Exploring First Date Ideas

Some places and events lend themselves to successful first dates, and others practically scream, “What could I be thinking?!” To help you tell one from the other — would you believe that Valentine’s Day is a first date no-no? — read the following sections.

If your first date is fun and relaxed, you’re home free. Worst-case scenario, you may end up friends rather than potential lovers, but a casual approach decreases the probability that the two of you will be unhappy enough with each other to end up enemies.

Places and things to avoid

Following are occasions and places you want to avoid as a first date. As a rule, these events create unrealistic expectations and involve too many other people. If it’s fireworks you want, get thee to a wienie roast in a gasoline

  • Wedding: Going to a wedding as a first date violates just about every single one of the ten basic rules listed earlier. If you want to quibble about Rule 6 (Do something that isn’t competitive), are you really so naïve as to think your date isn’t trying to figure out how to beat you out the door when the ceremony’s over? The stakes are just too high at weddings. Avoid them at all costs as a first date. In fact, because weddings are such a bad idea for a first date, I’ve made it the standard by which all other bad first date ideas are judged.
  • New Year’s Eve party: Oh, puh-leeeze, New Year’s Eve is the scariest night of the year for a first date. New clothes, high expectations, lots of booze, high-ticket others — consider this a mini-wedding. Just about the only thing it lacks is a weeping mother-in-law and a crazy uncle who thinks the ladies’ room is the coat check. On second thought, it just lacks the mother-in-law.
  • Valentine’s Day: Valentine’s Day has all the anxiety-producing elements of a wedding, all the over-blown expectations of New Year’s, plus the paper-Cupid-induced hope of true Romance. Valentine’s Day is so potentially explosive that even couples who’ve been together for years approach it warily.
  • Thanksgiving dinner: Think of how many traumas you’ve experienced at your family’s Thanksgiving get-togethers: Uncle Harry getting plastered; Sister Susie crying into the crystallized yams; brother George coming out; Mom burning the turkey; and cousin Jim wanting to bring the TV to the table to watch football. Even if your family doesn’t behave like this (what, you’re from Pluto?), it still violates Rule 9 (Don’t involve highticket others) big time. In short, Thanksgiving is truly a family holiday — all the more reason to avoid it as a first date.
  • Beach: Although a great date for later on, the beach isn’t first date stuff: too much skin, do you or don’t you apply suntan lotion, and if you do, to what and to whom? A first date on the beach also violates Rule 5 (Go to a place that’s easy to get to), Rule 10 (Find an activity that doesn’t last more than a couple hours), and often Rule 3 (Do something that doesn’t require new clothes).

Good places for a first date

Following are the cream of the first-date-ideas crop: All can feel wholesome and nonthreatening during the day and only slightly sexier after dark.

  • Museums: At a museum, you get to meander through the halls, look at exhibits, and chat about anything that inspires you. It’s a great place to get to know each other and to see each other’s tastes in art — or whatever. Also, most museums are usually easy to get to and offer a place to eat (even if overpriced for what you’re getting, they won’t break the bank). A museum is relaxed, easy, and inexpensive and doesn’t bump into any of the ten rules for first dates.
  • Amusement park: Unless it’s really hard to get to, going to an amusement park is usually fun and makes everybody feel young and carefree. The only real problems? Sticky fingers from cotton candy and rides that make you so queasy you’d give up your firstborn for an antacid tablet, but all-in-all, a good choice.
  • Walks: You can take walks (almost) anywhere: parks, zoos, botanical gardens, and so on. It’s cheap, fun, and pressure-free. Plus, you can often hold hands.
  • Street fair: You’re outside, nothing costs very much, you’re around other people, and there are a lot of things to talk about. In the winter, you can substitute county fairs, car shows, boat shows, antiques shows, and even zoos and botanical gardens, all places where you can move around, nothing is very expensive, you’re outdoors, and you can talk without interrupting people.
  • An auction: An auction is a fun date as well as long as you don’t get carried away and resist the temptation to bid. I actually had a great time at both a livestock auction and a farm machinery sell-off although I did buy a cow at the former once for a guy I was seeing — but that’s another story.
  • Outdoor activities in general: Sporting events, concerts, county fairs, zoos, and picnics are great ideas for first dates. You can talk, and because you’re outside, everything feels less claustrophobic. It’s easy and relaxed, and figuring out what to wear usually isn’t a problem.
  • Miscellaneous indoor events: When the weather turns ugly, consider car shows, boat shows, art shows, antiques shows, planetariums, and aquariums. You can talk to each other with no worries about being shushed!