When it comes to dreaming up impressive first date ideas in Tampa, the question of where to go is the one we get asked most frequently.
You want to make a good first impression, but also keep things light and casual. Then there’s the stress of planning an activity and hoping your date has a good time. No wonder those first date jitters are a thing…
To help you plan an epic night out, we reached out to our readers on Facebook and Instagram to retell their successful first date stories and share the special activities that won them over. We’ve sprinkled in a few of our favorite suggestions, along with tips and ideas of our own along the way. These 25 first date ideas in Tampa Bay are sure to be a slam-dunk.
First Date Approved Activities
1. Reader Pick: Sunset Cruise
“Coming in Hot Boating with the most romantic sunset cruise. 💕”
Cruise along Tampa’s Riverwalk and hang out on the boat enjoying your own beverages and food while seeing Tampa’s skyline from a different perspective.
2. Kayaking Tour
Check out what’s in the water around and below you on a guided kayaking tour of Shell Key with Get Up and Go Kayaking Tampa Bay. Visit a sandbar, look for playful dolphins, paddle through mangroves and more on this guided tour. Check out more of our favorite kayaking spots for more ideas.
3. Zip Lining
You’ve already got first date nerves, why not add in a little adrenaline? Take your date to the treetops at a local zip line course. You’ll find five of our local favorites in here. Tip: Some adventure parks offer zip line only tickets. This is a bite-sized experience that includes just the zip lines as opposed to a full adventure course.
4. Drive-In Movie Date
Swap the traditional (and ok, somewhat unimaginative) dinner and a movie for a nostalgic trip to the closest drive-in theater instead. Visit an old favorite like the Silver Moon Drive-In or Ruskin Family Drive-In.
5. Animal Meet and Greet at the Zoo
Get in touch with your inner kid by planning a hands-on date day at the zoo. You can enhance the experience by adding on an animal encounter. Get backstage access to the zoo’s Manatee Critical Care Center, meet penguins or a koala, feed an Indian rhino, and more.
6. Rent Paddleboards
For fans of water sports like kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding (referred to as SUP) is an equally fun activity that’s surprisingly easy to pick up, even as a first timer. Tampa Bay SUP offers rentals, lessons and eco-tours from their location along the Tampa Riverwalk downtown. Urban Kai also offers rentals plus fun tours through Downtown Tampa or in dense mangroves.
First Date-Friendly Dinner Dates
7. Reader Pick: Bella’s
“With my now-husband, Basil, at Bella’s on Howard Ave., I let him order for me. We both had pasta with pesto. I even remember what I wore.”
– Linda R.
Tip: Bella’s is just a few blocks from Bayshore Boulevard, where you’ll find a 10-foot-wide multi-use paved trail. Enjoy an after dinner passeggiata along the trail, strolling by the water while continuing the conversation. You could also tack on a visit to Ciro’s for drinks, just don’t forget to get the password first! Read our Italian Inspired Date Night post for more Italy-themed ideas.
8. Reader Pick: On Swann
“On Swann. Incredible food, awesome Negroni, and great conversation.”
Tip: Check out Hyde Park Village’s calendar of events for farmers markets, live music, and more.
9. Sparkman Wharf
The chill atmosphere of Sparkman Wharf is ideal for a casual first date. The open-air hot spot located on Channelside in downtown Tampa is one of the best places for dining and outdoor recreation. Their Dining Garden boasts an assortment of options from unique cultural foods to barbecue to gourmet popsicles. There are also several spots to enjoy some sweet treats and tasty beverages.
10. Reader Pick: 717 South
“717 South! The food was all amazing and I am so happy to have met the man of my dreams there.”
With a sophisticated ambiance and award-winning contemporary American dishes, it’s the perfect spot for a first date.
11. Armature Works Progressive Dinner + Rooftop Drinks
With a waterfront setting, rooftop bar, multiple food vendors, event spaces and large outdoor areas for eating and mingling, Armature Works is the perfect location for a first date or your 50th. Plan your own unique dinner by visiting at a different food vendor to pick up appetizers, entrees and dessert. After your feast, head up to M. Bird for sunset sips on the rooftop. This local rooftop bar has some of the best sunset views in town.
12. Mise en Place
Whisk your date away to Mise en Place for a first date in France! This incredibly romantic restaurant (a Tampa staple for more than 20 years) features modern cuisine with a French twist and the vibe is upscale and contemporary, perfect for a romantic date night on the town. Browse our list of romantic restaurants for more suggestions to make an excellent first impression.
13. Reader Pick: The Melting Pot
“The Melting Pot in Carrollwood for Valentine’s Day in 2008.”
Tip: The Melting Pot Tampa has several date night deals including a fun four-course “Thursdate” dinner menu for two on Thursdays, a special four-course fondue experience for two and more (they’ll even set the table with candles and rose petals!). Check out all the menus here. Also, we totally approve of anyone who plans a first date with tons of cheese and chocolate on the menu.
14. Join a cooking class
For a memorial first date idea in Tampa, join a cooking class together and bond over the shared new experience. Sur La Table in Hyde Park hosts regular date night cooking classes with unique themes. Publix Aprons Cooking School of Citrus Park also offers a host of hands-on couples cooking classes, alongside laid-back demo courses which allow you to watch all the action without doing any of the work.
Budget-Friendly First Date Ideas in Tampa Bay
15. Riverwalk First Date
There are so many options for date night along the Tampa Riverwalk that we wrote a whole post about it. Rent bikes and cruise along the water, rent a mini powerboat, hop on the Pirate Water Taxi, dine and drink at one of the numerous restaurants and more.
16. Farmer’s Market Crawl
Some of the best first date ideas in Tampa are also the most laid back. Like food truck events, farmers markets are relaxed and the variety of vendors and things to see means you’ll never run out of things to talk about and explore. A few of our favorites include the Ybor City Saturday Market (Saturdays from 9am-3pm) and St. Pete’s Saturday Morning Market.
17. Romantic Gardens
Meander flower-lined pathways at one of Tampa Bay’s scenic and romantic gardens. You’ll find flora and flamingoes at St. Pete’s Sunken Gardens, a host of tropical palms and zen vibes at Gizella Kopsick Palm Arboretum, and spacious themed gardens at Florida Botanical Gardens. Or, make the trek over to Sarasota to wander through the waterfront Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.
18. DIY Picnic in the Park
Pack provisions and set up a surprise picnic in a scenic local park for a budget-friendly date with a personal touch. If you’re willing to splurge a bit, several local companies will do all the work for you, and some even include decadent grazing boards. Take a look at our article on How to Plan a Romantic Picnic for Two for all the details, including local picnic spots and companies.
19. Walking Mural Tour
The City of Tampa has a helpful list of murals and their locations, and Tampa Downtown Partnership’s Downtown Mural Tour lists even more murals around town. But Downtown St. Pete is the best place to discover colorful murals. Go on a self-guided adventure for free or spring for an organized walking mural tour of the area. Bike tours are also offered once a month.
20. Coffee Date
Keep things casual with conversation over a warm cuppa at a local coffee shop. Meeting for coffee allows you to see if there’s a mutual interest brewing (ha!) and leaves the door open for continuing the date at another location if things go well. We put together a comprehensive guide to coffee shops to help you sift through the options.
21. Reader Pick: Dinner + a Show
“Dinner at @jacksonsbistro then Amalie Arena for an Adam Sandler comedy show! My guy knocked it out of the park. 😍”
Tip: Other dinner and a show options include hitting a local spot for live jazz, catching an outdoor concert (like Rock the Park at Curtis Hixon Park) or going all out with theater tickets to a show at The Straz.
22. Dalí Museum + St. Pete Pier
For an out of the ordinary first date idea in Tampa, head to The Dalí Museum in St. Pete to see the awe-inspiring surrealist works of Spanish artist Salvador Dalí. The spacious outdoor garden, waterfront setting, artful café and impressive collection are sure to spark thoughtful conversation.
23. Mazzaro’s + Picnic
For a first date idea in Tampa with a DIY twist, stop at Mazzaro’s Italian Market. Here, you’ll both pick up provisions for a gourmet picnic (think cheese, meats, sweets and more). Enjoy your feast on site or hop in the car and make the 10-minute drive to Vinoy Park, one of our favorite local picnic spots.
24. Reader Pick: Movie + a Meal
“First with hubby was movies and ice cream in Old Hyde Park.”
“Jason’s Deli on Fowler and Studio Movie Grill.”
25. Walking Tour + Dessert
For an active first date idea in Tampa, join a walking tour or embark on a self-guided stroll. You could visit a few of our favorite Instagrammable spots. If you’re interested in history, follow this self-guided tour of Oaklawn Cemetery, or stroll the grounds of the former Tampa Bay Hotel We also love this architecture tour of downtown. End the date on a sweet note by visiting a local sweet shop for dessert after your tour.