We know it’s easy. Grabbing a cup of caffeine is the default first date option (followed closely by meeting over cocktails). But seriously, wouldn’t it be more fun (and interesting) if you made your initial meet-and-greets a little more creative?
“Dating is a time commitment, no doubt. But if you fall into a repetitive date rut, it will also start feeling like work,” says Cherie Burbach, author of Internet Dating is Not Like Ordering a Pizza. “Put the zing back into your social life by planning new and different activities; that way, if this person isn’t your match, at least you will have done something out of the ordinary!” In today’s busy world, you shouldn’t have to waste every free moment searching for love. So with that in mind, check out these great ideas for quick-but-memorable dates — all of which can be done in 60 minutes (or less).
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Date #1: Take a dance lesson for a spin
Grab a date and your dancing shoes for a sexy 60-minute samba lesson. Most dance studios offer group tango, salsa and samba classes that last for an hour or less. “Dance lessons are a great date idea because they put you in a mixed setting so the one-on-one pressure is off…plus it gets your body to loosen up, which lets your mind loosen up, which makes it much easier to have fun,” says Dr. Ish Major, M.D., psychiatrist and author of Little White Whys: A Woman’s Guide Through the Lies Men Tell and Why. “Also, it gives you ample legitimate excuses to touch each other…the possibilities for mental and physical connections to be made are endless!” And at the very least, repeatedly stepping on each other’s toes can be a very bonding experience.
Date #2: Stargaze at the planetarium
Popping into your local planetarium and taking a quick look at the stars together can be a very romantic and even borderline nostalgic experience (who doesn’t remember a school field trip like this happening at some point?). “There are often 45-minute showings of various installations, and many planetariums offer theme nights highlighting the ‘constellations of love’ especially for daters,” advises Burbach. “The best part is, you won’t have to freeze standing outside if you’re living in a cold climate.”
Date #3: Work up a sweat by exercising together
Active dates are a great way to multitask (you’re working on fitness and flirting simultaneously!), and taking an exercise class or hitting the gym together can usually be accomplished in an hour or less. Another idea: Take it outside! “Going on a hike or jog is a great non-competitive way to get to know each other while your endorphins are flowing to the max,” says Jordan Harbinger, co-founder of The Art of Charm. “In addition, pretenses drop when you’re working up a sweat, which encourages people to skip the small talk and really connect with each other.”
Date #4: Catch a stand-up comedy performance
Attending a stand-up comedy show can be a great quick date, and there’s nothing like laughter to help diminish any nervous tension. “For less than the cost of a movie, you can often catch a live performance, which is so much more exciting and unique…plus, taking your date to see comedians that you like is a great way to see if your senses of humor are compatible,” says comedian Harrison Greenbaum. “You get all of that, plus you’ll probably get a drink or two included as part of the deal.” Additionally, when people laugh and have a good time together, they tend to associate more positive feelings towards the companion they’re with, so this one is a win-win!
Date #5: Fix yourself (and your place) up at Home Depot
Because who doesn’t love a guy who knows how to wield a band saw or a gal who knows what to do with a screwdriver? Kidding! Well, sort of. In actuality, a trip to Home Depot (or another similar hardware store) can be a terrific date, and not just because you’re looking for someone to hang your ceiling fan. “Home Depot offers some great short classes in all things related to home repair on weekends,” says Dr. Major. “From painting to lighting to closets to floors…you can both learn some great do-it-yourself pointers.” This is also a great idea if you’re thinking of making some changes to your place, since a date would probably be flattered and appreciate being asked his/her opinion about which tile or a paint hue you should choose. Just don’t expect your date to do any of the dirty work later on (unless he or she offers, of course!).
Date #6: Get artsy at a hands-on pottery place
Pottery studios and paint-and-sip places are opening all over the country, and these venues are practically made for dating. “Creating something with your hands is not only sexy, but because it’s interactive, it also helps ease any awkward moments during a first date (i.e. you can always concentrate on your project). Plus, you’ll have instructors to help break up the need for constant conversation,” says Trisha Ventker, author of Internet Dates From Hell. “That said, it’s probably good not to mention how this activity reminds you of Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze in the 1990 movie, Ghost,” she adds. Still, it doesn’t mean you can’t watch the film by yourself for some pre-date inspiration (or together later in the evening, assuming your clay-making class goes especially well).
Date #7: Drive each other wild with golf
Even if you don’t know how to play golf, the driving range contains two of the most popular ways to get to know someone: casually chatting and doing an activity together. “Driving some balls at the golf range is a perfect combination of these two factors, and it gives you the perfect excuse to ask for instruction on your swing. It also means having your date put his/her arms around you for a few moments, which builds mutual chemistry that much quicker,” asserts Burbach. Variations on this date include: a trip to the batting cages, shooting range or playing Frisbee golf in the park. Ready, aim, flirt!
Date #8: Make your plans strictly by the book
Attending a scheduled book reading or author signing event in a local bookstore, library or college campus instantly gives you both something to talk about, and it’s also a very casual, no-pressure way to connect with each other. Plus, these events are typically free, which gives frugal daters who choose cheap and noncommittal coffee first dates an even less expensive and more educational alternative option). To find out what literary events are happening in your area, stop by your local bookstore or check out www.bn.com/events.
Date #9: Pair up to savor a wine and/or food tasting
“Tastings are low-key, but they’re also super-fun dates,” says Dr. Major. “These types of events let you literally see what the other person’s ‘tastes’ are like, and you can tell a lot about someone by what he or she likes to eat and drink!” Dr. Major adds that paying attention during an event like this will give you tons of ideas for future dates and gifts down the road. They’re also a great option because they’re not usually one-on-one dates; instead, you’ll be out and mingling with other people, which takes some of the pressure off of the two of you. Most tastings are arranged to encourage “drop-in” visitors, so you don’t have to worry about a date dragging on for too long. Worst-case scenario: You’ll have enjoyed some drinks and tasty dishes (even if your date doesn’t end up being one of them).
Date #10: Frolic at a dog park for the afternoon
“Dogs can bring out the best in people, even if you don’t have one yourself,” says Burbach. “If only one of you has a dog, it’s a good opportunity to make friends with your date’s pet, which is important in a relationship…but even if neither of you do, just seeing the pooches run around happily while they play and chase each other puts a lighthearted vibe into your outing.” Walking a dog as a duo is another great short date option (or playing catch, if you’re feeling energetic). If neither one of owns a pet, consider borrowing one for a few hours — just be sure to verify everyone’s OK with this idea first. Most of the time, throwing a furry four-legged friend into the mix is a relaxed way to make new connections of both the canine and human variety.
Date #11: Score points by playing retro games
Who’s up for a rousing game of Pac-Man or Skee-Ball? Hitting an arcade is an awesome and quick date idea. “Calling up your younger years automatically puts you in a silly, flirty mood, and combine that with the thrill of competition, you’ll be able to feel the mutual attraction with your date become that much stronger,” says Burbach. Didn’t save up enough quarters this week for an outing like this? Other options in a similar vein include: bowling (you can probably get in a game or two in under an hour), pool/billiards, table tennis, air hockey, foosball, mini-golf and so on. Want to up the stakes? Get your date to wager a flirty bet with you, just make sure it fits the retro fun-and-frugal theme — like having the loser buy Slurpees for you both afterwards.
Date #12: Get fresh and flirty at a farmers market
“Visit a farmers market together so you can stroll hand-in-hand while browsing for flowers, veggies and other handmade products; it should give you plenty of ways to keep the conversation flowing,” says Burbach. “It’s a romantic spot, because you’re sure to find something sweet — candy or flowers, perhaps — to give your date, and then you can start planning for the next outing you’ll go on together.” Farmers markets are also a great daytime date idea, so you can meet, enjoy the bounty that’s on offer, and then cite “other previously scheduled plans” for an easy, painless way to part paths if the two of you don’t click. And if the day’s going amazingly well, you can pick out a few favorite food items at the market and meet up again later for a cozy, home-cooked dinner.
Kimberly Dawn Neumann (www.KDNeumann.com) is a popular New York City-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in such publications as Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Redbook, Maxim and frequently online. A certified dating/relationship coach, she’s published two books:The Real Reasons Men CommitandSex Comes Firstand is the founder of www.DatingDivaDaily.com. She would really enjoy if a cute guy took her to a planetarium or to play games somewhere.