50 Ideas for Dating on the Cheap

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A nice, romantic outing does not have to be expensive to be memorable. In fact, with the following 50 ideas for dating on the cheap, your next date may be the best yet.
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Picnics, eh, been there, done that. But as they say, it is all about location. Here are ten unique and romantic picnic spots you probably have never considered that are inexpensive, if not completely free.

The Zoo

Ok, maybe not right in front of the monkey cages. But imagine a simple picnic for two near the butterfly garden, or under a shady tree within sight of the fountains.

Sculpture Garden

Picture the two of you in the quiet space of a sculpture garden, surrounded by wonderful works of art. Pick a weekday that is less likely to be crowded and enjoy an outdoor brunch for two.

Art Museum

You may not be allowed to eat inside the museum, but virtually every art museum has outdoor gardens. Have your picnic there and make a museum tour part of the outing. Many art museums are privately funded and admission is completely free.

Old Churches

The older the church, the more interesting it is likely to be. If you go on a non-service day, you could sit right on the front steps. What is more romantic, especially for engaged or married couples, than old church steps? Imagine how many newly married couples have walked down those stairs, excited and happy to start their new lives together. Reminisce about or plan your own special day.

Public Memorial Sites

Memorial sites are always beautiful because they are created to preserve the memory of a person or people who were loved and will be dearly missed. Even if the event itself was a tragedy, the memorial is there to inspire people to remember the past, and move forward. This is a great place to go if you are thinking of reviving or renewing your relationship.

The Airport

Yes, seriously. Watching planes land and take-off can be a lot of fun, especially if you can park your car near the end of a runway. It is a lot like a rollercoaster ride, with the noise and the way the wind picks up when the planes are that close to the ground. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but for thrill-seekers, this picnic spot is ideal and free.

Bird Sanctuaries

If airports aren’t your ideal picnic spot, consider your local bird sanctuary. Even if you aren’t an avid bird watcher, the outing would still be quite the adventure, not to mention beautiful. Bird sanctuaries are very carefully protected and maintained for the birds’ protection and well-being and are glorious to see if you like to appreciate nature at its best.

Botanical Gardens

Most cities have some kind of public Botanical Garden, for little or no admission cost. They are lovely places to walk together and sit for a peaceful picnic for two.

Outdoor Amphitheater

Outdoor amphitheaters can be found at parks, near recreation centers, or in zoos. When they are not in use they are fun to run around in and play with the interesting acoustics inside. Set up your picnic at the center stage if you like, or take a spot in the back row and people watch while you eat.

On the Roof

Ever wonder what was above your apartment, on the roof? There may be room to set up a small table and two chairs for a romantic rooftop picnic. If you really want to jazz it up, add a string of white lights near where you are sitting to emulate soft candlelight and have a dinner picnic at night. So romantic, and right out of a movie!

The following are somewhat less conventional, yet very inexpensive, date ideas. Keep your wallet closed and your mind open for the ten following ideas:

Wedding receptions
Other people’s wedding receptions are extremely easy to sneak into once the party gets started. The secret is in the timing, and a buffet with an open bar will provide the food and drink. You may even take a whirl on the dance floor if the band is any good.

Tickets to the Ballet
Ballet or theater tickets are usually expensive, but getting into the lobby is completely free. Get into your best formal attire and go have some wine and mingle. You could get lucky and catch the people who leave at intermission; take their seats and enjoy the rest of the performance. Who likes to sit through an entire ballet, anyway?

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Taking photographs
Taking pictures is easier today than it ever has been, especially with smartphones and digital cameras. Spend an afternoon in a favorite location staging funny shots of each other. Have you heard of “Vadering?” One person jumps into the air while the other pretends to be using the force to lift them off the ground. Dare your date to get a total stranger to Vader with you and take the shot. Being goofy with a camera costs nothing and can be hours of fun for both of you, and the photographed memories will be great for laughs for years to come.

Club Stalking
There is always action outside the nightclub. Most cities have districts that are nothing but door to door clubs. Go to one of the clubs without an admission fee and have a few drinks. Then spend the rest of the night walking the scene and people watching. The music is always loud enough to hear from outside, anyway.

If you really want in but don’t have the cash, do the old “lick and stick trick,” which is finding someone who is leaving the club with a stamp on their hand for readmission; lick your hand and stick it to the back of theirs, transferring the stamp to your own. In, like Flynn.

Games With Friends
Out of all your friends, at least one of them owns a gaming console. If you and your date like video games, suggest to your friend a night of multi-player games and make an evening of it. If your friend still lives in the basement of their parents’ house, even better since Moms usually have snacks and sodas on hand for their baby bird that has yet to leave the nest. Just keep the noise down so you don’t wake his Dad.


Hotel Ballrooms

Pick a nice hotel with ballrooms. Weekends are usually the most crowded, which makes it easy dress fancy and blend right in. You and your date can spend hours going from ballroom to ballroom, which is a perfect way to add variety to your evening.

Ballrooms hold receptions, bar-mitzvahs, proms, all of which have food, drinks, and music. Remember, the key is to blend and walk in like you recognize people. If someone tries to ask who you are, say “I’m the party animal, didn’t they warn you I was coming?” Then book it and lose them on the dance floor.

Netflix
Want to watch a movie with your honey, but don’t have the money? Sign up for a free thirty-day trial of Netflix and watch all the movies you want for twenty-nine days before canceling it.

Online Entertainment
Everyone loves surfing the ‘net, and with all the movies and games online, there is plenty to do with a date. But internet access costs money. Unless, of course, you find a neighbor with an unlocked Wifi connection, then you can surf to your heart’s content, for free. This works wonders with that free Netflix you have set up already.

Mom’s Cooking
If you are too nervous about introducing your date to your parents, simply wait until they aren’t home before you go to their house for dinner. As long as you clean up, they’ll never know you were there.

Freeganism
What is a Freegan? It is a play on the word Vegan, but a Freegan is someone who lives off what other people toss out. Every night restaurants throw out enormous amounts of perfectly good food at closing time because health codes and time constraints keep them from donating it. For a dinner worth waiting till late for, become a Freegan. You may even find a discarded table and chairs in the next alley over.

Volunteer

Volunteering is a way to give back to your community while helping those in need. Spend a few hours or even an entire day with your date, volunteering. Here are six ways to volunteer:

Reading
Coordinate a time to volunteer to read at your local library. Public libraries hold book readings for children on a regular basis to encourage their love for books, and the sessions are never more than an hour. You and your date could each read a short children’s story and have a great time with the kids.

Animal Rescue
Animal shelters always need volunteers, and most will let you work for a day if you arrange it beforehand. With two of you together, even hard work can be fun, and it’s for a good cause.

Food Bank
Food Banks only exist because of people willing to volunteer. They are always in need of help stocking shelves, cleaning, taking inventory, unloading donations or assisting Food Bank recipients. Just a few hours out of a weekend can do so much to help the community and doesn’t cost you anything but your time. If your date is as conscientious as you are, he or she will love the idea and love you even more for thinking of it.

Retirement Homes
The list of things you can do in a retirement home is endless. If you can read a newspaper, play an instrument, play a board game, or simply sit and visit, then you are qualified to help our older generation have a better day. You can even make arrangements to take your pet along if he or she is socialized enough for group interaction. Contact with animals is great for the mental well-being of older people, and retirement home directors are likely to welcome the idea. If you and your date both bring an animal it will be fun for everyone.

Wildlife Preserves
Wildlife preserves accept volunteers to help maintain the grounds, collect water samples, collect seeds for next season’s planting, composting, and even minor construction projects. There are numerous volunteer groups already in place that would welcome the two of you for a morning or even a whole day, and it is time spent together for another worthy cause.

Church
This is especially easy if you both belong to the same church, but if you don’t, consider taking turns volunteering at one another’s place of worship. Even if neither of you is church-goers, if you are looking for a place to volunteer, there is always a need for assistance at a church, just pick one. They will be grateful for your service and you will be filling a need for others while spending time together.

Expand your Horizons

Consider taking a class together! There are countless sources that list short courses for little or no fee; a simple Google search on “free classes” will return some very interesting topics. The following is a list of suggested classes that would be fun and inexpensive for couples:

Cooking
There are classes available that offer to teach you step-by-step how to cook one magnificent, multi-course meal, including appetizers, main course and which wine complements the meal best. This is a great idea for couples who are seasoned chefs as well as those new to cooking.

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Bead Shops
Most bead shops offer free classes one or two nights a month. The classes are led by knowledgeable jewelry artists that can show you how to make something simple, or for the more experienced person, a tip or technique for more intricate pieces. Beginners or pros alike, there is something for everyone to learn.

Ballroom Dancing
Most dance studios offer a complimentary lesson so that couples can try it and decide if ballroom dancing is something they would like to learn more about. A typical lesson is about forty-five minutes to an hour-long, and by the end of that hour, you will know at least one combination of ballroom dance steps, or enough to get you by at your cousin’s wedding, for sure. Whether you continue with lessons, or just do the one, it would be educational as well as entertaining for the two of you.

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Crafting Classes
Arts and Crafts supply chains offer a variety of free classes, such as floral arrangement, cake decorating, and jewelry making. The two of you might even invite some friends and make it a double date, which would ensure the men of the group would not feel alone in a typically female environment. Crafting classes are educational, creative, inexpensive, and fun, and normally last for one to two hours on various nights of the week. Check your local craft store for the posted list of classes and times.

Here are twenty more fabulous and inexpensive options to entertain a party of two:

Art show reception
Artists’ opening shows at galleries typically have a free reception for guests of the show. Not only do you get to view new art, but there is also usually wine served, and you both will have the opportunity to meet the artist and mingle with other guests. Culture and entertainment, together!

Jet Skiing
You don’t have to own a Jetski to have fun on one. Most lakes have small rental facilities that charge by the hour or by the day. If you love going to the lake, pack a lunch and treat yourselves to an hour by renting two small ones, or one two-seater to share. The rental facility provides life jackets and a short set of instructions for safety. Renting jet skis is easy, affordable and fun!

Farmer’s Market
Farmer’s Markets are a great place to go to find locally grown produce and meet the people actually growing the food you eat. Growers are always willing to tell you about their farms, methods, and philosophies which can be educational and very interesting. Take your fresh goodies home and make an evening meal for two.

Antique Hunting
Small towns are the best places to find antique malls and flea markets. You two can browse for hours, looking at all the antique pieces and wondering what the stories might be behind them. There is something about holding something that old in your hands that makes us feel nostalgic and intrigued by the mysterious past of the object; you can imagine together where it has been or who it has belonged to.

Craft Shows
Admission to arts and crafts shows is typically free to the public and full of interesting people and their creations. You will see everything from tacky to terrific, a plethora of conversation starters, free of charge.

Boardwalks
Assuming you live near a beach, it is fun to visit the local boardwalk. Nighttime walks are the best, because everything is lit up along one side, and on the other side is the ocean; pitch black, there is nothing but the sound of crashing waves in the night air. Very romantic for something that costs very little, if anything, to enjoy.

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Cemeteries
Old cemeteries are beautiful. You can walk among the headstones and find the most gorgeous statues and crosses. You can make a game of seeing who can find the oldest one. It is also a wonderful opportunity for taking photos, especially on a crisp, clear day with a blue sky in the background.

Music Store
Go to a music store and try out all the instruments. Whether you actually know how to play any of them is irrelevant, try them anyway. You are likely to get some laughs at each other’s attempts and it will be something fun to think back on later.

Play Dress Up
Go to your favorite store or mall and take turns trying on outfits that you would normally never wear. This is also fun in Thrift shops. See who can find the best and worst outfits, including hats, shoes, bags, and glasses. Another great photo opportunity! Your Facebook friends will thank you!

Change of Scenery
Find a town you have never visited before and drive there. You can research it ahead of time, or leave it completely up to fate to surprise you when you arrive. If it is a short drive, the cost is only fuel for your car and perhaps lunch in this “foreign” place. Fun and adventurous!

Geocaching
Geocaching is a fabulous “treasure hunt” game played all over the world using GPS coordinates to hide and find treasure. You go to one of the many Geocaching websites and obtain a coordinate. At that very spot, you will find a waterproof box, like a Tupperware container or an ammunition box, with a log book inside along with small, inexpensive goodies. The idea is to choose something from the box to take and bring along something of equal or higher value to leave in its place. The logbook is to record that you have been there, when, and where you are from. A very entertaining and inexpensive proposition!

Rainbow Cupcakes
For the price of some simple ingredients, you can have lots of fun with your date making cupcakes. To really make it fun, try rainbow cupcakes! After preparing the white cake mix, divide it into several bowls. With food coloring, make each bowl a different color batter. Spoon in a little of each color into the cupcake papers, and bake according to the instructions on the box. Rainbow color order is Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Purple, but you can make them in any order or color combination you want. Rainbow cupcakes are magic! And delicious!

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Game Day
Set up a small card table or blanket in your favorite park and play board or card games outside. Some good games to play are checkers, chess, Uno, Scrabble, the list is endless. Just don’t let the wind pick up your cards or you will have a game of chase on your hands before you know it. Since you’re outside anyway, you might as well bring along a picnic for two.

Dog Park
Dogs need social interaction, too, and since dogs don’t carry wallets, you know admission to the dog parks must be free! Potty bags and receptacles are usually provided, but you should bring your own just to be prepared. If neither of you owns a dog, go anyway. People who love dogs hang out in dog parks just to be near them. You’ll see them sitting on benches reading, or just watching. Some people bring treats to share but be advised, most dog owners prefer you ask their permission before sharing with their pet. Fido may be on a special diet, or already had his fill of treats for the day.

Duct Tape
Pick an object or article of clothing to cover in duct tape. Duct tape comes in all colors and patterns now, though the traditional gunmetal grey is still a favorite. Grab a roll of tape and a pair of scissors and see how creative the two of you can get.

Artist Trading Cards
Artist Trading Cards (ATC’s) are works of art that are 2.5” x 3.5” in size and are meant to be traded, never sold. ATC’s can be made out of any material, as long as they fit within these measurements. Junk mail or any recycled item is great for making ATC’s; for instance, a regular size cereal box can be cut up into 2.5” x 3.5” cards and junk mail or newspaper ads can be cut up as collage material. All you need is glue or tape and you’ve got what it takes to make art. You do not need to be a Picasso to create ATC’s. Trade with your date, or go online to find a group that does nothing but trade ATC’s. You exchange mailing addresses with someone and each of you mails an agreed number of cards to the other. Cards received in trades can be stored in the plastic sleeves made to hold nine baseball cards and put into binders to keep.

Ducks
Feeding ducks and geese at your local park pond can be lots of fun, and the scenery is perfect for a romantic walk as well. Ducks will eat leftover dry cereal, crackers, and bread, all of which is easily tossed into the water. If there is a bridge, drop some small bits of food over the edge and you may also see schools of fish or even turtles appear for a nibble. Just beware of hand feeding, as some larger geese can be aggressive. They don’t mean you any harm; they just get excited over the prospect of scoring another stale cracker.

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Sky hopping
Every city’s skyline is different, and everyone has a favorite building. Why not take an elevator ride up to the highest point in the building of your choice and take a photo of the view?

Food Carts
Food carts are everywhere, and they are an inexpensive and fun way to try new things to eat with your date. Pick a location where multiple food carts are parked and sample one thing from a few of them to share.

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Vapor Bars
Vapor bars are not just for smokers trying to quit. There are vapors that contain only flavors, without any addictive chemicals or nicotine in them. Buying a vaporizer can be expensive, but sampling flavors is free and are “vaped” (inhaled) at the “juice bar” with the use of a disposable mouthpiece supplied by the store. If you’ve never tried it, and are feeling adventurous, there is no time like the present. Flavors range from coffees to fruits like raspberries or banana, or desserts like vanilla hazelnut or apple pie.

Maybe it’s sweltering hot outside and you’re looking for a few romantic ways to cool down this summer, while still spicing things up with your loved one!

Whether it’s a picnic, or a free class, or even party crashing, these 50 ideas dating on the cheap all fall into the category of fun. Ask your sweetheart to join you on an adventure today!

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. FULL DISCLOSURE HERE
About Liss 4003 Articles
Melissa Burnell, known to her friends and fans as "Liss," grew up in Southern Maine, now residing in sunny South Carolina. As a busy Wife, Mother of two sons, an avid photographer, and self-employed entrepreneur, Liss understands the value of both time and money.

3 Comments

  1. Don’t feed ducks cereal, crackers or bread. Instead give them something healthy like corn, peas, rice, leafy greens, duck pellets or bird seed.

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