Summer first date venues on trial

Will a picnic hit the spot, or should you take your new hottie to the pub? We put summer lovin’ first date ideas to the test

By Jane Hoskyn
A good first date is an even better date in the sunshine. Warm, bright weather makes us happy and frisky – and of course we’re all wearing just that bit less clothing. On the other hand, sitting on wet grass and getting flies in your beer isn’t terribly romantic. We reveal the pros and cons of some popular summer first date venues.

Pub garden
The good: First dates are hell on the nerves – especially if you met online and this is the first time you’ve laid eyes on each other. The pub is a relaxing venue because it’s familiar, informal and relatively easy on the pocket. You can calm your nerves with a drink, sit close together in a quiet pub garden, and chat without being interrupted.
The bad: Pub gardens can get chockablock when the weather’s good, and a packed, noisy space isn’t the best place to get to know someone. Fewer people will be about if the weather’s bad, but who wants to spend a first date sitting drinking beer in the rain?

The good: A spontaneous picnic is cheap, fun, and very romantic. It gives you the chance to relax together, laughing and chatting without worrying about where the waiter has disappeared to or who should foot the massive restaurant bill. You can take as long as you like over your food, and head off for a gentle stroll afterwards.
Venue choice is easy: just choose a sheltered spot in a park you know well, and let the hours melt away until you’re star-gazing at midnight.
The bad: Picnics, like camping, are not to everyone’s taste. Not every dater will be comfortable sitting on the grass and eating with their hands, especially on a first date. So unless you’re fairly sure that your companion digs eating in the great outdoors, be wary of diving straight in with this idea.

Walk around town
The good: A leisurely wander on a warm afternoon or evening allows you to chat easily, keeping up the momentum by pointing out things around you. Show off your favourite part of town, or explore new territory together. If you don’t click, a swift getaway is simple – just escort your date back to where you started.
The bad: Not everyone likes schlepping about. And the British summertime being what it is, the heavens could open when least expected.

Free festival or carnival
The good: Britain’s cities hum all summer to the sound and energy of free street celebrations. These parades and carnivals are a great alternative for anyone who’d rather avoid the mud and expense of the big music festivals, and they’re fantastic for a date. The festival atmosphere will put you both in a good mood and give you plenty to talk about – so not more awkward silences.
The bad: There are many different sorts of free festival, but they all have one thing in common – they’re darned noisy. Whether it’s steel bands or screaming whistles, there’s bound to be some din to wreck your attempts to get to know each other better. Local pubs may also be so full that you can’t get a seat.

Outdoor restaurant
The good: Why settle for another takeaway in front of the telly, when you can feed each other eat al fresco? A good spot outside a restaurant needn’t be any less cosy than a table for two indoors, and sharing a meal is a great getting-to-know-you experience. Eye contact is easy, and you can crank up the flirting with a spot of footsie. It’s also the perfect place to show off your social skills, table manners and generosity.
The bad: Dinner is rather formal for a first date, especially if you’ve not met in person before. If there’s no chemistry, you’re stuck. The “who pays” dilemma can add tension to an otherwise relaxed date. And eating outside runs the risk of flies in your vino.

Boat ride
The good: There’s a real buzz to being out on the water during the summer, and it can be fantastically romantic. Go for a leisurely boat trip for tourists, either down a river or around a bay – best leave the sea fishing for another time. If you’re feeling really cheesy you could always re-enact “I’m the king of the world” from Titanic… just not after you’ve had a few beers!
The bad: Being stuck on a boat for a couple of hours is not much fun if conversation runs dry – and there’s no way to escape. If one of you gets seasick (well, river-sick), you probably won’t remember your first date for the best reasons.

The beach
The good: A beach date is more than just a picnic with added sand. It’s bursting with opportunities for getting touchy-feely with a new partner. You can rub sun cream on each other, splash about in the sea and build sandcastles to your hearts’ content.
The bad: Britain may be an island, but there aren’t many beaches to go round. If getting to one involves more than a wander down your local seafront, a seaside daytrip is a bit over the top for a first date. Plus, you need to be very sure that the weather is good. Seasides in the rain are about as cheery as smallpox.