13 Affordable Date Night Ideas
Once you’ve found a partner to settle down with, date night becomes a thing of the past, right? Not so fast. Having a regular date night is crucial for the happiness and longevity of your relationship, whether you’re married or in a cohabitating partnership. Partners who schedule regular “couple time” report being about 3.5 times happier in their relationships than those who don’t.
Keeping the spark in your relationship alive doesn’t have to break the bank. There are plenty of ways to save money on dates while enjoying some quality time with your significant other. From enjoying the natural beauty of Pennsylvania to getting out there and experiencing something new, try one or more of the following affordable date night ideas.
1. Enjoy Some Arts and Culture at a Free Museum
If you love art, science or history, spending time at a local museum might be a fantastic way for you to bond with your partner. Although the admission price can often be steep, many museums have “pay what you can or wish” programs on certain days of the month. Some even open their doors and let people in for free on particular days.
In Philadelphia, the Barnes Foundation usually offers free admission and special programming on the first Sunday of the month. The Philadelphia Museum of Art has pay-what-you-wish admission on the first Sunday of the month and Wednesday evenings.
Some museums also offer free or steeply discounted admission to people who work in specific careers. At the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia school teachers can enjoy free admission, as can active-duty service members in the summer.
If you love visiting a certain museum with your love, becoming a member might be worth the investment. Many museums offer members free admission in exchange for a flat annual fee.
2. Try a Twist on an Old Classic: Dinner and a Movie
Dinner and a movie is a classic date night idea. Although it’s possible to spend a lot of money taking your beau out for a meal and some entertainment afterward, there are ways to turn the old standby into a cheap date night.
Matinee screenings tend to be less expensive than evening showings, so try switching up the time of day of your meal and movie. Go out for the noon or 2 p.m. showing of the latest blockbuster on the weekend. You can enjoy lunch — which also tends to be less expensive than dinner — before the film or head out for happy hour or an early bird dinner after it.
Another option is to make your way to the theater on a discount day. Plenty of cinemas offer lower-priced tickets on certain days of the week. AMC Theatres have Discount Tuesdays, and Cinemark also has a Discount Day. If you’re not sure whether your local theater offers cheaper tickets for matinees or on weekdays, it doesn’t hurt to give them a call and ask.
Summer gives you another fun way to put a twist on dinner and movie. Across Pennsylvania, plenty of local parks and theaters start screening favorite films outdoors. In Harrisburg, Midtown Cinema has an Outdoor Film Series in the summer. The indie movie theater also has several other discounted and affordable film screenings throughout the year, such as $3 films on the third Friday of the month and $5 “Mystery Science 3000” style screenings on the second Friday of the month.
3. Take a Hike
Pennsylvania is home to many state parks, and many of those state parks have beautiful hiking trails. All told, there are more than 10,000 miles of trails across the state. While some hikes are meant for more experienced hikers, others are perfect for beginners.
Even if you’re only taking a mile or two walk around the local park, it’s a good idea to prep before you and your love head out on a romantic hiking date. Bring along water, snacks and a first-aid kit. It’s also a good idea to have some insect repellent and sunscreen.
While you don’t need fancy hiking shoes or boots or technical hiking clothing, you do want to wear closed-toe shoes with a good grip, such as a pair of sneakers. Long-sleeved shirts and long pants are a good pick as well to keep bugs off and help you avoid contact with poison ivy and pricker bushes.
Since you’re likely to see lots of pretty sights on your hike, from waterfalls to foliage, don’t forget to bring along your camera to snap some photos of the beauty of Pennsylvania nature.
4. Visit a Flea Market or Antique Shop
If you love the thrill of the hunt, going antiquing with your partner can be a fun way to spend an afternoon together without breaking the bank. The same is true for visiting flea markets. Depending on the size of the market, you can spend hours looking at old dishes, globes and telephones.
One place worth perusing is Tollbooth Antiques in Columbia, PA. The marketplace has more than 30,000 square feet of space and is packed full of items ranging from old globes to vintage Formica tables and from rotary phones to classic vinyl records.
5. Stroll Through a Farmers’ Market
Maybe antiques aren’t your thing, but you still enjoy going to markets and seeing what’s available. Instead of visiting an antique shop or flea market, take your partner and head to a local farmers’ market. In Pennsylvania, farmers’ markets range from weekly affairs during which growers and producers set up tables and sell their vegetables, fruits and other foods to indoor establishments where farmers and producers have their own small storefronts.
6. Go on a Picnic
Celebrate the warm, sunny days of spring, summer and early fall by taking your partner out for an inexpensive picnic date. Pack up a blanket or some foldable camping chairs if you don’t want to sit on the grass, and bring along some easy-to-transport snacks.
Food ideas include snacks like cut-up vegetables and dip, cheese and meat slices and cookies or brownies for dessert. If you want to go all out, you can make up some sandwiches and salads in advance, then pack them to bring with you.
Where should you go on your picnic? It all depends on your area. In Philadelphia, the massive Fairmount park system provides plenty of places to picnic, from the banks of the Schuylkill River to the expanse of the Belmont Plateau. The wooded areas of many of PA’s state parks also feature picnic grounds. If you don’t want to venture far from home, you can even try picnicking on the grass in your backyard!
7. Visit a Garden
What’s more romantic than going for a stroll with your partner among flowers and plants? Pennsylvania is home to some spectacular gardens, many of which are perfect for a date.
Admittedly, some botanical gardens in Pennsylvania come with steep admission prices and aren’t exactly the ideal place to go for an affordable date. But plenty of others will let you in for free or for around $10 per person. Bartram’s Garden in West Philadelphia is open year-round and has free admission. If you’re interested in a tour of the garden, there’s an admission charge, but you’re welcome to wander the grounds anytime the garden is open for no cost.
In Wayne, PA, Chanticleer Garden is open from March until early November and has an admission charge of $10 per adult. The garden includes a wooded area, orchard, cut flower garden and vegetable garden, among others. Although there are restaurants to eat at in the area surrounding the garden, you can also bring a picnic to enjoy in designated areas within Chanticleer.
8. Peruse the Stacks
If you and your significant other are bookworms, one way to spend some quality time together is to head to your local library and browse the shelves for a book or two to read together. Another option is to visit a local bookstore and spend a few hours browsing. In Harrisburg, Midtown Scholar is a massive bookstore with a diverse selection of both new and used books. It also has a cafe and seating areas, so you and your partner can get coffee and a pastry while reading some novels or poetry together.
You can make your book-themed date night extend over several evenings or weeks too. Pick a book to read together while you’re at the bookstore or library, then meet up over coffee or a drink to talk about what you’ve read. Having a couple’s book club will help you get to know your partner a bit better while you get to spend some much-needed “us time” together.
9. Enjoy a Play in a Park
Throughout PA, summertime is the time for outdoor theater and plays in local parks. In Philadelphia, Shakespeare in Clark Park has become an annual tradition. Each July, the theater company puts on a different play by the bard, usually making use of community members as well as professional actors. People come from all over the city and surrounding area to enjoy some free theater and a picnic in Clark Park.
Revolution Shakespeare is another Philadelphia company that produces free plays in a park. In Lancaster, the People’s Shakespeare Project produces Shakespeare during the summer months. Admission is free, but the theater company does ask for a donation.
10. Go out for Breakfast
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and as far as some people are concerned, it’s the best meal of the day too. Some people love breakfast foods such as eggs, bacon and sausage so much that they’ll eat it for dinner and call it “brinner.”
Breakfast isn’t just an important meal — it’s also the ideal time for a date for a few reasons. Depending on your relationship status and how long you’ve been with your partner, you might face some commitments and challenges that make it difficult to schedule a dinner or a lunchtime date. Staying out late with your beau might have been all right when you were in college or before the kids came along, but now the idea of a date that stretches into the night or early morning might not appeal to you.
With a breakfast date, you have the opportunity to start your day off on a romantic foot. You’ll have plenty of time to talk about your goals and dreams or find out what’s going on with your significant other, without the worry that you’ll have trouble waking up to your alarm clock the next day.
As a bonus, breakfast food tends to be less expensive than dinner or lunch, so heading out for breakfast is a budget-friendly date move as well.
11. Take a Covered Bridge Tour
No matter where you live in PA, you’re likely to find a covered bridge nearby. There are 209 covered bridges in the state, and 34 out of PA’s 67 counties have at least one covered bridge. At one point in time, there were well over 1,000 covered bridges across the state.
One way to get to know a piece of PA’s history while spending some quality time with your partner or spouse is to go on a covered bridge tour. Many of the covered bridge tours in the state are self-guided. You can download a map of covered bridges in a particular county, then start at the bridge that’s closest to you and work your way around in a circle.
Some of the counties and areas of PA that have put together covered bridge tours include:
Although the beauty of a self-guided covered bridge tour is that it’s free (aside from the cost of gas) and you can go at your own pace, a few guided tours are available, which can be ideal if you want to learn more about the story and background of the bridges you visit.
12. Get Crafty Together
Let your creativity go wild with your partner by having a crafty date night. If you’re not usually crafty people, you can find plenty of inexpensive and simple craft kits to try out together at a local arts and crafts store or a big-box store.
Another option is to sign up for a class together, such as a knitting or embroidery class. Yarn stores and craft stores often have classes that aren’t too expensive. Some programs even include materials in the cost, so you won’t have to pay extra for yarn, needles and other supplies.
13. Go Berry Picking
Pennsylvania is full of pick-your-own orchards and farms, giving you plenty of opportunity for a fun and edifying date idea from the beginning of the growing season until the autumn. Depending on the season, you can visit an orchard to pick strawberries together, stone fruits such as cherries, peaches and nectarines or apples. Many places charge by the pound and will give you a discount if you pick large amounts, such as a bushel or more.
You can extend a berry or other fruit-picking date into the evening. Once you get home from the orchard or farm, get to work in the kitchen, making a pie or jam from the produce you’ve picked. If you’re not sure where to find a pick-your-own orchard or farm, Local Harvest has a list of locations in PA, including a description of the fruits and vegetables available for picking and when items are in season.
Although there are plenty of cheap attractions in Pennsylvania that make it easy to enjoy an affordable or even free date regularly, you might want to save up for those special occasions, such as a birthday or anniversary dinner. Opening a savings account at Mid Penn Bank can help you set money aside for those big dates and save for any other marriage, relationship or family goals you might have.