My Top 57 First Date Ideas That Always Work (As a Dating Coach)

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Short Answer

Choose a comfortable, public setting for a first date for easy conversation. Cafes, casual bars, or outdoor activities like a walk in the park are the popular, inexpensive options. Avoid overly formal or noisy places so you can both relax and get to know each other. Pick a venue that reflects shared interests for a more genuine and enjoyable experience.

My Top First Date Ideas That Work Thumbnail

My Introduction

These kinds of articles are forcing me to write this long, detailed guide: 

Example of a bad place to go on a first date

I am not making this, read the article for yourself at Womens Health Mag

Tell me: 

Who takes a ‘sex education class' for their first date!?

At this point, we could recommend a date night at the laundromat.

It’s only three bucks a wash, and all the clothes gotta go in the machine! (I just hope no one gets stuck in the washing machine; that would be so unfortunate...)

Well, it’s not that much fun:

Personal note: laundromats appear on the 8th level of hell.

If you want a killer first date idea, go to a blacksmith shop and make a sword. 

And mind you:

Besides that one article recommending a sex ed class, nearly all other articles are just as useless and can easily summarized as such: 

Where to go on a first date Google summary_result

You don’t want another boring, useless list.

Instead, as a dating coach with years of experience, I’ll give you what you’ve been looking for:

  1. I’ve taken over 100 pictures from Brussels (where I live) and other major cities. You'll see exactly where to take your date for an unforgettable experience.
  2. Based on my experience of dating both men and women (I’m bisexual) and insights from coaching numerous clients, I've compiled a practical list of what works best at each type of venue.
  3. I’ve asked my closest friends (guys and girls) what they think about first dates. (Expect honest, no-filter insights.)
  4. I’ve talked to owners of popular cafes and bars to get their view on the dating scene and where they see the top mistakes happen
  5. I’ve read several books, done tons of research, and sifted through forums to ensure nothing is missing from this guide. (See my list of Best Dating, Sex & Relationship Books for Men)

Let’s start 

The Simple Chill Cafe

Avoid these dangerous kinds of cafes at all costs! 

  • Overly Crowded or Work-Focused Cafes: These are often filled with people rushing to get the caffeine before they shift or focus on their laptops, creating an anti-date environment. Same if the cafe is in a hectic, loud area or street. (Unless you're dating a girl from work!)

Starbucks is not a good place to go!

Do you see more than a couple of laptops (pictured below)? 

You are in the wrong cafe.

Avoid busy Internet cafes where you see to many people working on their laptop
  • Cafes with Bad or Limited Seating: Stay clear of any cafe where you constantly worry about fighting for your seats, sitting on your chairs feels like you’re perched on a cactus, or feeling pressured to give up your table.

Here’s an example of horribly uncomfortable seating at a cafe: 

Bad, uncomfortable seating a cafe which could ruin a date
  • Cafes Lacking Cleanliness: Check the bathrooms. Weird smells are bad smells. 
Bad review for a cafe for smelling bad
  • Cafes with a Very Limited Menu: You may offer your date a coffee, but they may be hungry, especially if they’re coming during a lunch break.
  • No Outside Seating: The outdoor seating better be comfortable, too! I'm not a fan of stainless steel electric chairs. 
Outdoor seating at a cafe

Mesh seats are the best imo

Note: For a coffee date, unlike a bar outing, the focus is comfort and getting to know each other. Therefore, many of the typical 'no-nos' (or ‘yes-yes’) that apply to bar dates aren't relevant here.

So, what kind of cafe do I start with? 

The Simple, Chill Cafe

You’ll find these everywhere.

And you can’t go wrong:

  • It’s chill. 
  • It’s cheap. 
  • And you get decent coffee with cake...
Ordering food and drink at a cafe on a date

Don’t want to poop, order a mint tea (might make you pee!)

Examples in other cities:

Antique Cafe

If you want to make your date more exciting and memorable, take them to a cool antique-style cafe:

Location: Historic Marine Aviation Tea Room Antic Shop. They sell these little model airplane builds; my younger brother would LOVE them. Sometimes, you really can buy love. 

This antique-style cafe has three separate areas: 

  1. Antique interior
  2. Lighter area with sunroof
  3. Outdoor area

Middle area:

Optional: Cafe offers board games to play:

Outside area:

A third example of an antique-style cafe is “וינטאג' בון בון” in Haifa, Israel.

With very antique tables to sit around:

Me sitting on my laptop with an old typewriter on my left and a bathtub on my right.

Why do I love this specific venue?

  1. Great reviews on Google
  2. Smoking allowed (I don’t smoke, but maybe your date smokes?)
  3. Coffee is excellent
  4. The vibe is ultra chill (can you put those two words together, ‘ultra’ + ‘chill’? I don’t know.)
  5. 3 in 1: Coffee, food, antique shop
  6. They have evening events with lots of dancing

Examples of antique-style cafes in other cities:

Cozy Cafe Fireplace 

A snug cafe featuring a fireplace is ideal for the bitterly cold winter months.


Cat Cafe

Caressing cats can be an enjoyable way to fill awkward silences, unwind from work stress, and naturally initiate physical contact with your date.

If cat cafes aren't available, consider a dog cafe.


Worldwide Coffee Bean Cafe

If your date is from another country, could you personalize their experience by selecting coffee beans from their homeland?

Example: Filbert Steps, Shibuya [10]

Bookstore Cafe

Not a boring library. Look for cool cafe bookstores with lots of magazines and board games. 



  1. Great for introverts: Duh. 
  2. A Smorgasbord of Activities: read books, drink coffee, eat cake, play a board game, look at a travel geography book, and plan WW3; uh, I mean, plan your next vacation to Miami 
  3. Unlike a traditional library, bookstore cafes strike a balance where you can talk, but it’s not too loud (like a bar on a Saturday night) 
  4. The antique, whimsical vibe of a bookstore cafe adds an extra layer of charm to your date, creating a stimulating and comforting backdrop.
  5. While I generally advise against buying any gift on the first date, picking out a small, quirky book can be a memorable alternative to traditional gifts like flowers that’ll die and stink up the house in 2 days. 


  1. Unless you're both hardcore bookworms, most people start getting antsy after 20 minutes of flipping pages
  2. Finding the sweet spot between chatting and book browsing is a challenge I notice in many of my students 
  3. Introversion vs. Social Anxiety: Are you choosing a bookstore cafe because you're an extreme introvert? It might be social anxiety peeking through. If that's the case, consider a chat with a health professional. 

See more examples of 'things you better not do on a date' in my other first date guide: What Not To (Ever) Do On A First Date: 27 Examples

Smoothie Cafe

Why I love my date smoothies:

They're filling, so you can skip ordering a meal

They don’t make me poop like coffee does.

They're caffeine-free, meaning no jitters. 

They’re cold and refreshing, ideal for hot summer days 

They offer plenty of flavor choices for simple, fun conversation starters.

Unique Cafes

Other unique cafe examples: 

  • Clifton’s Republic, LA: A forest-themed historic cafeteria with artificial trees, waterfalls, and themed floors.
  • De Kas, Amsterdam: A greenhouse restaurant with organic produce offering seasonal dishes in a lush setting.
  • Cereal Killer Cafe: Specializing in over 120 cereals worldwide, with customizable bowls and cereal memorabilia decor.
  • Prinzessinnengärten, Berlin: An urban garden cafe serving fresh, garden-sourced meals amidst greenery and hosting workshops.
  • The Attendant, London: A coffee bar in a former Victorian public toilet, retaining its original architecture with artisan coffee and snacks.

Here are the pros, cons, and summary of going to a cafe for a first date:


  • Perfect for any season, with hot drinks (coffee, tea) for winter and cold ones (ice tea, smoothie) for summer.
  • Urban cafes often open till 22-23h, with longer hours on weekends; suburban ones usually close around 18-20h.
  • Suitable for daters of all ages
  • Ideal for a quick, initial meet-up to gauge chemistry and ‘you’re not a serial killer, are you?’ safety check.
  • Non-Alcoholic Benefits: A) Perfect for mid-day/week dates around work schedules. B) More budget-friendly. C) No post-date hangover, ideal for those with work or family responsibilities. E) Healthier choice than alcohol (especially beer). F) Avoids the casual sex implication some might want to steer clear of.
  • Coffee dates are cheap
  • Easy to politely end the date early if needed
  • Choosing a unique café can create a memorable, stand-out experience.
  • The relaxed environment is perfect for comfortable, deep conversations. (Not great if you have ADHD.)
  • A calm, quiet setting caters well to introverts.
  • Offers the option for a light snack like a smoothie or dessert if you're a bit hungry.
  • Coffee shops are around every corner. No need to drive anywhere or take public transport


  • Coffee dates can feel dull and cliche 
  • Generally alcohol-free, though some cafes offer beers and other drinks.
  • More suited for those seeking a relationship rather than casual sex.
  • Limited in activities, mainly focused on conversation.


Coffee dates are cliche and boring, but everyone uses them because they work. 

Like your old Toyota Camry:

It's not impressive or thrilling, but it's reliable and affordable.

The Classic Bar

Not ideal for the first stop of your date:

Too loud and busy.

Let’s look for a calmer bar with ample seating and open space. 

Something like this:

Opt for outdoor seating, especially near water or a fountain, if it's nice outside. 

It adds to the ambiance. 

(Plus, you could always playfully tease your date that you’ll throw them in the water!)

On either side of the water fountains, there are nice bars, restaurants and cafes 

If it's winter, but you're set on outdoor seating or need a smoke-friendly spot, you can just search for a bar with outdoor space heaters and coverings (see picture below). 

It's better to be prepared than caught off guard in a 'cloudy with a chance of meatballs' situation!

Rooftop Bar

Another safe first venue option is going to a rooftop bar:

Stunning daytime views:

Location: Soko Rooftop

And as evening falls, you can enjoy a romantic sunset: 

Consider these previous example bars as the upscaled version of ‘the classic cafe.’

Perfect for that first meet-up, blending comfort with a touch of elegance to ease into the date.

After that initial chill vibe, you’re ready to switch it up to somewhere darker and more intimate.

Other examples of rooftop bars: 

Important note:

For more actionable first date tips, such as what to actually do in a bar on your first date, read My Favorite 27 First Date Tips (As A Dating Coach).

Gin Bar

This gin bar (see picture below) has it all:

  1. The main area is full of energy and cool Halloween decor (an easy conversation starter).
  2. Behind me, you'll find a calm lounge area with couches – perfect for when you want to talk.
  3. Plus, at the end of the bar, there's a door to a dimly lit smoking section if you're inclined to sneak away for a more 'private chat.' 

It's the unicorn '3 in one' venue. 

Location: De Haus

Heads up: Gin and Tonics can be pricey, typically around 15 euros per drink.

Quick story:

I once took a personal trainer/bodybuilder girl on a date here. When I went for the kiss in the main room (the area pictured below), she didn't feel comfortable, so I offered to go to the smoking room, and we kissed there. She was not a good kisser and got her lipstick all over me. 

Cocktail Bar

While I prefer gin bars, cocktail bars are an option.


Jazz, Rock Bar

For music lovers, this is a good option:

Location: Rock Classic

The main room invites you to dance to live music, with a side space for foosball and drinks. There's also a laid-back couch area for when you want to chill and chat.

It's another versatile '3-in-1' venue. 

One example: MOCA, Miami [14

To find similar places in your city, search for “Bar live music [city name],” and you should see a list like this:

Or this list for live music bars in Houston:

Wine Bar

Wine bars are a calmer option but equally good. 

Relaxing, fireplace Bar

A cozy bar with a fireplace is an excellent option for the winter. 


Karaoke Bar

Karaoke can be a blast on a first date—it's fun and can break the ice like nothing else. 

And luckily, we don’t need to rent a private karaoke booth; many bars offer free karaoke nights. 

The key is to pick the right spot. 

You want to avoid places where you're the solo act with a passive audience (see picture below). 

Instead, look for lively spots where the crowd is engaged, everyone's singing along, and you can share the mic and the moment (see picture below).

To be more specific, here’s what I look for:

  1. Two mics, one for you and your date
  2. Everyone is singing and dancing along
  3. Lyrics are on display, so you can sing along even if you don't remember all the words or the rhythm.
  4. Background vocals to help guide you through the song. (I’ve been to bars that only play the songs’ music without any of the artists’ vocals, and when I tried to sing, I quickly realized I didn’t know the song as well as I thought I did. Oops!)
  5. You can ask the DJ to play your song next (although in busy bars, you may have to wait up to an hour for your turn, so do it right when you enter the bar).

Another example is Concerto VIK Karaoke Box [17]

Antique Bar

I like antique cafes and bars. 

It’s the vibe. 

The super comfortable couches. 

The romantic atmosphere.

The old portraits who seem to pray together, hoping to God you finally get laid.

Here’s an example:

Location: Goupil de Fole

What I love most is they light candles. 

They brought over candles while I was on a date

Game bars

Find bars that offer games you can play: board games, foosball, ping pong, or even a trivia night. 

Be anything but boring. 

Sing it with me:

Be anything but boring!

Board Game

Board games (see picture below) are great for a classic date and even better for a double date when you need four or more players.

Pro Tip: Flick the other players' pieces off the board to win. 100% Guaranteed. 

Of course, unless you’re on my A+++ level, I wouldn’t recommend you play games like Monopoly, Settlers of Catan, or Risk. 

They take too long and are too stressful, with one Reddit user reporting:

[Board games are a good first date option…] Unless you are highly competitive. He blocked my monopoly enterprise, and I tried to shove the wheelbarrow up his nose.


Here are my recommended games: 

  • Taboo! (It's one of my favorite childhood games. Crying from laughter. Look for the adult version of the game “Midnight Taboo Game.”)
  • Ticket to Ride
  • Pinch n’ Pass
  • Bananagrams (I bought the game and quickly discovered that I suck at word games)
  • Guess Who
  • Heads Up
  • Czech Games Codename
  • Game of Life
  • Gangsta (went to an outdoor board game event and discovered this underrated gem)

Why I love these date-friendly games:

  1. Super fun
  2. It doesn’t take long to finish playing
  3. The games are straightforward. No need to spend 15 minutes (or a quarter of your date) explaining the boring rules of the game. (Although that’s one way to test your date's character!)
  4. Most don’t require more than two players 

Board game cafes and bars are easy to find with a quick search. As mentioned, scout for public outdoor board game events in your area.

Foosball table

Keep some coins handy, as most places charge around a dollar per game, which typically goes to 11 points.


As a guy diagnosed with ADHD, this is one of the best ADHD first date options: playing ping pong.

Lots of moving around and will up the energy. 


Don't get too excited at the sight of an empty table. 

Many bars will have a table but no ping-pong balls because they’ve all been lost. 

Play Pool 

Is Pool a chill version of ping pong?

I don’t know, but an equally good option. 


Trivia is a great option for older folks looking at first date options. 


Salsa Dance Bar

If you can dance, dance - especially if it’s salsa. 

Perfect for escalating intimacy, plus it’s impressive and very romantic. 

Just watch this:

(I’ll start dance classes soon, but I don’t think I’ll be learning salsa. Probably hip-hop.)


Here are some example salsa bars:

Unique Bar

If you’re unsure where to go, avoid boring bars at all costs.

Find a place with a cool entrance like this one:

Or here's a cool example from Prague: My People Bar/Gastro Bar 1401, Prague.

It’s got live music:

The walls are covered in stickers, each one an "I was here" mark from past visitors:

Here's another spot I discovered in Prague, where I took a cute Argentinian girl: Durty Nelly's Irish Pub

This bar has a bottomless pit right at its center:

Other examples:

Here are the pros, cons, and summary of going to a bar for a first date:


  • Easy venue to choose to avoid the friend zone
  • Alcoholic drinks available (do I need to explain why that’s a good thing?)
  • Suitable for those interested in starting a relationship or hooking up.
  • Plenty of activities
  • Good ambiance, even for non-drinkers.
  • Easy to exit the date politely


  • Can be moderately pricey, depending on the establishment.
  • Age-restricted in the US, not an option for those under 21.
  • May not be as accessible or conveniently located as a cafe.


Like cafes, bars are another date venue that everyone goes to. Sure, they’re more expensive, but they offer much more, especially if you’re not looking for anything serious. 


Looking for first-date tips? Read My Favorite 27 First Date Tips (As A Dating Coach) or just click on the thumbnail!

First Date Tips thumbnail

Food Truck

I do not recommend any of my coaching clients to go out to eat on your first date. 

But what if you’re hungry?

Well, first,

Don’t eat like me!

A massive pizza and bottle of wine is:

  • Too filling. (It’ll make you sleepy, not very romantic!)
  • Too expensive.
  • Too much.

But simultaneously,

Cheap fast food with cars driving everywhere is unpleasant… 


What are our options?

The simplest, cheapest option is to stop by a food truck, order your hot food, and sit down in a nice area. 

Food Court

Want something more filling? 

Walk to a nearby food court, often found near malls or large public areas.

Unlike traditional restaurants, I like the variety offered by the numerous food vendors and the fast preparation times. 

Here’s what they look like:

Another example:

Food Market 

Are you craving something fresh and local? 

The local food market.

Food markets focus on high-quality, local foods in an open, friendly atmosphere, often set up outdoors or in charming market halls.

Here’s what you can expect to see at the entrance: 

As you go through the market, you’ll find food stalls offering delicious options: seafood, vegan/vegetarian options, local specialties, and more. 

Other examples: 

Flea Market

Flea markets have many cool things to look at or buy, such as antiques, second-hand goods, handcrafted items, and some stalls offering food. 

The atmosphere is fun, and an all-around great venue to pass by on a beautiful sunny day. 


Examples in other cities:

Small Intimate Restaurant 

Some of my students stubbornly insist they must go to a restaurant for their first date. 

OK, well, we tried. 

Here’s what you should look for in your first date restaurant: 

  1. Small
  2. Intimate
  3. Candles on the table
  4. Cozy atmosphere
  5. Fireplace 
  6. Comfortable to sit down 
  7. People are sitting down to eat, not just to pass by 

Here’s an OK example: 

There’s a lovely fireplace: 

And comfortable seating with candles on the table.

Another example:


I love chocolate, especially dark chocolate. 

Here’s how to add a chocolatey flavor to your date: 

  1. Visit a chocolate store (pictured below)
  2. Go chocolate tasting
  3. Try a chocolate workshop (I would only do this kind of workshop with a date I knew prior; otherwise, it’s too much for a first date)

Here are some restaurant-date mistakes to avoid:

Local Deserts

Local deserts are also a cool option:

Try not to get cream on your face!

Ice Cream

Ice cream is excellent for hot days, but if it’s too hot, it’ll melt your cone before you finish it. 

Is ice cream too sugary for you?

Try frozen yogurt. 

Park, Lake, Picnic & Walk 

Not the greatest outdoor area to meet up:

'Hi beautiful, meet me near the lamp post that looks like an alien with 2 glowing eyes. Kisses!'

Likewise, avoid any forest (no matter how pretty they may be) for a first date. 

Too creepy. 

Instead, look for beautiful public parks like this one. 

This park also has two mini bars and restaurants with nice covered outdoor seating. 

At night (and when it’s not raining or cold), there’s also a DJ here. 

Short story:

I once had a successful daytime first date in this park with a Brazilian girl who worked late hours as a waitress. (I'll share more about this story in an upcoming blog post.)

If there's a calisthenics workout area (pictured below), use it to seem more attractive as a muscular guy.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Do some pull-ups.
  • Assist your date in trying out pull-ups
  • Lighten the mood with a playful piggyback ride around the area. (Or go backward to really scare them!)

Or you could just have fun at the playground area:

I may or may not have fallen in the next second or two...

Some local parks have some cool areas to explore, like this arch:

A cute couple on a date in Bois de la Cambre

If you're lucky enough to find a park with a lake or even just a local lake, it can be an ideal date spot to visit or have a picnic. 

If it’s legal (and make sure to check the local laws), feed the birds by the lake:

Tell your date that you’re also just trying to start a family like this poor bird

Small lakes can be especially peaceful at night - although maybe too serene.

How do you set up for the picnic?

Stop by a shop and grab two nice beers to keep it simple.

For an official picnic date, pack your bag with something like this:

  1. Bottle of sparkling wine or juice as a non-alcoholic option 
  2. Bread 
  3. Cheese 
  4. Peas (healthy to feed the ducks)
  5. Something homemade and quickly eaten, like mussels (Avoid ordering delivered food because that’s too expensive.)

If you want to make this even more memorable, here are some other tips:

  1. Plan a path for a short walk after the picnic (can be anywhere, even explore downtown, not limited to the park)
  2. Get ice cream 
  3. Pick a flower for your date (although I usually do the opposite to tease by picking a weed or dead twig and pretending that I’m offering a flower)
  4. Bring a little Bluetooth speaker and play some soft indie/folk music
  5. Meet before sunset and watch the sun go down
  6. Play with the leaves; watch out for ticks, spiders, and other bugs
  7. While you’re walking, try holding hands (read: how to hold a girl's hand)
  8. Bring bug spray, sunscreen, and a towel if necessary.  
  9. Ensure you or your date don’t accidentally step in mud. (This happened to a girl I went on a date with in Lisbon, Portugal, and she got her sandals covered in mud. Not fun.)
  10. Try people watching
  11. Building a blanket fort is tons of fun, and I’ll always love pretending the floor is lava, but it’s too much for a first date. 
  12. Ask good first-date questions 
  13. Bring games along to play (think of my list of board games above LINK) - you shouldn’t want a board game that requires a table or will blow away in the wind
  14. Try butterfly catching. All you need is a net and a guidebook.
  15. Take the dogs out: It's best if you both have dogs. Gives you both something to do. Plus, caring for your dog makes you look like an extra good person in your date's eyes. 
  16. Know when it’s safe to be in your park. Some parks invite weirdos in the night. (I have too many stories…) 

More examples of a good first date park:


  • Cheap.
  • When you buy your own beer or sparkling wine, you save lots of money compared to if you got drinks at a bar.
  • Fits a very romantic picture. 
  • Easy. Just a walk in the park!
  • Public everyone feels comfortable (if you’re going during the day)
  • Works for any age.


  • Won’t work when the weather's terrible 
  • No stimulation, so it may be awkward. You can’t just talk about the scenery unless you’re in a massive, world-famous park.
  • Not the greatest option for a date at night
  • Many parks are dangerous at night [31, 32]

Boat ride

Boat rides are also a very romantic date idea and don’t have to be expensive. 

Here’s one I took in Amsterdam with my boyfriend:

Here’s what the boat ride looks like from the inside:

After your boat ride (or before, if you prefer), rent electric scooters for a scenic ride along the river (pictured below) to drop your date off at their home or to the nearest bus or metro station.

Another similar example is La Peniche, Dublin [33]


While some port areas can be unsafe, like in Marseille, France, assessing each city on its own merits is essential. 

For instance, in my Amsterdam story with my boyfriend, walking along the boat-lined canals was a pleasant part of the date.

“Wanna sail home with me, baby...?”


Choose a beach date only if it's convenient for both of you, like if you're in a beach city and you both live nearby. 

A walk along the shore is a great idea, but it's best to skip swimming or going into the water on a first date – it’s too much. 

And then stop for a couple of beers or ice cream:

Going during the colder season can be lovely - fewer people around. 

Plus, it’ll be easier to hold hands to keep each other warm. 

Just be sure that it won’t rain. 

Bike Riding

A casual ride, not a ‘100km-ultra-biking-marathon-ironman.’

Renting an electric bike and riding around the beach or park areas are ideal.

No need to sweat. 

You'll likely find bike rental shops easily (pictured below), especially in cities popular with tourists.


Bike riding is enjoyable, yet if the vibe is right, zipping around on a rented mini-scooter can be even more of an adventure. 

  • Avoid motorcycles; they're too intense for a first date. 
  • Scootering doesn't have to dominate the date like biking—it can be just one fun part.

Please read my story of dating a bisexual Brazilian in Portugal (click the thumbnail below). We did this exact thing, rented a cheap, electric mini-scooter, and it was amazing. 

Here's a snapshot of a former friend and me enjoying a mini-scooter ride during a trip: 

Christmas Market

Christmas markets are your best winter first date option!

So many things to do:

  1. Try mulled wine
  2. Try the ice skating rinks 
  3. Looking at all the holiday decor
  4. Finding things to do in all the mini stalls set up throughout the city 

Pick Fruits

I don't recommend this one if you live in a big city.

But fruit picking can be a lot of fun (and your only option) if you live in the middle of nowhere. 

(Note: Gardening is too much.)

Botanical Gardens

I wouldn’t stay in a botanical garden for my whole first date. Still, it’s a nice place to stop:

Here's a photo my aunt captured in Ottawa, Canada, during a snowstorm last year

Do you still want to go outside?

I wouldn’t survive outside for more than 15 minutes.

But while you’re there, have fun:

  1. Bring hot cocoa 
  2. Snowball fight 
  3. Ice skating at the local rink 


The best way to implement volunteering into your first date is by going to an animal shelter and walking the dogs - this pairs well with a picnic.

The atmosphere at these shelters is uplifting: People are there to help, contribute and give.

Here are a few pointers:

  1. If you aren’t the kind of guy who volunteers time to help others, don’t do this. It’ll seem insincere. 
  2. Choose a shelter that's conveniently located.
  3. Always call ahead instead of dropping in unexpectedly.
  4. Most importantly, enjoy the time! 

High Local View

'Toronto Heli Tours,' ziplining, or a hot air balloon ride are too much. 

Instead, try to find a local spot to relax and see the whole city - even better at night when you can see all the city lights. 

(Sometimes, you’ll need to pay a small fee, but that’s OK.)

Here’s an example for Haifa, Israel:

And here’s one from Prague:

More examples:

Ferris Wheel

Another excellent option for a brief, scenic view of the city, especially recommended during sunset. 

Check out this example from The View, Brussels


Tourist Bus 

I always see these tourist buses and have wanted to do them myself, but I’ve never had the time. 

I’m sure you see them in your city as well. 

It can be a fun experience together.

Be the Tour Guide

If your date is not from your city or part of town, be the tour guide:

Don’t go to dangerous neighborhoods (duh!), and avoid the popular, touristy areas. 

Find the hidden gems. 

Example: The Annex and Roncesvalles Village in Toronto, Canada. 

Of course, not every city is super cool, as, for example, Jerusalem, Israel:

Location: Jaffa Gate

But you’ll always find cool places to stop along the way in any major city.

Here’s the great bathtub of Amsterdam.

(Some say it’s the Stedelijk Museum, but I don’t buy it.)

Or, here’s the Manneken Pis - the most underwhelming sculpture of all time. 

My date was taking a picture of me taking a picture of the Manneken Pis. Sometimes, I'm more interesting than a baby statue. 

A more impressive option: Mont des Arts Garden, Brussels

In Cologne, Germany: The Cologne Cathedral

As the tour guide, show your date hidden graffiti and murals around your city:

Or this one on the gay street in Brussels:

Tintin inspired gay mural in the center of Brussels

And this one, almost like a public art museum. 

Local Events

Local events can be cool, cheap, and accessible.

Here are some examples: Flower Carpet Brussels

It’s even prettier at night with all the building lite up 

My favorite: Brussels Light Show

Here’s a video:

Timing is everything, so here’s how to look out for them:

  1. Local Newspapers and Magazines: Check the events section in local newspapers, both online and print versions
  2. Event Websites and Apps: Platforms like Eventbrite, Meetup, and Facebook Events list various activities. You can filter events by location, type, and date.
  3. Social Media: Follow local businesses, artists, and organizations on social media platforms to stay updated on their events.
  4. Bulletin Boards: Public bulletin boards in cafes, grocery stores, and community centers often have flyers for local events.
  5. University Campuses: If you're near a college or university, check their public event calendars for lectures, performances, and other events.

You will find something new weekly: festivals, art shows, fairs, concerts, food tastings/pairings, museums, etc.

Local Comedy

Any official comedy show (see picture below) is too much. 

I went to this one Irish comedian with an Irish friend, and I did not enjoy the show. The comedian was trying too hard not to offend anyone. 

Instead, let’s look for:

  1. Cheap shows or open mics where you know the comedian will pick on the audience (crowd work) and get seats in the front row. Just make sure you can roll with the punches. It’s very attractive. High risk, high reward.)
  2. Make sure you can also talk with each other without distracting the comic. 

Plus, laughing will remove all the anxiety you may have. 

Andrew Schulz is a perfect example of the kind of comedian you’re looking for: 

Other examples: 

And I have to show you this clip:

Music Date 

Concerts are a lot of fun, like this one with Against The Current. 

But each ticket is 25 each - too much!

And even if you can get cheaper tickets, most concerts like this Neffex concert are too loud to where you won’t be able to hear each other:

Again, it’s too much.

So, if you’re a hardcore music lover like me, how can you incorporate music into your date?

  • Look for a local music festival (For extra cheap tickets, check Ticketswap or Craigslist the day before the concert.)
  • Find a street performance
  • Look for live music in restaurants (or bars, as discussed):

Example: The Finch Mumbai, Mumbai [40]

Art Date 

Explore the world of art in two ways: 

Either by appreciating art in galleries and museums or by creating art yourselves.


If you're fans of Magritte, visit the Magritte Museum, followed by The Magritte Walk – "In the Tracks of Magritte." 

Other examples: 

Not all are into simply viewing art. 

If that's you, try these ideas:

Pick a museum painting, research it, and share its’ story.

Or, get creative and invent humorous backstories for the artworks, like imagining a painting as "the struggle of post-Taco Bell constipation."

If observing art isn't your thing, consider painting:

  1. Join a ‘Wine and Paint’ bar or workshop.
  2. Paint portraits of each other.
  3. Relive your elementary school days with fun, casual drawing – bonus if there's wine!
  4. Collaborate on a single painting, blending your styles and ideas.

I may or may not be pretending I can paint by borrowing a friend's painting and all her art equipment. 

Local, Cheap, Minor League Sports Game

Most sports are too much for any date. 

The first time I went bouldering with my boyfriend, I couldn’t untie my shoelaces by the time we were done; my arms were shaking!

Instead, watch other people play sports. 


  1. Much cheaper than major league events
  2. Conversations are easy in the casual setting
  3. Freedom to walk around during the game
  4. Abundant food and drink options
  5. Fun atmosphere.
  6. Sometimes you get fireworks
  7. Enjoying a game is a bonus; date aside
  8. Kiss camera
  9. Chance to catch free items from crowd giveaways.


  1. Some find watching certain sports, like baseball, borrrinng!
  2. It is difficult to leave before the game ends. To prevent this issue, tell your date that you might not make it to the end of the game. Relieves a lot of pressure.
  3. Not always easily accessible, depending on the stadium location.


Mini Golf

Golf = too much.

Mini golf = perfect.

Especially on a sunny day.

“Wanna grab my putter?”


  1. Affordable at $10-15
  2. A mini golf game is the perfect length at around an hour. Pro tip: skip the boring tracks or finish them on your second date.
  3. Whoever loses buys the coffee or ice cream after. 


  1. Not very accessible
  2. It can seem too friendly, not romantic or sexual

Skating Rinks

Ice and roller skating can work as a first date venue, each with pros and cons. 

Ice skating


  1. Great option during the winter
  2. Skating can be free in northern countries during the winter, for example, Rideau Canal Skateway in Ottawa, Canada, or Winter: Skate and Snuggle on the Waterfront in Philadelphia  [41]
  3. If you both know how to skate, it can be extra fun
  4. Get to hold your date to make sure they don’t fall
  5. Very romantic 


  1. If you’re not in the north, indoor ice skating is expensive 
  2. If neither of you can skate, you’ll fall and won’t be able to sit comfortably for two weeks -  a (not a very) nice way to break the ice
  3. Skating rinks are not commonly within walking distance

Roller Skating


  1. Easy for beginners
  2. Social, with music and interaction.
  3. Many of the same pros
  4. Not freezing 
  5. Cheaper


  1. Less romantic 

Example: The Rink at D12, Dublin


Neither are ‘amazing’ options, but if skating works for you, go for it. 


When I think of non-conventional date ideas, some are ‘meh,’ but bowling is not one of them. 

Lots of benefits:

  • You always have something to do
  • If you want to talk, you can play at your own pace
  • You can get drinks at the bar
  • Usually good music playing in the background
  • Arcade games are available 
  • Bowling isn’t cheap, but not expensive either (usually around $20/session with shoes)
  • You can play as long as you like or cut the date short easily because each game lasts only 15-25 minutes.
  • It’s even better if you always win… 



Best when you pair playing at an arcade with bowling or another activity - especially if you’re not conversationally gifted:

Here’s me playing air hockey at the speed of light with my boyfriend:

Playing air hockey on a first date

The first time we played, I beat him again and again, only tying a couple times. Then we went last week, and I lost every single game. Let’s keep this a secret between me and you. OK?

And if you don’t like air hockey, there are always loads of other games to choose: 

You may also want to consider arcades geared for adults. 

More examples: 


Some will love going to an aquarium. Some will think it’s weird. 

I’m not sure. 

It is a niche idea. 

Make your own choice. 

Example: Aquarium de Paris [44]


I love going to the zoo; the last time I visited, I became a prehistoric T-rex:

And I looooove my cute penguins: 


You can have lots of fun talking about why each of the animals are in jail:

  • Now you see this one's in jail because it refused to come back to my place after the first date.
  • This monkey is serving time for stealing too many bananas and running an underground fruit market.
  • See the flamingo? It's time for public indecency. Refused to put on pants and kept standing on one leg, showing off.
  • This owl is in for stalking – it just couldn't stop turning its head to watch everyone.
  • That llama's serving time for spitting at an officer. Claims it was just blowing a kiss. (My complete guide to kissing a girl on a date)
  • You can discuss which of the wildest animals you’d want to take as a pet…

(And other things to talk about on a first date that won't turn your date into a zombie.)


Just because it’s fun doesn’t mean it’s a good first date option! 

So again, just the aquarium, the zoo may be too much (some are surprisingly expensive). Still, I won’t remove it from this list because it may be a good option for some of my audience. 


I also love my steam engines:

Or, even better, a dinosaur museum:

Or a music, science, history, or any other kind of museum that would interest both of you. (Just in most cases, avoid a sex museum, please.)

Pro tips:

  1. Look for museums with cool things to do in the museum and nearby 
  2. Look for free or cheap museum tickets on the first of each month
  3. Be careful about watching a boring IMAX on those comfy chairs; I know people who have fallen asleep! (We’re all tired from work, and if it’s not as stimulating as a double shot of espresso, people will fall asleep.)
  4. Avoid Museums where you’re not allowed to talk
  5. Play the game where you have to caption old paintings

Read my complete list of funny first date questions.

Your Place

The last item on this list is having your first date at your place:

Soooo...I live in the top floor. But don't worry, I've got a nice balcony! 

This option isn't for 99.9999% of my readers, but it’s perfect if you’re both explicitly seeking a straightforward, no-drama hookup.

Now that you have my comprehensive list of date ideas, I'd like to dive into my personal checklist, top advice, and an insightful Q&A to make sure you're fully prepped for a great first date.

Choosing the Right First Date Venue

Selecting a venue for a first date hinges on two critical factors:

A) How You Met

  • If you've known each other for a while (through college, work, etc.), you have more flexibility in choosing the venue. More private or unconventional spots, typically reserved for later dates, like hiking trails, hobby-centric locations, or even home-based dates, become viable.
  • For a first-time meet-up (like from online dating or a cold approach - pictured below), opt for safe, public spaces to establish trust and comfort, such as coffee shops, bars, or parks. 

The way you'd go out with a girl you've been half friends with vs. a girl you approach as I did are not the same. 

B) Your Dating Goal

  • If casual sex is on the agenda, avoid venues that may come off as too platonic, like a cafe, park, or a botanical garden. These are better suited for those seeking a long-term, stable relationship. Instead, focus on intimate, darker, romantic settings that serve alcohol, typically bars, to set the right tone.

Read the guide for you:

Find ‘My Google Maps’ for your city

How can you quickly find date venues in your city or any city you visit?

Find public ‘My Google Maps’ that have been shared online.


Brussels Date Map


Paris Date Map


Houston Date Map


Berlin Date Map


Amsterdam Date Map


New York Date Map


See where I’m going with this?

All these maps are made by locals, showing you the coolest places to visit in the city, usually making them great places to go on a date!

Want to make your date map more personal?

Just click copy (upper-left corner), and now you can edit.

How can you find more maps other than in the cities listed below?

Search the following: "My Maps" OR "custom map" "bars" OR "pubs" OR "drinks" "share" "[city name]"

Or, more simply:

My Google Maps best bars [city name] Reddit

If you don’t see any online for your city, make your own and post the link in the comments below. I’d be happy to add it to this guide!

Use Travel Sites, Local Forums, Instagram, and Reddit

Search Yelp for “date spots” and add your city. 

Here’s one example using Chicago:

Visual Guide Using Yelp to Find Date Venues

Other good resources:

  1. Trip Advisor 
  2. Local forums
  3. Reddit 
  4. And Instagram (follow the Instagram accounts of popular bars around your city to learn about live music or other events they'll be hosting)

Explore Your City 

Even if you’ve lived in your place since the Big Bang, there are always new, cool places to explore in your city. (Even if you have your date venues, you may find a cheaper place to save you tons of money over the years.)

If you’re living in the Bairro Alto area in Lisbon, you’ll discover hidden gems like this cute romantic restaurant ‘Loucos & Sonhadores

Regular old city guides can be very useful as well:

Date in a Popular Area

Why choose the busier areas? 

With all the restaurants, cafes, bars, and shops, you’re guaranteed to find several spots perfect for both of you. 

For instance: 

The area near Parv. de Saint-Gilles, Brussels:

The story is similar in central Brussels, especially near hotspots like La Machine.

Daytime in these areas often brings street performers:

But compare all this to a café in a quieter boring street in Knokke-Heist, Belgium.

Additional examples of famous areas include:

Side note:

This is why dating in a small village or town can be challenging. 

'EEE' – Easy Exit Etiquette

Neither of you will know who you’ll meet on most first dates. 

You could be meeting some super weird maniac. 

Only go to places where it’s super easy to immediately leave (bar, cafe) and do not agree to meet in any of these scenarios: 

  1. Long drives: Sure, they sound romantic, but it's just you two, alone, in an unknown direction. Total 'serial killer in a car' vibes.
  2. Your place or theirs: Not in public, and way too easy for them to make leaving awkward.
  3. Private boat rides: It's the aquatic version of the long car ride.
  4. Fancy restaurants: These places can trap you in a multi-hour dining saga with formalities and hidden expectations.

Remember, safety first, always. 

Keep it public, keep it casual, and keep an easy out.

Essential information: 59 Moves: How To Tell Someone You’re Not Interested And Reject a Guy or Girl [& Countless Examples]

Too Much: Keep It Simple, Stupid (If You Want to K.I.S.S.)

This is your first date. 

You don’t know each other. 

This ‘meeting’ is only to test if there’s chemistry. 

And to be sure your date is not a serial killer. (Spoilers: you probably won't meet a serial killer off Tinder)

No need for over-the-top plans and spending lots of money.


Just because it’s fun, sounds fun on social media, and is an excellent second, third, or fourth date option doesn’t mean it’s a good first date idea. 

Going too big can explode in your face: 

You seem overeager, needy, and ultimately less attractive

So, here’s my list of places to avoid for a first date:

  1. Paintballing: It's painful and not in the BDSM sense
  2. Swimming: Messes with makeup and hair. (Maybe you’re both bald?)
  3. Rock climbing: Little chance to talk, plus it's challenging.
  4. Gym or Marathons: Nope. 
  5. Bonfires with Music: Overwhelming for a first meeting.
  6. Deep Forest Hiking: Super-duper creepy. Never!
  7. Repelling or Ziplining: Fun, but brief and pricey.
  8. Long Cooking Sessions: Overly time-consuming.
  9. Go-Karting: Exciting, but maybe too much.
  10. Safari: Crazy overly-adventurous. (Feed your date to the lions if they won’t stop talking about themselves) 
  11. Fishing: Requires a specific interest and patience, neither of which I have.

Instead, stick to 'The Big Three' for simplicity and fun:

  1. Cafe: Relaxed, easy-going, and offers the chance to chat over coffee.
  2. Bar: Perfect for a casual evening with drinks.
  3. Picnic: A laid-back, charming option outdoors.

These choices are popular for a reason:

  • They're accessible and nearby.
  • Cheap 
  • Fun without requiring specific activities (having coffee with the option of playing a board game at a cafe, unlike a trampoline park, where the fun is in the activity itself).

Reality Check: 

Most first dates happen in bars or coffee shops. Anyone who demands more for a first date is unreasonable (and could be seen as a red flag).

…But Let’s Avoid Boring Places 

Let’s keep things simple, but don’t go bird-watching, please:

My version of birdwatching: back in 2020, I lived at the top of this apartment building right across from tall palm trees that hosted a lovely pigeon community, and they wanted me to join their community whenever my window was left open… 

As the saying goes: 

Be anything but boring.


  1. Avoid bars where the average age dates back to the age of the dinosaurs
  2. You know the rule: If you’re fun, anything you do is fun - money can’t make things fun!
  3. If you’re not great at talking (I know who you are), put yourself in an environment where, even if you don’t have anything to say, there’s something to do - like bowling. 
  4. Don’t think you’re taking them on a ‘date.’ That’s boring. No one likes going on a date. It’s too serious. Thinking along the lines of “hanging out, teasing, chasing each other, flirting, playing hard to get, and learning about someone new.” That is a better way to frame it. 
  5. As a general rule: Error on the side of a crazy first date vs. a boring first date. 

It should be noted: 

As a couple, you're doomed if you can't get along in a boring environment.

But you shouldn’t worry about that on your first date. 


See my post below for even more ideas of what to never, ever do on a first date:

What Not To Do on a First Date thumbnail

Communicable Atmosphere

For a first date, the right ambiance is crucial. 

Too much noise, like in nightclubs or concerts (as shown below), can drown out conversation, making it hard to connect and ask each other questions.

On the flip side, a setting that's as quiet as a library isn't ideal either. 

You're aiming for the gentle, ambient buzz of a bar or cafe. 

This background 'white noise' creates a relaxed and comfortable environment perfect for chatting and getting to know each other.

The Three Venue Rule

This rule isn't about hitting up three different locations; it's about transforming your date into an exciting adventure by trying out three new activities. 

Cough, ahem…

“Be anything but boring.”

Plus, the Three Venue Rule gives you backup options:


No worries.

You've got two other backup venues, ideally just a 5-minute walk away.

Personalize Your Date

We’ve been talking about dozens of rules, blah, blah, blah…

Yes, rules are helpful, but tailoring your date to your date’s interests makes it unique. 

Here’s how:

  1. Type of food: If your date loves Italian cuisine, consider a cozy, authentic Italian restaurant.
  2. Type of drink (alcoholic or not): Visiting a local brewery can be a great option if they're a fan of craft beers. Many breweries offer tours and tastings, which can be both informative and enjoyable. For non-alcoholic preferences, a coffee date at a café with specialty coffees and teas can be a delightful choice.
  3. Something from their nationality: A Japanese sake bar or a Brazilian churrascaria. (Consider cooking a meal together that celebrates their heritage for a second or third date.)
  4. Topic of interest: If your date is passionate about art, visiting an art gallery or museum followed by a discussion over coffee can be intellectually stimulating and enjoyable.

The Themed Date

Instead of doing three random venues, try a themed date.

Both love music.

  1. Meet at a record shop
  2. Pass by a public music performance 
  3. Go to a jazz bar 
  4. Karaoke bar 

The theme is Asian.

  1. Explore Chinatown
  2. Stop for bubble tea or even a traditional tea ceremony 
  3. Try some sushi
  4. Watch a traditional Asian dance performance 
  5. Look for a local cultural festival such as the Chinese New Year celebration, Japanese cherry blossom festival, or Diwali lights display

You’ve transformed your boring first date into an adventure story that your date will tell all their friends. 

Examples of First Dates


  1. Meeting Spot: Under the Eros Statue at Piccadilly Circus
  2. First Venue: Café at the National Gallery
  3. Mini Venue: Watching a Public Music Performance at Covent Garden
  4. Second Venue: A Short Boat Ride Down the Thames with Thames Clippers

New York City

  1. Meeting Spot: At McSorley's Old Ale House in East Village
  2. First Venue: The same bar, McSorley's
  3. Mini Venue: Play Pool at Amsterdam Billiards Club
  4. Second Venue: A more romantic bar, The Raines Law Room

Lisbon, Portugal 

  1. Meeting Spot: Ice Cream at Gelados Santini in Cascais
  2. First Venue: Enjoying the Ice Cream by Cascais Beach
  3. Second Venue: Rent a Mini Scooter to Explore Cascais
  4. Mini Venue: Chill by Carcavelos Beach

Dallas, Texas

  1. Meeting Spot: Outside Happiest Hour in Harwood District
  2. First Venue: Inside Happiest Hour
  3. Mini Venue: Walking Through Klyde Warren Park
  4. Second Venue: The Tipsy Alchemist in Uptown
  5. Mini Venue: Playing Pool at The Tipsy Alchemist

Seattle, Washington:

  1. Meeting Spot: Outside Oddfellows Cafe + Bar on Capitol Hill
  2. First Venue: Inside Oddfellows Cafe + Bar
  3. Mini Venue: Walking Through Cal Anderson Park
  4. Second Venue: Canon on Capitol Hill
  5. Mini Venue: Playing Billiards at the Garage in Capitol Hill


We’ve all learned a lot from this guide, and I’m glad you’ve made it to the end. 

As always:

Share your thoughts, questions, or ideas in the comments; I read all of them and love hearing from you. 

Need help with dating? 

Don't hesitate to reach out via the contact form - I have a few spots available for consultations.

While I’m not the most charismatic guy, I’ve figured out how to stop being so damn lonely, so I’m confident I can help you too!

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To brighter dating adventures,

Coach Colt 


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About the author 

Coach Colt here, the founder of Dating Armory, your go-to source for no-nonsense, practical relationship advice. I'm a bisexual male in a same-sex open relationship and a researcher in sex, love, and relationships with 7+ years of experience. I specialize in helping both men and women navigate the crazy world of dating.

Don't miss my other guides packed with practical dating advice (no bullshit repeated Platitudes) and tons of real life examples:

My Top 57 First Date Ideas That Always Work (As a Dating Coach)

Are Coffee Dates Good? It (Kinda) Depends

17 Basic Coffee Date Tips (From a Dating Coach)

How to Get a Gay Boyfriend: 25 Tips That Work