Did you hear about the woman who met an amazing guy while browsing placemats at Williams-Sonoma? Yeah, us neither. The truth is, dating is an odds game — if you want to meet someone, you’ve gotta go where the single men hang out. Here, in no particular order, are 10 surprising spots to pick up dates. But keep in mind that you can find someone practically anywhere, ladies, so don’t overlook the men you see every day as you pick up your dry cleaning, add cinnamon to your latte or scarf down your sandwich at your cubicle. As Steve Santagati, author of the The MANual, puts it: “There’s probably a guy within 10 feet of you checking you out right now without you realizing it.”
1. Your local hardware store
If HGTV has taught us anything, it’s this: Cute homeowners do their own renovations! (And they also save a bundle in the process.) Your neighborhood hardware joint is a hangout for not just handy condo-owning types, but all men — even the ones whose last big project was the pig-shaped cutting board they made for mom in eighth-grade shop class. “Being surrounded by tools brings out any man’s masculine side,” explains Patrick Carone, an editor at Maxim magazine. “Added bonus — if you go alone, you’re pretty much letting him know you don’t have a man in your life.” Ask for his advice on a DIY project (“Do I need special hooks to hang a giant mirror?”). Whatever you do, “don’t introduce yourself,” advises Santagati. “Just go up and start talking as if you know him.” Because now you do, right?
View Singles on Match.com
2. The driving range, early on Saturday afternoon
It used to be true that you’d only find two types golfing: men over 50, and younger guys who dress like they’re already retired. These days, though, it isn’t just your dad’s cardiologist teeing off: Cute non-prepped-out professional types are hitting the links en masse. Don’t feel like killing 18 hours at an actual golf course? Luckily, hitting a few rounds at the driving range is a quicker way to sink a Saturday night date. “At a driving range, you’re close to the other golfers, making it easy to fall into conversation,” points out Carone. And when you go after lunch, you’re more likely to find men who just want to hit a few for fun (scary serious-golfer dudes show up at the range in the late afternoon, after they’ve finished their regular round of golf for the day). Not sure how to spark a conversation? Just ask the cutest golfer in the immediate vicinity if he can show you how to hold the club. “Voilà, he’s got his arms around you already,” says Carone.
3. Jury duty
So you think the only men in the pool are the ones who weren’t bright enough to get out of jury duty? Linda Barlow, of Warrington, PA, begs to differ. “I met my husband Bruce at jury duty,” Linda says. He asked her to lunch; she said no, but quickly reconsidered because he didn’t seem like a weirdo. “I always tell my girlfriends who complain about getting jury duty that it’s a great place to meet men,” she notes. And all that waiting makes it a natural hook-up spot: “The guys are bored and thinking about women,” promises Santagati. That means making one small move (from “Hey, any interest in the other half of my muffin?” to “Want a section of my paper?”) can reap a big romance payoff for women. And as Linda and Bruce can attest, you can’t fail with a non-threatening opener, like: “Know where to get Chinese/Thai/good sandwiches around here?”
4. Improv classes
Why? They’re jam-packed with men, for one. (Which gender loves Chicago’s Second City and consistently stays up for Conan? Answer: men.) And second, the class is all about interaction between participants, notes Carone, so you don’t have to think up cheesy lines (“Who’s your favorite comedian?”) to start a conversation. Not to mention that the nature of spontaneous ad-libbing gives you a chance to see if you two have Bogart and Bacall-style chemistry, says Debbie Magids, Ph.D., coauthor of All the Good Ones Aren’t Taken. By the time your first date rolls around, don’t be surprised if you feel like you’ve known each other since back when Saturday Night Live was relatively new. “You are opening up to parts of yourself that are hard to get to, and it could really make for a true connection,” says Dr. Magids.
5. A big-box store’s TV section
Have you noticed that every man is in the market for a 3D TV? “Single guys between 18 and 34 are much more likely than the general population to say they plan on buying one,” confirms Carone. So he already has a flat-screen version at home? He wants a better model! So he can’t even afford an iPad? He heard the prices are dropping fast, and needs to buy one on sale! Next time you’re in Best Buy, Fry’s or WalMart, swing by the stupidly big TV aisles and do a little shopping of your own. If you want to strike up a conversation, say, “What’s the first movie you’d watch on that if you bought it?” His answer could be a deal-breaker (think: Alex Cross) or a deal-sealer (insert name of obscure foreign film you love here).
6. The blackjack or craps table at a casino
“This is the absolute best place to meet,” says Santagati. “Everyone’s close to each other and having fun.” And few guys can resist a woman who knows her way around the real games. “Slots are for retirees,” adds Carone. “When a man sees a woman at the craps table who’s doing more than just blowing on dice, he usually takes note. And if you roll and double his money for him, he’ll be in love.” (Just please don’t blow your rent money, OK?)
7. In the line at the DMV
At first glance, this doesn’t seem like the optimal place to meet your soul mate. Almost everyone’s cranky, the lighting is horrible, and filling out 70 different forms doesn’t leave you much time to flirt. But the DMV is actually a great place to spot single men. Here’s why: If a guy can stay good-natured and polite even though he has 800 people in front of him and just waited half-an-hour in the wrong line, he’s a good catch. Actually, lines in general are underrated: Eva Pereira, 31, met her husband, Ron, 33, while buying coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts. He asked her if she was following him (she had parked next to him, then ended up behind him on line). This, of course, made Eva laugh. “We spent the next hour drinking our coffees and chatting,” she says. “We’ve been together ever since.”
8. The pub closest to the sports arena after a big game ends
“Sometimes, numbers count,” says Dr. Magids. “The more men you meet, the better shot you have of finding the right one for you.” Where can you be guaranteed to find large numbers of men in public? At the watering hole closest to your local sports arena, obviously! (It must be the closest one, because guys in search of a post-game beverage don’t usually want to go very far). “This is a great place to find men in socializing mode,” says Dr. Magids. If his favorite team won, you know he’ll be in a great mood. And if they lost, you’ll be a welcome distraction — just don’t say, “It’s only a game!”
9. Guitar Center (or another store that sells musical instruments)
If you have a thing for brooding band types, hit up your local instrument store. Bonus: the male-to-female ratio tends to be more favorable than moving to Alaska would be, so you don’t have to sweat the competition. “Many women compare and contrast constantly, and when they have a lot of competition, they wipe themselves out from the game,” says Dr. Magids. “Without that element, you can just be yourself.” Don’t worry if you haven’t picked up an instrument since the fourth grade. “See if he’ll play a chord from your favorite song for you in-store,” suggest Carone. “Even if he can’t, it’ll lead to a rocking conversation.”
10. Frequent-flyer lounge in your local airport
Mingling in the VIP lounge offers plenty of perks. It’s easy to strike up a conversation because you have “an easy opening topic,” notes Dr. Magids. “Where are you going? Then you can start talking about where you have traveled in the past. Also, if there is a delay, people naturally start to commiserate with one another.” So what if he’s not in the VIP area? Go ahead and board, because he may be seated right next to you on the plane — which is the serendipitous situation Vanessa Ton found herself in during a flight from Detroit to her home base of Los Angeles. “We talked for four hours straight — about everything,” she reports. “Now he’s moving to L.A. to be near me.” Memo to all struggling airlines: Make that perk standard, and you’ll all get out of chapter-whatever-it’s-called a little bit faster.
Lisa Lombardi has written for Marie Claire, Glamour, Maxim and other magazines. She met her husband in a job interview.