First Date Ideas That Make A Great Impression

by Dean Cortez, creator of M.A.C.K. Tactics

So you’ve met a special woman, and now it’s time for you take her out and spend some time getting to know her better. This is when you’ve got to have a few solid first date options to choose from. Most guys, however, settle for taking the girl to dinner, or the classic “dinner and a movie” combination. Other guys are way too concerned about coming up with romantic date ideas, when they should be thinking about taking her to a place that is fun and comfortable for both people.

first date ideasWhile there’s really nothing wrong with going this route, you’re not going to give her a particularly memorable experience. You don’t want to seem just like every other guy who’s taken her out on a first date (and probably didn’t get a second one with her). You want this occasion to feel special, and that’s why coming up with some clever first date ideas is important. (By the way, when I say “special,” I don’t mean “expensive.” All of the first date ideas I’m about to give you are designed to be relatively inexpensive, because even if you’ve got plenty of dough to spend, you don’t want to give her the sense that you’re trying too hard.)

I’ll explain in a moment why taking women out on a “predictable” first date is not only going to earn you points with her — it actually works against you. For now, let me share with you ten of my favorite first date ideas. I’ve taken women to all of these places on first dates (and sometimes on second or third dates), and as long as your lady is up for some fun and trying something a little different, these first date ideas can be magical.

Why Some First Date Ideas Work, And Others Fail Miserably

firs-date-ideasAnother reason why I especially like these first date ideas is that they take some of the pressure off of you. If the entire first date takes place in a restaurant, the burden will be on you to carry the conversation and keep her attention. With the first date ideas that I’m about to share with you, there are some built-in “distractions.” One of the keys to choosing the right venue for a first date is having the right balance between conversation, and pleasant distractions.

Just bear in mind, not all of these first date ideas are going to be appropriate for every type of girl. If she’s a “high maintenance” girl who’s always perfectly made up and is terrified at the prospect of breaking a sweat (or breaking a fingernail), then some of the more physical, outdoorsy date ideas on this list aren’t going to appeal to her. You should also have a sense of her personality and interests before you decide on the right first date idea. Some girls find museums fascinating, while the average 22-year-old you meet while out partying at a nightclub would probably be bored out of her mind by such a place.

Also, you’ll want to let her know to dress casually for some of these first date ideas. I like to create some anticipation and the “element of surprise” by not telling her where I’m taking her on the date, but I will tell her how to dress. (You don’t want your date wearing a cocktail dress and high heels when you bring her to your local bowling alley or driving range!)

With the 10 first date ideas on this list, you should be able to choose one that works for you, and your date, and creates the opportunity for you to show her a special, memorable time that leads to a second date in the very near future.

My 10 Favorite First Date Ideas

#10: Let’s Go Bowling!

Bowling is just plain fun. The vibe is casual, and you can always share a laugh over having to wear those hideous bowling shoes. Grab a couple of beers and slices of pizza, and have a friendly competition with her. This type of laidback environment will put her at ease and make her comfortable, even if she’s the world’s worst bowler (or you are). It also shows her that you don’t take yourself too seriously, and you’re not worried about trying to impress her. You’re just into having fun with her. This is the right mindset for approaching a first date with anyone.

#9: Get Outdoors

Exploring the great outdoors and enjoying some physical activity is a terrific first date idea, provided your date is up to the task. You need to check first to ensure that she’s the outdoorsy type. A high-maintenance woman does not want to go on a hike (you know, that martini-sipping girl with the perfectly manicured nails probably isn’t up for it). But for the cute surfer girl you met at the pub, it’s perfect.

#8: Hit The Golf Driving Range

Personally, I’m not into golf, so I wouldn’t use this as one of my own first date ideas. But a lot of my buddies are into golf, and they swear by this one. This is a fun outdoors activity that isn’t too strenuous, and she doesn’t need to be athletic to enjoy herself. If she’s played golf before, great; if not, you can help her learn how to swing. (This is a perfect opportunity for you to get up close with her, and build some physical contact with her in a non-creepy way.) If she already knows how to handle a club, then the two of you can engage in some playful competition.

#7: Take Her To An Aquarium

These places aren’t just for third-grade field trips. They’re also cool environments for a first date. There’s something beautiful and mesmerizing about watching all of that undersea life. You’ll also discover some weird, slimy creatures that the two of you can laugh about. Aquariums invite you to stroll with her at a leisurely pace and take in the scenery together.

#6: The Theater

This is one of my favorite first ideas because it’s much more original than taking her to a movie, plus it’s more upscale and sophisticated. This first date idea allows you to tell her to “dress up, because I’m taking you somewhere classy.” An added benefit of taking her to the theater is that they typically have an intermission, which gives you the chance to chat with her. (At a movie, you spend the whole two hours sitting in dark silence with her.)

#5: Art Gallery

If she’s into the arts, a local arts gallery can be a perfect first date idea. Just make sure you do some research on the exhibit you’ll be taking her to; you don’t want to bring her to anything too weird or depressing. As with aquariums, art galleries allow you to walk with her (which is a great way to burn off nervous energy), and an interesting exhibit will provide you with tons of conversational topics to keep things flowing.

#4: A Local Music Show

Taking her to a musical performance is a great first idea, as long as it’s not too loud. During the summer, some cities have concerts at the park where you can spread out a blanket and chill out with a bottle of wine and some finger foods. You could also bring her to a cafe, or even a coffee shop, where local musical artists perform. As long as you can hear each other over the music, it’s all good. The style of music should be geared towards sitting back and listening — not dancing (or head-banging, God forbid).

#3: Ice Skating

This one makes my list of first date ideas because it’s innocent fun, and it transports many of us back to our childhood days. If she’s a competent ice skater, she’s feel comfortable in this environment and you can get her to show off her skills. If she doesn’t know how to skate, then you’ll get to hold her hand and help her stay on her feet. You’ll share a lot of laughs. I would note, however, that if YOU are an awful ice skater and can’t keep yourself from constantly wiping out (or crashing into her), you should avoid this first date idea. You don’t want to look like a bumbling idiot.

#2: Gift Shopping

It’s no secret that women love to shop, and feel at ease in shopping environments. To pull off this first date idea, you tell her that you need to pick out a gift for a friend or family member, and you’d love to get her opinion. Then bring her along on your shopping trip. Have her help you choose something. This shows her that you’re a thoughtful guy, and it creates a reason for you to talk to her again in a day or two — she’ll want to know whether the gift was a hit. If it was, then you’ll have her to thank, which makes her feel good. Note: This gift shouldn’t be anything extravagant. With this first date idea, I usually tell her I need to buy a shirt for a buddy of mine, or some perfume for my sister, because their birthday is coming up.

#1: Try Some New Cuisine

Anytime you can share a new experience with her, it helps to strengthen the connection between you. If you’re going to take her to a restaurant, make it something different and give her an experience to remember. This can be a type of ethnic cuisine that neither of you have tried before, or even better, you can turn her onto a type of exotic cuisine that you already enjoy and you think she will, too. (Women love a guy who can show them new things and broaden their horizons.) If you’re both trying this food for the first time, it creates an element of anticipation and adventure. But do some research first. Get the names of some dishes that you’re both likely to enjoy, and then order a bunch of things to increase the chances of you both discovering something new and delicious.

Tactics For First Date Success

The techniques I teach in my book Mack Tactics are designed to make it easy to meet women, talk to them and get dates, so what you’ll need next are some solid first date tips to make sure everything goes smoothly.

Right off the bat, the most obvious question is where you should take her on to make sure it’s a fun first date. There are endless possibilities for first date locations, and much of it depends on the area where you live. So instead of trying to list a bunch of possible first date locations, let’s start with some BAD first date ideas (places you should definitely avoid)…

Terrible Ideas For Your First Date

Don’t bring her to the movies. This is where a lot of guys go for a “safe” first date. It’s relatively inexpensive (even with the overpriced sodas and popcorn), and doesn’t require any planning other than checking the movie times. But think about the environment: you’re sitting next to her for two hours in the dark and not talking. And there’s nothing particularly memorable about a trip to the local multiplex, especially if she winds up disliking the film.

On first dates, you should also avoid…

Nightclubs. This can be a hazardous environment for a first date. Nightclubs are for meeting friends or for macking on someone new. If you visit one with your date, there’s a good chance you will spot other girls you want to mack on. If so, you’ll be unfocused and your date will pick up on these vibes. Then there are the expensive drinks, lines for the bathroom, and often a lack of comfortable places to sit. The loud music makes it bad for conversation. Guys are all over the place, checking out your girl and waiting to move in if you leave her for five minutes. For these reasons and others, you’ll want to steer clear of nightclubs on a first date.

Any event involving friends or family. These are very bad first date ideas. At these get-togethers, there are always internal politics going on that you have to deal with, and it’s awkward (especially for her) when you have to constantly introduce her to people and have her try to remember names. You may find yourself having to apologize for the behavior of others, especially if the booze if flowing.

From her perspective, your family and friends are a reflection of you. You can’t control their behavior, or how they will act towards your date. For these reasons, you shouldn’t introduce her to these people until you’ve solidified your relationship with her. Don’t let your obnoxious cousin or liquored-up buddy ruin your chances.

The bottom line is that on a first date, you should leave nothing (or as little as possible) to chance. It’s possible that you could take her to one of those places and end up having a great time and hooking up. But they do contain risks, and on a first date you want to do everything possible to ensure that it goes off without a hitch. You want to be in control of the environment so that you’re focusing on each other, instead of outside distractions. These three environments are ones in which you surrender control. There are many others.

Be creative with your first date ideas and the places you choose to take her, but always consider the “other variables” you may need to contend with.

First Date Pick Ups

Whenever possible, you’ll want to pick her up for the date rather than meeting her somewhere. This places you in the driver’s seat in more ways than one. Have the radio set to a popular station, but keep it at a low volume. Then ask her if there’s something specific that she’d like to listen to: “I don’t usually listen to the radio, so if you want to hear a station just let me know.”

The radio is a safer bet than putting on one of your CDs or switching on your iPod. She might not like the style of music you’ve chosen, but she will probably be too polite to say anything. Let her put on her favorite radio station and enjoy the music she likes. It will brighten her mood.

If you drive a less-than-impressive car, just be sure it’s clean—and know that a little air freshener can go a long way. If your car is an eyesore, or there’s any chance that it will break down, take a taxi and explain to her that your car is in the shop—and know that as a Mack, you’ll need to start looking into a better set of wheels ASAP.

You certainly don’t need to drive a tricked-out Escalade or a Benz, but you do need to have a decent, reliable vehicle. If you do happen to drive a nice car, downplay it if she compliments you on it. Tell her “It’s reliable and gets me around, that’s what’s most important.”

Bonus Tip: Start The First Date At Your Place

first date tips

I’ve stressed before that women have a “fear of the unknown,” and explained why you should lay out the plan rather than ask permission and make vague suggestions. It’s all about making her feel comfortable and willing to go with your flow.

If your intent is to bring her home at the end of this date, then be aware that she has a HUGE fear of the unknown when it comes to your residence. Is it clean? Is it ridiculously far away? Do you have some weirdo roommate who’s going to drool when he sees her?

Getting her back to your place, at the end of the night, is much easier if you lay the right groundwork. The best way to do it? Show here where you live before you go on the date!

It’s easy. Tell her the plan is this: she’ll come over to your place at the time you specify, and then you’ll ride together in your car (to the restaurant, bar, wherever you plan on taking her tonight). Women actually like this idea. Why? First of all, they’re nosy! They want to get a glimpse of the exterior of your pad, so they can get a better sense of you and your lifestyle. (I’ve never had a woman turn me down when I tell her to meet me outside at my place so that I can drive her to the spot in my car.)

Also remember, women are not comfortable with driving around and trying to find some restaurant/bar/etc they’ve never been to before. She’d rather ride shotgun in your car and let you run the show. In her mind, if the date doesn’t go so well, you’ll simply bring her back to your place, she’ll hop in her car, and that’s the end of the night.

Here’s where the strategy comes in. When she pulls up in her car outside your place, you come outside as if you’re ready to head out on the date—but then you act like you forgot something inside. You say to her, “I’m sorry, I forgot I need to do something inside…come in for a minute.”

(You are laying out the plan. Not asking permission.)

So, she comes inside with you. Now, you go into the other room and pretend to do whatever…sending an email to someone, feeding your dog, it doesn’t matter.

Give her five minutes to hang out in your living room and get familiar with it. Let her absorb where you live and realize that it’s not some weird, scary place. Better yet, pour her a glass of wine so she can relax for 5-10 minutes while you handle whatever you need to handle. Relax her.

And then, come back into your living room and tell her, “ok, I’m finished, let’s go.” Take her out on the date as planned.

The psychological effect of this is massive. I don’t care if you live in a multi-million dollar mansion or a tiny apartment. You have allowed her to see and experience your home, and now she knows that it’s all good.

Later tonight, when you suggest going back to your place, her mind is not going to swarm with negative possibilities. (Your place is a filthy mess…it’s extremely far away…you’ve got roommates…or, you’re living with a girlfriend or wife! Yes, women wonder about this shit!)

Use this tactic, but make sure your place is very, very clean. That is more important than anything. And by the way, the average bachelor’s definition of “clean” does not match up with a woman’s definition. I’m talking spotless. Hire a maid/cleaning lady if you need to, to come in once a week—and make sure your bathroom is absolutely friggin’ perfect. There is a 75% chance that when she comes inside for the first time, she will ask to use the bathroom. One of the fastest ways to turn her off is to have a grimy sink and toilet bowl.)

Dinner Dates

Whether you’re meeting for cocktails, coffee or dinner, the place you select absolutely must be clean. Faced with a choice between great food or a clean environment, go for the clean environment. This is especially true when it comes to restaurants.

Before the date, you need to have your game plan worked out. If you’re taking her to dinner, be familiar with the restaurant. If you haven’t eaten there before, visit the restaurant prior to your date to scope it out. Know exactly where it is and the type of food they serve. If you don’t have time to visit in advance, call the restaurant, talk to a staff member, and ask some questions about their menu, their prices, and any specials. You can also try looking it up on the Internet and learning some facts about the place and its owners.

During a first date, these are all good conversational topics. The more enthusiastic and knowledgeable you are about the restaurant, the more special the occasion will feel to her.

You should be familiar with a variety of restaurants, since women have different tastes. But have at least two staples. Sushi and Italian are good ones. If the staff knows you, and you know the menu, you’ll look and feel in control of the environment. It’s better to “master” two restaurants than to be somewhat familiar with joints all over town.

If the restaurant has an attractive waitress or two, even better. If they remember you and greet you by name, your date will be impressed. Then again, a pretty waitress can also be a macking option for the future. When you show up with an attractive date, you become more intriguing to that waitress. You might want to show up next time alone, or with a male friend, for the purposes of getting her phone number and making it happen.

Before you go on this dinner date, walk through it in your mind. Know where you’d like to sit; there might be a nice outdoor area, or some comfortable booths. Also be aware of the parking options. If there is a valet, always use that option. It’s a few bucks well spent, and it shows class.

Since originality is important, try to avoid chain restaurants. If you’re on a tight budget, find a place to eat that is inexpensive but has interesting aspects that you can mention. This could be a special menu item, a certain dessert, or a quirky bit of history. Maybe back in the 1950s it was a Mafia hangout, or a famous movie filmed a scene there. You should be able to mention reasons why you picked this place. If you’ve eaten there in the past, mention that it’s one of your “special places”—implying that you would only bring a special person to share it with.

Even if money is not a problem for you, taking her out to a fancy meal can backfire in several ways. Instead of impressing her, treating her to an expensive dinner (upwards of $100) might actually make her feel uncomfortable: I barely know this guy, and he’s spending all this money. What is he going to expect at the end of the night?

It also increases your own expectations. If you’re spending way more money on this date than you would normally spend on dinner, you’re probably going to feel cheated if you don’t at least get a goodnight kiss. You’re also going to feel disappointed if ten minutes into the meal, you realize this isn’t a woman you’d care to see again. So why put this added pressure on her, and on yourself?

For these reasons, it’s usually better to keep this first meal casual and low-cost. Or, meet for coffee or drinks. It shows that you aren’t eager to make anything happen. The vibe you’re sending is that you’re interested in getting to know her; if a mutual attraction develops, you can always treat her to a nice meal next time. Spending excessive money can make you look like you’re auditioning for the role of her boyfriend, trying to woo her by laying out cash.

As a rule of thumb, don’t spend over $50 on a first dinner unless you regularly spend that (or more) on meals. This first date sets the bar for how she expects your future dates to go, and she might not appreciate that bar being lowered. Once she associates you with gourmet cuisine, a burger joint is going to feel like a letdown.

First Date Etiquette Tips

• Pull out the woman’s chair and help her get seated. (In a more upscale restaurant, the host/hostess may take care of this.)

• Shortly after sitting down, excuse yourself and say you like to wash your hands before you eat. This shows that you’re concerned with cleanliness. Use some soap so that when you make hand contact with her later on, your skin feels soft and fresh.

• Learn your server’s name and use it when addressing them. It shows that you interact with people well, and that you’re polite.

• Be open to suggestions. Your server may mention the evening’s dinner specials. Listen, discuss them briefly with your date, and if something sounds good, go for it. This shows a little bit of spontaneity.

• You should order for yourself and for your date. Ask her what she wants as you’re looking over your menus, then tell the server what both of you will be having.

• Pace your conversation during the meal. It’s annoying when you’re trying to eat and someone keeps asking you questions, so don’t do it to her. Get into a rhythm with her; when she takes a bite, you take a bite. And don’t finish eating before she does.

Advanced Mack Maneuver: “Taste Tests”

We’ve already covered the importance of establishing body contact as things progress. If you’re having a great conversation over dinner and the two of you are obviously connecting, this can be done while sitting across from her at the table. Lean forward to tell her something, as if you don’t want the people sitting around you to hear. Touch her forearm or hand when you say it.

Another way to establish contact during dinner is by tasting each other’s food. Tell her how delicious yours is, and offer her a bite—but do it right. Don’t saw off a piece and reach your fork across your table towards her mouth; that’s an awkward gesture that puts her on the spot. Instead, cut off a small piece of food, cup your hand underneath the fork, and offer it to her.

Having shared the same fork (or spoon), you’ve established a subliminal physical bond. She’ll probably then offer you a taste of hers. Take it. Your mouths, in a sense, have touched. This technique may sound funny, but these subtle connections can make a difference.

Or, you can test the waters first. Look at her meal and remark how good it looks. If she offers to give you a bite, that’s a sign that she is feeling comfortable with you. Give her a bite of yours in return.

Just Desserts

By all means, order dessert. This can be the most important phase of the meal. It’s also the most appealing part. Everything about dessert is sexy, from the smell, to the rich taste, to the way it looks. (Chocolate has actually been shown to affect women’s hormonal levels.)

Practically all women love dessert, though some may try to decline because they’re self-conscious about pigging out in front of you. Encourage her to go for it: remind her that tonight is a special occasion. If she still would rather not, order for yourself and request two forks. Order something rich and decadent. She’ll be glad you did; few women can resist taking at least a couple of bites.

Other Tips For A Successful First Date

first date tipsFirst dates don’t need to begin after sundown. Most guys figure a date shouldn’t start before 7pm, but if she expects to be home by midnight then you’re limiting your time with her. Daytime activities can extend the time frame. You can enjoy some activities together and have a meal.

Plan day time dates around her interests. If she’s into sports, consider taking her to a local high school or college athletic event. The atmosphere will be filled withy youthful energy and enthusiasm, and may bring back fond memories of your own school days.

Flea markets and swap meets can also be cool for an afternoon get-together. We all know how women love shopping, and these are a fun, low-cost places where you can browse for hours. It will also provide you with further Intell: with dozens of different booths and endless wares for sale, you’re going to find out some of her likes and dislikes, such as certain fragrances or types of artwork, furnishings and jewelry. Walk with her through a swap meet, and you’ll gain more knowledge about her than you would in five hours on the phone.

If you’re an active person, a first date that allows you to walk around with her can be a good idea. It’s an even better idea if you tend to have a lot of nervous energy in these situations. Dinner requires you to park yourself in a chair and sit still for an hour. Walking will release this energy.

Browse local newspapers and websites that cover the music and arts scene in your area. Keep your ears open for fairs or expos. Check out thrift and antique stores, art galleries, and cozy venues for live music. Consider taking her to stores and places that are interesting and off the beaten path, while avoiding malls, movie theatres, chain restaurants and all the “usual” date locations.

First Date Cancellations

On this first date, you want to make the best possible impression. You should be in an enthusiastic mood and ready to focus your full attention on her. Sometimes, however, this just isn’t possible. You might be having a terrible day, or dealing with a problem that is occupying your thoughts. Maybe something came up at work and you won’t have enough time to properly prepare for the date. In this case, you should call her to reschedule.

Women will appreciate a comment like, “Today has been really challenging, I’ve got a lot on my mind and I want to be completely focused on you when we see each other. Can we reschedule? You choose the day.”

Don’t think you won’t get a second chance. By canceling you can actually improve your standing in her eyes. Remember Mack Commandment #1:“Flee and they will follow, follow and they will flee.” Women are used to being pursued, not being called to reschedule dates. By rescheduling you’re actually saying to her, “I’m patient. I can wait for this. I know she’s not going anywhere.”

A final word on first dates, or any date for that matter: be cool, casual, and keep your emotions in check. If the date didn’t meet your expectations, don’t sweat it. Set up another date with her and make the next one better, or move on to another prospect. If the date goes well, give yourself a pat on the back—but don’t get over confident and forget your Tactics. The next time you see her, stick with the strategies and principles that have gotten you this far.

Some Final Thoughts On First Dates

Plan on keeping the first date brief. Two hours or less is usually perfect, so don’t plan (or agree to) some all-day activity. You want an escape hatch in case things don’t work out. Unless the sparks are really flying and things are headed for a first-date hookup, it’s better to cut things short. You should be the one to decide when the date ends. (“Well I’ve got a huge day tomorrow, I need to be up early…I had a great time, we’ll have to do this again soon.”) Don’t stretch things out so that the other person is checking their watch and saying they need to get home.

Always be punctual. Forget about being “fashionably late”: it’s disrespectful and sets a bad tone. Make sure you know the directions to the location, and arrive 10 minutes early so that you’re totally prepared. Women hate it when they are the first to arrive (which is why they normally show up 10-30 minutes late).

Don’t split the check. Fellas, never allow her to chip in for the bill. If she offers, politely insist that you’re paying—but earn some points, too. Tell her, “This is my treat tonight, I’ve really enjoyed spending time with you because I love what you were saying about (fill in the blank).”

This way, you’re rewarding her for being deserving of your time. You’re not just shelling out money, as if you’ve got to pay for her time. And ladies—we admire you being progressive and independent, but let’s be honest: a guy who does allow you to pay probably won’t get a shot at date #2. So keep your wallet in your purse.

Finally, dress appropriately. It’s always better to be slightly overdressed than underdressed. You can bet she’s going to dress well and spend at least an hour preparing herself. If she asks you what she should wear (women often do this), earn points by saying, “I’m going to dress up, so wear something sexy.”

This injects a nice bit of sexual energy into the occasion. Then, when you see her, look her up and down…smile…and tell her, “Wow. You look incredible.” Now watch her face light up. You can’t put a price tag on a line like that!

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