Six Great First Dates

One of the vehicles on display for the Museum of Fine Arts Houston's exhibit Sculpted in Steel: Art Deco Automobiles and Motorcycles 1929-1940. February 23, 2016.

One of the vehicles on display for the Museum of Fine Arts Houston's exhibit Sculpted in Steel: Art Deco Automobiles and Motorcycles 1929-1940. February 23, 2016.

Most people default to coffee or drinks for a first date.


Meeting someone new for coffee feels like networking. First dates feel enough like interviews without having the accoutrements of an actual business meeting.

A first date over drinks makes dinner afterward feel obligatory, and you may not want to risk putting so much time on the line for a stranger.

Further, having drinks with someone can feel overly romantic, and when you meet someone for the first time at a sultry bar and you feel anything but sultry upon first real-life encounter, something already awkward—a first date—just ratcheted up eleventeen notches of awkward, where you’re contorting your body in such a way as to ensure they don’t get the idea for a good-night kiss later.

Take the following suggestions for great first dates from a—sigh—dating veteran:

  1. Visit a museum. Doesn’t matter the subject, a museum makes for a great first date. On first dates, I’ve visited mainly art museums, but science museums would work as well—as would quirky museums like the ones we have in Houston celebrating art cars and funeral history. (Yes, really.) You can spend the entire time talking in a museum—yet the setting makes it so you don’t have to talk nonstop, either. Even better, looking at exhibits together gives you something immediate to discuss with someone you don’t otherwise know.

  2. Go for a walk. I’ve enjoyed jaunts around a few parks and city neighborhoods in Houston; the movement keeps down jitters and the things and people you encounter provide good conversation fodder. Even better, you might run into a free performance of some kind—live music in parks happens on the regular. (Side note: Walks and bike rides fall on opposite sides of the good-idea list for first dates. Cycling’s single-file formation, speedier pace, and road or trail noise do not make for good conversation.)

  3. Take a dance class. Early in a date one late afternoon, a salsa dancing class struck up in the tea shop where my date and I had met. The instructors begged us to join, mainly because they wanted to move our table out of the way. Though I may not have jumped at a dancing date if offered, the lesson gave us an excuse to touch chastely, a lot of laughter, the challenge of attempting to learn something together, and a good story.

  4. Go shopping. I’ve only tried this at a bookstore, yet I figure a mall or a street market would prove just as good a way to get to know someone by discussing items on offer and getting a feel for your date’s purchasing habits. (Hey, can’t hurt to figure out the buying habits of a potential partner sooner rather than later.)

  5. Paint. These wine-and-painting-party places have had passed heyday, and I wouldn’t plan a party at one of them today. For a date, though, the activity feels perfect. You have a job to do, you sit together, you can flirt over painting styles, and the paints and water and aprons and easels lend a sense of play and childhood and allow you to let down your guard just a bit.

  6. Try trivia night. Though at a bar, and so technically in the category of “meeting for a drink,” going to a trivia night adds a little sense of competition—and you can see what kind of sport you’ve chosen to meet. If someone’s ego gets toasted by missing a question at a bar’s trivia night, or if they spew sarcasm at you for suggesting a wrong answer, knowing it first thing allows you to avoid a second thing.

Have any of these first dates turned into second dates? Not yet. The first date my last serious relationship and I had took place over lunch on a weekday. (Hey, low pressure—and therefore not bad as an option.) The first date for the previous serious relationship took place over dinner.

However, I met both men in the real world—not on-line. So perhaps that helped; we’d met and had some level of in-person conversation prior to our first formal date. Allow me to feel wistful for a moment: Sure seems like few people meet “organically” like that anymore.

Tell me about your best first date.