When it comes to dreaming up impressive first date ideas in Tampa, the question of where to go is one that baffles many, and the question 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. And, in the context of 2020, you’ve also got to plan a date that’s safe for all involved. 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. 💕”
2. Clear 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. Tours last 2-2.5 hours. Bonus points if you book the nighttime glow in the dark tour!
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 this post. 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. There’s a brand new, trendy drive-in at Armature Works, or 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!
8. Reader Pick: On Swann
“On Swann. Incredible food, awesome Negroni, and great conversation.”
Tip: Check out all of our Hyde Park date night favs for more dining ideas in this area.
9. Food Trucks
If you’re nervous about committing to an entire dinner, try attending a food truck event instead. The chill atmosphere is ideal for a casual first date. Plus, this takes the pressure off of picking a certain type of cuisine. We love the monthly 3rd Thursday Tampa food truck fest. Or, visit Sparkman Wharf for eats from the resident shipping container restaurants and brews in the biergarten.
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.”
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 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 Valentines 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 ($49/person), a special four-course fondue experience for two ($88) and more. 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. Beachfront Dinner
If you’re feeling bold, go big with a private, multi-course beachfront dinner set up by Romantic Honeymoon Island. Or, pick up takeout or pack your own picnic to enjoy while watching one of our iconic Tampa Bay sunsets. Just make sure to dispose of your food containers properly afterwards, and no glass bottles on the beach.
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. Reference 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 with this mural map or spring for an organized walking mural tour of the area ($19/person).
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 (we’re counting down the days until Rock the Park returns in person!) or going all out with theater tickets when in-person shows resume.
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. There’s a special exhibition all about Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera’s romance on through January, plus an immersive Van Gogh exhibit debuting in November.
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
When the weather is fine, plan an active first date by joining a walking tour or embarking 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 with this audio tour as your guide. 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.