I live in Minneapolis and I’m looking for places to take a first date that are off the beaten path. Any suggestions?
Your bed? Whether that’s off a beaten path or not, it could be an evening-end destination.
Ah, “first date”…the very label sounds rife with pressure. You don’t want to ruin a perfectly good potential romance with this archaic thing called First Date. So you’re on the right track to look for places/things to do that are off the beaten path!
First of all, consider the environment. If you’re going for a romantic dinner vibe, you’ll want to go somewhere the lighting is low. It’s nice if the acoustics are such that people sitting near you can’t hear you very well, or you might feel more self-conscious about being on a first date. It helps if it’s a romantic environment with pretty lighting, art, antiques, and such. And, of course, delicious food to talk about. You can’t go wrong with Barbette. That is a beautiful Euro-bistro looking place, very romantic in a casual way, with food referencing French at a reasonable cost. I also recommend the Northeast Social Club. It’s another beautiful environment with great food, and friendly waitstaff. The Loring Pasta Bar is a phantasmagorical fantasy place that reminds me of the Moulin Rouge. Très beau!
I asked friends for their recommendations as well, to recommend to you different tastes. But actually there’s a lot of consistency among their recommendations. In addition to the unanimous vote for Barbette, one person recommends Moscow on the Hill. Great, affordable food, dark red romantic environment, vodka flights! Plus, if things are going well on the date, you can walk across the street to W. A. Frost’s basement, where she saws there are a lot of comfy couches and cozy corners—a great romantic place to chill and get closer. And they have a great happy hour!
You could go on a coffee date, I guess. I personally have found these to be quite uncomfortable, as did another friend I polled. Caffeine doesn’t help reduce nervousness and the environs can be noisy and too brightly lit. But, if you choose to do such, because you’d rather get caffeinated than slightly to very drunk on your date, a friend and I recommend Caffetto. It’s a very cool, funky place, dimly lit, not wide-open and big and daunting.
I most highly recommend activities while you’re on the first date, to have something to take your mind off what it is and relax into it, distract so you aren’t both focused intensely on each other. I recommend…bowling! Elsie’s in Northeast. is old-school, not huge, a great friendly waitstaff. It’s a favorite of mine and many of my friends. Its not crowded with hipsters like the Bryant-Lake Bowl. But if that’s what you’d like, that’s fun too—plus, great food! There’s also Memory Lanes. Some nights they have punk rock on the lanes bowling in the dark with a wild light show.
For activities mixed with the dinner and drinks type date, I and several friends recommend the Chatterbox Pub in St. Paul. A very fun environment with lots of games you can play with your new soon-to-be sweetie. Nothing gets the blood boiling like competition—perhaps a mean game of Scrabble, or Atari games like Space Invaders or Pac-Man! You can carry the heat of the competition into the rest of the night. And you’ll have stuff to talk about, without that intense focus on each other.
A friend recommends Lucky’s 13 in Mendota for fun: a short road trip to a cute place and old-time good times in a kitschy way, especially on bingo night.
Going to art museums, if you both like to see art. You can talk about what you see, and it might invoke playfulness with each other as well. I recommend the Weisman Art Museum, and of course the Walker Art Center. There is so much to do at the Walker, it can be overwhelming. But, you can take sensory-overload breaks on the comfy white leather couches with large windows overlooking the park. When it’s nice, going to any of our gardens is a great place for a walk: try the U of M Landscape Arboretum or the Rose Gardens.
If you know each other enough already to trust things won’t turn sour over an hour or more, I (and a friend) suggest a little road trip. Not a weekend long camping thing, just a little half-hour to hour drive to explore interesting, cute places. I suggest Taylor’s Falls—there’s hiking, the beautiful St. Croix river, good food at quaint little places, its romantic and fun. You’ll want to go to Franconia Sculpture park in the Taylor’s Falls area: over 70 large-to-gigantic sculptures in a former cornfield. Its fantastic and fun running around exploring the art made by the best artists, local and international. Periodically they host iron pours which are fun. Watching molten red iron poured quickly into molds by a cast of several is hot and exciting.
Hudson is also great. In addition to many points where you can access and enjoy the lovely St. Croix, there are a number of art and antique galleries, cute shops, a good book store and good restaurants. I recommend San Pedro’s Caribbean Café: excellent food, friendly staff, and a really sweet patio.
And my personal favorite, which is not really like a first date at all: attending live music and concerts. It’s really not as focused as a first date could be over dinner, but you can both have so much fun, and converse intermittently anyway (conveniently, you have to lean in close to do so), that it can work just as well in theory as the more traditional sort of first date.
This should give you enough to do for 10 first dates or keep you both well occupied the first three months if all goes well, and you feel like venturing outside the bed.