Beyond dinner: Low-pressure first date ideas

    Does the thought of going out to dinner with a stranger make your heart sink? You’re not alone. If you’re planning a first date, you’d better close that restaurant reservation app right now.

    Matchmaker and dating coach Lori Salkin, senior matchmaker for and, doesn’t actually recommend going out to dinner until date number three. Restaurants, she believes, can be stifling — when surrounded by married couples, families, or groups of office mates, it’s going to feel awkward. Plus, she points out, “Dinner commits you to a certain amount of time.”

    Then there’s the Jewish geography. Salkin works in the Orthodox world, and people are always texting her pictures of new couples they’ve spotted (“Look who’s dating! Did you set them up?”). She recently received pictures of three different couples at the same restaurant on a single night.

    So, where should you go instead? It’s all about finding somewhere to talk and get to know each other, so drinks are good: Salkin recommends “a nice quiet coffee shop or lounge where the music isn’t blasting, where you feel that both of you would be comfortable.”

    Ready to dip your toes back in the pool? Here are a few more first date ideas.

    Try a tea or coffee flight

    Like a wine tasting, but without the alcohol (or the tedious wine-speak). A tasting is just enough of an activity to break the ice, and even if the date’s a total bust, at least you’ll have learned something.

    Find a new favorite cocktail

    My daughter recommended this one, a favorite in the UK. It’s a shorter time commitment than a restaurant, but feels a bit fancier than just having a beer. And mocktails are always an option.

    Visit a farmers’ market

    Low-key enough for a first date, wandering around a farmer’s market offers plenty of distractions — “Ooh, look: organic pumpkins!” — if you find yourself struggling for conversation.

    Hit the ice skating rink

    A seasonal standby, the skating rink is a first-date classic, but beware: it’s not for competitive types. Also, it’s never great to spring this on your date as a surprise — they’ll need to be dressed for it.

    Go out for ice cream

    What to do when you can’t look at another cocktail and you’ve exhausted all the tea and coffee tasting opportunities in your area? Ice cream is a similarly low-grade commitment, while still feeling like a treat.

    Pop into a bookstore

    Pick a bookstore with an in-store cafe for all the conversation-starting benefits of a farmers’ market, but without having to worry about the weather. (Just steer clear of the politics section on first meeting).

    Take a cooking class

    A cooking class gives you a pretty ideal ratio of ice-breaking activity versus chatting opportunity. And you can tell a lot about a person by the way they chop an onion.

    Susannah Cohen is a fashion journalist, e-commerce editor (specialist subjects: lingerie and diamonds) and Jewish mom. Recently relocated from London to the West Coast, she’s feeling a lot more spiritual these days.