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How to Plan a First Date

January 23rd, 2012 by Nick Notas 13 Comments

50 First Dates

First dates don’t have to be as nerve-racking as we make them out to be. A lot of it comes down to planning ahead and tailoring the experience to your personalities. Sometimes just picking the right environment allows you two to bond and kick-starts your chemistry.

So now you’ve got a girl’s number and you’re ready to set up the date. Where should you go? Where should you avoid? Most of all, what should you do?

This article will show you how to craft memorable first dates that lead to even better second dates.

The Ground Rules

  1. Base it on common interests

    During your initial meeting with a girl, try to discover her passions, interests, and hobbies while sharing yours, too. It makes it a hell of a lot easier to come up with a date idea that is fun and relevant to both parties. You can always introduce her to something new, but if you both love singing, why not go to karaoke night?

  2. Don’t overspend

    I’m all for treating a girl to a fancy night out, but it’s not usually the best way to start. Going overboard can put a lot of pressure on the evening and scare a girl away. You come off too strong, too soon and convey the wrong message. You’re trying to buy her affection rather than let her experience it naturally.

    And expensive gifts like a dozen long stem roses or $150 bottles of wine are unnecessary. Just bring yourself, it’s all you need to win her over.

  3. Keep it simple

    Nothing kills the mood like waiting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Or driving in endless circles to find parking. Or waiting outside the bar for an hour. Be reasonable and make the date as painless as possible.

    Don’t make her drive thirty miles to see you — meet her at least half-way or closer to her house. On the same note, don’t plan for somewhere you’re going to get lost and end up late. Simple is the best choice, save the elaborate plans for future meetings.

  4. Encourage conversation

    A date should be an experience that facilitates communicating and getting to know each other. That’s why I don’t generally recommend movie dates. Can they work? Yes, but they’re not the ideal situation. They force you to be quiet next to one another when the date should be all about the interaction between you.

    You want to flirt, laugh, and build the romantic tension. It’s much harder to do that when you’re silent and staring at a screen. Choose dates that provide opportunities to converse freely and frequently.

  5. Make it one-on-one

    I know it’s easier to ask her to go out with you and your friends, but first dates should be spent with just the two of you. You’re much more likely to create a personal, intimate connection without other people around. You’ll make your intentions clear and set the right tone.

    Many girls won’t be comfortable flirting or getting physical on a first date with people watching. It goes back to “keep it low pressure.” You don’t want her feeling judged or have to deal with a bunch of new faces. Your friends will understand.

Where to Go and What to Do

The not-so-safe bet

Dinner is by far the most popular first date idea. However, I can’t stand behind it for everyone. Dinner forces you to stare at each other and make conversation for hours. It can be awkward, stressful, and seem like an interview.

I like dinner dates. Mainly because I love food, but also because I’m a strong conversationalist and comfortable in that situation. But, if you’re inexperienced or haven’t been on a first date in a while, try something casual like…

The actual safe bet

Grabbing drinks is the reliable choice and far less intense than dinner. You can move around, stand next to each other, and relax in a social setting. If the date isn’t going well, neither of you feel obligated to sit through an entire meal before leaving. If it is going well, you can move to another location or even back to one of your places.

Also, let’s be serious – alcohol is a social lubricant. I’m not saying to get smashed (you shouldn’t) but a drink or two can lighten the mood.

If one of you doesn’t drink, coffee is a great alternative. Even though it may seem similar to dinner, it’s a different atmosphere. It’s more low-key and flexible — you can go for an afternoon cup or a weekend pick-me-up.

30 awesome first dates

  • Apple picking
  • Aquarium
  • Arcade (playful and you can challenge each other)
  • Auction
  • Bike ride
  • Board/card games at a coffee shop
  • Bookstore
  • Bowling
  • Cooking class / cook something together
  • Costco/BJs/shopping club (free food is always good!)
  • Dog walk at the park
  • Explore downtown and window shop
  • Farmer’s market
  • Flea market
  • Hiking
  • Historical landmark / home
  • Ice cream shop / bakery
  • Ice Skating
  • Karaoke
  • Museum or art gallery
  • Open house (pretend to be a couple)
  • Outdoor festival (music, arts and crafts, Renaissance)
  • Outdoor/botanical garden or forest preserve
  • Paint your own pottery shop
  • Pet store
  • Picnic or feed the ducks
  • Playground (act like kids)
  • Shopping at the mall
  • Sporting event
  • Wine tasting or brewery

Want to land a first date? I’ll make it happen.

  1. Annemarie on January 25, 2012

    GREAT LIST! A guy took me to Costco for food shopping and it turned into a lunch date that consisted of free samples, hand holding, people watching and lots of laughs. Best date ever. I’m still with him. =]

  2. Bill on June 21, 2012

    Wow, I can’t believe Costco could be a first date idea – definitely getting some new info on this site and I really appreciate it!

    • Nick Notas on June 21, 2012

      Yeah man, random and spontaneous dates are awesome. Glad you’re enjoying the writings!

      • Sam on August 28, 2013

        Yea dude your comments are very helpful keep it up!

  3. Al on May 5, 2013

    How did you ask her out – “Hey let’s go to Costco for some free samples!” ? I’m really new to dating, and so far I’m comfortable and have done ok so far with the coffee and dinner dates (fun conversation but not sure how to “escalate” yet) but I haven’t tried out anything else.

    • Greg on May 16, 2013

      Not sure how they did it exactly, but I’ve kind of ended up tied in this same situation due to just being busy. Was trying to get together with a girl, was having trouble setting plans, and just said “I’ve got to go shopping, want to come with?” She said yes, and we had a great time and a great relationship from there. Good thing is this does show you are busy and have other things going on, but are trying to make time for her.

  4. chris on October 19, 2013

    What if she invites you out with her friends? Lol so much for 1 on 1.

  5. Jack on April 17, 2014

    Hey I read your articles and they are great. Im pretty okay with dating so far, but one of my problems is how to end a date. First dates rarely end up and anothers place, so how do I make a good finish after a great date ? I had a date we had a great time but after about 3 hours the mood went somewhat down and I said that we should pay and leave. But yea how do I such dates ?

    • Brian on May 1, 2014

      Just from my experience I like a girl to meet me for the first date, that way when the night is getting long I tease her about keeping me out too late and her being a bad influence and then offer to walk her to her car. When your saying your farewells that is when you go in for the goodnight kiss. If everything goes accordingly it gives her a chance to think about nothing but you for the entire way home.

      • Dave on December 29, 2014

        I think it is probably best not to wait until the last minute to kiss her. Maybe it is not so important to actually kiss her in the first date if you flirt with her and leave your sexual intentions clear (have a look at Nick’s suggestions in the “flirting and being physical” section here: http://www.nicknotas.com/dating-101/). Doing this and saying goodbye by just kissing her on the cheek and saying I had had real fun worked really well for me last time. I think I left her wondering if there was really something. In the second date kissing her just one hour into the date came up very naturally.

        Dave

  6. Brian on May 1, 2014

    I’m a big fan of dinner or drinks for a first date, but much like Nick I’m very comfortable with keeping a conversation going. However one of the best first dates I went on was actually shopping. A girl I was interested in made fun of my sunglasses as she used to manage a sunglasses hut. So instead of asking her out on a normal first date I told her she needed to take me out shopping for a proper pair. Bam first date set, from there we found a place in the outdoor mall for drinks and dinner.

  7. lordvngr on March 5, 2015

    My 2 cents.

    I no longer do dinner dates for the 1st date.

    I did when I first started doing online dating but I don’t make a lot of money where I work
    and what I found out was the average dinner date was costing me between 50-75 bucks a pop.

    Since it is so hard to make a real connection with anybody anymore Usually 1st dates don’t lead to 2nd dates and I got tired of spending money like that just to find out there was no real chemistry there, or she liked me but I didn’t like her or I liked her but she didn’t like me or we had nothing really in common etc etc etc.

    Now it’s something simple and fun like bowling, putt putt, or drinks. I save the nice dinners for a later date…

  8. The Frequent Dater on February 13, 2016

    Hi Nick,

    A great post and still as true today as it was when you wrote it.

    I’m all for the more casual date where you can actually have fun and be far more natural. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune nor be as awkward as sitting across from someone you know little about. If I can avoid unnecessary stress then I will!