It may seem obvious to some, but there are places where you definitely should – or should not – go on a first date. That’s why I’ve put together this handy guide to the best and worst first date ideas. If your date suggests something on the “worst” list, then gently suggest something on the “best” list. And if your date continues to insist on a place on the “worst” list, then perhaps you need to look deeper and consider what type of date, and what kind of person, this really is. Meanwhile, you can be encouraged by a date who suggests something from the “best” list!

Best First Date Ideas

1. A nice restaurant: This may be a chain restaurant or a well-known local place, but it’s not too casual nor is it too expensive. Think of places like Seasons 52, P.F. Chang’s or even Cheesecake Factory. This is not Friday’s or Applebee’s. It may be standard and not particularly special to go to a “nice restaurant,” but you know the food and the service will be good, so you can be left to focus on the conversation and chemistry instead.

2. A hole-in-the-wall, unknown but awesome restaurant: You know that sushi place in that strip mall, the one in the corner off that main street? You drive by it but have never stopped in, yet you hear people raving about it. That’s the type of place I’m referring to here. It’s the Thai place that’s hidden down the side street, or the Mexican food restaurant that’s 10 minutes outside the city. This is a date that is thinking outside the box and introducing you to new experiences. Pretty cool.

3. Miniature golfing: There might be loud teenagers running around, the grip on the golf club may be ripping and the idea might sound silly, but miniature golfing is a great first date because you can be interactive and let loose. Who said first dates had to occur at a table over drinks or food? You can even keep score and make a bet on what the loser has to do, like plan the next date!

4. Bowling: This is similar to the idea above. You get to move around and be a little competitive. You can drink cheap beer, eat nachos and laugh over how bad your last gutter ball was. As with golfing, there’s also an opportunity for touch when the better golfer or bowler shows the lesser inclined the proper form. There’s music in the background, and you’re both wearing the same ugly shoes.

5. Farmer’s market: This is the best of both worlds: a food date that’s on your feet. Here’s a chance to walk and talk, taste different foods, see what your date’s opinion is on organic, gluten free, vegetarianism, hemp jewelry, farm-to-table, crepes, juicing, food trucks, and so on. Don’t go about this with a judgmental approach – no one is going to like all the same things you do, otherwise life might be easy but quite boring. Just enjoy getting to know each other through your friendly neighborhood businesses.

Worst First Date Ideas

1. The movies: The reason why movies top the worst list is pretty obvious – you’re going somewhere with someone you just met to sit next to each other in the dark and watch something where it would be rude to talk. Save the movies for later, like when you’re at least at the hand-holding stage.

2. An overly fancy restaurant: Sure, getting dressed up is fun and going to restaurant that you wouldn’t typically dine at is awesome, but it’s a bit much for someone you don’t know. Not only do you not need to be spending that type of money on a first date, but you also don’t need to go somewhere that you have to be on your best behavior and can’t relax. And if the date sucks, you aren’t stuck footing the whole bill, half the bill or feeling guilty for not offering to split the bill. Save these places for a birthday or anniversary.

3. A concert: Music is a fantastic area to find commonality, but it’s not a super-smart place for a first date because you can’t exactly hold a conversation. This is a great date idea after you’ve been together awhile and want to surprise the other person with tickets when their favorite band is in town.

4. A family gathering: Things come up, I get it. You had plans for a date, and then Mom called and said that your cousins from the other coast are in town and you need to go to your aunt’s for dinner because you haven’t seen each other for years and blah blah blah. And of course, Mom is totally cool with you bringing someone that you’ve never met before because you were at least matched on JDate! No. Just no. First dates are not the time to meet the family. Call your date and reschedule. Don’t just cancel with the promise to reschedule because your prospect will think you’ve changed your mind about them. Make another date on the spot so they know you’re interested. And text them a pic of you and your cousins recreating your awkward family photo from the ’80s (but don’t make texting a habit quite yet) to confirm to them that you cancelled for a legit reason and that it wasn’t some excuse.

5. A friend’s party: You can miss one party, it won’t kill you. We all get FOMO, but giving 100% to a first date is more important than not missing out on another one of your friend’s parties. If there’s a really important reason for the party – a monumental birthday, a death/celebration of life, a reunion – then follow the advice above and reschedule your date pronto.

6. Your house: There’s no reason why a first date needs to take place at anyone’s house. If your date insists on cooking dinner for your first date, don’t think, “Oh, how sweet!” Instead, you should think, “All he or she wants to do is hook up” because that’s the truth. If a date is into you, they will make the effort to find a nice place to meet up with you and get to know you.

What other places do you think belong on the best and worst list for first dates? Share your success stories (and horror stories) in the comment section!

You may also be interested in 5 Unique, Fun First Date Ideas: Breaking Away From The Norm

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