! With dinner there’s always those uncomfortable questions: Should I go for the appetizers or just main course? I want a juicy burger/plate of spaghetti/Mexican fajita but how to eat it without making things a complete mess? What kind of a restaurant to book? Should I eat something carby and greasy or just stick to salad? Can I have a dessert? What to drink? How to pay? Even just typing those questions makes my head whirl – there’s just too much to take into account. Plus you have to worry about how the whole evening is going to pan out after the dinner too.

But breakfast is easy-peasy. First of all – you don’t have to worry about the different courses and what to order. You can easily go for a sandwich and a muffin or a porridge and a banana. You can even easily go for ALL of them. It’s acceptable because after all, it’s breakfast and you’re allowed to start your day as lightly or heavily as you like. No one can frown upon that.

Second, who says you even have to stay inside? You could grab a coffee and croissant at a market or coffee shop and wander round somewhere relaxing together. Many people feel more at ease walking and talking side by side rather than the interview style face-off in a restaurant.

Third, it’s easier to talk about stuff when you don’t have the pressure of a romantic style dinner. And after the breakfast is over it’s easier to move on. If it doesn’t work between you, you can just get up, say thank you and make an excuse that you need to be somewhere else soon (perfectly believable!) or if you hit it off you can just do something great together.

2) Go to an art gallery or a museum

first date ideas - woody allen
Some people never have to worry that they’ll run out of things to talk about. But for those of you who are concerned about uncomfortable silences there’s a great way to avoid them – visit an art gallery or a museum instead. Even if you’re not a huge art fan, there’s always something to talk about at an art show. Also, galleries are such fantastic places – calm, light and full of interesting and interested people.

If art isn’t your thing at all, you could try out a museum of natural history or science instead. Of course, pretty much any museum will do but some of them might be a little too specific. A science museum has just about any kind of stuff on display though and there’s always things to discuss so you won’t run out of subjects to mull over.

3) Go see a band

Let’s say you’re REALLY not good with words. Then why not pick a gig for a Friday or Saturday night? Something that sounds fun – maybe even something you wouldn’t normally go and see? Just for the fun of it.

Music is the antidote to awkward silences plus it will be cool to hang out with the crowd, get the live experience, maybe dance a little. And then afterwards things should be a lot less awkward – you could end up having a good laugh about the whole thing with your date. Or you might end up really liking the band. Shared experiences bring people closer together. Either way you can’t lose.

4) Go for a nice walk

first date ideas - roman holiday walk
In the city where our Online Dating Help office is based there’s a canal that runs right through the whole town, creating a scenic walkway for miles and miles. It’s a great place to go for a walk and I’m sure most towns and cities have somewhere equally suited for Sunday stroll.

A beautiful park, Botanic Gardens, lakeside path, beach, hilltop, crooked streets of an Old Town… you name it. Who doesn’t love a good view? Plus, you’re not just sitting down, drinking and eating and trying to come up with jokes that could fall flat. You’re doing something healthy, enjoying some fresh air and admiring the views. You get extra brownie points for that.

5) Visit the zoo

first date ideas - go to the zoo
This is my personal favourite. I get it that not all people love zoos as much as we do at the Online Dating Help office, but you’ve got to hand it to the animals: they sure as hell know how to make us humans talk about them.

It’s hard to have an awkward moment with your date when you’re watching a penguin parade or meerkats soaking up the sun. Animals are so entertaining, you’re guaranteed not to have a boring date in such a place. And zoos tend to bring out the best in people. Well, at least I think so.

6) Play pool. Or go bowling.

Shooting a couple of rounds of pool is pretty cool as far as pastimes go. Remember Tom Cruise in The Color of Money? There’s just something about it that makes it look cool, even if you don’t know how to play.

It’s easy enough and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you can learn. Alternatively you could also go bowling. It’s not quite as cool (unless you’re the Big Lebowski) but it can also be a lot of fun.

7) Work out

Juno movie - first date ideas
I have never truly understood why people consider dating and working out as a no-no combination. I’ve had a few work-out dates and they all worked out fabulously!

You don’t need to do your half-marathon training together, you can just go for a leisurely jog together. Or cycling. Maybe try out boxing – that could be sexy! Whatever really works for you. It really shows you in a good light too: it shows you’re healthy and you like to take care of yourself. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t appreciate that in their date.

8) Volunteer together

One thing is to show that you take care of your body but it’s even better to show that you also care about your soul. With so many opportunities for volunteering these days you could easily do something together. Something that’s close to your heart.

It’s important to share these things as early on as possible and it’s the only way to find out if your date is truly as compatible as (s)he sounded when you first mentioned that you like organising football practice for kids, taking care of cats in the shelter or teaching painting at the day care center. Whatever it is that matters to you, bring your date along. Or go along with your date to something that (s)he considers important. It will bring you closer to each other and really help you to find stuff to talk about.

9) Go to the theatre

Cabaret - first date ideas
Movies are great but it’s not really an experience in itself. It’s just sitting down in cinema, munching your way through a box of popcorn and watching a movie. There’s nothing extraordinary in that, it’s just kind of mundane, kind of non-commital, kind of… blah. Theatre is a completely different experience though.

Even if you’re not a big fan, taking a date to see a show is just something else. It’s original, it’s sophisticated, it’s thought-provoking. You get to see people in real, live action. You see a process, not a ready-made product. And it’s almost guaranteed to leave an impression – good or bad, that’s for you to decide. But it will give you more to talk about than just another movie.

10) Do something slightly crazy

How about trying something that you haven’t really tried before? Something that might be a little bit out of the box or even slightly crazy for you? I can’t tell you what it is for you – walking on hot coals or rock climbing or whitewater rafting or horseback riding or paintballing or hot-air ballooning or zorbing… the list can go on. Discover your adventurous side. Or show that you already have it – spontaneous, daring and adventurous people are generally well-liked and always seem like they have something interesting to say. At least you’ll stand out and the date will be memorable! You’ve got nothing to lose. Well, except perhaps an ounce of your dignity should you chicken out before taking that bungee-jump you talked your date into…

First date ideas: Conclusion

There are countless good ideas for what to do on a date, so it never has to be just plain old drinks and dinner. However, remember – there’s nothing wrong with that idea either if that’s how you feel most comfortable. The main thing is to feel at ease, to be in your own element and to try and show your best self.

We hope that whatever you decide to do as your first date, you will both end up enjoying it, you and your date. Good luck!


About the Author

has been reviewing and writing about the world of online dating since 2008 and the launch of Online Dating Help. A stickler for promoting ethical practices within the UK dating industry she champions the sites that get it right while highlighting those holding it back. You can follow her on Google+

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