If you’re reading this, you probably need help planning a good first date. There’s also a good chance you’ve been completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of first date ideas out there. The typical first date idea article gives you a smorgasbord of 10, 20, 40, even 200 ideas to choose from.
Fortunately for you, there aren’t 200 good first date ideas. There aren’t even 20. There are two. That’s right. two. Drinks and/or Dinner. If you’re too young to drink and/or are very budget constrained we’ll have an article for you later. But if you don’t fall into those buckets. The perfect first date, best first date, or whatever you want to call it, is drinks and/or dinner. Don’t believe us? Keep reading.
Some First Date Background
As we wrote about in our inaugural first date 101 article, first dates are about building rapport, attraction, and comfort. That means your first date should be planned with these three goals in mind. If you’re also looking to get some physical intimacy very early on, you’ll need to add logistics to the list.
These three objectives dramatically simplify first dates, and really cut down on the number of first date ideas that are actually good. We gave a few examples of sub-optimal first dates in this article. It’s worthwhile reading in full, but the gist is that many dates fail to accomplish all three main first date objectives, which should typically exclude them from your first date lexicon.
Armed with the proper background, let’s get into a little more first date theory before we breakdown why Drinks and Dinner are the two best first date ideas.
More First Date Theory
In addition to R.A.C. (Rapport, Attraction, and Comfort) building, good first dates should also address the following:
- Investment Level
- Comfort Level
First Date Logistics
First dates need to be practical and the logistics need to be conducive to meeting (or more). The best first date idea is no good if your date doesn’t show up. No one wants to travel an hour and a half to meet someone for the first time, so don’t plan dates that way. Similarly, no one wants to buy tennis gear or pack a duffel bag on a first date. There shouldn’t be significant logistical obstacles on your first date. This means, no dates that require special apparel, no first dates that require a lot of advanced planning, no first dates that require extreme punctuality: you get the picture. The date should be easy for your date to say yes, easy for you to make it happen, and there shouldn’t be too much logistical pressure around it.
First Date Investment
However, you don’t want things to be too easy. That’s where investment comes into play. It’s great to make things easy for you and your date, but if you make things too casual and easy, it can frame the date as exactly that, casual. It can also generate a lazy dull vibe before the date even begins.
Consider how you feel if you just roll out of bed to the coffee shop around the corner. That isn’t the energy you want from a first date. So don’t establish that vibe by proposing a super casual zero investment date (such as coffee during the afternoon).
What you want to do when it comes to investment is find that sweet spot where she has to put in effort to go on the date, but not too much effort that it’s annoying. An example of effort sweet spot would be meeting at 8pm on a weeknight somewhere 15 minutes away from her home. She can’t just roll out of her apartment last minute and meet you, and if you set your date for 8pm, she can’t just cram you in between her other plans: she has to commit her evening to you. At the same time, 8pm is a pretty normal time to get drinks and 15 minutes of travel isn’t that difficult.
You might be wondering why not make it too easy for her. Why impose any obstacles at all? The logic behind this thought process is basically this: “If she so lukewarm about you she isn’t even willing to devote an evening during the week to meet you, is it really worth bothering?” It’s best to filter out those who have so little interest from the get-go, well, from the get-go!
Comfort For Her And You
Comfort is one of the three main goals of a date, but it’s also important that you are comfortable as well! This is huge reason why creative, unique, and original dates often aren’t good first dates: you are out of your comfort zone. Being in your comfort zone means choosing venues and activities where you’re comfortable. The other equally important element is her comfort level. On a first date, there’s no reason to take risks with her comfort level. Just about everyone is comfortable meeting for drinks or a bite to eat. Very few are comfortable sky-diving. Keeping it comfortable for both her and you will ensure that she won’t have second thoughts about even going on the date and you’ll be able to access your A game without being distracted by the unfamiliar territory of a date or activity you’ve never done before. There are enough first date nerves to contend with as it is!
You’re probably already beginning to understand why drinks and dinner make for good first dates. But let’s break them both down in detail.
Best First Date Idea #1: Drinks
It’s plain, it’s unoriginal, but it’s effective. Meeting for drinks is a classic first date. And if done right, it’s the best first date. Meeting a woman out for drinks at a local trendy bar or restaurant easily accomplishes the three objectives of first dates. It also easily addresses logistics, investment, and comfort. We’d also note, you don’t have to drink alcohol.
R.A.C. Objectives Easily Met
As long as you choose a place that isn’t too loud, it’s easy to build rapport via conversation. After all, there isn’t much else to do. Similarly, if you pick a trendy bar, with dim lighting and close seating, your chances of building attraction are significantly increased. We are programmed to associate dim lighting and night time with romance. Drinks at a dimly light bar takes advantage of years of social conditioning to skew the odds in your favor. It’s also much easier to hide physical flaws in dim lighting.
Last but not least, bars are very conducive to building comfort. Seating is usually close which means you can easily gauge body language and test her interest and comfort level with touch. Furthermore, a bar date is very easy to extend or cut short depending on both of your enjoyment levels. The “should we do another round?” question is all you need to (a) help gauge her interest level and (b) potentially extend the date.
Logistics, Investment, and Comfort: Check, Check, Check
Drink dates usually occur in the evening, and your date is usually going to want to put some effort into looking good for a night out. It’s also a date that can go for 45 minutes if it’s bad, or several hours if it’s great. These features, combined with a solid venue choice (more on this later) make for a date that has excellent logistics and demands just the right amount of investment.
It’s also great for both of your comfort levels. Chances are you’ve met dates, or at least people, for drinks. You know more or less what to expect. Choosing the right venue will make it even more comfortable.
We’ll go into more detail on venue choice in a later article, but the keys to a good drinks venue are the following:
- Location — somewhere accessible for both of you
- Ambiance — you want busy but not busy enough that seating is difficult, and you don’t want dead silence but a place that plays loud music or gets too loud isn’t ideal. Also, you want lighting to be dim. Err on too dark, not too light.
- Familiarity — when you find a good spot, stick to it. A bar you’re familiar with is like having home court advantage in sports.
- Has Food Options — This is secondary, but it’s often nice to be able to grab a bite if things are going really well.
You may be thinking, isn’t going to the same place every time (or most times) going to be boring? If it’s boring for you, then feel free to mix it up a bit. However, remember, just because you’ve been to a place a dozen times, doesn’t mean your date has. And, it’s a first date. For her, it’s usually a first time. So don’t make the mistake of confusing your perspective for hers: she won’t be bored if you have been to the place a bunch of times.
Another important reason to stick to a familiar venue is to have a control: If you’re constantly switching up venues, it’s going to be harder to know what went right and what went wrong with your dates. Keeping as much data as possible fixed is going to make it easier to refine your first dates.
Best First Date Idea #2: Dinner
Many of the pros that drinks have are identical with dinner dates, so we won’t rehash them all. Basically, a dinner date is essentially a higher investment version of a drinks date. Most dinners are going to last at least an hour and fifteen minutes, so there’s a little more commitment involved. This is good: if she agrees, she’s excited about you. (Get it out of your head the idea that girls will out with someone they aren’t interested in for a free meal, it’s actually quite rare).
Apart from the investment element (yes also financial), Dinner differs from a drinks date in two main ways; one of which can be alleviated easily depending on venue.
- The Food Element
- The Seating Arrangement
The food element is a significant positive in many ways: eating is fun, so there’s a good chance you’ll both be enjoying yourselves on the date. Secondly, the whole process of ordering gives you an opportunity to build attraction by showing you know about food. Believe it or not, it’s attractive! (And another reason why familiarity is so important).
The seating arrangement is a little more mixed. While sitting across from someone is considered romantic, it’s not very conducive to physical touch. This is a significant negative of dinner dates, but it is one that can be accounted for by choosing venues where tables are narrow, or where ‘L’ shape seating is readily available.
Are there other date options that nail so many first date objectives as easily as dinner or drinks? Sure there are. But if you can afford taking a girl out for drinks and/or dinner, you don’t need other options. Drinks and Dinner work. You can save the more creative stuff after you’ve gotten her interested, or to break out of the monotony of a relationship. A first date is not the time or the place to experiment. However, if drinks or dinner, for whatever reason, usually financial or legal, are not options, check back soon for some first date suggestions that don’t involve alcohol and cost next to nothing. But be warned: they aren’t going to be as great as good old fashioned drinks and food.