As the old adage says, “you only get one shot at a first impression.”
Perhaps that’s why a first date is often stressful and intimidating for both parties. In particular, if you’re the one who suggested going out on a date, you’re also likely the person who will need to decide on the details: when, where, what, etc. That can add additional stress, especially if you haven’t been on a lot of ‘first dates’ recently.
Fear not, however, as this article will give you advice on where to take your date and what type of activities are suitable. But before we get into that, let’s talk a little more broadly about how to prepare for a first date.
Objectives Of A First Date
Many people get so wrapped up in trying to make a good first impression that they lose sight of the actual purpose of the first date altogether. Don’t make this mistake, as it can cause a lot of undue stress and jitters.
Instead, remember that all first dates are ‘exploratory’ in nature: you want to learn about the person you’re dating, get a feel for their personality and their interests, and gauge potential compatibility. You’re not trying to convince the other person that you’re right for them… you’re trying to figure out whether this person is someone you want to see again in the future. [RELATED: Fun Dating Ideas]
The second objective of a first date? To have fun! Not only is this the best way to gauge compatibility, it’s also a critical component of future dates. If you can’t have fun with this person, then there’s very little hope for the future. Keep these main ‘goals’ in mind when planning a first date, and you’re setting yourself up for success.
There are a few activities that aren’t suitable for a first date. At the top of the list is going to a movie: not only is it highly unoriginal, movies don’t give you any opportunity to have a conversation and get to know the person you’re with. Aside from this, most other activities that allow for conversation in a comfortable, fun setting will work for a first date. [RELATED: How To Be Romantic]
Where To Go & What To Do
So, you’re the one tasked with deciding on a time and place for the first date, are you? Here are a few ideas for a fun, casual, and affordable first date:
- Go to a local sporting event. It doesn’t really matter what sport it is (or whether it’s professional, minor league, etc) as long as you can both enjoy the game while also having an opportunity to chat at the same time. A Saturday afternoon baseball game, a weekday evening ice hockey game, an annual motor race — they’re all fun and will allow you to get to know the person you’re with. (If your date doesn’t seem like the type who regularly goes to a ball game, it may be wise to get his or her approval before you buy tickets.)
- Go to a flea market or bazaar. Most cities have weekend markets of some sort, so check online or in your local newspaper to find an outdoor market or fair and find one that looks interesting. You and your date can walk around the market and, if the chemistry is good, follow up with coffee or lunch at a nearby restaurant.
- Head out for a hike. If you and your date are both athletic or fond of the outdoors, hiking offers a great way to converse while doing something fun outdoors. Pick a hike that you think will be suitable for both of you (nothing too intense or lengthy — an hour or two is probably plenty long enough) and remind your date to bring any necessary gear (sturdy shoes, a raincoat, etc).
- Check out a museum or art gallery. If you know of an interesting local art gallery or museum, take your date there to check it out. You can walk around the exhibits together with plenty of time to chat. (If you think your date might be the type to prefer Peyton Manning to Pablo Picasso, get your date’s approval before you buy your admission tickets!).
- Go bowling. Bowling is a fun activity that still allows you to spend time chatting with your date throughout the afternoon/evening. Another benefit of bowling alleys? They’re often near restaurants or coffee shops, so you can continue the date after bowling is over if things are going well. Bowling alleys are also typically open late, making weekday evening excursions possible.
- Try an authentic ethnic restaurant. Assuming your date has an interest in trying different types of food, why not go to an authentic ethnic restaurant in the heart of Chinatown or Little Italy? Normal Western style restaurants are OK too, but going to a place where the server doesn’t speak English always adds a bit of adventure and fun to the date.
- Go to a zoo or aquarium. This is one of the best daytime first date activities, especially because it appeals to almost everyone and can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an entire afternoon depending on how well things are going. If your town or city has a decent aquarium or zoo, why not check it out?
- Go ice skating. Wherever you happen to live, you’re probably not more than 20 or 30 minutes from the nearest ice rink. So if your local recreation center has times for public ice skating, this is a great way to ‘break the ice’ with someone on a first date. Most rinks offer skate rentals for a few dollars.
The eight ideas above should give you at least a few ideas that will work in your situation, and all of them are perfect for a first date. Check out this article for 15 more fun & creative date ideas.
The Finer Details of First Dates
One of the best ways to ensure your date goes smoothly is to be prepared and know how to handle various situations…
- What should I wear? Obviously, your clothing choices will depend on your gender (duh!) and whatever activity you’re planning on doing. If you’re not hiking through the amazon or swimming with sharks, then your best bet is probably to dress one level above ‘casual’. You don’t want to wear jeans and a ripped old t-shirt, but you also don’t want to go overboard and wear a tuxedo. [RELATED: How To Be More Handsome]
- When should I arrive? If you’re meeting your date somewhere, be 5-10 minutes early. It’s ok if you arrive exactly on time, but don’t be late and make your date stand around waiting for you.
- How should I act? Try to be comfortable, self-confident, and casual. Don’t let your nerves get the best of you, and don’t be afraid to share any hesitations / nervousness with your date — chances are they’re feeling the exact same way. Remember that the goal of this date, aside from having a good time, is to gauge compatibility with your date… so try to ‘be yourself’ throughout. Lastly, remember to use proper manners and be polite… you’d be surprised how many people are offended by a lack of basic manners.
- What should we talk about? Three conversation topics to avoid on your first date: politics, religion, and past relationships. It’s ok to spend a moment or two chatting about one of these, but if the discussion really becomes focused on one of these topics, try to steer the conversation to something safer. Aside from those few items, you can talk about pretty much anything, just let the conversation take shape naturally. Make sure you ask questions and actively engage with your date… you should spend a considerable amount of time listening, and you definitely don’t want to be ‘that guy who wouldn’t shut up’. In general, try to let the conversation flow naturally and just be yourself.
- Who should pay? Typically, my recommendation is for the person who suggested/organized the date to pick up the tab. That said, I also recommend that men stick to tradition and step in with at least an offer to pay. Whatever you do, be polite and don’t get into an argument over payment — if your date insists, let them pay with the understanding that you’ll be paying on the next date.
As I mentioned earlier, the real objectives of your first date are to a) have a good time; and b) determine if you like this person enough to see them again. Don’t try to decide whether this is the person you’re going to marry or worry about making your date laugh constantly… just be yourself and don’t lose sight of those two objectives.
Best of luck on your first date — keep the above information in mind throughout your date and you’ll have absolutely no problems whatsoever.
Got any other tips or advice for a first date? Share them in the comments section below, we’d love to hear your thoughts!