What does your idea of a romantic evening entail? Fancy dinners? Flowers? Gifts? Sometimes it’s important to remember that being romantic doesn’t have to mean spending all your dough. There are many ways to treat your loved one to a special date without emptying your wallet (or his).
LOCAL ART SHOWS
Many cities have local art shows or photography exhibitions that are free to visit. Some even offer complimentary wine and cheese. Look in your local newspaper or city’s website for listings near you. The cultural benefits are a nice bonus!
AMATEUR NIGHT AT A BAR
So-called amateur or open-mic nights tend to showcase local talent in either music or comedy performances, depending on the venue. Before you go, do your research to make sure it’s something that would actually interest you and your date.
FREE OUTDOOR CONCERTS This is an ideal summertime date. There are hundreds of free outdoor concerts during the warmer months, and you can even turn it into a fun dinner by bringing a picnic!
TOUR A LOCAL BREWERY Most brewery tours are free and—best of all—include free samples at the end. So get your beer buzz on and learn about brewing from those who do it best!
HAVE A GAME NIGHT
Everyone has a favorite childhood (or adulthood) game, whether it’s Monopoly, Clue, or Catch Phrase, so settle in for the night and enjoy a little friendly competition. Or you might try one of the new, more complex games that are sweeping the country like “Settlers of Canaan.”
Urbanites, toss a blanket and bottle of wine in the car and then drive until you find a scenic location far from the city lights. If you want to make an entire night of it, bring a picnic and dine by the sunset. What’s more romantic than that?
HAVE A MOVIE NIGHT
Instead of spending tons of money at the movie theater, stay home and watch one of your favorite films together. Take turns picking the movie. You’d be surprised how much you can learn about someone from their movie selection.
Not a fan of films? Watch a marathon of your favorite TV show or one that you’ve missed but always wanted to catch up on (Mad Men, anyone?)
GO TO THE BEACH
Many beaches and lakes are free to visit, which makes them an ideal spot for a romantic rendezvous. You can take a long walk along the shore, have a stone-skipping contest, or simply gaze at the waves while you get to know each other better.
GO ON A BIKE RIDE
This is a great way to get in some exercise while having fun. Look for cool paths around your town and explore new areas—in tandem!
TAKE A HIKE
Head for the hills! Pack lots of water and your favorite healthy snacks and dress in layers so you’re prepared for sudden weather changes. This is a great way to enjoy nature and each other’s company.
BE A GOOD SPORT
Get sweaty! Whether it’s playing catch with a Frisbee, kicking the hacky sack, or shooting some hoops, you’re sure to have some fun. If you have a whole day, you can play a lot of different sports and take breaks for snacks in between.
GIVE BACK TO YOUR COMMUNITY If you share a passion for animals, volunteer at a local pet shelter. If you’re more interested in hefting a hammer, look into Habitat for Humanity. There are volunteer opportunities for all passions, so just find the one that best suits you both and have fun!
HOST A DANCE PARTY We all know dancing is fun and good exercise. But who wants to deal with the crowds or expensive drinks at the clubs? Turn your own home into a club with a particular theme. You could even do this weekly with rotating themes!
GO TO A PLAYGROUND
Playgrounds aren’t just for mommies and kids. Relive your childhoods and have contests to see who can swing the highest or who can do the monkey bars the most times in a row. Bonus: You’ll torch some extra calories.
FREE ZOO DAYS
Zoos aren’t just for grade school field trips. Most zoos offer a few free days throughout the year. This is a great time to take advantage of the awesome exhibits without having to pay for entrance.
ATTEND A FARMERS MARKET
Many cities now host farmers markets on the weekends. The food on offer is usually healthier and fresher than store-bought versions, and it’s always interesting to check out the work of local artisans!
GO FOR A TEST DRIVE
Have fun going for a spin in your dream car or any car that looks like fun. Just beware: You may have to pretend you’re looking to buy, so you’ll want to prepare a cover story.
If you’re in an area with lots of snow, hit the hills on a downward slope. You could even turn it into a contest to see who comes up with the most successful makeshift sled!
Everyone loves having pictures of their special someone, whether for your wallet, on your desk at work, or just for your home. Have fun with your photoshoot and come up with interesting costumes, backdrops, and angles. (We’ll watch for them on Facebook.)
ENJOY A SCENIC DRIVE Weather-permitting, a relaxing drive does wondrous things for the soul, and offers a great opportunity for couples to catch up in a quiet, relaxed environment. Bring good tunes and snacks to round out the moment.
AMATEUR NIGHT AT A COFFEEHOUSE
Many local coffeehouses have amateur nights, where people can come in and perform or read poetry and you get a great night’s entertainment for the price of a cup of coffee. You never know what kind of performances you’ll find, so expect the unexpected. If you’re bold, you might even jump in and participate!
CHECK OUT LOCAL YARD SALES
One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Checking out local yard or garage sales can be a fun way to bond over random things that get you excited. Make it a competition to see who snag the coolest stuff for the lowest price.
TOUR A WINERY
Most winery tours are completely free and even offer samples in hopes you’ll purchase a few bottles. It’s a great way to learn about local wines and to spend some quality time together tasting!
Check to see when local sporting teams are going to be having a fireworks show. Take a blanket and cuddle up while you watch the sparks fly.
Lie in the grass and watch the clouds go by. Compete to see who can find the most unusual critters in the cloud formations.
GO FLY A KITE
Fly the kite that’s been gathering dust in your garage or make a new one. Then head to the park on a windy day.
AT-HOME WINE TASTING
Turn your dining room into a vineyard’s tasting room with tasty finger foods and vino from your wine rack. Comment on the tannins and oaky flavor of each glass (even if you have no idea what those words mean) and celebrate the “bottomless” nature of your at-home tasting.
While a quiet evening of Scrabble and Pinot is not a bad idea, consider amping up the festivities and hosting a couple’s game night of charades and Pictionary. All you need is paper, a marker, and some creativity to develop fun categories that all will enjoy.
ORGANIZE A “PROGRESSIVE POTLUCK DINNER”
The concept of a progressive potluck dinner is fun and frugal! Start at one person’s house for appetizers, then go to the next house for the main course, and end up at another house for dessert. Best of all, the clean up gets split between everyone.
AT-HOME COUPLES’ MASSAGE
Spas are having a field day advertising romantic but expensive couples’ massages. We couldn’t agree more, but we suggest the at-home version to save hundreds of dollars. Lotion? Check. Candles? Check. Most comfortable massage table in the world (your bed)? Done!
VISIT A FARM
Some farms offer free tours or visiting hours. Visit the animals and learn about how a farm actually operates (it’s super interesting) and then set up a romantic picnic to enjoy afterwards!
LEARN SOMETHING NEW Bond over your brilliance by learning something new together. Take a cooking class, head over to the local library for a Western-European history session, or test out your foreign language skills by borrowing a beginner’s guide to Italian on CD. You can also tap into the Internet for infinite learning possibilities on culture, history, art, politics, and more.
This works best if you either live by a sandy beach/ocean or if you have a kid’s sandbox around. Gather up some items that can be used to build castles (bowls, cups, etc.) and see who can build the best one!
LEAP INTO LEAVES If you don’t have a yard of your own, borrow a local park’s leaves to create your pile and dive in! Or, go ‘leaf-peeping’ during peak season and view all the beautiful changing colors.
Find a smooth lake surface and start skipping. The peaceful surrounding is perfect for picnics, so pack a meal and enjoy the water all day!
WATER BALLOON FIGHT Hopefully you have some old balloons lying around from a birthday party. Use these to create water balloons and have fun with a giant water balloon battle.
HAVE A PICNIC
Instead of eating sandwiches at home for lunch, pack up and head out to a local park or lake. It’s a great way to spend quality time without the distractions at home! (Try to ditch your cell phones.)
BAKE A SWEET TREAT
Baking doesn’t require many ingredients sugar, flour, butter, and a few eggs can create a tasty treat for you and your sweetheart. Find free recipes online for slimmed-down cupcakes or cookies and whip up a batch together. Then enjoy the fruits of your labor!
RE-ARRANGE YOUR HOME
Ever been curious to see what your apartment would look like if it was feng shui’d? Or wanted to see what a crazy floral arrangement would do to liven up the space? This is a great way to enjoy each other and have fun with your creativity! Even if it just means rearranging furniture!
CREATE A SCAVENGER HUNT:
Scavenger hunts aren’t just for little kids they’re experiencing a major comeback among the grown-up crowd. Create your own scavenger hunt and explore a nearby town with your significant other. Even if you know the destinations, watching your date discover them is the best part.