Dates are exciting and add a breath of fresh air to a seasoned relationship or a brand new one just kicking off. If emptying your pockets for date night every time is getting quite old, get creative and save some money while still having fun and impressing your date.
Below are some money-saving tips for a successful, budget-friendly rendezvous with your special someone.
- Bigger isn’t always better. Although you want to make an impression in a grand way, the date itself doesn’t have to be over the top. Some of the best dates stem from thinking outside of the box and spending time together in good conversation. A simple walk through a park can often be more intimate than an expensive candlelit dinner.
- Show your range of interests. One of the biggest reasons for dating is to get to know each other better. Share your interests in a date setting by going on an art walk and discussing each piece, attending a free high school sporting event and talking athletics, or teaching the other person how to play your favorite card game.
- Keep up with local events. Many cities host seasonal festivals or concerts at no cost. Keep an eye out for these local events and plan an outing for your next date. It might be the best time you’ve spent together yet.
- Show your culinary skills. Have a date night in and show your special someone how well you can make your way around the kitchen. The ability to cook is one of the most attractive qualities in a partner.
Going out on a date can be an expensive proposition. Fortunately, Charlotte has many activities that cost nothing and are a wonderful way to spend time with someone special. Whether your mutual interests are art, history, gardening, cooking or sports, the city has something to offer every couple. Check out our listing of free date ideas to stretch your dollars further while still having fun.
Browse The Farmers Market
Charlotte Regional Farmers Market
1801 Yorkmont Road
Charlotte, NC 28266
The North Carolina state-operated Farmers Market operates year-round at its large facility on Charlotte’s west side, with many of the buildings enclosed for all-weather use. Locally sourced fruits, nuts and vegetables are available right through the winter. In addition to produce, vendors offer local pork, grass-fed beef, ostrich and emu meat, goat milk cheese, jellies, jams and baked goods. The Greenery Shed is a great place to browse for herbs or holiday decorations, and the Craft House, open on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., offers homemade gift items. Even if you aren’t buying, the vendors and farmers are friendly and eager to chat. The hours are from October through March, Tuesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Discover Charlotte History
Historic Charlotte, Inc.
For a pair of history buffs, a tour of Charlotte’s historic places makes the perfect date. Visit the Historic Charlotte website to choose from numerous itineraries, including walking tours of the Center City and historic cemeteries, and driving tours of African American heritage sites and a fun trip past the city’s historic roadside attractions. Other places to find maps and itineraries of historic tours include the websites of Visit Charlotte and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission, which has tours for most of the city’s neighborhoods. The Charlotte Liberty Walk in Uptown is a fun way to discover old Charlotte in the days of the American Revolution.
Explore The Gardens
UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens
9201 University City Blvd.
Charlotte, NC 28223
Looking for a quiet date spot where you can wander amid natural beauty practically alone? Try this little-known garden on the east side of the UNCC campus. Secluded trails lined with native plants thread Van Landingham Glen where autumn colors peak in November. Something is in bloom year-round in the Susie Harwood Garden, including winter-blooming camellias, witch hazels and Japanese apricots. The McMillan Greenhouse contains an extensive collection of tropical plants, including over 1,000 species of orchids and a huge collection of carnivorous plants. The greenhouse is open year-round, Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The trails are open dawn to dusk daily and admission is always free.
Get Into Art
Mint Museum (Myers Park)
2730 Randolph Road
Charlotte, NC 28207
Mint Museum (Uptown)
500 S. Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC 28202
The two Mint Museum branches, one in Uptown and the other in the Myers Park neighborhood, offer a wide array of world-class exhibits and admission to both is free every Wednesday evening from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. The location on Randolph Road features fabulous fashion by top designers, African art objects and one of the country’s finest collections of decorative arts, including North Carolina pottery and European ceramics, plus Native American and Spanish colonial art. At the uptown location, rotating exhibits showcase modern and contemporary art from around the world, including the enormous Craft + Design collection of works in wood, glass, fiber, metal, clay and more. For other art-oriented nights on the town, check out the free gallery crawls held on the first Friday evening of the month in South End, and on first and third Fridays in NoDa. From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., galleries and shops, many offering free wine and appetizers, welcome browsers in both neighborhoods.
Tailgate At The Doghouse
401 W. Morehead St.
Charlotte, NC 28202
Want to attend a Panthers game but can’t quite swing the tickets? Share in the football excitement at the free WFNZ/CPI Security Doghouse tailgate parties just steps from Bank of America Stadium. A favorite stop for fans both pre- and post-game, the Doghouse is also a great place to watch all the game action on the many giant TV screens set up here complete with indoor seating. The party begins two hours before kick-off of every Panthers home game as well as on the Belk Bowl on December 28 with live music, WFNZ on-site broadcasts, a full bar and lots of vendors offering food, contests and freebies.
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With 15 years of experience covering restaurants in Charlotte and the Carolinas, and two regional guidebooks under her belt, Renee Wright examines the dining scene with enthusiasm plus a deep knowledge of food trends and outstanding local eating ops. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.