15 Cheap Date Ideas that are Surprisingly Awesome and Fun

Dates does not have to burn a hole in your pocket all the time

By Patti Flinsch-Rodriguez
15 Cheap Date Ideas that are Surprisingly Awesome and Fun

Cheap and creative first dates ideas

First dates are a little tough.  You need to be able to do something together and also get to know each other better.  You don't want to spend a lot of money, because let's face it, you may not really like this person all that much.  Save your dough for when you know you are really into your partner.  Let's take a look at some cheap and creative first date ideas you can explore with someone new.

1. Photography

You do not have to be Ansel Adams or have an expensive camera for this idea to work.  Everyone has a cell phone with a camera these days, so use that!  Take a walk, yes an actual walk, around your date's town.  You  will be amazed at how many things you do not notice when driving in a car, but are right in front of your face when you are walking.

You can make it a little competitive and see who takes the best photo.  The pics can be of anything, or you can decide on a theme.  If it's around a holiday, maybe see which one of you takes the most creative photo of decorations.  You can decide the theme is a color or it's wildlife.  Really, there is no bad idea at all.

You will get some exercise, see how competitive you are and learn about the neighborhood and your date as you talk and walk and take pics.

2. Community Theater

Broadway plays are not wallet-friendly, so you should avoid the big named extravaganzas as a first date option.  If you like the idea of taking your date to see live-action theater, check out community theaters in your area.  No, the quality is not the same as broadway, but you will see dedicated actors who are passionate about their craft. 

Some community theaters put on original plays by local playwrights, and these are definitely worth catching.  They will also put on adaptations of hit musicals.  If you cannot afford a ticket to Hamilton, your local theater may be a great bet.  You and your date can discuss the merits of the production during the intermission or while sipping a latte at your local coffee shop after the play.

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3. Art Gallery

I know what you are thinking.  I can't go to an art gallery. I am not pretentious.  Well, art is not only for the refined.  Regular people like you and I can appreciate art.  Most gallery showings are free.  Yes, FREE.  Not only are they free, but often they provide light refreshments including wine and cheese.

Don't hog all of the cheddar and remember that you are on a date.  See what kind of art she likes. You can learn a lot about a person by the type of art that inspires or repulses them.  You don't have to love everything that you see, but I'm sure there will be something you can appreciate.

4. Animal Sanctuary

Animal sanctuaries are places that take in wounded animals and nurse them back to health. The animals live out their lives on the sanctuary.  They are a type of zoo, but the animals they have are not expansive.  Some sanctuaries specialize and only have wolves or tigers.  Others may have aged farm animals and a petting zoo so you may have the opportunity to hand feed baby goats.

Sanctuaries are a great first date because they are inexpensive to get into and are filled with cute animals. There will be plenty of photo ops for you and your date as you walk around visiting the various animals

5. Gym

Take your date to the gym on a first date? Yes, and let me explain why it's a good idea.  First of all, if you are a member of a gym, you will usually be allowed to bring a guest for free, so this is a no cost date. This might not be a great idea for all couples, but it will work if both parties have an interest in fitness.  If your date is game, it can be a lot of fun.

Working out is always more fun with a partner.  When you go to the gym on your date, you get to show off.  After all, this is your gym and you know how to use the equipment so you can impress your date.  Who knows, your date may actually show you a thing or two! You are bound to laugh and bond over your time in the gym.  When you are done with your workout, go for a smoothie and you've got yourself an inexpensive night out.

Cheap and romantic date night ideas

Once you have been on a few dates, you will want to up the ante and start thinking about romance.  You can have cheap and romantic date nights so here are a few ideas to get the fires simmering.

6. Cook together at home

Cooking with your date at your home is a great way to encourage romance.  Decide ahead of tine what the menu will be so that you can have all of the ingredients on hand when you are ready to cook.  Definitely start off with a simple cocktail to get things rolling.

Try not to select something too complicated, but it should be more challenging than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Remember, you want to do this together.  Making your own pizza dough or pasta is sensual because you are kneading the dough together.  Have fun with this and choose something you have never made before to make things more interesting.

To make things more romantic, get some flowers and set the table with real dishes. No paper plates tonight!  Don't forget dessert so you end the night on a sweet note. You don't have to bake something if it is too much to undertake. A store bought pastry or ice cream will be perfect.  Of course, if you are feeling up to the challenge and want to whip up dessert, go for it! 

7. Picnic in the park

Picnics in the park can be romantic, but they require planning beforehand.  You must have something comfortable to sit on.  Park grounds can be uneven, rocky or damp so you need to bring a blanket and cheap vinyl tablecloth. Lay the tablecloth vinyl side down on the ground and the blanket on top of it. This will keep the moisture out.

Take along food that can be eaten at room temperature and are easy to eat without utensils.  Cheese, crackers and fruits such as grapes or berries travel well and are easy to eat with your hands.  Deviled ham sandwiches or chicken salad on a toasted kaiser bun are also nice options for food.

Be sure to bring a bottle of wine and glasses to drink from.  If you don't like wine, a mason jar filled with lemonade will quench your thirst.  Bring along macaron cookies for dessert.  They are dainty and delicious and are perfect for a picnic.  

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8. Dance Lesson

Dancing is a socially acceptable way to get close to your date in public.  You can call some dance studios and see if you can get a free lesson for you and your date.  Community schools offer group dance lessons for a very low cost.  The Rumba, Cha-Cha and Tango are common dances that are routinely taught in dance schools.  They are sensual dances that will afford you the opportunity to hold your dance partner close. 

When you are finished with your dance lesson, go out for a large glass of sangria.

9. Tour a Winery

Vinyards and wineries are picturesque and beautiful.  When you tour a winery, you get the opportunity to walk the grounds and see the grapes on the vine.  Wine tastings occur at set intervals.  The tastings are educational so you do not have to have any knowledge of wine before you go. 

You will learn the proper way to pour wine and how to swirl the wine in your glass.  The sommelier will explain the various notes you should be picking up as you sniff the wine and taste it.  In addition, you will learn how to pair wine with food.

Most wineries offer tastings for a nominal fee and often they are free!  Of course, if it's free, consider buying a bottle of wine.  You can enjoy the wine later that night or some other day when the two of you are reminiscing about your wine tasting adventure. 

10. Adult Novelty Toy Shopping

If you are envisioning a dark alley, sleazy porn shop in a red light district, you are out of touch. You are thinking of your father's era where these stores were kind of shady.  Purveyors of adult toys have come a long way, baby and they want you!

Today's adult novelty shops blend right into the framework of our society. They are in strip malls and nestled among codos in the suburbs.  When you walk in, you are greeted by perky sales clerks who are happy to help you. If you are more comfortable browsing on your own, you can do that too.

A visit to this type of store does make for a romantic evening.  You can check out sexy lingerie or maybe buy a toy that you can both enjoy when you get home.  You will both be in the mood for romance once you leave the shop!

Fun and interesting double date ideas

Dating can be twice the fun when you include another couple.  Don't be afraid of double dating because it's actually good to have a buffer sometimes.  It will almost always mean that there is no awkward silence.  Just be sure to invite the right couple to the right event.  You don't want to include your bookworm couple if the event is more of physical activity.

11. Escape Room

An escape room is a series of puzzles that you solve. As you work through one puzzle, you are presented with additional clues to continue solving.  Ultimately, you solve the whole game and exit the room, thereby escaping.  It is a lot of fun because the puzzle is timed. You only have 60 minutes to figure it all out, so that definitely adds to the frenzy.  If you get stuck, there is a game master who is watching your group, and will chime in to help should you need it.

You don't have to worry about being locked in.  You can always walk out of the room. The challenge is to figure out the other way to exit the room you are in.  Each room is themed and the games are changed periodically. The escape room is a great group date because you all have to work together and you get to see how everyone handles pressure.  

12. Tandem Bicycle Riding

I'm sure everyone has been bicycling before, but have you ever tried riding a tandem bike?  It does take coordination because there are two seats, two sets of pedals, but only one set of handle bars.  You can rent the tandem bikes from a bicycle shop.

If you are feeling extra courageous, try the bicycles built for four!  The seats are benches, so it is actually a bit easier than the regular tandem bikes.  It's terrific for a double date and will be sure to wind up in good natured arguments about who is doing most of the work.

13. Game Night

When was the last time you played board games? I'm sure it has been quite a while.  Dust off that Monopoly or Yahtzee stored in your basement and invite another couple over to play.  Add in a few appetizers and adult beverages, and you will have an exciting night of game play.

14. BBQ

Inviting another couple over for a barbecue is a relaxing double date. The guys can bond over building the fire or grilling the meat and the gals can kick back a relax for a change.  Having a few outdoor games set up such as badminton or horseshoes adds to the fun. Prep as much as you can ahead of time so you don't have to spend much time in the kitchen when the other couple arrives.

15. Bowling

If you haven't been bowling in years, give it another try.  It's a little competitive, so make sure you mix up the teams.  Three games is probably all you can handle, so pit couple against couple, then men against women and the final match up could be everyone bowling on their own.  Friends, nachos, rented shoes and pitcher of beer -what more could you ask for?


There are some many options to choose from when it comes to dating and you do not need to spend your whole paycheck. You can do that over a cup of coffee or an ice-cream sundae and it doesn't need to be champagne and caviar. Remember, the reason behind dating is getting to know each other better.