The art of the first date is a fragile endeavor, and few people embark upon it with success.
First impressions matter, and there are a million factors that can make-or-break an initial meet up. If you’re looking to solidify a connection, it’s important to pick an environment and activity that will allow both of you to be yourselves—relaxed and at ease.
I’ll be honest: I hate the typical meal-or-coffee thing. It’s too much pressure. I feel stressed to be consistently witty and charming, and to balance an equal measure of talking about myself with asking questions. Can you tell I’m an over-thinker? That leads to awkwardness, which leads to more over-thinking, which leads to more nerves. And on, and on, and on. It’s a vicious cycle.
Not to mention, if you’ve been cruising the dating scene for a while, there’s a good chance you’re hurting for cash. When you’re looking to make a good impression, it can be daunting to plan a date on a budget.
Don’t you worry, though, Grasshopper. Here are five great options for a creative and fun experience that won’t burn a hole through your wallet.
1. Breakfast (or Brunch!)
Ok, maybe it seems like I’m reneging on my “no-meals” rule. I promise, I’m not. Breakfast is the exception.
I like breakfast dates for several reasons. For one, it’s fun. Who doesn’t love breakfast? It’s early, so you’re probably awake and refreshed—rather than bogged down from a day full of work and meetings. If possible, choose a place with a nice outdoor patio. Fresh air is calming, and you can always fall back on people-watching when conversation lulls.
Plus, breakfast is a pretty accommodating meal for people with dietary restrictions. Most breakfast spots have great options for vegetarians and those sensitive to gluten. And to top it off, breakfast is generally more budget-friendly than other meals.
Word to the wise: Only choose a breakfast date if you’re both morning people. I’ve heard disaster stories of anti-morning folks attempting this. Needless to say, it was a flop. If your bodies natural rhythms aren’t going to cooperate, avoid this at all costs.
Take to the interwebs and do a quick Yelp search for a local improv show in your town. If you do your research, you should be able to find something free, or less than a general admission movie ticket.
I can personally vouch for this date. I went to a show with a guy I had almost no chemistry with, and the performer were—ahem—not the world’s best talent. Regardless, we had a blast. It took the pressure off of us and allowed us to connect through laughter (because improv is still enjoyable when the performers blow it!)
Word to the wise: Most shows have some sort of appropriateness rating available. Try to avoid anything over PG-13. Those kinds of jokes can be too much for a first date.
3. Farmers Market
One thing I dislike about the typical meal date is being glued to my seat. When I am nervous, I am fidgety.
The nice thing about heading to a local farmers market is the ability to stay moving, which releases all those jitters. There is a ton to see and explore, and endless possibilities for conversation starters. It’s also a great opportunity to try new things together, and many farmers markets have some kind of music or live entertainment. Boom.
Plus, who doesn’t like supporting their local community?
Word to the wise: This is an especially great first date if you already attend your farmers market regularly and know a few vendors. Having established friendships and knowing who has the best produce in your neighborhood will seem super charming.
4. Dollar Movie Theater (Mystery Science Theater Style)
Now, before you assume this is tacky—let me explain. Movie dates can be uncomfortable, because you’re sitting next to a stranger in silence for at least two hours. That’s fine if the movie turns out to be good. But if the movie blows, it’s a recipe for disaster.
Instead, pick out a show together at the local dollar theater. Try to pick something that looks particularly awful, that’s also been out for quite some time. You want the theater as empty as possible.
Then, during the film, you both have freedom to talk. You can crack jokes and criticize the acting all you want. The lighthearted experience is a great means to feel comfortable around each other, and build an actual bond.
Word to the wise: This might not be the best option for two introverts, or for those folks who very passionately hold an anti-talking-in-movies policy.
It’s time for a treasure hunt! What could be better for a first date than a little bit of teamwork and adventure?
If you’re unfamiliar with geocaching, let me explain: Geocaching in a real-life treasure hunt. Around the world, there are millions (yes, millions!) of active geocache locations. Participants mark the coordinates of hidden treasure using a GPS device, and everyone who visits a cache has the opportunity to take something and leave something behind. (To be fair, be prepared to leave something that is of equal/greater value to that which you take.)
If you have a smartphone, there are plenty of great geocaching apps available for download. These will help you pick an adventure, navigate to your destination, and give you clues to help you figure out where the treasure is hiding.
The best part? Every cache has a logbook for you and your date to sign—leaving a legacy of your first date. (Imagine coming back a year later and re-signing!)
Word to the wise: Warn your date to wear comfortable clothes and good shoes. These adventures can lead you to unexpected places. Be prepared.
(For more information, visit the official Geocaching website.)
Did you enjoy this post? Why not check out another post by Erika, on setting expectations in a new relationship, or visiting her blog at The Trees Will Clap. (And don’t forget to share it on Facebook!)
About Coffee Meets Bagel (CMB): CMB is a free dating service that helps members make meaningful connections. It’s designed for busy singles who want to find something real with little or no effort.