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There are good first dates, bad first dates, and those in-between “meh” first dates. While you never really know which direction your date will veer, you can help lead it down the right path by choosing a creative rendezvous. It’s the Bumble era, after all. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t suggest ideas for what to do on a first date, much less ask out that someone you’ve had your eye on.

Great first date ideas require minimal or no advanced planning. That’s by design. If you’re like most women who are dating in midlife, you’re juggling more than enough demands on your time – job, kids, aging parents and other priorities. Fitting dating into your busy schedule isn’t always easy. Whatever you choose to do on your next first date shouldn’t require a lot to make happen for either of you.

Good first dates are fun, exciting, not too long, have at least a hint of romance, and leave you intrigued and wanting more. We all know of the customary first-date settings: a coffeehouse, bar, or restaurant. They’re popular for good reason. Meeting for coffee or tea is casual, easy, inexpensive and allows for a quick exit if needed. And did you know that when people are warm, they actually warm up to others? That hot cup in your hand could help propel things forward!

Bars are popular for many reasons. You don’t feel like you are alone with your date and the bartender can provide a watchful eye. The atmosphere is often fun and vibrant. Having a drink or two helps you relax, let down your guard, and it minimizes first date jitters.  If you’re having a great time and there’s food service, you can keep things going by ordering something to eat.

Going out to dinner is probably the most classic first date option. If you’re feeling a connection, then dinner could be a perfect choice. But what if you’re not enjoying your time? It’s very difficult to make a quick and tasteful exit when you are still waiting for your order to arrive at your table (think Kate’s date in “Baby Mama”). You could end up spending a lot of time with someone you realize you’re not interested in getting to know.

Shows, plays, and movies can be fun and entertaining, but they’re not ideal for first dates because they divert your focus away from one another. Not as much interaction will take place between the two of you, so you’ll both miss an opportunity to learn about each other and your compatibility.

Why not take a creative approach that fosters easy interaction and helps you learn more about your date? Think outside of the box and consider doing something active, trying something new, or going on an adventure. Engaging in an activity that creates distraction will naturally spark conversation so that you both forget you’re on a first date. And on top of that, there’s scientific research that suggests that participating in heightened physical experiences can enhance romantic feelings. Don’t take this as a recommendation to do some extreme sports, like bungee jumping, on a first date! Make sure you can make a quick exit if need be. (No long hikes in the wilderness.)

Read on for some suggestions to help you and the person you’re meeting have a great first date.

Get Cultured

A first date (or any date, really) is the perfect opportunity to check out the local art scene. It makes for intriguing conversation and can help you gauge another’s personality. Here are some fun ideas for getting some culture on your first date:

  • Seasonal Fairs and Festivals. There will be lots to see, do and talk about.
  • Museums and Art Galleries. Art is so subjective, it’s likely to spark lively conversation!
  • Local Music. For an evening experience, find music listings in your area and check out a local band in a small, intimate venue where you’ll still be able to hear each other talk.

Engage in Friendly Competition

This is another terrific way to learn more about your dates’ personalities – are they uber-competitive or are they able to handle competition in a relaxed manner? Competitive activities serve as a nice distraction if the conversation doesn’t flow, at least initially. Friendly competition can make for great laughs and brings out the silly side in people (unless they become aggressive – then make your exit). Challenge your companions to one of these entertaining games:

  • Axe-Throwing. It’s a new craze — combination bar/axe-throwing facilities are popping up around the country. Let loose and try something new.
  • Bowling. Some bowling alleys also have fun event nights, like disco bowling. There’s almost always great music on and the venue is lively and fun.
  • Miniature Golf. Mini-golf is challenging but fun, unless your date is a golf pro. It brings out the child in everyone, so you’ll get a real feel for your date’s playfulness.
  • Shoot Pool. It’s a bar activity that is casual and flirty at the same time.
  • Trivia Night. What better way to engage with your date than to team up against other bar patrons?  

Try Something New

Experiencing something that neither one of you has familiarity with is a great way to bond on a first date. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • A Tour. Tour a local brewery or winery. The alcohol will help relax both of you and you’ll be learning something at the same time. After the tour is over you can head home or, if the date is going well, go out and grab a bite.
  • Classes. Take a one-off class. These are getting more and more popular these days. You can find a class in just about anything: cooking, mixology, indoor rock climbing, painting, ceramics and more. If you’ve never done a paint & sip, now might be a great time!
  • Karaoke. While karaoke may not be new, have you ever considered it for a first date? Confidence is sexy and even if your singing voice isn’t something you would brag about, showing a date that you can have fun without worrying about what others think is attractive.
  • Social Dance. Get closer and learn some new moves by taking a social dance class, like steamy salsa, tango or swing. You’ll find out early on if the two of you move well together.

Be a Tourist in Your Own Town

Some of the best first date accounts we’ve heard here at First Date Stories have involved walks. Going on a walk comes with many advantages, including the free price tag. If you want to add an element of romance to your date, consider packing a picnic. Find a spot with a great view, settle in, and get to know your date. Try out these ideas.:

  • Downtown Bound. Take a walk through downtown, check out the curios shops, local artist studios, and enjoy the people watching.
  • Park Promenade. If there is a big park where you live, walk along the path and discover the treasures that can be found within its grounds.
  • Waterways. Stroll along the water, if you are near the coast, a lake, or a river. If things are going well, maybe you’ll find a rowboat to rent to keep things going a little longer.

A simple search online that includes the keywords “<your town’s name>,” “event,” and “<the day you’re going out>” will uncover even more ideas for creative and engaging experiences that encourage conversation, allow you to get to know your date better and can bring out the best in both of you.