Propose-a-date-idea dating site How About We recently hooked up its one millionth date, and to celebrate, it released all kinds of deep-dive info about how dates compare in different cities. In Washington, for example, we learned that the top three things people eat on dates are cupcakes, frozen yogurt and tacos, and the top three date activities mentioned are playing board games, going bowling and going running.
To which we say, “Um, what?”
We realize this says more about the people on How About We, but we’re having a hard time imagining that people are clamoring to take a potential love connection to wait in line outside Georgetown Cupcakes, or to pay way too much money to wear rented shoes at Lucky Strike. So in the interests of reader service, we compiled a list of favorite first date ideas that are way better than, well, cupcakes and board games.
Each of us nominated three ideas each. Three different people mentioned browsing the Hirshhorn’s permanent collection — “it’s like a Rorschach test” — and there were two mentions for Eastern Market (preferably followed by coffee at Pound) and the ever-popular combination of bocce and cocktails at Black Jack.
In a service that may be even more useful, we also put together a list of horrible first date ideas you should never use.
But first, here are our favorite first-date ideas in random order:
• Room 11. Hot cocktails. Fire pits. Done.
• Go to Birreria Paradiso and try flights of the draft beers you’ve never had before, or pick a beer for the other person based on what you think they’d like.
• The National Zoo. If your date’s a dog, at least there’s the new elephant walk and lions to look at.
• Sampling wine and small plates in the intimate environs of Cork.
• A hip — but not too hip — movie at E Street Cinema.
• On a nice day, go to a garden — but someplace funky like the Ladew Topiary gardens.
• Ice skating in the sculpture garden followed by the National Gallery and hot chocolate.
• Order a porron at Estadio. You might as well get the awkwardness of pouring a fountain of wine down your gullet out of the way early.
• Small, sharable plates of dim sum, somewhere like Oriental East in Silver Spring.
• A county fair is cheap and gives you plenty to talk about. And there are pig races.
• Share boozy milkshakes at Satellite Room.
• Dinner at Bayou on a Friday or Saturday. Have some tasty jambalaya and biscuits, and if dinner goes well you can stay for the live band.
• Northside Social for coffee and dessert. The vibe is laid-back enough that you can talk without being overheard.
• A good used book store gives you a chance to find out if they are well-read or not, and what subjects they care about most.
• Beers at Black Cat’s Red Room right after it opens. Let your date pick three songs on the Jukebox.
And now, the BAD date ideas:
• Spa World. Too long to spend with someone you barely know, too much time apart because of the sex-segregated baths. Also, you will be overtly wondering what the other person looks like naked, instead of just subtly considering it.
• A concert. Do not speak. You are there to see the band.
• An Ethiopian restaurant. As much as you might like like doro wat and kitfo, you should not eat with your hands on the first date. Ever.
• The Newseum is a fantastic place to visit later down the line, but browsing through a barrage of political events on a first date?
• The Columbia Room. You’ll learn a lot about your date by the cocktails they order, and the hidden location might seem classy and impressive. But there are problems. The tab of $69 (per person) seems high for a first date. It’s a multi-course event, so if things are going wrong, there’s no chance for you to bail. And you definitely run the risk of getting tipsy, which can lead to bad decisions.
• Stand-up comedy. The comedian could wind up heckling you about your first date. And, most dangerously, everyone’s standard of humor is different, so you run the risk of your date being offended.
• Anywhere that involves dance lessons. It’s awkward if one person is good and the other … isn’t. There’s the potential for shaming, and if other people are frequently cutting in, as happens at swing and salsa dances, you don’t get to spend any time together.