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Choosing the best first date location

28 June 2022

The location of your first date could go a long way to determining whether there will be a second one. So how do you choose a winner? We look at what you need to consider when choosing the best place for a first date.

People watching on a first date
Pick a location where there is a lot going on to help generate conversation - if you're going to a cafe or restaurant choose somewhere you can do some people-watching

Should you choose somewhere fun and adventurous? Perhaps somewhere cosy that oozes romance? Should you splurge on somewhere impressive or keep things simple?

Dating is certainly exciting but can also be a little bit daunting, so it's important to go somewhere you can both feel relaxed and have a great first date.

Here are top tips for choosing the ultimate first date location.

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1. Choose somewhere that will inspire good conversation

When you’re online dating over 50, chances are you’ve amassed some excellent stories that you love to share with others. Steer clear of anywhere too noisy and go somewhere you can hear each other loud and clear. 

The fewer interruptions the better, and anywhere with people-watching plus delicious food has got to be win-win for a first date location.

If in doubt, restaurants, cafes and parks are all great picks for providing a comfortable atmosphere and ice-breaking conversation-starters. Think about the local places you've been to that offer a good atmosphere with plenty of points of interest. A restaurant with stunning views, a comfy cafe with interesting art on the walls, or a pub with a lovely ambiance, for example.

Read our tips for dating ice breakers to get the conversation going

2. Match the location to your mutual interests

After exchanging a few emails and perhaps even talking on the phone or Zoom, you might have discovered some mutual likes and dislikes. If you’re fans of fancy food, or a certain kind of delicacy – like cheese fondue, for example – you could score extra points for picking the perfect restaurant. 

However if only one of you is a fan, or if your match doesn’t even eat dairy, that fondue quickly becomes a fon-don’t. Stick to mutual ground and save the quirky ideas for your second and third dates, once you’ve both expressed interest in trying the same new things.

Places with quite broad appeal include bars, pubs and, when the weather is fine, outdoor spaces such as parks, coastal walks and country houses.

Check local event listings (Facebook is a great place to start) for upcoming events that your date might enjoy. Food festivals in summer, Christmas markets in winter, open gardens in spring, for example. Galleries and museums will have events and exhibitions throughout the year so check the listings for anything that appeals. If you're both into music check local venues such as pubs and jazz clubs to see if there's anything on that suits you both.

3. Pick a place that’s easy to find and reach

When you’re meeting someone new for the first time, you don’t usually want to travel too far from home. It’s not exactly the best time to deal with bad traffic and tricky parking – there’s nothing worse than arriving to meet someone late and flustered. 

Make sure the place you agree on is reasonably equidistant for both parties, easy to find and if you’re driving, do some research to check there are plenty of parking options nearby. When you've got to know each other a little better you could look at taking romantic day trips together, but in the early days keep it simple and stress-free.

Read our tips for shaking first date nerves

4. Be thoughtful but not overwhelming

It’s lovely to want to make a first date romantic, but it’s important not to overdo things. Sure, choose a nice restaurant, but leave the chocolates and roses at home. It could make things seriously awkward if you don’t hit it off. 

Casual but smart locations are often a better bet for a first date. A gastro pub with a comfortable interior and good quality pub grub using local ingredients, for example, is unlikely to come across as over the top while still providing a quality experience.

If you prefer luxury but don't want to commit to the expense of an upmarket restaurant on a first date you could consider drinks in the bar or an afternoon tea instead.

Just remember that an over-zealous approach could even put off your match before the first date even gets underway. Not to mention it could lead to false assumptions if things go well and your date expects that treatment every time.

All you really need to bring is a positive outlook and witty repertoire. Timing and subtlety go a long way and if things go well, you can bring out the roses at a later date.

Read the top five common dating mistakes

5. Try being spontaneous

If no particular first date location seems to inspire you, why not try living life on the fly? Suggest meeting your match in a public place – perhaps a park, a coffee shop or outside a store you’re both familiar with – and simply go with the flow. 

Your shared sense of adventure is a great conversation-starter and as you navigate the possibilities together in an act of spontaneity, you’re sure to create a fun date you’ll both remember, as well as some brand new memories to laugh about on your next date!

10 alternatives to dinner and drinks

Dinner and drinks may seem like the classic thing to do, but it can make for an awkward first date if you find yourselves staring at each other tongue-tied after the initial pleasantries. Doing an activity together can provide a topic of conversation to ease you out of those first date nerves, and even if your date doesn’t turn out to be the love of your life, by choosing to do an activity together can make the date more fun and memorable and at the worst you may find yourself a new friend.

Museum visit

Depending on the venue, your conversation could run the gamut from the macabre to the majestic and you can have a cup of coffee together when you’re finished.

Wine tasting

A wine tasting event takes the pressure off of the pair of you by being in a group, gives you something to discuss and lubricates conversation with some delicious wine. Perfect!

Dance class

Even if you’ve got two left feet, this is a brilliant date. You’ll have an excuse to get up close and personal to see if that chemistry is fizzing and you’re guaranteed to laugh a lot.

National Trust properties

Find out which is nearest, meet at the entrance and feast your eyes on our fabulous heritage.

Farmers Market

Most towns have a farmers market within easy reach. Peruse the stalls, find out a bit about each other and have a bite to eat.

A trip to the zoo

Whilst it may not seem like an obvious choice, there is always so much going on at a zoo or wild animal park that there should be lots for you to talk about as you wander round.

Open-air theatre

Pack a picnic, some fizz and enjoy watching an open-air production from the comfort of your picnic blanket. You’ll also have a great excuse to sit closer if the evening temperature starts to drop a little.

Ten-pin bowling

Show off your sporting credentials, or lack of them, and have a drink together afterwards to toast the winner.

A cookery class

If you’ve established that you both enjoy good food, a cookery class can be a great way to indulge in a shared passion. You can even enjoy the fruits of your labour together afterwards.

Ceramic painting

For the artist in you, going to a ceramic painting workshop together can be great fun and you’ll often be in a small group, which you may find makes it easier to relax and enjoy yourself.

Read our guide to first date etiquette

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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