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When it comes to date night, I don’t need anything expensive, but I do need a little bit of effort. Don’t get me wrong, I love to be wined and dined at a bougie restaurant with my boo, but when it comes right down to it, it’s not realistic to expect pricy date nights multiple times a week when you’re in a long-term relationship. You’ve both gotta budget, after all! That’s why having an abundance of free date ideas in your back pocket is such a great idea. Be it as simple as a stroll through a new neighborhood or as exciting as a free brewery tour or movie night in the park, you don’t need to spend a ton of coin for some quality time with your partner, and this list is proof.
In addition to being exciting, fun and (at times) a little nerve-wracking, dating is expensive. That said, there are tons of ways to ensure you and your partner have a memorable night without dropping so much as a dime. Stay in and have a movie marathon, read each other’s tarot cards or go head-to-head in a karaoke battle. Or, get out and volunteer together, test-drive your dream car or play house and tour fancy open houses. You might be surprised how much fun you two can have together when you aren’t stressing about who’s going to grab the bill at the end of the night.
Below, find 31(!) of our tried-and-true free dates guaranteed to bring you and your partner closer. Just be sure to wear your masks and practice social distancing among others. Who knows? You might just find your new favorite activity to do together. Thank me later.
1. Take a Hike
Throw on your sneakers, head to the nearest trail and go on a hiking date. If you and your boo happen to be morning people, make it a sunrise hike—you’ll get some killer Instagram shots.
2. Find a Free Concert
No matter where you live, you can usually find a free concert or two, even if it’s not an artist from Spotify’s Best New Music playlist. Plan a date around it and see if you two can’t find a new tune to be your song.
3. Eat Samples at a Food Market
Feeling hungry but don’t want to splurge on a restaurant date? Head over to a local food market or food festival with your date and snack on some delicious samples. Low-key, Costco works, too.
4. Read One Another’s Tarot Cards
Even tarot newbies will enjoy a date spent deep-diving into how to read tarot or oracle cards. You might be surprised what you two learn about one another in the process!
5. Explore a New Neighborhood
Be a tourist in your own city! Take the subway or bus, get off at a random stop you’re unfamiliar with and explore. It’ll feel great to spend a day with no inhibitions and hey, the date practically plans itself!
6. Plan a Game Night
This is the perfect free group date activity. Split up into teams and let the dice (and the good times) roll. Might I suggest a virtual escape room or two?
7. Spend a Night at The Museum
Look online for times that local museums offer free admission (Pro tip: It’s usually in the evening!) and roam around with your special someone, picking out your favorite pieces or exhibits.
8. Make it a Beach Day
Take a dip, make a sandcastle, play a game of beach volleyball or just chill out together while soaking up some sun. If you do spend money on anything, make it sunscreen or an afternoon popsicle.
9. Go Roller Skating
Strap on some roller skates and roll around town or to nearby park with your date. In the winter, swap out the roller skates and go ice skating at a local rink.
10. Have a Movie Marathon
Pop some popcorn, cuddle up together on the couch and start up a movie marathon, a.k.a. a Netflix & Chill sesh. Take turns watching picking what to watch or commit to one series to binge together.
11. Volunteer Together
Whether you want to play with the puppies at an animal shelter or help out at a soup kitchen, volunteering with your date is not only super fulfilling, but you’ll make some awesome memories in the process.
12. Build a Slip ‘N Slide
A summer must: Set up a Slip ‘N Slide in your backyard. Not only is this silly date a sure-fire hit, but it’s a refreshing way for the two of you to cool off in the summer heat.
13. Go to Expensive Open Houses
Toss on a cocktail dress or grab a tie, and become whoever you’d like to be for the day! Check local listings for open houses and take a look around the dream home that you and your date could never afford. Tip: Walk in like you own the place (just don’t get carried away and try to actually own the place).
14. Go Camping in Your Backyard
Pitch a tent in the backyard for the night! Make a bonfire, roast a marshmallow (or two, or three) and end the evening with some stargazing—there’s nothing more romantic than that.
15. Shoot Some Hoops
There’s nothing better than letting your competitive side out every now and then, so head to the local basketball court and challenge that special someone to a one-on-one showdown. Just don’t be a sore loser if they show you up!
16. Find a Movie Screening in the Park
This is the classic dinner and a movie date night with a (free) twist! Instead of heading out to a fancy restaurant, plan a picnic followed by a free movie screening in the park. It will be way more romantic than whispering in a stuffy theater, anyway.
17. Play a Messy Game of Twister
Take it to the backyard and play game of messy Twister. The same rules as regular Twister apply, but put coordinated paint colors on the Twister circles and let the games begin! Pro Tip: Wear something you don’t mind getting covered in paint.
18. Download a Karaoke App
Whether you sound like Beyoncé or a struggling feline, karaoke is always a great way to loosen up and have some fun! A no-cost way to do it: Troll the app store for free apps you can download and sing along to, or search up karaoke tracks on YouTube and blast them through some speakers.
19. Host an At-Home Poker Night
Can you keep a poker face? Find out by playing a game of poker with your date, wagering with anything other than money.
20. Go on a Free Brewery Tour
Many brewery tours are free, so take advantage of this when planning your next date. If beer isn’t your thing, many wineries offer free tours as well. Enjoy strolling through and decide from there if you two want to splurge on a bottle or pint. Or, stay home and be your own mixologist with some DIY drinks!
21. Test-Drive Your Dream Car
Rev up the car and the relationship by getting behind the wheel and test-driving your dream car with your date at a local dealership. Who knows, you might actually end up buying it—in which case, the date will definitely not be free, but it will be fun.
22. Go to Trivia Night
There’s nothing more attractive than intelligence! Channel your inner nerd and impress your date at a local trivia night. Hopefully they’ll impress you, too!
23. Play Truth Or Dare
Revisit the infamous childhood game of Truth or Dare by walking around town taking turns asking each other the age-old question. You’ll learn tons about each other and have a total blast! Play the same game at home with a more scandalous twist, if you dare.
24. Share Embarrassing Photos
Headgear, frizzy hair and some freaky-looking sweaters? Check! Collect some old photos, be they funny baby pics or cringy high school grad pics, and trade them with your date. Not only will it provide some good laughs, but it will keep the conversation flowing and help you both see different sides of one another.
25. Play Old-School Video Games
Dust off the old controllers and turn on that Nintendo 64! Be Mario, Princess Peach or Toad for the night and have an old school face-off playing Mario Kart, Mario Party and all of the classics.
26. Have an Instagram Date
Does your boo love racking up likes on the ‘Gram? Juice up your phones and head out in search of inspiration. You might find yourselves drawn to a park you never noticed before, or a part of the city where the graffiti is super-photogenic. Take tons of selfies so that you have your own Instagram trail of the date.
27. Go On a Scenic Landmark Crawl
Be a tourist in your own city, but only hit up landmarks that don’t charge an entrance fee, like statues, museums or other places that you’d go if you were only in town for a day.
28. Go For a Swim
If it’s summertime, hit up a public pool, lake or ocean and sunbathe and swim with your S.O.—don’t forget the sunscreen!
29. Wander Through Art Galleries
Check out local and up-and-coming artists on display at galleries in your area. You’re not there to shop, but you might discover your new favorite talent. If you go at the right time, some galleries will offer snacks or free drinks to people wandering in and out, so Google first to see if there’s an especially good time to go.
30. Give Each Other Massages
Light some candles, break out the oil and give each other a nice long back-rub. You’ll both get a chance to unwind while knowing that you’re not on the clock and paying for every minute of enjoyment. Plus, who knows where it will lead, wink wink.
31. Go to an Author Reading
Bookstores and libraries regularly host author readings, and they’re almost always free. It’s a fun way spend an afternoon and stay on the pulse of the literary community. Plus, it’ll give you something to talk about later.
A version of this article was originally published in September 2016.