No more awkward dinner conversations: 7 unique first date ideas

December 09, 2015                 3m read time
Ailsa Ross

Dates don’t have to be formulaic. Go beyond dinner and drinks with the following active options. You’ll rediscover your city, learn something new, and get to know your date all at the same time.

1. Roll around

Young couple riding a tandem bike Goran Bogicevic

Young couple riding a tandem bike

Goran Bogicevic


Test out your compatibility with a tandem bike rental. Too cool to double-up? Take a two-wheeled tour of your city together. It’s nearly impossible to be in a bad mood while tooling around on a bicycle. Nothing taps into childlike joy quite like it.

In NYCrent a bike and take your crush for a spin through Central Park. If you forgot to pack your own picnic, Perfect Picnic NYC delivers baskets filled with deli treats and Pain D’Avignon pastries to any Manhattan park. San Franciscans might want to combine their bicycling with some beer sipping on a tour from Gears and Grapes. In between pedaling, you’ll stop for pints at three local breweries and bars.

2. Make a splash

Couple in a kayak holding up their paddles Kamil Macniak

Couple in a kayak holding up their paddles

Kamil Macniak


Even more than riding a tandem bicycle, paddling a two-person kayak or canoe requires excellent communication skills. See just how good a listener your potential love is by putting them in the steering seat.

Catch your own dinner with Coastal Kayak Fishing School. You’ll cast your line for lingcod, rockfish, and salmon off the Sonoma coast in Northern California. If you’re based in NYC, go glamorous and sail into the sunset on a 1920s-style yacht. Classic Harbor Line offers evening cruises accompanied by a live jazz trio.

3. Take aim

Girl doing archery  Maxim Blinkov

Girl doing archery 

Maxim Blinkov


While you’re waiting to see if Cupid’s arrow lands, fire off a few rounds yourself in an archery class. Like darts, but way better, archery is a great way to inject some friendly competition into a date. Even if that fickle cherub doesn’t hit the mark this time, you’ll both come away better prepared the coming zombie apocalypse.

Bay Area couples can learn to hit the bullseye at Oholone Archery. Owner and head coach Nico Gallegos is schooled in the same techniques used to train the Olympic Archery Team.

4. Become swingers

Couple practicing trapeze in the sky with Swing It Trapeze Swing It Trapeze

Couple practicing trapeze in the sky with Swing It Trapeze

Swing It Trapeze


You already worked up the nerve to go on a date. Why not channel that fearless energy even further and take a trapeze class together? Just imagine how impressed your date will be when you go swinging through the air. Maybe so impressed that he or she will want to run off and join the circus with you. After all, every relationship starts with a leap of faith.

Angelenos can chase those circus dreams with a two-hour flying trapeze course at SwingIt Trapeze.

5. Be a tourist in your hometown

Couple in the park looking at a map Goodluz

Couple in the park looking at a map



It’s easy to have a “been there, done that” attitude about the city you live in, but what do awestruck tourists see that you don’t? Take your date on an alternative tour of town to see home—and perhaps each other—with fresh eyes.

If you’re based in Chicago, book a 90-minute architectural tour with Inside Chicago Walking Tours. It’ll remind why you chose to live in such a beautiful city. Based in San Francisco? Follow around a guide dressed as Emperor Norton, an eccentric resident from the 1800s, and learn more about other characters from the city’s storied past.

6. Om your way into their heart

Couple doing yoga on a rock Terry Schmidbauer

Couple doing yoga on a rock

Terry Schmidbauer


Partner yoga is the perfect way to look lovingly into your date’s eyes in the name of “exercise.” Sound a little intense for a first date? No worries. Plenty of playful new yoga styles and hybrids are popping up all the time.

Whether or not your romance gets off the ground, you sure will in an aerial hammock class in L.A. This hybrid involves twisting and spinning in the air with the use of silky strips of fabric hung from the ceiling. Or take your sun salutations out on the water and have a go at SUP yoga in Chicago’s 31st Street Harbor.

7. Feel the rhythm

Couple dancing  Simone Becchetti

Couple dancing 

Simone Becchetti


Still think the robot’s an acceptable dance move? All the more reason to take a dance lesson with your date. As Duke Ellington himself said, “Makes no difference if it's sweet and hot, you just give that rhythm everything you got.”

Prove that it really does take two to tango in L.A. Or learn that it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing in San Francisco.

Ailsa Ross

Special projects editor for Matador Network and a contributor to National Geographic online, Nerve, and Thought Catalog, Ailsa is a Scottish writer focusing on travel, nature, women adventurers, and indigenous culture.

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