Whether you’re going out with a total stranger from Tinder or a hottie you’ve had your eye on for awhile, there is a lot to think about when it comes to first dates. What will you wear (besides sneakers, obviously)? What will you talk about? Is it a bad idea to Google stalk them first? And, then there’s the biggest question of all: what to do on a first date? Because, yes, the chosen activity does matter—it can set the tone for the entire (potential) relationship going forward.
Meeting for drinks or coffee is the obvious pick, but it can feel a bit tired at times. Dinner can be a little too formal for a first encounter, and a movie doesn’t give you much of a chance to talk. So when the usual options come up short, consider taking your cues from your wellness routine. It’s brilliant when you think about it—an active first date will keep the mood light and fun, and it’ll minimize the risk of awkward silences. If you’re not sure where to start, read on for some healthy, relationship expert-approved first date ideas, all of which will keep you and your date on your toes.
1. Go climbing
There’s a reason why every season of The Bachelor seems to include some kind of rock climbing date. “Whether indoors or outdoors, climbing has the tendency to make most novices feel vulnerable,” says Chris Seiter, relationship consultant and founder of Ex Boyfriend Recovery. “It is a perfect way to establish a sense of trust in each other. And if one of you is more than a novice, you have the opportunity to teach them something.”
2. Get creative
Trying new things together on a first date is a great bonding experience, says marriage and family therapist Christine Scott-Hudson, MA, MFT, ATR, of Create Your Life Studio. “Put on a YouTube video tutorial for some kind of creative project and enjoy being beginners together while getting imaginative, playful, and even messy,” she adds. Hey, if making art could help strengthen Beyonce and Jay-Z ‘s union, it’s definitely worth a shot.
3. Hit the water
If you live near water, soothe your first-date jitters by stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, or canoeing. “Meet up right when the facility or rental place opens, usually in the cooler morning hours,” suggests Tammy Shaklee, LGBTQ relationship expert and founder of H4M Matchmaking. “Maybe you can do one of each. You stand-up paddle board as they kayak near you while sharing some simple lessons or tips. Then back to the dock to switch and try to help each other learn something new.”
4. Cook something healthy together
Whether you do it at home or sign up for a class, cooking a healthy meal together on your first date can be a fun and educational experience. “Make it even more fun by putting on some dancing tunes,” Seiter says. “Just don’t forget to set the timer.” You should also avoid picking a dish that’s so complicated it stresses you out—you can’t go wrong with a recipe from the Well+Good Cookbook, hint hint.
5. Take a mini road trip
There’s something about chatting in the car that makes you feel more at ease—maybe it’s because you’re not looking directly at each other. That’s why, if you already know and trust your date, Scott-Hudson suggests exploring healthy hot spots in the next town over. “The important part is to get to know each other on the road trip,” she says. (Of course, you should skip this one—and any other date idea that’s not in a public place—if it’s your first time meeting your plus-one and you can’t vouch for their character. Safety first!)
6. Listen to live music
If you and your date enjoy music, Shaklee recommends finding a spot where you can watch local artists perform. Bonus points if it’s a band you can dance to—might as well go for some cardio at the same time, right?
7. Go on a hike
Get your steps in—and take a break from your phones—with a first-date hike on a populated trail. “Getting out into nature gets you away from technology and distractions of everyday life,” Seiter says. “It also gives you the opportunity to find a beautiful view and get to know each other.” And yes, you’re totally allowed to pull out your phone to take a picture of yourselves at the mountain top.
8. Attend a comedy show
No way around it: First dates are nerve-wracking. If small talk at a bar makes you anxious, go somewhere where you can laugh and relax a little. “Laughter has a medicinal effect on the human psyche,” Seiter says. “You can convince yourself that you are in a good mood simply by putting a smile on your face. By spending your time together smiling and laughing, your date will associate you with feeling happy.”
9. Go skating
Make it a leg day and go ice skating or roller skating with your date, depending on the season. You’ll get a serious quad workout (and possibly some bruises on your legs—all in the name of love!) and even if you’re clumsy, it’ll definitely be a date to remember, says Seiter.
10. Play laser tag
Acting goofy together is one of the best parts of being in a relationship, so why not kick it off that way with some laser tag? “Not only is this a chance to get physical, it’s a chance to see their competitive side and have a little fun,” Seiter says. “Too many first dates have the daunting feeling of a job interview.” I mean, nothing kills the urge to prematurely ask them if they want kids like running around in a glow-in-the-dark vest with a bunch of tweens.
11. Practice a sport
Shake things up and challenge your date to a game of golf, basketball, volleyball, or whatever sport you’re into. “Again, the competitive sides can come out here, but it’s nice to get away and blow off some steam,” Seiter says. “Maybe you’ll even find out that the two of you make a good team.” To even the playing field, Shaklee recommends trying a sport that neither one of you has played before. Tennis, anyone?
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