10 Dates That Won’t Cost A Dime

You don’t have to be on a budget to appreciate dates that are free and fun.

By Lauren Harris

1. Get some green
Everyone wants to spend more time outside, and it’s completely free. Heading to a beach, the mountains, or even a park not only provides a lovely backdrop for your active date, but it comes with unlimited servings of conversation topics. Check out for a listing of nearby places to hike.

2. Do unto others
The term “charity date” may have unpleasant connotations, but giving time at a soup kitchen or weeding a neighborhood garden can be great fun. "Dedicating time to a cause you feel passionately about will make you feel good," says Cyndi Haynes, author of 2002 Things to Do on a Date. "Plus, it shows you’re kind-hearted, so
Doing something creative together builds the relationship.
it’s good PR for yourself!" Log onto for opportunities in your city.

3. Work it
Suggest a bike ride, gym visit, or jog to make your next evening date truly good for your heart. “There’s that feeling of doing something healthy for you, and you’re doing something positive together," says Ellen Sue Stern, author of The Relationship Tool Kit. Most gyms and yoga studios offer free admission to those who are trying it for the first time.

4. Have a change of art
Invite your date to check out an exhibit at a local museum. Free museum days are easy to find online, or just hit a gallery in your city. Avoiding the clichéd dinner-and-a-movie date not only saves you bucks, but expands your horizons. “Doing something creative together builds the relationship,” says Shel Horowitz, founder of and author of The Penny-Pinching Hedonist.

5. Be a tourist
"Get your local city magazine, pretend you're a tourist in your own city and see what's available," says Haynes. You’ll find offerings and activities you otherwise may never have heard of and set out on surprising adventures together.

6. Window-shopping spree
Shopping rivals baseball as America's favorite pastime, so head to the mall or downtown to browse your favorite shops. Does he drool over the Gucci
Seeing someone interact with your friends is a great way to get to know them better.
counter or head straight for sporting goods? Does she spend a surprising amount of time in the electronics section, indicating that you should consult her before you buy your next TV set? "You can learn a lot about a person’s personality from how they window shop,” says Haynes.

7. Get (pot)lucky
Invite friends — both you and your date’s — over to join you for a potluck dinner. You provide the place and they bring the food. Seeing someone interact with your friends is a great way to get to know them better. "I don’t feel guilty about not feeding people—I’m providing the place! And it’s fun to have your friends and the person you’re interested in there together," says Deidre Norquist, 31, of Atlanta, Georgia.

8. Get cultured
Contact the volunteer office at your local dance hall or symphony and sign up with your sweetie to usher at upcoming performances. “Once you get the hang of ushering, it’s easy, and most times you can sit together once the show starts,” says Horowitz.

9. Popcorn not included
During warmer months, many cities offer an alternative to sitting inside a stuffy movie theater with outdoor screenings. New York's Bryant Park screens classics every Monday during the summer, and Atlanta's Piedmont Park offers outdoor screenings as well. “It’s such a treat to be outside enjoying nature and to be entertained at the same time,” says Margot Tessler, 27, of Brooklyn, New York. Local libraries and museums also sometimes screen unexpected films, from classics to documentaries. Check schedules in your free city circular.

10. Learn your keep
Most cities and even smaller towns have universities and community colleges in the surrounding area, so check out a free lecture series on a topic you’re both interested in. “It’s some of the highest quality education you can get,” says Horowitz.

Brooklyn-based writer Lauren Harris works at Blender magazine.
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