Coffee, dinner, movies… dating can start feeling redundant pretty fast unless you make an effort to shake things up. But how? To help you out, we found 10 original ways two people can get to know each other. Some are new spins on old favorites, while others stretch your boundaries and can easily jump-start some sparks — plus, just think of how creative you’ll look for suggesting it (a definite plus). The next time you’re racking your brain for something to do, consult this list of possibilities.
Different Date Idea #1: Scavenger hunt Your proposal: “Let’s head to the local park and find people who look like their pets.” Why it works: Not only will this make your typical walk in the park way more interesting, it builds instant intimacy as you two both giggle at the same inside joke (like the woman whose poofy hairstyle matches her Maltese’s long mane to a tee). And this fresh spin can work for just about any venue. If you’re at a museum, try to find the most baffling piece of abstract art. If you’re at a swanky nightclub, try to find the best/worst fashion statement among its patrons.
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Different Date Idea #2: Taste-testing tour Your proposal: “Let’s tour Chinatown and try to hunt down the best dumplings.” Or, if you’re near a Polish community, the best pierogies; if you’re near a Mexican neighborhood, the best margarita, and so on. Why it works: “This introduces you to parts of town you might not have explored before,” says Tamara Duricka Johnson, author of 31 Dates in 31 Days. And since you two can compare notes on which dumpling/pierogi/margarita is best, there will be no shortage of conversation topics. You’ll feel like a duo of restaurant reviewers giving critiques.
Different Date Idea #3: “Pick-a-place” dinner date Your proposal: Can’t decide where to eat? Open your local Yellow Pages directory to the restaurant section, close your eyes, and randomly place your finger somewhere on the page. That’s where you’re dining tonight! You can also try this tactic with a Zagat guide or local newspaper restaurant listing. Why it works: Since you have no idea where you’ll end up, it injects an instant sense of adventure. “It’s fun, different, and exciting,” explains dating coach David Wygant. “Sometimes [it’s] not the best meal, but a great, funny story.”
Different Date Idea #4: Road-testing a new vehicle Your proposal: “Let’s head to a high-end car dealership and road-test their snazziest set of wheels around town.” Why it works: Your date will immediately feel high-octane once you’re behind the wheel of a sleek Ferrari or a sunny convertible, points out Wygant. You can drive anywhere (the beach, around town, lookout point) and enjoy yourself, because it’s not the destination, it’s the way you’re getting there that counts.
Different Date Idea #5: Trace your potential future Your proposal: “Let’s find a fortune teller and see what the future holds.” Why it works: “You’ll have fun seeing how well the fortune teller can guess your interests while learning more about your date’s interests,” explains Johnson. And since fortune tellers inevitably bring up past relationships, it’s a sneaky way for you to get the lowdown on your date’s exes without asking about them outright.
Different Date Idea #6: Learn how to do something new Your proposal: “I’d love to learn how to drive a stick shift. Would you mind showing me the ropes in your car?” Why it works: By learning a skill from your date, it builds trust and brings you two closer together. So if there’s something you’d like to learn how to do — whether it’s how to water ski, speak French, fire a gun at a shooting range, etc. — suggest it to your date, or even post your request in your online dating profile and see who bites.
Different Date Idea #7: Freebie events Your proposal: “Let’s see what free tickets or events we can find online or in the local paper and go.” Why it works: Since the sky’s the limit on what you’ll find — like open mike night at an artsy café or an amateur Shakespeare performance in the park — it adds a sense of adventure. Plus, “it gets you to see a show, music, comedy, or art event you might not typically see,” points out Johnson. Even if it turns out to be horrible, there’s an upside: you can cut out early and have a laugh over how bad it was (which is no biggie, since after all, it was free).
Different Date Idea #8: Pretend to be something you’re not Your proposal: “How about we take a tour of the local culinary institute pretending to be prospective students?” Or: “How about we pretend we’re house hunting for fancy real estate and check out some high-end open houses being held in the area?” Why it works: Since you’re colluding on a secret mission, it’ll give your date a conspiratorial edge.
Different Date Idea #9: Do a good deed Your proposal: “Let’s go to the local homeless shelter and serve dinner.” Or, head to the park to pitch in on a clean-up effort or volunteer to walk dogs for a local rescue organization. Why it works: “You get to serve others and see the kind side of each other,” says Johnson. All that good karma is bound to create some feel-good vibes about each other, too!
Different Date Idea #10: Toy-store shenanigans Your proposal: “Let’s find the biggest local toy store and have some fun.” Why it works: “It will bring out your playful side,” says Johnson. You’ll feel like a kid again and get to walk down memory lane with your date, recalling how you could create some impressive art on your Etch-a-Sketch or how you and your Cabbage Patch Kid were once inseparable.