Recently I found myself wrapped up in one of those fleeting moments of self-empowerment, tickled by a craving for adventure. Interested in re-entering the dating pool, but also daunted by how exhausting the process can be, I decided the only way to start dating was to cannon ball in. So I created a challenge for myself: I would go on 25 dates during my 25th year.
This was invigorating, but when you tell yourself you’re going to go on a date, you have to have some destinations in your arsenal. The problem is that I’m a chronic searcher. I don’t have one favorite place to eat, drink or be merry in Austin.
Add a date to the mix and the decision becomes more complicated. Friends can be forgiving of the loud crowd or a dinner that was too experimental, but dates are often people you don’t know well. With these concerns in mind, I decided the best thing would be to compile a list of fail safe date destinations in Austin. Because when sexual tension and awkward expectations are in the air, you want everything else to be simple.
Cocktail Date Ideas: Not Your Average Dive Bar
A first date over drinks is a time-honored tradition. There’s no big commitment. If after one drink you decide you aren’t right for each other, you simply take a last sip, pay out and say your amicable goodbyes. If you are connecting, you can hit up the inevitable restaurant close by. Either way, with these cocktail lounge ideas, you’ll have a good place to start a date and perhaps find a new favorite bar!
Whisler’s – Craft cocktails and a hidden mezcal bar
drink.well. – Constantly changing exotic cocktail menu and tapas-style snacks
Midnight Cowboy – Reservation-only speakeasy cocktail lounge
Lala’s Little Nugget – Christmas all year round
House Wine – Extensive wine selection, charcuterie, and s’mores
Juliet – Excellent happy hour, lovely wine and cocktail list, and great outdoor patio
Coffee Date Ideas: Something Is Brewing
When you grab a coffee in Austin, it isn’t just about the drink, but it’s about the whole experience. Our local cafes often offer more than just something to sip on.
Mozart’s Coffee Roasters
Going to Mozart’s is like having a lake party without the cost of a yacht. Grab a coffee and enjoy the views of Lake Austin. If it’s Christmas time, take in the famous light show. It will definitely add a spark to your romantic evening.
3825 Lake Austin Blvd. – Website
Manaña Coffee & Juice
The newest addition to the South Congress Hotel compound is Mañana. The simple but elegant menu, including delectable pastries, makes for a great place to grab a bite and sip when you are testing the water on a first date. If it goes well, you can take in the shops and sights on SoCo or grab a meal at Cafe No Se.
Don’t forget there are half-price pastries daily from 5-7 p.m!
1603 S. Congress Ave. – Website
This Sixth Street bakery and beer garden is easily one of the top first date spots in the city, so it certainly warrants a mention. Easy Tiger can serve as the background for a date at any time of day. Meet for coffee and pastries in the morning, pretzels and ping pong in the afternoon, or a beer to start off a night on the town. After your treat, you can hit up some of the other bars around or just go for a walk down Sixth Street.
709 E. 6th St. – Website
Food Date Ideas: Cook Up Some Romance
Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza
If you want to escape into the countryside while avoiding Ziploc trail mix, drive out to Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza, which is co-located with Jester King Brewery. You can easily spend a whole afternoon sipping expertly-crafted and wildly-flavored beers, eating artisanal wood-fired pizza and strolling the grounds of this exquisite Hill Country ranch.
13187 Fitzhugh Road – Website
Patrizi’s and Butterfly Bar
I’m a sucker for any place that has outdoor seating, twinkling lights and food trucks. Throw in incredible handmade pasta, live theatre, trivia nights and classy cocktails, and you’ve got the perfect date destination. This Manor Road complex makes it easy to customize your date. If you don’t know the person well, stick with drinks under the moonlight. Want to impress them, but not dent your wallet too badly? Throw in dinner from Patrizi’s. Ready to explore the avant-garde? Take in a show from Vortex Repertory Co.
Lenoir’s Back Garden Patio
Lenoir is known for its cooking supply store that would make Julia Child giggle. But behind Metier Cook’s Supply and the Lenior dining room (which serves a delicious menu nightly) sits a fenced-off back patio that screams date night. A giant oak tree strewn with paper lanterns stretches its arms over wood and stone picnic tables. Stay for a glass or wine or share appetizers, like a thick slice of bread covered in heirloom tomato bruschetta with feta and basil. It feels like a little-known secret tucked away right off First Street.
1807 S. 1st St. – Website
Entertainment Date Ideas: No Need for Small Talk
If you need a break from Alamo Drafthouse, then head to Paramount Theatre to take in a classic movie on the big screen. The summer movie series boasts classics like “Casa Blanca” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Who doesn’t want to do a little time travel on a date?
713 Congress Ave. – Website
Radio Coffee & Beer
Radio Coffee & Beer took three of Austin’s favorite things and combined them: good coffee, craft beer and live music. This South Austin treasure has a little something for everyone. Each night of the week features a new music genre or activity, including Bluegrass Mondays, Trivia Tuesdays, Movie Wednesdays and Folksy Sundays. Take your pick.
4204 Manchaca Road – Website
Listen at Winflo
The listening room series at Winflo allows you to enjoy a delicious three-course meal while listening to a local artist give an intimate acoustic concert. As an added bonus, no cell phones are allowed. So if it’s a new date you’re meeting, you can rest assured they won’t be Tindering under the table.
1315 W. 6th St. – Website
Arts and Crafts: Let Your Hands Do the Talking
Paintings are nice, but sometimes you want your art to be a little more utilitarian. At Cafe Monet, you and your date can each decorate something that will last. If the date goes well, you can trade creations. If it doesn’t last, at least you got a cool mug out of the deal!
The recently-relocated giant crafting studio, CRAFT, makes for a great date destination. Keep your hands busy and channel your inner goofy finger-painting kid as you create something to commemorate the evening. You can dive into the craft world on your own or sign up for a workshop, which offers a more structured crafting experience. Best of all, you’re crafting, not painting the Mona Lisa, so no pressure to create an incredible piece of art.
4704A E. Cesar Chavez St. #5 – Website
Off the Beaten Path
Hamilton Pool Preserve
Sometimes a drink or dinner won’t cut it. For those going on a third or fourth date, Hamilton Pool is an incredible escape close to the city. Go for a swim or hike and marvel at each other and a cavernous water hole that looks like it dropped straight out of a fantasy novel. Don’t forget that advance reservations are now required to cut down on crowds.
24300 Hamilton Pool Road, Dripping Springs, TX – Website
Mount Bonnell’s Westlake lookout is another tried and true romantic spot for couples on a date. Pack a picnic to reward yourselves for climbing all those stairs.
3800 Mt. Bonnell Road – Website
Water Sports on the Lake
Town Lake offers activities that run across the romantic spectrum. Just getting to know someone? Opt for your own stand up paddle boards. A few dates in, maybe try a kayak for two. And once you and your partner in dating crime have gotten to the place where it’s okay to be a little silly, grab a swan boat and peddle around the lake like the love birds you really are.
208 Barton Springs Road – Website
Hike-and-Bike Trail and Austin Pets Alive!
If the weather is nice, take a walk on the Hike-and-Bike Trail around Lady Bird Lake. There’s excellent people-watching, which is fodder for easy conversation.
Once you’ve made a loop, head over to Austin Pets Alive! and see about volunteering together. Often they’re looking for help walking the dogs or even just playing with them. There’s nothing like bonding over a new fluffy friend to break the ice and bring people together.
1156 W. Cesar Chavez St. – Website
Keep It Weird Date Ideas: Austin-Style
Have you seen the bars on wheels creeping along the streets of downtown, propelled by peddlers sporting Koozied drinks and toothy grins? These peddle pubs are absurd, but sort of incredible. I think all dates should involve a level of goofy, carefree fun. We spend so much time sitting in bars sipping cocktails and putting our best foot forward that we forget to just be ourselves. When you’re peddling a massive bar with strangers and blasting music, you can’t help but laugh at yourself. The sort of laughter that can be pretty attractive and break the ice.
508 Walsh St. – Website
HOPE Outdoor Gallery
Visiting the HOPE Outdoor Gallery feels like going to an ever-changing art gallery and an outdoor adventure rolled into one. You and your date can admire the new layers of masterful murals that make up the skin of the gallery, or bring a paint can and add your own mark. There’s something poetic about the idea of creating something that will always be a part of this community art project, but will only be seen for a little while before being covered by someone else’s first date tag.
1101 Baylor St.
Motown Mondays at The Highball
Sometimes all you want to do is dance, but Dirty Sixth may not be where you want to take a date. Doo-wop your way over to The Highball and dance your heart out to the ballads of Motown, preformed by The Night Owls and other local bands. If your feet get tired but you don’t want to say goodnight yet, catch a movie at Alamo Drafthouse next door or pop over to Lick’s newest location for a refreshing ice cream cone.
1120 S. Lamar Blvd. – Website
Browsing at BookPeople
Want to engage your inner nerd and get to know your counterpart’s more intellectual side? Take your date to dinner at 24 Diner or get ice cream at Amy’s, then head over to BookPeople and peruse the aisles of the largest independent book store in Texas.
You can learn a lot about a person based on their favorite genres and authors. And if the date goes well, maybe you can get lost in the stacks…
603 N. Lamar Blvd. – Website
@theAustinot wants to know:
What are favorite date spots in Austin?
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