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Top 7 First Date Ideas

How many days has it been since I’ve reminded you that I’m not a relationship expert? At least two or three, right?  OK, well then it’s time I mentioned it again.

I’m not a relationship expert.  I’m not even sure I know what that phrase means.  What are the qualifications?

I bring this up now because I’m about to give you some advice.  Don’t think of it as expert advice.  Consider it hard won wisdom.  Because, let’s face it, I’ve been doing this dating thing a long time.  I have, actually, learned a few things.

We’ve all heard the old adage, “you only have one chance to make a first impression”.  Well, nowhere is that more true than in dating.  Sure, there are people who have disastrous first dates but then somehow turn things around.  But, in general, a disastrous means that your chances with that person are over.

I wish I could give step by step guidelines on where to go and what to say so that you’d be guaranteed to have a good first date, each and every time.  I can’t.  No one can.  It’s just not possible. Bad dates are unavoidable, kind of like death and taxes.  But with the right planning you can be sure to have a lot fewer of them.

Key to planning your first date is realizing that your goal for the date should be pretty simple: you want to get to know each other just a little bit better and decide if you’d like to have another date.  Note – I didn’t say, to get laid.  That could happen, sure.  But I firmly believe that if you go into your date with that as your goal then your head is in the wrong place.  And, needless to say, if that’s your goal, these suggestions probably aren’t for you.

Let’s be honest, it really doesn’t take that much time to figure out if you’d like to get to know someone better.  Plus, a smart dater realizes that it takes a lot of first dates to meet a person you’d like to have a relationship with. So, it makes sense to plan a short date, one that could be over in as little as 30 minutes if the two of you aren’t hitting it off.

Below are my Top 7

  1. Meet for or some other hot beverage. Try, if at all possible, to avoid the major chains unless you really do stop by Starbucks on a regular basis.
  2. Go for a walk. I do this a lot during the summer.  Some of my best first dates have been for leisurely walks in the park.
  3. Go out for ice cream/gelato. There’s a place I love to go that has indoor seating and another that’s walking distance from some pleasant park benches.  Sure this sounds old-fashioned, but I love ice cream and on a warm summer night this is pretty much my ideal date.
  4. Go sightseeing in your own town. I’ve lived in NYC for most of my life but there are dozens of touristy things I’ve never done or haven’t done since I was a kid.  Depending on the season and my date’s interests I might suggest something random; for example, “riding the Staten Island Ferry, going to the San Gennaro Festival, visiting the Intrepid.
  5. Check out an art gallery or a small museum. I don’t recommend planning a visit to a place with a large collection, just something small and easy to explore in 30 minutes.
  6. Turn a shared hobby into a shopping trip.  If you both like to cook – go to a gourmet food store;  Into reading – hit your town’s best book store; You’re both clotheshorses – hit the boutiques.
  7. You can always just meet for a drink. Find a bar, lounge, pub or club that you like and that you feel comfortable in.  Make sure it’s not so crowded and/or loud that you can’t hear your date and vice versa.

Each of these ideas can be expanded on so that your date can be as long as you’d like it to be.  If you’re enjoying your walk, you can suggest stopping in somewhere for a drink or a bite to eat.  If you’ve met for coffee you can follow it up with a walk or a meal.  Drinks can easily turn into dinner.  Planning a short date doesn’t restrict you to a 30 minute window, but it does protect you against having to spend long periods of time with someone you don’t actually like.

A version of this post first appeared on http://www.alexshalman.com as Top 5 First Date Strategies in early March.

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12 to “Top 7 First Date Ideas”


  1. Singlegal says:

    As someone who needs to avoid food, but loves drinking, I like your suggestions! Somehow, I have yet to have the actual “coffee meet up”, but it is a good idea. I kind of like to have an out too – like “Sure, I’d love to meet you, but my time will be limited because of XXX”. Then, we both feel there is a conclusion for us to digest, and then move forward.

  2. iamalejandra says:

    #5 is my favorite first date idea. I always try to do museums, because at least if he’s a bad date I got to see something interesting. Besides it’s such a great way to get to know somebody!!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Speaking of #1 coffee and a #2 park, what happened to that European guy? Wasn’t your second date going to happen on Thursday?

  4. Lyn H. says:

    I’ve been out of the dating scene for a while, but my friend recently played match maker. I actually went with #1 the coffee. I do drink, but as an ex-bartender I know not to go that route. It was way better than I thought it would be. And yes it was short. About 45 minutes of getting to know each other. He was nice too. Not sure if I see a relationship, but friendship for sure.

  5. SINgleGIRL says:

    -Singlegal
    Yes, having an out is a great idea. I used to always go into dates with one (I’m meeting someone at X o’clock, or I’m on my way to…). Now I tend to only unwrap an out if I sense right away that the guy isn’t someone I’m interested in.
    -iamalejandra
    I agree completely. And I love being able to move around. Sometimes I get antsy just sitting and talking, especially if the guy is dull.
    -Anonymous
    Yes, my second date with the European was supposed to be Thursday. But I was in an awful mood as I’d been laid off earlier in the day. So he and I reschedule to tomorrow. Sadly, he had to cancel and so now we are on hold for a few weeks because he has a family wedding in Europe next week and is making a vacation out of it. C’est la vie.
    -Lyn H
    I’m glad you had a good date. I know some people don’t like coffee dates (I’ve heard some women complain that they seem cheap and tacky) but I think coffee is mellow and low pressure and that can be really conducive to a good conversation.

  6. lostplum says:

    I’m actually a big fan of the sports game first dates. (Only if you have had some communication with the other person and you feel there is a spark) I love sports games, and what guy doesn’t. He if spends more time talking to you then watching the game, things look good. Plus, you can always retreat to the game if things are going down hill. It’s a time investor but always a blast! However, I’m also a brunch fan too, it’s so easy to get out of, and “need to get to something else”, or allows for something like the walk in the park after! (coffee is always a good one too)

  7. SINgleGIRL says:

    OMG Lostplum, am just seeing this now.
    I love sports games and love sports games dates but have never tried one for a first date. Honestly, I’d be a little concerned about having to spend that much time with someone I didn’t know, but like you say, you can just retreat to the game if things are going down hill. I’ll have to expand my horizons a bit and give it a try.

  8. Tahoe Bill says:

    re: Sports Dates. I went to a game for a first date with a hockey fan. I knew it would go well when she said “you’re not going to talk to me during the game, are you?”. lol

    I’m definitely not on the same page as lostplum. “…spends more time talking to you then watching the game” — why even go to the game. Experience has taught me that “I like to watch the games with you” really means “I want to see if I am more important than a hockey game on TV”. A hard core fan is not going to like this.

  9. starangel82 says:

    I wish there were a lot of touristy things to do where I live… which is the down side to living in small Southern town. For people like me who don’t have that option, coffee or drinks is an awesome idea. I’ve never been a fan of catching a movie for a first date. It leaves no room to talk or learn about each other. And isn’t that the point of a first date?

  10. jackie summers says:

    the dessert date is a great, low-pressure way to get to know someone in an innocent and hedonistic way. brooklyn ice cream factory and a walk down by the piers is about as good as a nyc first date can get!

  11. Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles says:

    Great suggestions! Here’s another one for you: Go ice skating. I know someone (now married) who swore by this as her screening method of choice. She said most guys she knew weren’t comfortable on skates, so it allowed her to immediately assess how a potential partner handled stressful situations. Public humiliation, too, I would imagine. :) While I always thought this was a little extreme, I suppose she was right that it was a good way to quickly find out who had a sense of humor, who was willing to try new things, who was patient, and who could accept a woman outmaneuvering him. :)

    And here’re two first dates to avoid: movies and concerts. They defeat the whole purpose of getting to know someone.

  12. One of my friend’s favorites is a specialty chocolate shop – the ones that have everything on the menu made from chocolate. Why? As she said to me – who doesn’t like chocolate, there’s always something to talk about, it’s light and fun and you don’t have to be there for ages if you don’t want to. Mind you if you’re a diabetic, we might need to rethink that one!


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