by Zosia Czarnecka & Sanaa Humayun
Three years ago, one of our former Editors-in-Chief, Blue Knox, published a fantastic list of 50(ish) First Dates in Edmonton. The list has grown so popular over the years that we’ve decided to create a follow up list of 50 more dates! Most of these are focused on winter activities … but we’ve thrown in a few of our favorites that you’ll have to wait till summer to experience. Think we missed something? Let us know in the comments!
We’ve started off with ten general date ideas and then broken up the rest of the list into Dining, Movies, Theatre & Shows, Active Dates, Outdoor Dates, and DIY Dates!
1. SPCA (Edmonton Humane Society):
One of my favorite first dates took place at the SPCA (the animal shelter far north in the city). There’s something about going into the small rooms to play with the dogs that brings out the best in people. You can stay as long as you like and most of the rooms can be entered without asking for an employee. Plus, the animals love the company!
2. Rec Room:
One of Edmonton’s newest attractions, the Rec Room is guaranteed to make you both laugh and get rid of awkward first-date tension. Grab a drink upstairs, load up your RFID wrist band with “tokens” and get out your competitive side. After all, who doesn’t love the satisfaction of beating someone’s high score at Piano Tiles or Basketball? If you get tired of the arcade games, head upstairs for axe throwing to intimidate your date a little or pay extra to experience the virtual reality game field on the main floor!
3. Escape rooms:
Escape rooms are the ultimate compatibility test for you and your date. Do you work well together? How much do you want to rip their head off 15 minutes in? Whether you succeed in escaping or not, it’s a fun way to see how you and your partner work as a team! Located all over the city, be sure to check out Thrillscape’s “Break and Enter” and Breakout West’s “B.O.M.B.”.
The hard part of first dates is often knowing what to talk about. Even if you have things in common, often the pressure of the experience can leave you tongue tied and flustered. Boardgame cafés take the pressure off! If you can’t think of what to say, play a game, either by yourselves or with other people! Eventually you’ll both relax and the conversation will flow, and if not, at least you can have the satisfaction of crushing your date at Monopoly.
5. Walk Around City Hall:
The longer I’ve lived here, the more I’ve realized that Edmonton’s gems are in the least expected places. For me, one of these places is City Hall. The architecture of the building alone is breathtaking, a perfect place to have a pensive moment with a potential partner. Each floor contains little tidbits of Edmonton’s history, from various art pieces to biographies of Edmonton’s mayors. While not the most conventional date spot, it’ll definitely give you and your partner lots to talk about.
6. Used bookstores:
To me, there’s nothing more romantic than a bookstore. Edmonton is blessed with so many locally owned used bookstores. If you are a cat lover, make sure you check out the Wee Book Inn’s various locations, because not only does each store have hundreds of used books, each one also has it’s own cat! Take your partner to go pet an adorable cat and buy more affordable books than you can possibly carry home.
You’ve probably both visited Edmonton’s Telus World of Science at some point or another. But probably not in this way! Dark Matters evenings are 18+ only with the perfect mix of science and alcohol. Their next event is coming up on Thursday, January 19th with a huge gaming event (including video games on the IMAX screen!). Book ahead and be sure to check out the rest of the centre while you’re there!
Are you stressed out from a busy semester or the pre-Christmas rush? Do you love getting naked? Try out a unique evening at Modern Gravity Float Studio. The soundproof, lightproof pool rooms are filled with epsom salts to make you feel like you’re just floating and not even in water. It’s the perfect stimulus-free environment for your mind and body to relax. While you have to be in separate rooms, you’ll both come out relaxed and ready to continue your adventurous evening together.
Check out one of the new exhibits at the gallery (free admission on the last Thursday evening of every month!) or head over on the third Thursday of the month at lunchtime for a guided tour of the feature exhibit (free with general admission!). Want to experience art through film? Head to the Ledcor theatre in the gallery for a monthly Art Docs film that brings the stories of various artists to life on the screen. After your event, grab a coffee and snack at Zinc cafe on the main floor while you discuss your impressions from the day!
When you walk into the Muttart, you’re immediately filled with a sense of peace. The warm, humid air in the pyramids makes you forget for just a moment that you’re living in the driest, iciest city in the world, and as you walk through you can hear a gentle buzzing which, though I am not a botanist, I’m fairly sure is just the sound of plants humming contentedly. Each pyramid contains its own unique terrain, with one feature Pyramid (right now it’s the Holiday feature!). Not only is it beautiful, it’s educational! What more could you ask for on a date than to know more than you did going into it?
11. All-You-Can Eat Sushi:
If you’re both into sushi but not quite ready to go and share an order, AYCE is the perfect way to get to know your date’s sushi-experience-level. Order by the piece and don’t worry about prices or that your date won’t enjoy something – it’s practically risk free! Just be careful not to over-order as most places charge for leftovers and you might find yourself smuggling out sushi cones in your purse. Two of my favorite locations are Watari on Jasper Avenue and the slightly more expensive Sumo Sumo in Sherwood Park (only all-you-can-eat on Sundays though!).
12. Cinnamon buns at Sugarbowl for breakfast:
The Sugarbowl has got to be one of Edmonton’s best places to warm up in the mornings. Located right next to the High Level Bridge, come in for one of their award-winning cinnamon buns and then take a stroll across the river and to the Legislature grounds! Make sure to come early – the buns’ fame makes them extremely popular and almost guaranteed to be sold out by 11 am.
13. LOVE pizza:
Want to put an interesting spin on a pizza night? Do you and your date have completely opposite tastes in pizza? Check out LOVE pizza downtown for individual sized pizzas with unique toppings and flavours from nacho to donair pizza.
The only thing that can make local Edmonton JACEK chocolate better is sharing it with someone special. Check out one of their evening tasting events to explore their different products and learn more about chocolate and the process behind it! Next event is Thursday, January 27, 2017!
15. Half-priced wine nights:
Getting to know someone on a date can definitely be nerve-wracking, so there’s no better way to calm those nerves with a bottle of wine or two, especially at half price! Check out Earl’s on Wednesdays or Original Joe’s on Thursdays!
16. Melting pot:
The premise of fondue is timeless – dip tasty things into even tastier things. The Melting Pot gives you and your partner a perfect place to do just that! The atmosphere at the Melting Pot is perfect for dates, and if the main course fondues don’t have you falling in love, the dessert fondues certainly will.
17. Cocktails at Clementine:
Dress up and time travel back to the 1920s with a delicious cocktail and a snack made from local ingredients. Not only will it probably be the most unique cocktail your date has ever had in Edmonton, but the cozy train-car-like atmosphere will get a great conversation going. Want to know more? Check out our review of Clementine from our last issue!
18. Cask & Barrel:
Cask & Barrel is the perfect mix between a bar and a sit-down restaurant. This tiny locale is right next to the Bay/Enterprise Square LRT station, eliminating the trouble of finding a parking spot downtown. Cozy up on the couches, grab a drink and panini and make sure to try their delicious tomato soup!
Craving a fancier dinner or just churros to end a perfect evening? Rostizado has you covered. Located in the old Mercer Warehouse you’ll be hard pressed to find a better location for a unique date. Walk down Edmonton’s outdoor Neon Gallery on your way or check out an Oiler’s game at the new arena just across the street!
Skating is the classic Edmonton date. Most of us are completely uncoordinated and it makes for good laughs, but maybe your date happens to be a skating all-star, in which case your night will quickly turn into a romantic, ungraceful lesson that naturally leads into a conversation over hot chocolate at the end of the evening. Try it outside at Hawrelak Park or City Hall or experience it inside at West Edmonton Mall!
Unwind and find out which one of you can contort and stretch into the craziest position. You’ll come out relaxed and refreshed – ready for a thrilling conversation or an adventure around the city. If you’re a UofA student, check out yoga hosted by Health and Wellness Movement, or look up one of the many studios around Edmonton! Some of them will even offer you a free drop in class to get a taste of what it’s all about!
Does Edmonton’s cold weather make you dream of tropical getaways? Want to show off your beach body in the middle of December? West Edmonton Mall has you covered! Head over to the Waterpark for a 90-minute surf lesson Saturday mornings 8:00-9:30 am. Just make sure to pre-book your session online!
23. Axe throwing:
Need to take out some frustration? Trying to convince your date that you would be valuable company on a camping trip? Prove it to them at Sherwood Park’s “Bad Axe Throwing”! The perfect way to get a little competitive on the first night out.
Do you miss those summer trampoline parties we all used to have as kids? Check out launchpad in southeast Edmonton for a night of tumbling and bouncing – you can even challenge each other to a game of basketball or show off your flips.
25. Cross-country skiing or Snowshoeing:
If going for a walk is a little too boring, spice it up by heading out the Strathcona Wilderness Centre and renting out cross-country skis or snowshoes! Guaranteed to keep you warm even on the coldest days and it’s a great way to try out a new sport together.
26. Rundle park tobogganing:
If your date thinks tobogganing is only for kids, Rundle Park’s hill will quickly prove them wrong. Bring out your rusty toboggan or pick up a couple of cheap Crazy Carpets to get covered head-to-toe in snow, and maybe a little bruised up!
Sugar Swing Dance Club is the perfect date spot! Located just off Whyte, you can take your partner for a night out on the town, starting by learning how to swing dance! With lessons that vary from beginner to expert levels, and weekend dance nights, it’s definitely a fun way to try something new with your partner!
28. Christmas Lights at the Legislature:
These lights are great for dates as well as solo adventures. The Legislature grounds are by far one of Edmonton’s favorite venues all year round and at winter they turn into a magical forest of lights – perfect for late night walks with a gorgeous view of the river valley.
29. Graffiti murals:
Edmonton is home to over 30 graffiti murals! There’s the Living Wall just northeast of Churchill Square and Writer’s Block in the alley north of Whyte Avenue. Apart from those, the Rust Magic Festival painted 18 new murals this fall – check out our piece on the festival with a map of the different locations!
If you haven’t heard of UrbanYEG, check out the piece we wrote about them in October! If you’re interested in photography and want to get to know Edmonton a little better, consider joining them for one of their photography walks. You’ll learn more about each other’s tastes and meet new people! Follow them on Instagram to hear about their events.
31. Cool places to see the skyline:
Everyone has seen Edmonton from Saskatchewan Drive or the top of Gallagher Park. Want to impress your date with a unique view of Edmonton’s downtown? Drive out to McNally high school and walk out to the edge of the park for an outstanding view of the corner of the river and the east side of downtown!
Bundle up and head over to the rooftop of the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science (CCIS) at the UofA campus to see the night sky through the telescope! Free public viewings every Thursday night starting January 5th from 7-8 pm!
33. Jurassic Forest:
Is there any way to go wrong with animatronic dinosaurs? Jurassic forest isn’t something you can do year round, but when it opens in the spring be sure to check it out! Just north of Edmonton, this park boasts tons of fun and educational activities. Plus, if you get bored of the dinosaurs, there’s always mini golf! (But really, how could you ever get bored of dinosaurs).
34. Ice castles:
If you didn’t get a chance to check out Hawrelak Park’s ice castle last year, don’t worry – it’s coming back this year! Book your time slot ahead of time and transport yourself to the land of Ice Age for a unique winter walk!
Need a break from the city? Drive out to Elk Island Park just 35 km east of Edmonton. Enjoy a beautiful walk along the boardwalks during the day or come back at night to see the stars far away from the city’s light pollution. Want to make your night even better? Subscribe to Aurora Watch to get an email when there’s a high probability of seeing Northern Lights around Edmonton!
36. Candy Cane Lane:
A tried and true Edmonton staple, Candy Cane lane is the iconic winter date. Stroll down the lane, sip hot chocolate, and look at the beautiful Christmas displays in between gazing lovingly at each other in the brightly lit night. Go ahead and let yourself be a cliche, just for a night.
37. VIP Theatre Windermere:
Want to make your movie date night extra-cool? Check out Windermere’s VIP theatre in south Edmonton! Take the time to dress up, enjoy a cocktail before the show, and order food right to your comfy seat. Guaranteed to make your movie night top-class and unforgettable.
Want to add a nerdy spin to your movie night? Check out one of the Science in the Cinema evenings hosted by the University of Alberta Medical Students’ Association at Garneau Theatre. These evenings are free (including popcorn!) and consist of a popular movie (ex. Gravity, The Intouchables) and a short lecture from one of the University’s researchers about a topic in the movie. Are you curious if the physics in Gravity are true? They’ll separate myth from fact for you! Follow them on Facebook to hear about their next event!
If you’re bored of movie nights in the 21st century, time travel through a vintage movie night in Edmonton’s reconstructed 1929 theatre. Want to immerse yourself more in the time period? Book a night at the Hotel Selkirk and explore the park after hours!
40. Old Christmas Movies:
Re-watching classic Christmas movies while curled up on the couch is one of the best parts of the holidays. Head over to Garneau theatre for one of your favorite classics this month and complete the evening with dessert at Rosso or Sugarbowl cafe!
Theatre & Shows
Enjoy a four-course meal (served by the actors!) accompanied by a three-act musical theatre performance. Enjoy the live show and be prepared to get fully immersed and maybe even involved in the performance! Currently playing “Night at the Museum of Country Music”, they’ll be opening “Ferris Bueller’s School of Rock” at the end of January!
Alberta Ballet never fails to disappoint and the Nutcracker is an annual tradition for many in the city. Even if you’ve both seen the show before, the choreography is guaranteed to be different and the storyline never grows old. You’ll walk out smiling with the Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy stuck in your head for days.
A timeless classic, the Citadel’s “A Christmas Carol” is another one of Edmonton’s annual traditions. If you’re tired of the story, the show’s special effects will keep you on your toes. And since you’re already there, check out Normand’s Bistro for a delicious dinner after the show.
44. Carol concerts at the Legislature:
If the Christmas lights at the Legislature grounds aren’t magical enough for you, plan your date night to overlap with one of the carol concerts inside the Legislature. Most days at noon and in the evenings you can catch one of the choir concerts in the rotunda, walk around the Christmas trees outside, and go skating in the fountains!
45. The Comic Strip:
Relieve some stress and lighten your mood with a comedy show at West Edmonton Mall’s The Comic Strip! The company has expanded to locations across North America but Edmonton hosts the original. Check out Mike Dambra this month or Steve O – the star of Jackass!
Get inspired by stories from local writers at Story Slam! Hosted every third Wednesday of the month at the Mercury Room (10575 114 St NW).
While I haven’t personally experienced this yet, so many of my friends swear that this is their favorite way to relieve some stress and get to know someone new. Located on Whyte Avenue, you can choose to paint anything from a mug to a Christmas tree ornament for as low as $8 for students. The experts will fireglaze your masterpiece and a few days later you’ll have a beautiful souvenir of the perfect evening!
48. Italian Centre:
Want to have a quiet night in? Surprise your date with a homemade cheese and charcuterie board! The staff at the Italian Centre will help you compose the perfect arrangement and recommend a good wine to pair it with. Light some candles and enjoy a quiet evening to yourselves!
49. Paint Nite:
Paint Nites are the perfect way to create something nice, even if you’re not particularly artistically gifted. The evening isn’t about the end painting, it’s about the experience. Take your partner to a paint night, drink, flirt, flick some paint at each other, and come out of the experience with a painting to commemorate the experience!
50. Buy a gingerbread house-kit:
Want to take the edge off a quiet night in? Pick up a gingerbread house kit and get your hands messy! By the end you’ll both be covered in candy and icing and giggling from a sugar high after snacking all night.
Banner Photography Courtesy of Dawn Graves.