The old standard is to go to a popular bar, hang out drinking with the guys or the girls, and try to score with the hottie across the room. But what are the chances of meeting someone you really want to date-someone with the same interests, values, likes and dislikes? Unless you're both total barflies, the likelihood is slim to none.
Fortunately, Sacramento abounds with prospects for more inspired matchups.
The Art of Love
The Crocker Art Museum, along with Smooth Jazz radio station KSSJ, hosts the popular Third Thursday Jazz concert series from 5:30 to 8 p.m. each month. Although not billed as a singles event, it's a fun social scene with complimentary hors d'oeuvres, a no-host bar and live music in a classy setting. Winter performances are held in the museum ballroom, and in the summer they move outdoors to the courtyard. Up to 1,200 art and music lovers attend each concert during the summer and about 400 in the winter. Admission is free for members, $10 for nonmembers.
Also at the art museum: Crocker Contemporaries, a committee that plans programs and events "designed for minds aged 25 to 45 who share an interest in art. " The programs include lectures, discussions and films on the fourth Thursday of the month as well as special events throughout the year, such as artist-studio tours, winery trips and a Sacramento Ballet performance.
Sacramento's Second Saturday celebration-when many area art galleries stay open in the evening allowing the public to view new shows, meet local artists, nosh on wine and food, and perhaps invest in a piece of art or two-is another great venue for unattached art lovers.
Barry Smith, owner of the Smith Gallery in downtown Sacramento, hosts a Singles Second Saturday event every other month, with musicians, complimentary hors d'oeuvres and wine, and the occasional door prize of artwork. The event attracts singles in their 30s and 40s.
"Being single, I realize there are a lot of people who want to meet people not in a bar. The gallery is a nonthreatening environment, " Smith says. "It's been overwhelmingly received. "
Crocker Art Museum, 216 O St., Sacramento; (916) 264-1179; crockerartmuseum.org.
Smith Gallery, 1020 11th St. (11th and K streets), Suite 100, Sacramento; (916) 446-4444; smithgallery.com.
The Professionals Guild is a locally based social organization that puts on dance/mixer parties every five to six weeks for singles 25 and older. "We attract a diverse range of upscale singles from a variety of career backgrounds-college-educated, single, professional people. It's not a particularly narrow kind of group, " says Paul Reese, owner. "[We're] very diverse culturally and agewise, more appealing to people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. "
The cover charge is $25, somewhat higher for a holiday party. Between 300 and 500 singles attend each event.
Professionals Guild, (916) 786-5858; pguild.com.
Like to commune with nature? Care about the environment? Consider finding your sweetheart on a hike with the Sierra Club Singles group.
"We're actually trying to get people out there who are interested in saving the environment. We have a nice variety of activities: bicycling, a boating section, backpacking, also dances, " says Henry Smith, a hike leader and vice chair of the Sacramento Singles group. The group offers urban hikes as well, such as a Fabulous 40s architectural walking tour through the affluent East Sacramento neighborhood.
Most Sierra Club Singles activities are free (except for gas money for the carpool and usually an optional dinner after the event) and you do not need to be a Sierra Club member to participate. While the group is for all ages, a subgroup plans activities for adults younger than 40.
Mother Lode Chapter Sierra Club, (916) 557-1100, ext. 119; motherlode.sierraclub.org/singles.
Want to find your main squeeze in eight minutes or less? Then speed dating might rev your engine.
Speed dating assumes that first impressions are accurate predictors of compatibility. Singles gather in a convivial atmosphere such as a bar or restaurant where they talk to another single of the opposite sex for about eight minutes, then go to the next round. Exchanges of last names and phone numbers are verboten. Instead, participants keep a kind of dance card of those whom they'd like to see again. At the end of the session, if two participants express interest in each other, contact information is forwarded.
Critics say speed dating is shallow, and the technique can be less than successful for the socially challenged or introverted. But many social scientists and researchers swear that all mating choices are made in the first few minutes, and speed dating gives participants the chance to meet many potential love candidates in a short period of time.
Two online companies-8minutedating.com and pre-dating.com -host speed dating events in Sacramento. 8minutedating.com also has special events for "a wide variety of ages, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations and other special interests such as pet lovers, movie
Suppose you need a little more help. Perhaps your career leaves you too busy to create a social life, you're emotionally exhausted from a recent breakup or maybe you want an expert to prescreen potential partners. A professional matchmaking or dating service might be just the ticket to jump-start your love life.
For several thousand dollars, you can join either Great Expectations or Table for Six Total Adventures to meet like-minded people who can afford the hefty price tag to get coached and pampered by professional dating consultants.
Great Expectations is one of the oldest and most established dating services in the country. It uses professional videotaping, photography and computers to build member profiles that can be searched and viewed by other members.
Joshua Bryan, Sacramento-area director, says that his service is "not a match-making type of thing. We let people pick and choose. We give people access to a library of 4,300 people. It's not us pushing someone on somebody; we're giving them access to someone they want to meet. "
Bryan, who has a degree in psychology, says Great Expectations' consultants find out what is holding people back from forming quality relationships. "We do a lot of life-coaching. We do classes on dating and monthly newsletters that give tips. It's a confidential and dignified way to meet people-the kind of people you'd want for friends."
Great Expectations has differing fee structures; call to inquire. Be prepared to sign a legal contract to join. The service caters to all singles of all ages.
Call (866) 697-3283 or visit greatexpectations.com.
Table for Six Total Adventures
The original concept behind Table for Six is simple: Three men and three women, matched for compatibility on physical characteristics and internal values, meet for dinner at an upscale restaurant and perhaps experience a chemical reaction or two. The dating service has been so successful that it's added "just-for-two " matchmaking and an adventures department, which sends groups of singles on events such as wine tasting, white-water rafting and skiing trips.
Table for Six Total Adventures also provides personal services such as image consulting, "flirting advice " and relationship coaching. Julie Paiva, founder of Table for Six Total Adventures, boasts a solid success rate. "Fifty tables a week, 50 love connections a week and over 750 marriages since 1997, " she says.
Table for Six charges $2,495 for a two-year membership, requires a legal contract and serves all ages. Call (916) 561-0506 or visit tableforsix.com.
Once you've identified someone you're interested in and are ready to meet, where should you go on the first date? Even the experts can't agree on this one. "Starbucks, " says Great Expectations' Joshua Bryan, without hesitation. "We invite everyone to go to Starbucks; you're not stuck for 45 minutes, not a movie where you can't talk. " Bryan thinks that 20 minutes is enough time for his clients to test the romantic waters. "In, out, evaluate in 20 minutes, " he advocates.
Table for Six Total Adventures regional director Lori Wilson offers a different perspective. "Coffee is an awful first date-you're assuming it's going to be a quick date, " she says. "Starbucks has fluorescent lighting; no one looks good in it. "
Wilson suggests going "somewhere you can sit back and relax and get to know each other, " with a leisurely glass of wine, perhaps. "When you go on a first date, it should be used just to decide if you want a second date. Not really all the in-depth stuff-do I want to marry this person, " she says. Go with a positive attitude, she advises.
Here are a few more suggestions for a fun first date:
A cooking class at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op is "a really great first date, " Wilson says. The co-op offers dozens of cooking classes each month, from Fondue Favorites to Magnificent Mushrooms.
Whole Foods Market also offers a smorgasbord of cooking classes ranging from a popular raw-food series to wild-game cooking to basic knife skills. Beer tasting is offered one Friday each month. Classes range from free to about $45, depending on length and complexity.
Want a bit more challenge? Learn the art of French cooking with chef William Rolle as you prepare and eat dishes such as leek quiche; chicken burgundy with mushroom, carrot and red wine sauce; and chocolate cake. Rolle teaches at his East Sacramento restaurant, Cafe Rolle. A big bonus: Rolle's delightful French accent, which can't help but inspire thoughts of romance. Each class costs $39, with an additional $20 materials fee.
Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, 1900 Alhambra Blvd., Sacramento, (916) 455-2667 and 8517 Bond Road, Elk Grove, (916) 714-7100; sacfoodcoop.com.
Whole Foods Market, 4315 Arden Way, Sacramento; (916) 488-2800; wholefoods.com/stores/calendars/ARD.html.
Cafe Rolle, 5357 H St., Sacramento; (916) 455-9140; caferolle.com.
For a can't-go-wrong first date, visit Old Sacramento. It's got loads of ambiance, great restaurants and fun things to do. Walk the cobblestone streets and wooden sidewalks while soaking up the Old West vibes. Hang over the railing at the wharf and peruse the traffic on the Sacramento River. Browse kitschy tourist shops or check out the Railroad or Discovery museums. Hail the River Otter Water Taxi for a romantic ride on the river to have a cocktail at one of the watering holes upstream.
Call the Old Sacramento Foundation at (916) 445-3054 or visit oldsacramento.com for more information.
How about a walk in the country, urban-style? Consider browsing a local farmers market to appraise the local produce while you appraise your date. If something starts to germinate, throw together a picnic with fresh bread, cheese, fruit and flowers. If you and your date don't hit it off-well, at least you've done some of your shopping. Farmers markets abound in the Sacramento area, with some open all year. For a complete list of area farmers markets, locations and times, visit california-grown.com.
If you're a political animal, consider strolling through Capitol Park while ferreting out your date's views. Depending on how the conversation goes, either head to the Capitol cafeteria to rub shoulders with politicos and map out a political strategy, or drown out your ideological differences by listening to live music at Marilyn's at Ninth and K streets. Die-hard partisans take note: Marilyn's has an intimate lounge area with C-Span showing all day.
Capitol Cafeteria, 1315 10th St., Sacramento. The cafeteria is in the basement, accessible by elevator near the rotunda.
Marilyn's on K Street, 908 K St., Sacramento; (916) 446-4361; marilynsonk.com.
Be a Player
Are you a game geek? Do you love wordplay, trivia and collecting $200 every time you pass go? Then show off your moves to a potential partner at a local game night. Sacramento has a flourishing games culture, with clubs dedicated to Scrabble, Go, Dungeons & Dragons, board games and the Rich Dad Cash Flow game, to name a few.
The Streets of London pub in midtown hosts a popular trivia night every Sunday, with prizes for the biggest know-it-alls. A good place to just hang out, the pub also has darts, foozball and an all-British jukebox.
Whole Foods Market holds a board game night once a month with Scrabble and Monopoly, a boom box and free snacks.
The Sacramento Board Games Club convenes at the Fox & Goose Public House at 10th and R streets almost every Tuesday starting at 7 p.m.
All of the above events are free.
For a list of local game clubs, visit the Sacramento Games Portal at sacgames.com.
The Streets of London Pub, 1804 J St., Sacramento; (916) 498-1388; streetsoflondon.net.
Whole Foods Market, 4315 Arden Way, Sacramento; (916) 488-2800; wholefoods.com/stores/calendars/ARD.html.
Fox & Goose Public House, 1001 R St., Sacramento; (916) 443-8825; foxandgoose.com.
"A really cute first date is to go ice-skating. If a guy invited a girl, she would just think he's the cutest, " says Table for Six Total Adventures regional director Lori Wilson. In late fall and early winter, skate outdoors at St. Rose of Lima Park, next to Downtown Plaza. During the rest of the year, visit Iceland, the oldest and only year-round ice-skating rink in Sacramento, or Skatetown Roseville in Roseville.
Sacramento Iceland, 1430 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 925-3121; icelandsacramento.com.
Skatetown Roseville, 1009 Orlando Ave., Roseville; (916) 783-8550; skatetown-roseville.com.
Get a Cue
Hustle up some romance with a round of pool or a game of shuffleboard at the Blue Cue in midtown, which also features a full bar and food.
Blue Cue, 1004 28th St., Sacramento; (916) 442-7208; paragarys.com/bluecue.
When You Wish Upon a Star . . .
Get star-struck gazing up at the heavens with your new honey at a local planetarium. Sacramento City College opens its observatory and huge telescope to the general public on the first Friday of each month from September to May (except January). Star parties start between 7 and 8:30 p.m. depending on the time of year. The observatory is located on the third floor of the Rodda South Building; admission is free.
Sacramento City College Observatory, 3835 Freeport Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 558-2005; scc.losrios.edu/~sah/physics/physics4.htm.
Want to feel like a kid again? Head to the Scandia Family Fun Center and relive your childhood with miniature golf, bumper cars and batting cages.
Scandia Family Fun Center, 5070 Hillsdale Blvd. (off Interstate 80 and Madison Avenue), Sacramento; (916) 331-0115; scandiafamilyfun.com.
If you're someone who knows wine, impress your date at Enotria Cafe & Wine Bar, where you can pick wines by the glass or preselected wine flights such as champagnes or European reds. If things work out, eat and be merry, too.
Enotria Cafe & Wine Bar, 1431 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 922-6792; enotria.com.
SEEN ONLINE IN THE PERSONALE:
Rich, full-bodied chocolate delight seeks cool, creamy mounds for mutual pleasure. All flavors welcome-vanilla, strawberry, peppermint-differences not important. Looking for partner who enjoys whipped-cream fights, banana boating, cherry picking and sundae drives. Let's explore the realm of senses together and let the chips fall where they may! Respond to CHoc@love.net. Serious replies only-no nuts, please.
The Internet can supply an electronic banquet for singles looking for love. However, while cyberspace has made it easier than ever to find a kindred spirit from the comfort of your own home or office, navigating the labyrinth of dating sites, personal profiles and classified ads can leave you feeling dazed and confused.
Take heart! We provide a comparison of some of the heavy hitters in the online dating scene and offer tips from an Internet dating specialist to help you find your special someone.
Dating services exist for every age group, ethnic group and special interest. You can find sites for Arab dating, Jewish dating, Christian dating, gay dating, fitness dating, deaf dating, vegetarian dating and every possible niche in between. Just plug in your interests with the word 'dating' into your favorite search engine and prepare to be bombarded with sites.
What should you look for in an online dating or matchmaking service? It's important to have photo-upload capability, a trial membership and good search tools to zero in on what you're looking for. Nice-to-have features include instant messaging (IM), chat features, video uploading and computerized matchmaking.
Jane Findeman teaches the Sacramento Learning Exchange's most popular course: The Ultimate Guide To Your Internet Dating. (Learn more about Findeman's Internet dating course at learningexchange.com.)
"If you are active and relish being assertive, then Matchmaker.com, Match.com, American Singles and many free sites will serve you well, " says Findeman. "If you expect the searching to be done for you, as you may not have the time or inclination, the computer will inform you of the matches on eHarmony. There are many more people under 50 years of age on the free sites. "
"It helps if your profile reflects you today, rather than 20 years ago, " adds Findeman. "And remember, Internet dating involves real people, just like yourself. So when someone has written to you or responded to your profile, please be kind. Thank them for their interest, as you do not know if they have just lost a loved one in a car accident, a ragged divorce or merely been dumped by a long-loved spouse the day before. "
Be forewarned: Most of the dating sites will automatically renew your subscription and charge your credit card each billing period until you cancel.
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