I have suffered through some terrible and hilarious dating and friend experiences, and came away with some advice that I'm happy to share.
Platonic Date Ideas for New Friends
So you’ve done the most difficult part—gone to a party. You dressed nicely and were witty and fun. Wonderfully and happily, you met someone interesting. You’ve emailed each other a few times, and they asked if you’d like to get together. Yes, you would. And now you’re planning to meet up to do something fun.
But, you’re stressing out. Where should you go? What should you do? You don't want to be boring with someone new! Your quandary may even be compounded by this person not being geographically desirable. But, you like them, and to heck with the drive.
Is it a romantic date? Nope. It’s (take a deep breath) a platonic date! Eeeeeeek!
The Challenges of Making Friends as an Adult
Getting to the point where you can lounge around your friends’ houses under a blanket while watching Netflix movies and cracking dirty jokes is not always easy (or even fun), especially for adults and the shy types. So when you meet someone you actually enjoy spending time with, you want to make the most of your time.
But don't stress. Although complicated at first glance, there are lots of activities that can help foster a friendship between adults… and they don’t all involve drinks after work.
These are called friend dates, but don’t let the word “date” throw you. There will be no suggestive winking or licking of lips. You might hug the person hello and goodbye, but that's pretty much the extent of your physical contact (unless you bump into them by accident).
So, relax! You have nothing to worry about. Choose one of these activities, be yourself, and you'll have a great time.
Fun Activities for Hanging Out With Friends
We've divided these suggestions into the following categories:
- Eating and Drinking
- Niche Hobbies
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Eating and Drinking Friend Dates
- Go to places like Starbucks or Panera Bread. They have pleasant, clean, casual environments in which to get to know someone. Grab a cup of joe or hot chocolate and if things are going well, you can stay a little longer and enjoy a meal too! Bookstores also often have small cafes where you can get comfortable.
- Go to a local brewery. Prefer something a little stronger than coffee? Pick a neighborhood bar or stop into a local brewery and see what they have to offer. Split a lager tasting sampler and get a plate of nachos to share.
- Make dinner or dessert together. Showcase one of your favorite meals at your place; next time it’s their turn. Be sure to find out about food allergies or other eating habits or beliefs.
Crafting Friend Dates
- Do jewelry and beading, wire work, or papercrafts. Together, try to muddle through an interesting pattern one of you found online.
- Refinish old furniture. Four hands make quick work of sanding down that old bookcase.
- Upcycle something useless or unattractive into something cool. What about that old box in the garage? You know, from the seventies? A little paint, new hardware and a small amount of work and you have a new jewelry, sewing, or tackle box!
Gaming Friend Dates
- Play video games at an arcade. No, not Chuck E. Cheese. If you live near a Dave & Buster’s or Jillian's location, go there. Hop on those motorcycles or grab a fake machine gun and race for the cup or team up to obliterate brain-chomping zombies.
- Play video games at home. Tired of playing on your Wii, Xbox, or PlayStation alone? Banging on the drums or saving the world by yourself is okay, but the fun increases exponentially when another real person joins the band or the team.
- Play billiards. For about the price of a plate of nachos, why not share a game of pool instead? Improve your game while swapping stories.
- Play board games. You have gaming skills to pay the bills, so show them off. Pick something like Bananagrams, Scattergories, or Blokus. They only require two people and you can chat during the games and engage in light trash-talking.
Sports Friend Dates
- Go to the batting cage or a casual tennis match. Get sweaty and bond over swinging your bats or racquets around and whacking each others’ balls back and forth.
- Go to sports bars. Chitchat while watching your favorite teams.
- Play paintball. If you liked hide and seek as a kid, here it is all grown up! What could be bad about splattering each other with paint?
Shopping Dates for Friends
- Go to the mall. If it's been a long time since you've been to one, give it another go. The worst that can happen is you can giggle over the over-the-top fashions or the teenagers trying to out-cool you.
- Visit flea markets. These are great for bargains, but you can also learn a lot about someone by the way they shop.
- Do a chore. Even shopping for something as mundane as greeting cards can be full of laughter when you do it with a friend.
Niche Hobby Dates for Friends
- Check out car, flower, fishing, or toy shows. These can be lots of fun, especially when it's your first time. Wander around and share the details of your favorites growing up.
- Attend conventions. X-Files, anime, comics, Barbie, tattoos... whatever floats your boats! Back each other up when bargaining for a better price on that coveted item, or share comments about the best ones you've seen.
- Visit animal shelters. Make goo-goo eyes together at the furry animals at a local shelter. Awwwwww!
- Go to book sales. If reading is your passion, visit a library book sale together. Pick up some bargains (the last day is the cheapest day!) and explain why you chose them.
Nature Dates for Friends
- Go fruit picking or visit farmer's markets. Research pick-your-own locations nearby or popular farmer's markets and take home the best of the season.
- Do something in the sunshine. Grab a walking stick and take a hike, or wedge yourself into a kayak or canoe and float downstream. Paddle boats are a nice option for those of us with wider hips.
Things to Remember About Making New Friends
- If the distance between you is great, be sure to offer to meet halfway. If you don't know the area, now's your chance.
- Timing is everything! Don’t try to force a friendship; during the winter holidays and in the summer, many people spend all their free time with their families.
- Avoid insulting their spouse, partner, livelihood, or where they live. Insults are the quickest way to lose a potential friend.
- Remember to talk loudly and clearly enough, especially if you're somewhere noisy or have been told you're a low talker or a mumbler. You want to make sure they hear each and every interesting thing you have to say.
- Please don’t monopolize their time. You might like them a lot, and they might like you, but let friend dates happen organically. Your new buddy probably has other friends that they enjoy seeing as well, and you surely don’t want to be known as the needy one.