Where to Go on a First Date

For the Traditionalist

Nothing says classic timelessness than meeting someone for a first date over dinner. There’s a reason it was so popular “back in the day”. It gives you a chance to actually talk to someone in a relatively quiet, yet public setting, and get to know them for a little longer than the soundbites we often parcel for our personal lives in the 21st century. You can have a drink (or two) to relax, but the food will help keep you from getting too sloppy. Add a little romantic music, a nice view and some mood lighting, and it’s perfect. Suggested restaurants: Le Cordon Bleu, East India CompanyE18hteenKhao Thai, Play, Union 613, Whalesbone, Wilfred’s, Zen Kitchen, Zola’s.

For the Romantic

For those that think a dinner date is just too obvious, perhaps a more romantic outing is a good idea. How about a hot air balloon ride, a picnic in the park, a stroll through a public garden or along a beach? For the romantic, the key is in the details—candles, flowers, beautiful sights, sounds and smells, some champagne and of course, dessert. Suggested ideas to start: The Central Experimental FarmGatineau Park, Mackenzie King Estate, Mooney’s Bay, Petrie IslandRideau Falls, Stella Luna GelatoSundance Balloons, ThimblecakesVincent Massey Park.

For the Bold

Want to take it that one step further? Maybe a quick day trip is in order. The key here is trust, and confidence that you will have lots to say during a longer car ride out of the city, but the benefits of spending time together discovering something new can help bond you to your new acquaintance if all goes well. Suggested day-trips: GananoqueKingston, Manotick, Merrickville, Wakefield

For the Sports Enthusiast

Share a sport in common? Awesome! Why not make that a fun first date? A night out playing billiards, watching a Senators game, maybe some beach volleyball or touch football? Just keep it light… this should be friendly competition that’s high on flirtation value. And there’s nothing wrong with teaching someone the ropes or getting taught a few new moves. However, avoid a sport where the outfit might be a little too revealing for some people’s comfort level… tennis is great, but maybe not swimming. Suggested ideas: Beach volleyball, Croquet, GolfMaclarensOttawa Senators, Rideau CanalTennis, Ultimate Frisbee.

For the Historian

Interested in a little history and mystery? A museum is an interesting place to start. There are a number of great spots to consider: the Bytown Museum by the Rideau Canal, the Canadian Museum of History, Museum of Nature and even the Royal Canadian Mint. If you like to explore the darker side of Ottawa, why not consider talking a tour with the Haunted Walk? Suggested ideas: Bytown MuseumCanada Aviation and Space MuseumCanadian Museum of HistoryCanadian Museum of NatureHaunted Walk of OttawaRoyal Canadian Mint.

For the Culture Vulture

Enjoying the arts with someone new can be a tricky venture, believe it or not. This is mainly because whether at a live music show, an art gallery, a movie or theatre production, you’re expected to remain silent for upwards of two hours together. With that in mind, we recommend shying away from any art show or performance that lasts a significant amount of time. Smaller art exhibits, tours of old churches or buildings, or festivals where you can move around and explore together are more ideal. Be sure to also leave enough time to sit and talk over coffee, a drink or dessert to talk about what you’ve just seen, as well as find out more about each other. Suggested ideas: Dominion-Chalmers United ChurchGallery 101La Petite Mort GalleryNotre-Dame CathedralOttawa Art GalleryOttawa Fringe FestivalOttawa Jazz FestivalRBC Royal Bank BluesfestSAW GalleryWestFest.

For the Young at Heart

There’s something endearing about seeing someone’s playful side. It allows you to be childlike and to relax and cut loose… to not take yourself too seriously. Ideas like indoor rock climbing, laser tag, miniature golf, going to a video arcade or even a karaoke bar can help break down barriers and nerves. Again, keep it light and don’t worry if you look a little silly… that’s really the point. Suggested ideas: Dog and Pony KaraokeFun Haven, Fun JunctionKarters Korner, Midway Fun ParkMini Golf Gardens, Monopolatte, Popcorn KaraokePutting EdgeSky Zone, Top Karting.

For the Time-crunched

For many, the idea of a first date is truly daunting and many people opt instead for something quick and dirty, like agreeing to meet for coffee or a drink. These rapid speed dates are fine, but aside from determining if there’s that elusive “spark”, can you really expect to know someone in half an hour or less? Don’t we owe it to the other person to invest a little more time with them, and don’t we owe it to ourselves? After all, they aren’t really going to get to know the real you in that length of time, either. However, this is fast becoming the new way to meet someone in the 21st century, so if this is really what you both agree on as a first step, then pick a coffee shop that’s nice, relatively large and quiet and is likely to have comfortable seating, rather than worrying about the convenience of the location. Bars, especially bars that you tend to frequent, should be seriously avoided. Nothing kills the mood of a date than being interrupted by well-meaning but oblivious friends who don’t understand that you want to be left alone. Also, if you spend any length of time there, and if you tend to drink when you are nervous, you could risk getting a bit too tipsy for comfort. Suggested coffeehouses: BridgeheadDaily Grind, Planet Coffee, Raw SugarStarbucks.

No matter what you decide, keep in mind that a little romance goes a long way. You don’t want to scare off your date by being too over the top. Remember these tips whatever you decide to do:

  1. Is the location public enough so your date won’t be suspicious of your motives or put off.
  2. Will the space be quiet enough so you will be able to speak and actually get to know one another? Stay away from loud bars or movies, where you have to sit silently and awkwardly for two hours with a virtual stranger.
  3. Is the idea simple enough that you don’t seem over-eager, boastful or showy. Remember, this is your first date, not your twentieth. Save the big gestures for later when you really know the person well and want to show that you care.
  4. Is the idea something that you both agree on and would have fun doing together? Check in with your date to see if they really are interested in the activity… otherwise, it’s going to be a bust from square one.
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