Some news: Second dates are tragically underrated—the overlooked middle child wedged between first dates and third dates, which get all the attention. And look, I get it. Date number one is obviously important, because, well, that’s where it all begins, folks! And third dates are when you unofficially-officially move into This Is A Thing territory. But how do you get from date one to three? That’s right, friends—second dates are crucial!
But while, yes, nailing the second date is key to unlocking the coveted mini-milestone that is the third one, there’s also sooo much less pressure than there is on a first date. By date two, you already know you’re both at least somewhat interested in each other, meaning you can kiss first-date nerves and awkwardness goodbye, along with the fear that you could wind up desperately trying to fake your way through an hour of small talk with someone you have zero chemistry with. Hence why dating expert Amber Kelleher-Andrews, co-CEO of Kelleher Matchmaking, calls second dates “a gift.”
”You both know there is a common thread of attraction, and you both desire to be in each other's company for a second time, so it is an opportunity to see your match without the initial first date nerves,” she says. “Round 2 is the perfect time to reveal some fun facts about yourself and ease into getting to know each other without the first-round pressures.”
In other words, second dates are all about getting into it. No more exchanging pleasantries about what you do for work or how long you’ve both lived in this city. “Awkward small talk can turn into real conversations, yet you aren’t in that completely comfortable stage that comes with subsequent dates, so it feels electric and exciting still,” says Rachel DeAlto, chief dating expert at dating app Stir. Second date magic is real!
But to tap into that magic, you need to make sure you set the right tone in terms of the second date location/activity. And while, sure, grabbing dinner or drinks is always a viable option, “planning a more meaningful date is a great way to jumpstart a deeper connection with someone,” says dating expert Amana Bradford, CEO and co-founder of The League. So if you’re in need of a little inspiration, we’ve kindly gone ahead and come up with 22 expert-approved second date ideas that show this ever-crucial if oft-overlooked dating stage the respect it deserves!
1. Go to your actual favorite bar
N e v e r take a first date to your true favorite bar, because if it's terrible, the bar will have a stink permeating through it for months to come. But by date two, you're more ready to show this person the place where the bartenders know your drink order and will let you charge your phone behind the bar. It's a simple premise to bring your date to your favorite bar, but it serves a lot of overlooked, crucial second date purposes: You'll be comfortable here (and more likely to be yourself), and it's a way of letting this person you have budding interest in learn more about you via the kind of atmosphere you enjoy.
2. Take a long walk together
Walking is believed by therapists to help people open up—you're literally moving forward, and it takes the pressure off sitting still and maintaining eye contact. So borrow that little tip and use it on your second date to get to better know someone. This is a great suggestion if you're on a roll texting one night and want to continue the conversation IRL—just suggest meeting up for a walk, and you have a low-pressure, low-key second date.
3. Hit up a cozy cafe
As we’ve established, a second date is all about continuing to get to know each other and (hopefully) deepening your connection. This means you’re gonna need to be able to hear each other, which, in turn, means you’re gonna wanna try to pick a place that’s on the quieter side. “It’s important to remember loud venues such as trendy restaurants and concert halls make talking and listening very difficult,” says Kelleher-Andrews. Instead, consider the flow of conversation and choose a venue or location that allows you to relax and truly connect.
4. Go to a cheap concert
On the other hand, sometimes high volume can work in your favor. In case you weren't aware, concerts are loud. So loud, you need to get really close together to hear someone speak. Spend an hour essentially yelling into each other's ears at close, I-can-feel-your-body-heat proximity, and then go somewhere quiet afterwards to pore over the details of the show. This is a recipe for a make out and you're welcome.
5. Find a dive bar with a jukebox
Did you know you can literally just type "jukebox" into Google Maps, and it'll turn up places that have jukeboxes? You may need to comb through reviews to verify that it's working and still actually in the bar, but at most, this is a five-minute research project for a very good second date option. Take turns putting dollars into the jukebox and spend a couple of hours driving the entire rest of the bar crazy while getting to know each other via musical taste.
6. Get some groceries and cook something simple
The key word here is: simple. Save cooking the extremely complicated whole chicken recipe from that beautiful cookbook you got for your birthday three years ago for down the relationship line. Nothing against whole chickens, but a raw slab of pink meat doesn't scream LET'S SMOOCH! At the risk of being overly cheesy, spend the night making gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and comparing who does it best.
7. Take a cooking class together
Alternatively, if you could use a chance to brush up on your cooking skills before you’re ready to enter the cozy, cooking-together stage with your crush, why not take a cooking class together? “The key to second date success is planning something that is fun and low pressure that allows you to talk,” says DeAlto. “When you actively do something together, it takes the pressure off just talking and gives you a shared experience.” Learning to cook something new “allows you to collaborate, chat, and create—while talking: the key ingredient.”
8. Get happy hour snacks after work
Maybe you're using your second date as an extended prelude to doing a full-fledged, sit-down dinner date, and that's fine! Graduate from simply "grabbing drinks" to grabbing drinks and snacks. Most bars have happy hour menus of snacky things like marinated olives or, I don't know, some kind of dip. Order a few, sit at the bar so your knees might touch, and get to know each other over cheap finger food.
9. Go to a karaoke bar
BEFORE YOU CLOSE THIS TAB and find me online to haze me for this suggestion, just sit tight for a second. You can go to a karaoke bar, and not actually do any karaoke yourself. Find a place with a karaoke night, stake your claim at a booth in the back, and enjoy the free entertainment. Knowing how goofy this person is, and how much humor they can find in things like buzzed people scream-singing Bruce Springsteen, is key second date material.
10. Have a meat and cheese dinner in a park
Once again, maybe a Very Serious Sit Down Dinner isn't your second date vibe—totally understandable. Keep things more casual and see how this person is at selecting complimentary charcuterie by assembling a cheese-and-meat picnic at the grocery store, and then eating it outside in some grass.
11. Mini golf!
A mini-golf date is a cute classic that will take you right back to all the butterflies-in-your-stomach excitement of high school romance, which, honestly, is kinda the quintessential second-date vibe. It’s also playful, interactive, and bound to spark some friendly (or maybe more-than-friendly) competition, adds DeAlto.
12. Wine tasting
It’s like getting drinks, but it counts as a cooler activity because you’re probably at a vineyard or somewhere else cool and someone is there to explain the wine to you. You’re drinking together, but you’re also ~learning~ together.
13. Paint and sip
Similar to wine tasting, but instead of drinking that counts as an activity in and of itself, this one is drinking that comes with an activity on the side. Also, you can bond over your artistic skillz (or, you know, lack thereof).
14. Drive-in movie
A regular movie date is a bad second date idea—not only because it’s a little meh on the creativity scale, but also because you can’t talk to each other during a movie (unless you’re, you know, the worst). Seeing a movie in your car, on the other hand? You can talk all you want, it’s your car!
15. Go book shopping together
There's a reason why every manic pixie-esque rom com has some sort of bookstore scene, and it's that bookstores are, somehow, romantic as fuck. Maybe it's the smell of all that paper and ink, or the close quarters you're forced into between the shelves. Pick a favorite bookstore or one you've always wanted to check out, and browse the shelves together. It'll be a quiet space where the two of you can speak somewhat privately, and you'll get a sense for what kind of stuff they like to read. Perhaps this is how #Potterheads keep finding each other.
16. Grab a food truck dinner
But with an added twist: Send your date on a mission to order your food for you, and you order their food. If you hate what they pick, boom—your first argument is now out of the way, congrats! If you love it, all the more reason to push for a third and fourth and fifth and millionth date. Being able to eat happily together is relationship gold.
17. Go bowling
A bowling date is the perfect combo of fun yet low-key for a chill second date. “Similar to mini golf, it brings you back to your youth, and creates a competitive but playful atmosphere,” says DeAlto.
18. Go to a museum
Typically, I'm a huge proponent of visiting museums alone, so you can go at your own pace. But they're also great second date spots. You can get to know each other between artworks, and, probably because they're so quiet and stoic, museums are hotbeds of intimacy. And a final added bonus? Because they're literally designed to showcase arts, museums almost always have very flattering lighting. So you'll look great the entire time. Where else can you get that?
19. See a comedy show
For real, though, comedy dates are the freaking best. Not only do you get to see a cool show, but it’s also an opportunity to get to know your date (and, crucially, your date’s sense of humor) on a deeper level. “Laughing together is one of the best ways to connect,” says DeAlto, adding that grabbing a drink together after the show and recapping the event is an ideal way to maximize the getting-to-know-each-other-more-deeply potential of this second date option.
20. See a play
Pretty much all the same benefits of seeing a comedy show together, but it’s ~the theater~ which makes it fancy(ish).
21. See a burlesque show
I will literally never shut up about how a burlesque show is the best date in the world. Live entertainment! hot vibes! A lively crowd! It’s pure fun and flirtiness—aka second-date gold.
22. Brunch date!
Who says a second date has to happen at night? Day dates have a way of keeping the vibe light while also providing an opportunity for you to figure out whether you guys are, frankly, still into each other during daylight hours. Like, anything can feel flirty when you’re gazing into each other’s eyes in a dimly lit bar at 9 p.m. Figuring out whether you still like each other when the sun’s up is a major chemistry test!
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