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Capital Cruises
Photograph: Courtesy Capital Cruises

The best first date ideas in Austin

Hey, good lookin'. These first date ideas are sure to make an impression—and to guarantee a second date.

By Anastacia Uriegas
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Dating in Austin is rough enough, but whether you meet someone by swiping right or IRL, it's crucial to nail that first date. Sure, you can grab a drink at a dive bar or go to a romantic restaurant, but this city is filled with things to do that are far more adventurous. Get to know your date with a gorgeous sunset, catch some tunes, relive your childhood or share a drink—the choice is yours. Just don't bring up the ex.

First date ideas

The Contemporary Austin
Photograph: Courtesy The Contemporary Austin

1. Discuss contemporary art

Things to do Congress Ave District

The Contemporary Austin consists of two museums: the Jones Center’s modern, newly-renovated digs downtown or Laguna Gloria’s sprawling grounds in West Austin. Both offer a creative, stimulating way to spend an afternoon with your new friend—and the sculpture garden at Laguna Gloria does require walking through some secluded areas (just saying). Admission to both museums is free on Tuesdays.

Millenium Youth Entertainment Complex
Photograph: Courtesy Millenium Youth Entertainment Complex

2. Have a rec center romance

Things to do Play spaces East Austin

Pretend you’re a kid again at Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex—it’s open to people of all ages. The eastside complex houses an arcade with new and classic games (so you can impress your date with those Ms. Pacman skills), a bowling alley and rollerskating until 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Here’s the best part: Guests over 21 can BYOB to the skating rink on weekends.  

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3. Catch live music at a classic venue

Nightlife Travis Heights

Spend the evening at one of Austin's live music institutions: the Continental Club, open since 1955. This venue is the place to watch rock, blues, country, rockabilly and garage bands play every night of the weekdon’t miss the Peterson Brothers’ residency every Monday. For a more intimate experience, visit the Continental Club Gallery upstairs, where they have a different lineup from the original space. Looking for other places to jam with a date? Check out our list of where to see Austin's best live music.

Wu Chow
Photograph: Natalie Paramore

4. Share dumplings over dim sum

Restaurants Chinese Market District

Fumbling with chopsticks is super endearing, so why not plan a dim sum brunch date? Every Sunday, Wu Chow’s dim sum brunch menu offers over 30 bite-size savory and sweet offerings like potstickers, fritters, steamed buns and its bestselling Shanghai pork soup dumplings. If you’re skilled with your sticks, try feeding your date—just don’t drop a potsticker in his or her tiki drink (Wu Chow is known for the tropical libations). 

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Punch bowl at Whisler's
Photograph: Mark Weatherford

5. Split a bowl of punch

Bars Cocktail bars East Cesar Chavez

Warm weather means that Austin’s best cocktail bars are adding shareable punches to their new menus. Whisler’s tiki-style “Touch of Love” punch is served in a retro punchbowl with two straws and Kitty Cohen’s naughtily-named, gin-based “Key Party” comes in a crystal bowl with matching glasses. If you’re the type who prefers to move slowly, this is a tamer way to swap spit.

Alamo Drafthouse
Photograph: Courtesy Austin CVB/Cory Ryan

6. Alamo Drafthouse Ritz

Movie theaters Congress Ave District

Nothing is more quintessentially Austin than Weird Wednesday at the Ritz, the former adult theater and punk rock club that is now home to the downtown location of the Alamo Drafthouse. Expect kooky films from the past with “girl gangs, mutant punks, lesbian vampires, pimp ghosts, post-apocalyptic barbarian queens, and karate-chopping nuns.” This is a date which will guarantee colorful post-movie conversation.

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360 Bridge
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Brian Dooley

7. Take in a beautiful view

Attractions Historic buildings and sites Cat Mountain

Everyone knows about Mount Bonnell, but the 360 overlook provides an even more breathtaking view of the river, the bluffs and the Pennybacker Bridge (more commonly known as the 360 Bridge). Watching one of Texas’s famously colorful sunsets together is a super romantic way to start a relationship.

W Austin
Photograph: Courtesy W Austin

8. Party like it’s the ’90s

Hotels Warehouse District

Flash back to the ’90s and channel Zack Morris and Kelly Kapowski at W Austin’s new REWIND: ’90s Happy Hour every Friday. Sip on $5 cocktails like the Carrie Bradshaw cosmo, Smells Like Teen Spirit fuzzy navel or Gin and Juice. In addition to a DJ, the hotel bar is also busting out your favorite ’90s board games and grown-up versions of Bagel Bites, Hot Pockets and Lunchables.

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Antonelli's Cheese Shop
Photograph: Brian Birzer

9. Take a cheese class

Shopping Specialist food and drink Hancock

Antonelli’s in Hyde Park is one of the top artisanal cheese shops in the country, sourcing from both Texas and around the world. It's also a prime date spot—you and your sweetheart can sample and learn about different styles of cheese at one of the Cheese 101 classes hosted here throughout the month. Grab a bottle of wine on the way to the shop; the classes are BYOB.

SFC Farmers' Market
Photograph: Courtesy SFC Farmers' Market

10. Stroll around a farmers' market

Nothing says, “Hey, let’s hold hands and touch produce” like a Saturday morning stroll around the farmers' market. But the SFC Farmers’ Market at Republic Square Park, which runs on Saturdays from 9am to 1pm, offers more than just produce. There are vendors selling locally-made honey, soap, jam, cheese, bread, fresh juice and more—plenty of ingredients to impress your date with a home-cooked meal. Grab a bite from popular food trucks after shopping to have a picnic in the shaded grass. 

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The Thinkery
Photograph: Courtesy The Thinkery

11. Tinker around at The Thinkery

Attractions Libraries, archives and foundations Rmma

Get playful at the Thinkery, Austin’s premier children’s museum featuring hands-on interactive exhibits. Once a month, the museum closes its doors to kiddos and hosts Thinkery21, a 21+ evening event; each night has a theme and accompanying exhibits and performances along with food trucks and a cash bar.

Capital Cruises
Photograph: Courtesy Capital Cruises

12. Create Instagram envy

Things to do Holly

Explore Lady Bird Lake in your very own swan pedal boat from Capital Cruises. For $15 per hour, you and your date can float around the lake taking photos of the water, skyline and each other (swoon). Nothing is cuter on a first date than hanging out in a giant white swan; just remember to show up early to ensure your spot.  

Looking for free things things to do?

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