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


  • Reply May 22, 2012


    I actually kinda like the record store idea, but I don’t think record stores really exist anymore.

  • Reply May 23, 2012


    A.Stev, Sure! There are plenty, you’ve just got to look for ’em 😉

  • Reply May 23, 2012


    I love the receipt in the header image. Great graphic for this one. For my first date with my wife I asked if she liked ethnic foods first. Then we went out to one of my favorite low/mid-priced Thai restaurants and then to Baskin Robbins for dessert. Must’ve worked. She married me about a year and a half later. We still go back to that Thai restaurant every year around our anniversary.

  • Reply May 23, 2012


    I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable taking a girl to a music store on a first date is kinda awkward and I’d feel like is not a real date because how much time do you honestly spend at a record store if any? i never been to a record store and I’m 24 years old. Besides that…how would you ask a girl out to a record store? I’m sure they’d be asking themselves “what the hell?” LOL. I do like the park idea there are plenty things to do at the local park maybe a Picnic as you suggested would be a fun and different first date. I do like Dine in movie theaters as some of the ones I’ve been to have a full bar which you could come earlier to and watch movie after a couple of drinks and a nice conversation or something. Another thing I’d recommend as far as bars are Hookah Lounges or Hookah bars, they’re becoming really popular nowadays at least in NYC where I am from and is a nice place to talk and have a good time and few drinks. Another Idea would be Go Karts there are these places that have high performance go karts which are really fun for a first date. Anyways great post.

  • Reply May 23, 2012


    People’s tastes and relationships with music reveal quite a bit about them in my experience. If I look back to the least successful relationships in my life, none of the girls had good taste in music. The last one I dated before I met my wife (who has incredible taste in music), didn’t even have any actual music in her place, just burned cds and an itunes folder filled mostly with songs and not actual albums. It reminds me of that John Waters quote “If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t fuck’em!” I’d say the same thing applies with music.

  • Reply May 24, 2012


    I’m a 27 year old woman with a lot of dating under my belt and I definitely agree with the “beverages” first date, particularly if it involves alcohol. Calms first date jitters and bars are relaxed. And if we have no chemistry the date only lasts an hour or two, which is way better than having to spend four hours with someone you don’t like doing dinner and a show or something. I think a group date the first time around is (a) too much like 8th grade and (b) somewhat terrifying. I mean, I’d anticipate being nervous meeting your friends, friends’ impressions are so important, so I’d probably hang back a little bit… ORRR there’s always the danger that I’d hit it off with one of your friends. Regardless, I think it’s weird. And taking a girl to a record shop– and just a record shop– doesn’t count as a date. Period.

  • Reply May 24, 2012


    Here are some of my favorite non-dinner/movie dates:

    -Attend a show at your local playhouse/theater. This could be something as simple as watching the municipal playhouses “Fiddler on the Roof” or going to a local universities music department’s formal recital. You get an evening of quality entertainemnt (and *gasp* culture) at a fraction of what a movie/dinner might cost, and your date will enjoy the novelty of it (the fact that it’s NOT a cliche dinner/movie makes it *special*). Not to mention, you are supporting local arts!

    – does your city have a zoo or aquarium? You have the ideal day-date, especially if you can manage it on a rare weekday off (it’s great to go places like this and see the animals when theyre not completely swampped with kids). Again, any money you spend there supports the facility itself, not some billion dollar conglomerate.

    -If you’re the intellectual type, going to a symposium at a nearby university can start a LOT of interesting conversations with your date.

  • Reply May 25, 2012


    Good read….I like how the first date should really be “hangin’ out” and getting to know each other. I like coffee and a walk or something fun like frisbee golf where you still get to talk. It used to be expensive dinners and movies, but I think these are better once you know each other. Could be the first date, if you’re already acquainted, or later on; all depends on where the two are at in their friendship.

  • […] Now you’ve hooked her. The problem is that you don’t exactly have a lot of coin. Never fear, we’ve found four simple and cheap inexpensive first date ideas. (Primer) […]

  • Reply June 15, 2012

    The Modest Man

    Also – the zoo (or aquarium) is a great date. No shortage of things to talk about. The key is to have an activity that’s engaging but not too adventurous (at least on the first date).


  • […] Source: Primer Magazine […]

  • Reply October 24, 2012

    Dave Rich

    Good tips. Most guys think dinner is the only way to do it! It’s good to be creative. 

  • […] 4 Simple First Dates That Don't Involve Dinner […]

  • Reply April 2, 2018



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