Make a great first impression by showing a little imagination…
1. Gourmet Picnic
These days, thanks to our foodie culture, you don’t have to be a MasterChef winner to serve up mouth-watering treats. Even your local Coles or Woolies has a fine selection of gourmet goodies, whether it’s aged cheese and cured meats or home-made dips and organic corn chips. Proteins such as cooked chicken, smoked salmon and pulled pork are all readily available, as are some pretty fancy pre-made salads and crusty artisan breads. (Of course, if you’re a wiz in the kitchen and can whip all this up yourself, more power and bragging rights to you.) Class your foodstuffs up by transferring them to plastic containers and serving them on real plates with proper cutlery. Same goes for the wine — opt for a mid-range bottle, with a cooler if white, and some sturdy and carefully packed wine glasses. Combine with a comfortable blanket, an MP3 player connected to speakers and a million-dollar view and you and your lady are in an intimate comfort zone built for two, especially when you want to lay back as the sun goes down…
2. Culture Vulture
While the big international touring shows can be pretty expensive, not to mention packed with families, the collections of major, regional and even private art galleries can be viewed free or at minimal cost and without the madding crowds. Of course, there are limits to the intimacy you can achieve while padding around rooms filled with paintings, sculptures and installations. But with a bit of common sense you can still have a conversation, share some awed moments at the truly striking and/or quiet laughs at what passes for art these days. Museums charge entrance fees, though they’re hardly prohibitive, and offer the opportunity for you and your date to share in the wonder of, well, all of natural and human history. Think that sounds a bit dry? Watch her eyes light up when you’re in an astronomical display with the shimmering stars of the universe spread out overhead and some dramatic music playing.
3. Screen Gems
Going to the cinema these days can be a pretty bland affair, given that megamall multiplexes all look the same and offer up the same menu of movies. But if you’re going to opt for a filmic first date, why not go for a flick that’s a little out of left field? While repertory cinemas are in short supply, you can still find movie houses in the major and regional cities that play the classics. Why settle for pap like Mothers Day when you can woo her with Bogie and Bergman in Casablanca? If you’re having trouble finding such venues, do a search of university film societies and independent cinemas. But even big chains like Event Cinemas are regularly bringing back nostalgic gems from the 1980s, such as The Breakfast Club, Back To The Future and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding something she’ll always remember seeing on the big screen. Additionally, the capital cities — and some regional areas — still have drive-in cinemas. It’s a different sort of date: an old-fashioned double-feature, old-school fast food snacks during intermission, the chance to talk without being told to shut-up by other patrons and the opportunity to steam things up inside the car.
4. Wild Is Wonderful
Zoo admission prices aren’t exactly cheap but you’ll get a full day’s entertainment out in the open air for as much as you’d spend in a couple of hours on an average-priced entrée and main. The big plus here is that zoo brings out child-like wonder and enthusiasm in most people, meaning she’ll be open, happy and excited and likely associate those feelings with you. Animal watching lends itself to endless conversational, joke and photo opportunities, all but guaranteeing a good time. While braving the cafeteria or restaurant can be fun, it can also be financially draining. So, you can always show your forward-thinking by packing a picnic. Aquariums also offer all-but-guaranteed magic moments, particularly those with twilight underwater viewing areas. There’s probably no more romantic place…
5. The Great Outdoors
For an experience that’s free — and freeing — it’s hard to beat a simple bushwalk. Australian cities and suburbs are all blessed by being close to our great wilderness areas. Even not having a car isn’t a barrier: most train lines include stops close to national parks. So all you need is the time and a plan. Pack some basics, including a map, phone, water, food, ponchos, sunscreen and basic first aid (Band Aids for blistered feet will win you points) and swimmers if applicable. You’ll also seem like an in-control gent if you have an idea of how long the bushwalk will take, the degree of difficulty involved and the views, flora and fauna and places of interest you’ll likely encounter. You can get this info on most national parks websites and/or from guide books. But be sure to let someone know where you’re going and when you’re due to return. She’ll be unimpressed if your date ends up with you being winched to safety by burly SES fellas.