4 Simple First Dates That Don’t Involve Dinner

We grew up with the notion of taking a woman to a fancy dinner for a first date, but this isn't only expensive it can actually work against you.

True story: My next-door neighbor and I eyed each other up for months, and once he saw me carrying moving boxes to my car he finally asked me out. But after an outrageously over-the-top first date, no other moves were made. He made reservations at the finest restaurant in town, followed by the “deluxe” seats at the “deluxe” movie theatre. I had to stop him once he started hinting at renting a sailboat for the next weekend. Sorry pal, valiant effort. I was flattered, but my eyes almost popped out of their sockets from the pressure of this production.

Don't get me wrong, there are some ladies out there who prefer a Richard Gere-like display of idolatry, but do you really want to be with the lady who demands lavish dinners on a first date? (Do you really want to be Richard Gere?) Most of us who survived college are just happy to meet guys whose T-shirts don't reek of Key Light. First dates are for getting to know each other, to make sure the two of us both say “tomayto” and not “tomahto.”

My favorite first dates always consisted of just some simple hangin' out.

Here, I've compiled a list:

Record Store

Music is the universal language, and a great way to get to know someone. Find a local record store in your neighborhood where the two of you can meet up, browse and share your favorite albums. Most record stores are close to other fun spots in the event you both discover a mutual understanding that 80's hair metal should have never, ever happened.


Nothing like some caffeine or classy booze to fuel a good conversation, but put some thought into it. Pick a unique local place known for its homemade cupcakes or selection of craft beer (i.e., not Panera Bread or Dick's Last Resort). One of my favorite dates was at a neighborhood bar with endless rows of Skee-Ball. Nothing warms a girl's heart like having someone witness a 100-point ball.

One of my favorite dates was at a neighborhood bar with endless rows of Skee-Ball.

The Park

So first dates are usually far from a walk in the park, but the local park has tons of potential. If you're both active-types, make plans to meet up for some Frisbee. For those of you who prefer sitting around, bring a sheet and some hummus. Too broke? Check the community calendar for free concerts and other events. Too nervous? Make it a group date! “Hey, my friends and I are headed to the park to hang out. You and your friends should come meet us.”

what to wear on a first date
Not sure what to wear on a first date? We've got your options covered in our Easy Guidelines for a Can't-Fail First Date Getup.

A Group Date?

Group Date: Cure for the Common Awkward Silence. Group dates are a perfectly acceptable way to get to know to someone, so long as it doesn't involve sitting around on your friend Kevin's couch passing around some elaborate glass piece. I  recommend The Group Date for situations where you've already become acquainted enough outside your social circle to invite her (and some friends) to meet the fellas. Ask Cutie From HR to your pub quiz group for an evening, or invite Roommate's Hot Coworker to a barbecue.


  • If you do go with booze, try to pick a good Happy Hour on week night so the two of you aren't getting to know each other over drop shots.
  • Embrace a pause in a conversation by taking in the scenery. Spark it back up by pointing out something interesting.
  • Don't put too much thought into your exit strategy. “I'm meeting up with a buddy later” works just fine.
Ali McNally

Ali McNally is a social media and writing professional in Denver, Colo. Follow her at @mcnallyali.