The other day I wrote a post called “8 Ways to Keep the Spark Alive.” One of the tips I offered was to go on regular dates, to which a commenter asked if I had any “cheap date” ideas. Well, I do. I have 52 of them, as a matter of fact — one for each week of the year. So, after the jump, discover (or be reminded of) some fun ways to get out and about – in great weather or bad — without breaking your budget.
1. Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way first: go for a bike ride and have a picnic lunch. You can even rent a tandem bike if you want to be super cute(sy) about it. As for the lunch, here are some great recipes for dishes that are tasty, and easy-to-pack-and-eat-outdoors.
2. Free days/nights at the museum. Most museums have at least one day or evening a week that is free for locals. Check with your office of tourism for a calendar of events and schedule of such free days.
3. Find a swimming hole and dive in. Go for a long walk, bike ride or country drive with the intention of finding a local swimming hole for a dip (skinny or otherwise…).
4. Hit a used bookstore.
5. Go to a matinee movie. Even in New York, matinee movies are still less than seven bucks a pop. Just be sure to sneak in your own snack in your purse or roomy coat pockets.
6. Visit the beach.
7. Make it a night of tacos and margaritas.
8. See free movies in the park. If your town has a park district — and most do — check its website for a summertime movie schedule. Pack a blanket, maybe a bottle of wine and a couple of snacks and enjoy some free entertainment.
9. Go to a book signing.
10. Go ice skating (and bring along a thermos of hot chocolate).
11. See a play. Call your local theaters and see if they offer discounted tickets for their dress rehearsal performances, or check out your what the theater departments at your community colleges and local universities have on tap.
12. Go Geocaching. Perfect for techy geeks who like the outdoors, Geocaching is a kind of scavenger hunt for GPS set.
13. Check out opening night at an art gallery. Did you know that most art galleries that host an opening night for the public also offer free wine and snacks? Culture and booze? Check.
14. Find a hotel lobby with a fireplace. You don’t typically have to be a guest at a hotel to enjoy its lobby, so in the middle of winter, see if you can find a hotel in your area that has a fireplace you can camp out in front of for an hour or two. Bring a deck of cards, and be sure to order a drink from the bar so you aren’t a total loiterer.
15. Fly a kite.
16. Go to a free concert.
17. Take a dance class.
18. Hit a library event. Most libraries host guest musicians, author talks, movies, and interesting lectures, so check the calendar of events at the main library in your town to find something cool. Your tax dollars are paying for it, after all.
19. Get some happy hour drinks.
20. Watch meteors. Here’s a schedule of when you can see them.
21. Go to a flea market (or antique store or even a yard sale). Make a game out of it by giving yourselves an object to find — say, an old postcard of Hawaii, a fishing pole or a tennis racket, for example — and the first person to find it buys the other person lunch.
22. Go paddle boating.
23. Get retro and go rollerskating.
24. Play putt-putt golf.
25. Go to a street festival.
26. Go on a road trip.
27. Depending on the season, go berry or apple picking.
28. Check out open mic night at a coffee shop (or just pretend you’re back in college again, and have long, esoteric discussions over bottomless cups of joe).
29. Go Bowling.
30. Visit a pumpkin patch and bring home a pumpkin to carve.
31. Go Halloween costume shopping. Even if you don’t favor the slutty costumes, you can still have fun trying one or two on for the hell of it.
32. Visit a botanical garden.
33. Hit trivia night at a local bar. Maybe you’ll even win a free round.
34. Go sledding.
35. Visit a comedy club. Most of them are cheap — sometimes they’re as cheap as five bucks — or require only a two drink minimum.
36. Go to a dog park. Even if you aren’t a dog owner yourself, it’s still fun to watch the different breeds and personalities interact with each other — especially on one of the first warm days of spring.
37. Go wine tasting. Check with your local liquor stores to see if/when they offer a wine tasting and try to organize a wine tasting “crawl” where you hit two or three tasting in one evening. Buy a bottle and continue the tasting at home or on a picnic or at the beach or at a movie in the park.
38. Tap into your inner teen and head to the arcade at your local mall.
39. Drive around town and check out the Christmas lights. Bring some spiked hot chocolate, a few cookies, and play some Christmas music on the radio.
40. Go to the zoo.
41. Have a diner breakfast. Brunch can get pricey — especially with Mimosas or Bloody Marys — but diners remain one of the cheapest and most delicious places to get a cheap meal. Plus, they usually serve breakfast 24 hours a day, which is great because who doesn’t like breakfast-for-dinner?
42. Eat funnel cake at a state or local fair.
43. Take a cooking class.
44. Build snowmen.
45. Pack some granola bars and go for a nature hike.
46. Go to a high school sports game.
47. Browse your local farmer’s market. Buy ingredients for a romantic, home-cooked candlelit dinner.
48. Get a certificate at Restaurant.com. I’ve written about my obsession before on my personal blog; I love restaurant.com. Do a quick Google search for coupon codes to get certificates for as much as 80% off!
49. Have an indoor picnic.
50. Indulge in a good ol’ fashioned Pizza Night (with a pitcher of beer).
51. Volunteer. Show your charitable side by spending a weekend afternoon giving back to a local non-profit or cause you’re passionate about.
52. Karaoke!! My favorite cheap date! Some karaoke bars charge by the room, some charge by the song, and the best ones don’t charge at all (well, not for the singing, anyway). Usually, the earlier you go in the evening, the better shot you have to find a deal (and a room), but of course, the later you go, the better you sound…