Houston’s Best First Date Ideas, According to Local Matchmakers

Because dating is tough enough.

Two people playing pinball
Cidercade | Cidercade
Cidercade | Cidercade

When it comes to playing the dating game, sometimes it’s best to get a little assistance. Enter Houston’s finest matchmakers, those who have deep knowledge of both today’s dating climate and our local landscape. We’ve taken the strategic approach, tapping four professional matchmakers–including Stacy Moore of VIDA Select, April Davis with LUMA Luxury Matchmaking, and mother-daughter duo Carly and Janis Spindel with Janis Spindel Serious Matchmaking—to help you craft the perfect first meeting. Skip the awkward dinner conversation and get to know each other with these awesome first date ideas.

James Turrell Skyspace at Rice University
James Turrell Skyspace | James Turrell Skyspace at Rice University

Ooh and aah over lights and sounds at James Turrell's "Twilight Epiphany" Skyspace

“This is an awesome evening date spot. You can see the light show and feel close to your date as you both have a new and exciting experience together,” says April Davis, president and matchmaker at LUMA Luxury Matchmaking.

Right by the Shepherd School of Music on Rice University campus sits the very reason your first date is saying yes to a second date (aside from your charming personality, of course). That’d be acoustically engineered masterpiece James Turrell's Twilight Epiphany Skyspace, hands down one of Houston’s coolest experiences combining sound and a trippy LED light sequence every sunrise and sunset. Just show up 10 to 15 minutes early to grab a seat, no reservations required.

People playing skee-ball
Cidercade | Cidercade

Go retro at arcade game buffet Cidercade

“Choose a short activity that also allows for easy conversation, and you’re golden,” says Stacy Moore, matchmaker at VIDA Select. With 275+ arcade games that’ll take you back to your youth, EaDo’s Cidercade fosters conversation that’s is easy as it gets, and the 48-tap roster of hard ciders, kombuchas, seltzers, and more makes it even easier. Friendly bet over Skee Ball, anyone? Loser buys the next round.

Puttery Rooftop | Puttery

Get to know each other at adult-only indoor themed mini-golf and bar Puttery

“Engaging in a low-key activity helps calm those nerves, because you’re both physically occupied and the date has a built-in focus. You’re not just staring at each other from across the table,” says Moore.

You can’t be nervous when you’re attempting to putt your ball into a hole inside a nine-hole Library course complete with a dimetrodon skeleton. That’s the idea behind this matchmaker-approved date suggestion. Over in Sawyer Yards, Puttery puts a modern spin on mini golf, curating cool room experiences like the super chill Lodge, where you can get Rocky Mountain views, ski lift selfies, and the chance to get toasty by a wall-length fireplace.

Hermann Park
Hermann Park | Getty Images

Go for a stroll at one of Houston’s crown jewel parks

Every matchmaker confirmed that first dates are about getting to know one another, so what better way to do that than a leisurely walk at one of Houston’s most lovely locales. Try a walk around the Eastern Glades at the picturesque Memorial Park; stroll the gorgeous campus at Menil Park, which also houses world-class art museum The Menil Collection and zen zone The Rothko Chapel; or grab some refreshments and wind through the McGovern Centennial Gardens at Hermann Park. “Always a great idea for a first date, especially if they are meeting on an app or online, is a walk,” says Janis Spindel, president and founder of Janis Spindel Serious Matchmaking. “Memorial Park would be best to do that. Menil Park is also a great, cute idea as there are restaurants and bars etc there as well.”

Two people glowing in the dark
Pinspiration | Pinspiration Houston Heights

Unleash your inner artist

“If you’re looking to make a connection via artistic expression, there’s Pinspiration’s Splatter Date Package,” says Moore. “Protective gear and a glass of champagne are included, and you’ll get to bring home a one-of-a-kind canvas.”

With locations in the Heights and The Woodlands, DIY art studio Pinspiration is provides the kind of first date experience you’d see on an episode of The Bachelor. Suit up in protective gear and hit its Jackson Pollock inspired “Splatter Room” to laugh, fling paint all over each other, and create your very first masterpiece together.

Christmas at the Galleria | Getty Images

Show off your skills at Ice at the Galleria

“I’m a believer in activity dates,” says Carly Spindel, vice president at Janis Spindel Serious Matchmaking. “They’re fun and they switch things up. Ice at the Galleria is not only fun, but it’s beautiful to skate around the Christmas tree and get in the holiday joy.”

Activity dates are a lighthearted way to break the ice, and there’s no better way to do that than on the actual ice. Consider a turn around the Galleria’s famous ice skating rink. Even if you can’t skate, you and your date will have plenty of fun attempting to stay upright.

Couple salsa dancing
Getty Images | Getty Images

Try your hand at salsa

Tacos, cocktails, and dancing? Lower Westheimer institution AvantGarden has it all for you, rocking a weekly salsa night and onsite taco truck. And if your date isn't into that, you may need to rethink whatever app you’re on. “AvantGarden offers a salsa dancing lesson one night a week, which you can combine with cocktails on their patio or a taco from the iconic Taqueria El Palomo truck parked on-site,” says Moore.

Hand holding grapes
The Nice Winery | The Nice Winery

Couple up with wine & cheese

Did you know Houston has its very own boutique winery? Well now you do, and the matchmakers have named it the perfect, unique first date spot. Spring Branch’s Nice Winery crafts epic award-winning wines that you and your potential future spouse can taste your way through at guided wine (and cheese) tastings. “If activity dates aren’t your thing, wine tasting is always a good idea,” says Spindel. “Nice Winery has appointment based wine tastings with cheese and food pairings too! These activities make for great first dates because they keep things interesting and unique.”

Plate of wagyu sushi
Kokoro HTX | Kokoro

Choose sushi for a fast and low-key meal

While you may be enticed to secure reservations at one of Houston's dining hotspots for a first date, our matchmakers confirmed what you’re really looking for is something fast and easy. Enter the sushi bar, where you can get better acquainted and enjoy some fantastic sashimi while you’re at it. We love Bravery Chef Hall’s Kokoro for its intimate vibes combined with a more energetic (you can watch the chefs in action!), food hall experience. “Sushi is always fast and a good idea” says Spindel.

Person using dart as a mustache
Flight Club | Flight Club Darts USA

Combine darts with drinks & apps at Flight Club

Try social darts experience, Flight Club, over in Montrose’s newly developed Regent Square. You’ll have an upscale pub atmosphere, plus some friendly competition to keep the conversation going. More importantly, there's a super easy way to extend your date if you’re having a great time. Just grab some more cocktails and appetizers at the bar. “When things are going well, you can always suggest a way to extend the date and it’s good to have an idea already in mind,” says Moore. “In fact, when we’re planning dates for our clients we typically include an initial activity paired with a secondary suggestion to extend the date when sparks are flying!”

Inside of Cockrell Butterfly Museum
Cockrell Butterfly Museum | Houston Museum of Natural Science

Make memories at the Cockrell Butterfly Center

Soaring three stories up inside the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the lush, live butterfly and tropical plant filled Cockrell Butterfly Center is easy on the eyes and the nerves. After you get your butterfly fix, the museum’s grounds make for a beautiful walk, too. “We have found that it's easiest to make a connection when you're having an experience together,” says April Davis, president & matchmaker at LUMA Luxury Matchmaking. “The Cockrell Butterfly Center is sure to make an impression and a memory as you explore the center together with your date.”

Axe in target
Houston Axe Throwing | Houston Axe Throwing

Get adventurous at Houston Axe Throwing

If hurling axes at Houston Axe Throwing doesn’t help ease those first date jitters, the cocktails sure will. You and your date can get loose and let those hatchets fly at your intended target, and share some laughs when they totally miss said target. “Exploring new ways of dating has been a trend throughout 2022, and learning something new together can be a perfect way to gauge long-term compatibility,” says Moore. “Houston Axe Throwing offers a quick lesson before turning you and your date loose on the targets, plus there’s an on-site bar.”

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Brooke Viggiano is a Houston-based writer who now has a bunch of date ideas to experience with her permanent cuff. Share your first date successes and scaries with her @brookiefafa on IG and @brookeviggiano on Twitter.