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40 Date Ideas: Perfect for a First Date or to Make Date Night Fun Again

date ideas san diego north county

Is there anything more exciting (and also nerve wracking) than a first date? You swiped right or matched or had a meet cute and now you’re moving towards meeting up.

That’s where some people tend to freeze up with “What should we do?” “Where should we go?” And “Will this date make a good story someday?”

I’m all about a good story, so I’ve got a few ideas for you — forty, in fact — separated by type. So if you’re a foodie, or if you’re feeling adventurous, or if you and your match are more outdoorsy, or whatever mood you’re in, we’ve got some answers to the “What should we do” conundrum.

Already coupled up? You can always give your romance a nice boost with a fun date to remind you why you fell in love.

FOODIES

1. Cooking Classes

Want to know if you and your match can really heat things up? In the kitchen, I mean! How about a cooking class? Sur la Table offers classes in a retail location, while The Curious Fork has classes at their Cafe. Cook with Jason offers a different spin on cooking classes by starting at a Farmer’s Market and then heading off to do some cooking.

2. Farmers Markets

Speaking of… a stroll through any one of the Farmers Markets in the area would be a fun way to get to know someone’s likes and dislikes, especially if you end up making them dinner some day soon after. And hey… if that date goes well, leave an impression by sending them off with a bouquet of fresh flowers!

3. Dinner on a Farm

Want to really wow your new Farm to Table friend? How about a dinner at a local working farm? Cyclops Farms has a monthly dinner that includes a view of the ocean and a lovely sunset, not to mention dinner prepared by one of our local talented chefs, as well as wine and beer tastings.

You can’t get a reservation on line. You’ll need to visit the farm on Saturday mornings for more information. Grab some organic produce while you’re there!

4. Chuao Chocolate Joy Factory Tour

Take your potential sweetie on a tour of this local Carlsbad chocolatier. You’ll get to see chocolates being made and enjoy a guided tasting of their crafted creations. Tours are offered on Fridays at 11AM and 12:30PM, but you will need to purchase tickets on line in advance.

ACTIVE

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5. Go on a Bike Ride

We’ve got all kinds of options when it comes to pedal powered dates in North County. It just depends on the two of you and what you’re up for. You can go for a cruise along The Strand, ride road bikes along the coast, or get dirty on a single track. If you want to enjoy the pleasure of a bike ride but don’t want to get too sweaty on a first date, you can always rent an electric bike!

6. Kayak

Get to know each other while paddling the lagoons or the coast. A fun area to explore by kayak is Sunny Jim’s Cave in La Jolla. It used to be a secret passage for bootleggers back in the days of Prohibition!

7. Golf

We don’t lack for golf courses in North County, and it’s a pretty good bet you’ve already confirmed whether or not your date has a set of clubs in the closet, so grab your gloves and spikes and get out there!

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend a full round of golf. Maybe just 9 holes or even a bucket of balls at the driving range, just in case it’s not the date you expected. If it is, well then… a round of Arnold Palmers at the club!

8. Stand Up Paddle

Grab a couple of boards and paddles and head out for a nice afternoon in San Elijo Lagoon just across the road from Cardiff Beach. If you build up an appetite out on the water, there are plenty of places nearby to have a bite and a drink.

9. Go for a Hike

Did your match have a picture of themselves on Potato Chip Rock? Then you know they’re a decent enough hiker. Go out on a trail for your first date! There are plenty of options in North County. You can hike a volcano in Carsbad, go on a trek at Lake Hodges, or on an ocean view hike at Torrey Pines. Maybe later, you can take that Potato Chip Rock picture together!

10. Indoor Rock Climbing

You connected over your spirit of adventure, so meet up at an indoor rock climbing gym to see if this is the person you’d want to scale boulders with! A great new place to climb indoors is Vital in Oceanside, which made our list of Unique Workouts.

11. Skateboarding

Are you and your match into kick flips and ollies? Then meet up at a place where you’ll both have fun, no matter how the date pans out. Try one of the local skate parks in North County. I mean, we hope it works out, but if not, at least you got a fun day out of it.

12. Surf Lessons

Say one of your post-swipe, pre-meetup conversations was about having lived in California all your life but never having learned to surf. If you don’t mind the possibility of making a fool of yourself for the chance to actually get up on a board with your new friend, why not take a surf lesson?

13. Beach Volleyball

This one is an easy one. Grab a ball, a towel, and some water and meet at any one of the nets up and down the coast. Make sure you check to see when they’re not being used by clubs. If you can’t find an empty net, just bump the ball anywhere on the sand. The point is to have fun and get to know each other. Maybe avoid spiking on them on the first date…

FUNGAMES

date ideas san diego bowling

14. Bowling

Okay, so maybe you haven’t bowled in a while. That’s okay! There was probably a time you hadn’t dated in a while, yet here you are! There are a few places to go, but for a really great bowling date, I highly recommend the lanes at Urge in San Marcos.

Upon entering the restaurant, you’ll see the giant Time Magazine frame to the left. That’s where you’ll find the entrance to The Big Lebowski themed bowling alley. The lanes are regulation lanes, so if you’re a pro, your games count. If you haven’t watched the movie, you don’t know about the White Russians. Doesn’t matter… just go in and enjoy the extensive menu of those or any other drink. You can also order food in this part of the restaurant!

They’ve also got Bocce Ball, Giant Jenga, and all kinds of other games at Urge in San Marcos. OH! And food and drinks…

15. Trivia Nights

Do you have massive amounts of useless information in your head? Impress your match with your knowledge of all the stuff you know that will never matter… go to a Trivia Night! The best part about this is that you can be a team and work together from the very beginning. Or if you don’t, you’ll know they’re not the one to waste your random facts on.

5 Fun Trivia Nights in North County

16. Jump for Joy

Did you swipe right because you liked their childlike enthusiasm for life? Did you meet your match in goofiness? How about an hour or two bouncing around at a Trampoline park? Come on… you know you want to!

17. Croquet at Rancho Valencia

Maybe you and your match have a more refined idea of fun and games. An afternoon of croquet on the lawn might be in the cards for you. The idyllic surroundings of hibiscus and bougainvillea are a lovely backdrop for a sweet afternoon. Afterward, enjoy a quiet lunch together at Veladora.

18. GlowZone

GlowZone is a new fun center in town that has several fun and challenging attractions, like a Ninja Course, Bazooka Ball, ropes course, zip lining, laser tag, bumper cars, and more. Great for dates with someone who truly embrace someone their inner child!

19. K1 Speed

Do you and your prospective partner have a need for speed? Go to K1 and get your race on! K1 Speed in Carlsbad has environmentally-friendly electric karts on a large indoor track, as well as indoor entertainment venues that feature authentic racing memorabilia, pit cafes, meeting rooms and pool tables. K1 Speed is a great place for a first date for those that always dreamed about being a race car driver!

OUTDOORSY

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20. Tide Pools

Have fun exploring the local tide pools as you ask each other all those awkward questions. If you don’t want to answer, you can always deflect with a star fish sighting!

21. Star Gazing

Did the Lunar Eclipse come up in conversation? If so, you might want to do some night sky exploring. You can drive out to Palomar Mountain to see some celestial action from the Observatory, or you could go to Wavelength Brewery in Vista on any one of their star gazing nights. Giant telescopes are pulled out right in front of the tasting room to check out the starry skies.

22. Cruise Around the Harbor

Don’t have a boat handy? No problem. You can rent a boat down at Oceanside Harbor! Take a leisurely afternoon cruise around the harbor with some snacks on board, or save your appetite for lunch or dinner at the shops at the Harbor. If all goes well, you’ll be enjoying a sweet sunset later that evening. Don’t forget the sunscreen!

23. Dog Beach

So maybe you guys match, but you want to make sure your fur babies are cool with this love connection. Why not take your pups to Dog Beach in Del Mar and find out? Afterward, you can all go grab a bite at one of the many pet-friendly restaurants.

24. Birch Aquarium

There’s something soothing about watching sea life swim around. And if you’re already nervous about the first date, maybe a relaxing activity like watching jelly fish float about is what you need to make a good first impression.

25. Sunset at the Beach

I know… I know… another no brainer. But before you move on to the next idea, remember to keep a few things in mind before heading out to watch the sun go down.

First, you want to check the sunset time. You wouldn’t want to get there only to see the tiniest sliver of orange fading away. You’ll also want to check the tides. If your first choice of beach is washed out due to a high tide, have a backup plan for watching the sunset from higher ground, like maybe Torrey Pines or Carlsbad Cliffs.

Make sure to bring a blanket or a towel to sit on. No you don’t need one… it’s just a nice touch. Finally, surprise your date with a few little bites to nosh on. Not sure what to grab? There are plenty of local markets that have a nice selection of meats and cheeses.

26. Walk on the Pier

Any time of day is perfect for a walk on the pier. Whether you go to La Jolla Pier or Oceanside Pier, there are lots of food and drink options, if you hit it off on your stroll. Or be completely old-fashioned and split a milkshake at Ruby’s at the end of Oceanside Pier.

27. Meditation Gardens

This is a beautiful and serene spot to sit and have a quiet get-to-know-you chat with your new meditation buddy. FYI: Kissing in the gardens is discouraged. Don’t ask me how I know…

CULTURE CREATURES

date ideas wine paint

28. Sip & Paint

Do you and your upcoming date have a passion for painting? There are a few galleries in North County where you can have a glass of wine and paint, either pottery or on canvas. And if you bring out the artist in each other, you’ll know it’s a good match.

29. Outdoor Concert or Movies

Did your match mention that they’re a big movie buff? Or maybe they like to listen to live music under the stars? Show them that you listen and set up a date at any one of the concerts or movies playing outdoors throughout North County.

Guide to Outdoor Concerts and Movies

30. Museums

If you and your date fancy an afternoon of quiet contemplation, why not stroll through galleries, sharing your thoughts on photographs, paintings, and sculptures?

31. Live Music

Did you two crazy kids connect over your favorite cover band? Or do you both like scouting out new local acts? Maybe you noticed their favorite band is coming to play at the Belly Up soon. Then you definitely need to make your first date one that’s music to both your ears. Stay on top of the local music scene by signing up for our weekly Things to Do email!

32. Karaoke

Did you ever see My Best Friend’s Wedding? No? Okay, just go to YouTube and search for the karaoke scene of that movie to see that you don’t have to be the next American Idol to have fun at a karaoke bar. Even if you don’t want to brave the mic, being in the audience can be quite entertaining. You and your date will have a fun time, even if you don’t get up and sing your favorite Neil Diamond tune.

33. Photo Walk 

Do you and your date have a love of photography? There are so many places to capture here. Make a list of a few more scenic spots and go on a photo walk. Or maybe your photography is more social media inclined. You can do a bit of a scavenger hunt and drive around to capture the most Instagrammable spots in North County.

34. Musicals at Moonlight

If your match has a thing for musicals and is also a fan of having picnics on the grass, there’s one perfect place to go on a date with them: Moonlight Amphitheater. Seats are available with an open lawn in front, so you can arrive early bring a blanket and order up a while dinner and drinks to share before the show. Moonlight has a great summer line up, and in event years, has expanded to included several fall dates, so there are plenty of opportunities to watch a show under the stars with your new theater buddy!

JUST DRINKS

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35. Adult Beverages

Sometimes, you’re just too busy to put too much creative thought into a date. Totally understandable. Another safe bet, provided there are plans in place for getting home safely, is to go with the standard: Meet for a drink. Just because it’s standard doesn’t mean it can’t be creative. There are plenty of tasting rooms, wineries, and breweries to choose from, so if you can’t decide where, take a look at our guides.

36. Meet for Coffee

You could start your story with a safe bet like meeting for coffee. It’s a quick and efficient way to get to see if there’s a spark or not. But don’t just jump at meeting at “the mermaid” for a cuppa. We’ve got so many great independent coffee shops that serve incredibly delicious coffee. Plus, you’ll earn bonus points with your date for being a savvy coffee connoisseur.

37. Meet for Juice

Caffeine not your style? Maybe you’d rather chat over something fresh squeezed… or better yet, fresh pressed. How about meeting up for some juice? There are plenty of juice bars in North County, but the one I recommend for a first date is Choice Juicery in Carlsbad Village. There’s a huge patio with lots of seating available. And if you hit it off, you could continue the conversation with a walk down to the beach.

JUST PLAIN CRAZY

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38. Skydiving

Did you meet your match for crazy? Do they have the same wild adventurous spirit as you? Take the plunge from the first date and go skydiving! GoJump Oceanside offers tandem jumps nearly every day of the week, weather permitting. All you need is the courage to say yes! And honestly… jumping out of a plane is a heck of a lot less stressful sometimes than dating, so why not?

39. Ziplining

Maybe you don’t want to go full plunge just yet. How about a taking it down a notch with a glide over land securely strapped to a zip line? The La Jolla Zip Zoom Zipline is the newest North County attraction for adrenaline junkies and it’s a whole lot of fun!

40. Swimming with Sharks

You’ve faced your fears of dating… now face your fear of sharks! You can swim with a local guide offshore about 12 nautical miles where you can free-dive or snorkel with leap ore sharks.

 

There you have it… plenty of ideas for that fun first date (or new date night ideas). Now all you have to do is ask! That one, we’ll have to leave to you. Have fun!

Sugar Jones Sugar Jones has been blogging about life since 2008. She has contributed to various local news stations for lifestyle segments, speaking about tech, social media, travel, food, and family. She most enjoys sharing her favorite places and things to do around her adopted home of North County. You can follow Sugar's adventures on her blog, Live the Sweet Life, Facebook, and Google+.