scorecard20 fun first date ideas that'll keep you engaged and entertained, according to dating coaches
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20 fun first date ideas that'll keep you engaged and entertained, according to dating coaches

Rebecca Strong,John Mutziger   

20 fun first date ideas that'll keep you engaged and entertained, according to dating coaches
Insider Picks11 min read
  • A good first date should let you get to know each other without forcing awkward conversation.
  • Taking in a comedy show, visiting a museum, or getting active can help you find some common ground.

First dates are all about building an initial connection and discovering what you have in common.

But it can be hard to settle on what to do or where to go, especially if you're nervous about making a good impression.

Moreover, the typical dinner date can feel awkward once you've exhausted all of the usual conversation topics and can't find anything more to discuss.

That's why some of the best first dates are centered around an activity like bowling, wine tastings, and history museums, which all provide plenty of discussion topics while also creating natural breaks from conversation, says Meredith Golden, a dating coach and founder of the dating app Darma.

Below, dating coaches share 20 possible first dates that will be fun, engaging, and memorable.

1. Take a walk

Dating coach Evin Rose highly recommends grabbing a coffee, tea, or smoothie and taking a stroll together at a park, botanical garden, beach, or even a scenic section of a city.

"Walking around can help you to loosen up and encourage you both to share more vulnerably than when you're sitting interview-style across from one another. Plus, you can get a sense of how someone interacts with their environment," she says.

You could easily learn a thing or two about your date's interests while exploring together — for example, if they're eager to pop into a bookstore or stop to pet a dog.

2. Attend an art class

A small 2019 study found couples who participated in an art class experienced an increase in the production of oxytocin, a hormone that plays a role in bonding and building trust. Even though each partner created their own individual work of art, researchers observed that couples stayed connected by engaging in physical touch and encouraging each other throughout the experience.

You don't have to be a skilled artist to have fun at a painting, drawing, or pottery class. These activities offer the opportunity to showcase your creativity — and you won't have to worry about awkward lulls in conversation because you'll have a specific activity to focus on.

"When you're willing to be imperfect, maybe even terrible at something with someone else, you can create real authentic connection," says Rose.

Best online art classes

Want to take an art class from home? We've tested and rounded up 10 of our favorite art classes you can take online. Check out a few of our picks:

3. Go on a brewery or winery tour

Dating and relationship coach Nancy Ruth Deen suggests taking a tour of a local brewery or winery to see how their beverages are made. This provides an opportunity to learn something new together, and there's always a chance you'll find a new favorite brew or wine to share on future dates.

These tours also happen to be the perfect amount of time for a first date — about an hour — which is just enough to figure out whether or not there's a connection while still leaving room for a little curiosity to explore on the second date.

If you don't drink, consider a tour of a historic location in your city instead.

4. See a comedy show

A stand-up or improv show makes a perfect first date, says Rose, because it's a fun bonding experience that allows you to see whether or not you share the same sense of humor.

"Laughter also helps to soften nerves and open you up, creating space for deeper conversation," she says.

Since you likely won't have much time to talk during the show, Rose recommends grabbing a drink or appetizer together so you can reflect on what you enjoyed about the performance and learn a bit more about each other.

5. Get some exercise

A small 2011 study of undergraduate students found there was an increase in attraction levels between male and female students after they participated in some form of adrenaline-boosting physical activity. The higher the participants' adrenaline following activity, the more their attraction levels surged.

This may be partly due to the fact that thrilling situations also trigger the release of dopamine, a hormone associated with pleasure and motivation to seek rewards.

Given these findings, you might consider going rock climbing, hiking, or bike riding with your date. These types of activities will get your heart rate up but also allow you an opportunity to chat throughout the experience.

6. Test your knowledge at trivia night

Instead of simply going out for drinks, consider meeting up at a local bar or restaurant during trivia night to take the bonding potential up a notch.

For one, you may discover some shared interests while showing off your obscure knowledge on specific topics, like sports, movies, and pop culture. You'll also get to see what it feels like to work as a team, which can shed some insight into whether your budding relationship could have potential.

"You get into how each other thinks, and enjoy some friendly or flirty competition," says Rose.

7. Have a conversation over coffee

A Saturday or Sunday morning coffee meet-up can feel a little more laid back than a weekend dinner, says Deen. To keep the conversation flowing, Rose recommends coming prepared with a few questions you can take turns asking each other.

"Using prompts that take you below the surface and invite honest, open sharing can be super powerful," she says.

Not sure where to start? Check out these 36 questions that psychologist Arthur Aron developed and discovered led to an increase in feelings of closeness — including:

  • "What would constitute a "perfect" day for you?"
  • "What is your most treasured memory?"
  • "When did you last cry in front of another person?"

8. Go axe throwing

Research suggests exciting dates centered around novel activities are more likely to boost closeness and relationship quality than activities considered routine and pleasant.

So, you may want to consider trying something you and your date have never done before, like axe throwing — which can also provide a nice cathartic release from stress or tension.

Getting out of your comfort zones together may promote intimacy or, at the very least, provide plenty of opportunities for laughter.

9. Have a park picnic

Sharing a meal on a picnic is one of Rose's top favorite date ideas because it can create a more casual, comfortable vibe than dinner at a restaurant. Plus, nature can create a calm, soothing environment for a first date.

She suggests planning it potluck style, where you and your date each pack beverages and bites to share.

To keep things interesting, you can also pack some board games.

10. Explore a farmer's market

Not only do farmers' markets provide endless conversation starters, says Rose, but they also allow you to potentially learn about each other's tastes while perusing the vendors.

Plus, if things go well, you might even want to pick up some seasonal ingredients to whip up an at-home dinner together for your second date.

11. Get dessert

While dinner may be the more traditional first date plan, research suggests grabbing dessert may be a better option — whether you meet up at a local bakery for donuts or an upscale restaurant for crème brûlée.

A 2015 study found college students who consumed a sweet treat during a survey were much more likely to express interest in their date and feel more positive about a hypothetical romantic relationship than those who consumed a salty snack.

Plus, dessert involves less of a commitment, which can help if things fall flat.

12. Volunteer

In a 2015 survey, 10% of respondents said volunteering led to a romantic relationship, and more than 80% agreed their relationship improved after volunteering together.

Meanwhile, a 2016 study found evidence to suggest potential romantic partners consider generous, altruistic people more attractive.

Volunteering can promote a sense of teamwork, help you bond over common goals, and shed light on each other's capacity for compassion and empathy.

Make it a point to choose an activity that will allow you to interact with each other, such as picking up trash on the beach for a preservation organization, planting a tree for an urban gardening program, or walking dogs together for an animal shelter.

Just keep in mind this might involve some coordination and planning beforehand.

13. Visit an art museum or gallery

Whether you decide to check out an exhibit on ancient Egyptian sculptures or contemporary photography, planning a date at an art museum or gallery can give you lots to discuss, says Rose.

Commenting on the pieces may reveal interesting details about each other's personalities, preferences, and experiences.

Not only that, but art can evoke strong emotional responses that help you and your date to dive into deeper topics rather than merely engaging in customary small talk. In short, it could promote a more meaningful connection.

14. Take a breathwork class

Breathwork, which entails consciously controlling your breathing through various exercises, has been gaining popularity as research reveals the many potential benefits of this practice — like reducing stress.

In fact, a 2018 review suggests breathwork can increase feelings of comfort, relaxation, pleasantness, vigor, and alertness while reducing symptoms of anxiety, making it an ideal first date activity to shake off those inevitable jitters.

"A breathwork class can be a wonderful way to connect with your date and peel open layers of guardedness that can usually take a lot more time to dissipate," says certified dating and relationship coach Megan Weks. "Breathwork also busts through nerves, which helps you and your date to feel at ease."

The class itself may not allow much time to interact, but the experience offers a lot to talk about. After the class is over, you can reflect on the experience together over a latte or smoothie.

15. Sign up for a cooking lesson

Participating in a hands-on cooking class can tell you a lot about your date, according to Weks.

Are they able to take instruction well? Are they a bit of a perfectionist? Are they creatively inclined? You can observe all of these things while preparing a meal together.

"Also, the way you work together in the kitchen can hint at how you'd work together in the relationship," says Weks.

Quick tip: You can also learn how to cook from your favorite celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsay, Wolfgang Puck, and more with a subscription to Masterclass. Read more in our roundup of the best 18 courses from star chefs on Masterclass.

16. Hit the driving range

Even if you don't have any golfing skills to show off, Weks says hitting a few balls at a local driving range can be a fun way to spend an afternoon or evening.

"Inevitably there will be some bad shots, enabling you to see how the person handles these vulnerable moments," she says. "For example, do they have a temper? A competitive side? Do they seem like they don't take themselves too seriously?"

In a nutshell, this can provide a glimpse of how they handle uncomfortable situations.

What's more, provided you both feel comfortable with physical contact, you'll have plenty of chances to test your chemistry while giving tips on each other's form.

17. Try a food truck

Forgo the stuffy restaurant for some casual eats from a local food truck on your next first date, says Bonnie Winston, celebrity matchmaker and relationship expert.

Not only is this typically more affordable than a fancy restaurant, but the laid-back environment might help you feel more at ease. Best of all, you won't have to deal with waving down your server or waiting for the check, which means you can fully focus on getting to know each other better.

18. Play board games

Challenging each other to a game of Monopoly, Risk, Scrabble or Yahtzee may very well work wonders for your bond on a first date, says Rose.

A small 2019 study found couples who played board games together experienced an increase in oxytocin, the "cuddle hormone." This positive correlation was especially significant in women, who had an even greater oxytocin surge during the games than men.

Since dating coaches don't advise inviting a first date to your home for safety reasons, your best bet is to bring the games to a local brewery, café, or park.

Quick tip: If you're looking for a new game to try on your date, we've rounded up the 22 best board games, including classics for all ages like Clue or something with a more adult-edge like Midnight Taboo.

19. Check out some live music

According to a 2019 survey, 81% of people who went to a concert on a first date also went on a second date — plus, couples who enjoyed music together noticed improvements in their communication, emotional connection, and overall relationship satisfaction.

Based on these findings, you might want to make plans to attend a concert, open mic night, or local bar with live music on a first date. Having a performance to watch means you won't have to stress about keeping the conversation going nonstop, and the music itself may spark some meaningful conversations about preferences you have in common.

20. Work your way through an escape room

A small 2017 study found evidence to suggest escape rooms can foster verbal communication, while also helping people drop social inhibitions and practice collaboration skills.

It makes sense that looking for clues and solving puzzles in a real-life adventure game would work well for a first date since these tasks allow you to see how you work as a team. Also, there's no need for awkward small talk in escape rooms — you'll be too busy trying to figure out your next move.

Insider's takeaway

Plenty of different activities can set the stage for a memorable first date.

The best options, however, are generally those that present an opportunity to have meaningful conversations, learn about each other's personalities, and experience something new together without putting too much emphasis on constant conversation. And, remember, a positive attitude can go a long way.

When in doubt, dating coaches say your best bet is to select an activity that sounds equally comfortable for both of you. The more invested and at ease you both are, the more likely you are to experience each other's true, authentic selves — and the more you'll enjoy the process.