Karla’s Top Ten First Dates in Phoenix


Karla’s Top Ten First Dates in Phoenix


Cut a Rug


You may think it’s trendy or you may think it’s too intimidating, but I am here to tell you that a first date spinning around the dance floor is a winner.  On any given Monday night downtown at the Hotel San Carlos’s Ghost Lounge you can take an hour learning to swing dance (or improving your skills—it’s great for all levels) and then stay for the night’s dance there in the lounge.  Savoy Hop Cats runs this weekly event and it is always cracking.


The Ghost Lounge has a wonderful Old Phoenix vibe and the folks who teach the class are friendly, skilled and fun.  There’s no pressure about being a great dancer.  The whole focus is just on enjoying the dancing style, the music and your company.  There’s a beautiful old bar there and cozy tables if you just feel like taking a break and chatting, and after the dancing you can always walk to many other locations downtown for food, drinks, or other date scenes.


Go ahead, get dolled up in your plush vintage best and slip into another era with a new friend.  You’ll have plenty of time to talk and laugh and, of course, make nonthreatening physical contact…if you’ve been swinging around the dance floor all night there’s no awkward sense of whether or not you ought to touch your date hanging in the air: you’ll both already be at ease.  It’s not as loud as a typical bar or musical event so you can still talk, but there is plenty of activity to avoid uncomfortable silences.


When you run into the ripest tomato in town and want to step out someplace that feels special in grand style, go join the Savoy Hop Cats Monday night!


Savoy Hop Cats http://www.savoyhopcats.com/


Cops and Robbers


You don’t have to be a fictional psychopath to wonder why everyone’s so serious all of the time.  Why does a first date have to feel like an inquest?  Go have some active, adrenaline-fueled fun and see what your latest dating “person of interest” is made of.


The classic first date for many people seems to be a long visit to a loud coffee shop or a dinner out in a trendy restaurant.  It’s safe; it’s sort of like choosing some benign (and probably banal) romantic comedy for a date.  You don’t know that much about them, so you stick to easy choices that suggest the right dating context.


But why be safe?!  Why go on a date unless it’s really going to be fun?


Harken back to your days of playing cops and robbers with someone new and see how confident they are as adults playing like kids.  There’s nothing like seeing someone you are really interested in belly laughing for the first time, and it shows a lot of character to try something different and expose your playful side to someone as you get to know them.


The metro Phoenix area has several options for laser tag play around the Valley and each of them allow not only kids but grown ups to play cops and robbers like you never could when you were a kid.  Each range has plenty of nooks and crannies for hiding, multiple levels and even places for sniping.  You will


find out you’ve met someone who likes to have fun, doesn’t take themselves too seriously and remembers they were once a child…or you will discover that you could never be partners in crime.


http://www.stratumhq.com http://www.laserquest.com http://www.wazeesworld.com


Desert Botanical Garden Special Events and Exhibits


As long as it’s not June, July or August I recommend the many interesting events and exhibits that pass through the Desert Botanical Garden over the course of the cooler parts of the year.  Starting in autumn, for example, you can take advantage of musical events, wine tastings, educational speakers, art exhibits, plant sales and even events for dogs and their owners (new this 2012 in autumn).


One of the very best events the DBG has to offer is The Mariposa Monarch Butterfly Exhibit which runs from September through November.  There you can learn about the Monarch’s lifecycle and habits and stand mesmerized in the pavilion as countless butterflies flit around you.  It’s truly a remarkable sight and something you shouldn’t miss; why not create an amazing memory like this on a first date?  This way you have not only what you personally bring to the table to impress your date but also Mother Nature playing on your team.


Another fabulous series of events at the DBG surrounds Dia de los Muertos.  It’s a local tradition that combines colorful art and other cultural festivities in a celebration of family memories.  The events take place in early November and allow you to check out amazing local art, sample the delectable catering of local culinary phenomenon Barrio Cafe, and watch the procession of the spirits and candle ceremony.  This is a first date that allows you to take advantage of local culture and heritage in a festive setting, a classy yet informal outing unique to Phoenix.


The month of December at the DBG is when the garden’s grounds are decked out with luminarias—more than 8,000 of them, all lit by hand, along with beautiful lights.  This is one of Phoenix’s most unique holiday events.  You can enjoy the best part of our weather while you stroll the lit grounds at night amidst the sounds of carols and handbells.  If your first date is in December, don’t miss this chance for the perfect evening.




Wear Your Heart On Your Sleeve (And Then Roll Them Up To Work!)


Whether you want to show someone what matters to you and what you’re all about or you already know you share a passion, volunteering together can be a terrific first date.  If you’ve never done volunteer work you are in for a memorable experience; if you already do, get ready to think of your work in a whole new way.


There are so many ways to help your neighbor in the Valley of the Sun.  I’ve listed some links below that can help you find ways to get involved, but the key is to think of what interests you and what you care about, and to link that with the interests and concerns of your date.


Do you have a passion for eating only local or organic produce?  Why not go volunteer with your date at a community garden or for a group like Bountiful Baskets?  As an added benefit you’ll get some produce for your trouble and have a chance to interact in a setting that means something to you both.


Do you both love animals?  Try meeting up for some work in support of ASPCA, Arizona Rescue or The Humane Society.


If you’re someone who cares deeply about certain issues or who has a sort of mental “checklist” of musts for your love interest, volunteer together and take advantage of the common bond you already share.






Community gardens in Maricopa County: http://cals.arizona.edu/maricopa/garden/html/community/community.htm#Gardens%20Maricopa

The Humane Society: http://www.azhumane.org/artman2/publish/volunteer2/volopps.shtml

Arizona Rescue:  http://www.azrescue.org/volunteer_opportunities.php


Life Is But a Dream (Boating and Picnicking at Tempe Town Lake)


The image of a romantic couple leisurely drifting in a boat on a lake is timeless.  It’s a lovely, lazy way to wile away the hours—nothing that seems too exciting—but even James Bond is seen boating and picnicking (From Russia With Love, 1963) so there must be something to it.  There is!  Renting a boat and bringing along a picnic is a perfect first date and the place to do it here in town is Tempe Town Lake.


The beauty of this date is obvious.  The classic romantic theme makes this date feel special to almost anyone.  The opportunity to be outdoors during our (mostly!) beautiful Phoenix weather that this date affords is a major plus, as is the way this outing lets you both be active and relax.  You’ll have lots of time to talk and get to know each other better in a public, nonthreatening setting that still grants enough privacy to feel intimate.  Finally, you get a chance to picnic in your own style.  Are you a champagne and strawberries type or a hearty deli sandwich person?  No problem; when you bring your own picnic you can do it your way and set the tone you like.  You can even flex your cooking muscles if you like.


Tempe Town Lake is the in town destination for this date for so many reasons.  There are easy boat rental options there and of course you can bring your own boat if you like.  During the day you can take advantage of the sunshine, and at night you have the lovely downtown Tempe setting as your backdrop.  Around the lake there are many paths and picnic areas to use, or you can just find a grassy spot for your blanket.


Drift along the shore or race across the lake.  It’s all good on this Phoenix date!




A Classy Date


A person who is interested in many different things and seeks to better herself is usually good company.  Why not take a class you always wanted to try on a first date?  You might as well muddle through a new pursuit with company, and Phoenix has countless class offerings to choose from.



Have you always wanted to learn some cooking tips from a professional chef?  With some of the highest per capita restaurant, resort and nightclub numbers in the nation as well as serious professional cooking schools like Le Cordon Bleu and Scottsdale Culinary Arts, the metro Phoenix area is a great place to find a fun cooking class you can take with a date.  I gave you three links below but there are many local choices.  Saw a cable program on glass blowing that fascinated you?  Take a glass blowing class at Circle 6 Studios.  Yoga?  Krav Maga?  Yes, and more.  You can even take a basket weaving class here in Phoenix (although I don’t know of an underwater basket weaving course—yet!).


Pick up something new with someone new in Phoenix; there’s something for everyone here.


Glass Blowing:  http://www.circle6studios.com/

Just a few sources of nonprofessional cooking classes:  http://www.classiccooking.net/





Something Silly This Way Comes


A very old friend of mine points out that a first date is all about finding out whether the other person is fun to be with.  There’s really not anything quite like a goofy activity to put your new beau to this particular test.  If you have a sense of humor, for a great first date do something silly.  In Phoenix, I recommend a touristy destination like Rustler’s Rooste.


The acid test, of course, is whether or not your date will enter the restaurant via the slide—and, of course, whether they will wear the children’s menu “bull horns” paper hat.  Either way, you’ll hopefully know a lot more about your date after an outing like this.




Let the Timing Decide For You


Phoenix is the kind of busy, growing city that has so many social and cultural events year round that each month you can plan an amazing first date at a local seasonal event.  It’s a great idea to attend a unique event on a first date because even the event feels out of the ordinary; after all, you can’t go do it every day.  Your choice of a special event makes your date feel just as special.  Here is a quick list with examples of awesome seasonal events that make perfect first dates (and these are only a few examples).


September:  Celebrate and enjoy the best of Arizona cuisine during Arizona Restaurant Week.  From street causal food up to gourmet delectables, you’ll be glad you skipped a meal before coming.




October:  Check out the Phoenix Greek Festival.  This is the largest and oldest ethnic festival in town and a great place to procure delicious local food and experience Greek dancing and music.  “Opa!” your first date at the festival!





November:  Take your date to the Arizona State Fair.  Pick the right night and you can see major music acts for next to nothing and experience midway rides for discount prices.  And everyone has a favorite fair food from childhood that they don’t want to pass up.  Also in November are Wild West Days in Cave Creek.  Just like it sounds, this is an “Old Western” cultural event with food, shows, shopping, parades, and much more.





December:  Check out Glendale Glitters for more than 1.5 million lights, all in downtown Glendale.  The sight itself is spectacular, and the area takes on a street fair feel during this festival.  Put stars in your date’s eyes in December.




January:  Fall in love with exceptional cars again in this, the land of wide open spaces where the automobile is king:  hit the Barrett-Jackson auction.  You don’t have to be a bidder to find this first date thrilling.




February:  The local Renaissance Festival is a great first date.  Watch a conjurer, eat a gigantic turkey leg, and take in musicians and other performers as you wander the streets of this medieval town with your date.




March:  Treat your date to peanuts and Cracker Jacks during Spring Training:  Phoenix is the home of the Cactus League and some amazing baseball in perfect weather!




April:  Sample some of the most exciting cuisine our region has to offer at the Scottsdale Culinary Festival.  Classy and fun, this event will let you taste what’s new, and maybe what you’ve been missing on the cutting edge culinary scene.




May:  Enjoy Cave Creek in spring air fragrant with ripe peaches; this trip to Schnepf Farms is a first date your companion is unlikely to have attended in the past and they will be unable to forget this local gem.




June:  Check out the Grand Canyon State Games on your first date.  Enjoy amazing athletic events and related festivities here.




July:  Naturally, a winning first date in July can involve one of the local fireworks displays here in town.  But you should also consider checking out “Mighty Mud Mania” in Scottsdale; scrambling through a huge muddy obstacle course is an original, entertaining first date and one you can only find here.




August:  Beat the heat on an August first date at the “Movies at the Museum” classic cinema and documentary screenings at the Phoenix Art Museum.  You’ll be able to check out the rest of the museum as well as the art-themed cinematic offerings.




Lace Up Your Skates


Whether you prefer classic quad roller skates, inline skates or ice skates, hit the rink for a lively, easy-going first date.  Roller skating is popular again and the Phoenix area boasts a number of large roller rinks.  Miss the days of roller disco?  Check out Monday night’s “adult skate” session at Skateland for old school and R & B tunes or Great Skate ‘s Saturday night rhythm and jam sessions.  You can even go to the rec center at the North Phoenix Baptist Church and rent skates for their polished wood floor if you just want to skate with your date in peace.


When you think of things to do on a date in Phoenix, I’m guessing ice skating doesn’t immediately pop into your mind.  But that’s just why it’s a perfect thing to do on a date here!


Even in the middle of July in Phoenix you can keep cool at the ice rink.  Arcadia Ice is a well-maintained, full-sized ice rink that offers public skating times along with lessons.  You can rent your skates there and try your luck on the ice.  This is an entertaining first date no matter what your level of expertise.  If you’re an ace on ice you can show off and spin your date around in style; if you’re a first-timer you’ll be laughing out loud in spite of yourself as you maneuver like a newborn colt on your blades.  And, unlike the tired “yawn and stretch” that you might see in a movie theater, at the ice rink you get some natural physical contact with your date, whether you’re a ease on the ice and holding hands or holding on for dear life, just struggling to keep each other from falling over!


What’s more, a first date activity that harkens back to your school days is just right for starting something new.  Easy, carefree fun takes down the tension of a first date exponentially.  What’s not appealing about a person who is both confident enough to skate around next to you despite a twenty year hiatus between skating sessions and sufficiently light-hearted to be willing to laugh about falling?  Have fun, watch for derby girls and hockey players, and enjoy your skate date!











Char’s Has the Blues


My number one favorite first date in Phoenix?  The one I had with my fella.


Char’s Has the Blues is a longtime local favorite.  With live music every night you can hang out in this dive bar and dance the night away.  Anything but pretentious, the setting is friendly and lively.  This isn’t a place for overly dressy designer duds or $20 martinis.  This is a place with real music and real people.


My favorite nights at Char’s are those that feature Soul Power, a great band that churns out excellent motown, funk, soul and R & B all night.  It’s impossible to have a bad time here, unless you take yourself far too seriously.  And this is why it’s such a great first date destination: you’ll see all sorts of people at Char’s and, even though they are coexisting in a small space together, there’s a happy vibe.


I guess I can’t promise your first date at Char’s will be as successful as mine was—but I’m sure enough about it that I’m sharing my secret with you.




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     October 10, 2012

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