Keeping things fun and fresh in your relationship is vital. New and exciting experiences can be hard to come by after you’ve been with someone for a while. But when you share new experiences, you have opportunities to learn something you didn’t know about the person you’re with and create new memories, which can help your relationship grow.
After a long week, it often feels easier to stay in and relax or visit your favorite restaurant. But a 2000 study out of the State University of New York, Stony Brook shows that couples who experience “novel and arousing activities” experience higher relationship quality.
So, if you’ve spent the last several date nights scrolling through the same old Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime queue in your sweats or if you’re struggling to find some fresh ideas for your next date night, what you need is a go-to list of fun and affordable date ideas.
Relax in the Great Outdoors
After spending 40 hours of the week cooped up inside for the 9-to-5, getting out for a little fresh air may be just what the doctor ordered. And you don’t have to do something athletic if what you really want is some R&R. There are plenty of relaxing things you can do together in the great outdoors.
It’s hard not to fall in love all over again while gazing up at the cosmos. Grab a blanket, head away from the city and suburbs, and enjoy those teenage butterflies all over again.
Check out an astronomical calendar to see which planets and stars will be most visible during your date night. You can purchase an inexpensive telescope, but astronomer Joe Guzman says you don’t even need a cheap one; there are plenty of things you can see with the naked eye. And if you have a pair of binoculars lying around, you can see Saturn’s rings and the moon’s surface with those. Check out Guzman’s other tips at The Trust for Public Land. There are also plenty of apps that can help you find the heavenly bodies you’re looking for.
Places you can stargaze, often without spending a dime, include:
- National parks, either alone in a perfect stargazing spot or as part of an organized stargazing event
- State parks
- Observatories (call or check their website first to find events open to the public or whether they offer guided tours)
- Star parties
- Places with low light pollution
- Your own backyard (in low-light areas)
If you can’t find star parties or state or national parks near you, search “stargazing near me” for a list of local tips.
2. Check Out a Local Festival
Local festivals are often free to the public or charge an inexpensive entry fee. Spring festivals welcome new blooms. Summertime is filled with music festivals. And fall festivals celebrate the harvest season with bountiful produce, apple cider, and hayrides. Many festivals also offer mazes, games, petting zoos, and local artists selling their goods and services. You can bond with your partner and support your community and local businesses too.
To find one, visit Festivals.com, click “search” in the top navigation bar, select your favorite festival type from the drop-down menu, and narrow your search by location from there.
3. Head to a Farmers Market
With the recent cultural shift toward eating healthy, seasonal, local produce, outdoor farmers markets have made a huge comeback. Many communities offer weekend markets during the warmer months, starting in early spring and going through the end of autumn. Many indoor farmers markets operate year-round and import rarer produce from other countries. Either one is a fun outing for couples looking to scout out fresh fruits and vegetables. Plus, you can pick up ingredients to make a fun, healthy meal together.
Check out the Ecology Center’s farmers market finder to locate markets near you.
4. Unwind by the Water
If you live near a body of water, take advantage of it. Whether it’s a lake, beach, or neighborhood pool, being near water improves your mental health, brightens your mood, and generally makes you feel calm and peaceful. “Blue environment” researcher Michael Depledge, chair of Environment and Human Health at the University of Exeter Medical School, told Global News proximity to water improves psychological and physical health outcomes.
Nothing makes for a relaxing day with your beloved like soaking up some vitamin D and letting those cool blue vibes wash your worries away. The best part is this activity is often completely free except for the gas you spend driving to your destination.
If you’re not sure where local watering holes are, search for “beach,” “lake,” “pool,” or “river” plus the words “near me.” Just make sure you verify it’s open to the public and review any other rules they have in place.
5. Hunt for Estate and Garage Sales
The old saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” still rings true. You can pick up some seriously cool stuff at local estate sales and garage sales, especially if you live in or near a more affluent area. If you’re in the mood for some adventure and don’t mind spending a weekend morning shuffling through someone else’s belongings, then grab a coffee and hit the road to see what treasures await you.
You can find estate sales at EstateSales.net. For garage sales, you can download Yard Sale Treasure Map for iOS and Android. But you may have equally good luck driving around looking for signs. Don’t just stick to your own neighborhood, especially if there’s a slightly pricier zip code nearby.
According to a 2018 study published in the journal Family Relations, exercise is associated with positive marital events and satisfaction. So the key to a fantastic date night may involve working up a sweat. Many activities can get you and your partner moving.
6. Take a Hike
Hiking is an enjoyable way to get your exercise while allowing ample opportunity for conversation with your date. Depending on where you live, you can find a park with a walking trail and beautiful greenery or make it a day trip by packing a picnic and exploring a mountain trail or other long-distance hiking option. If you make a day trip out of it, create a road trip playlist together to add some fun to your drive.
7. Go Kayaking
If you already own a kayak, you’re all set. Just strap it to your vehicle and head to the nearest lake or river. If you don’t own one, don’t worry. There are plenty of companies that offer inexpensive daily or hourly rentals for kayaks and canoes. If you want to be near the water, but vegging out all day isn’t your thing, then grab your kayak and get paddling.
To find a place to kayak or rent a kayak, search for “kayaking near me” or “kayak rentals near me.”
8. Go River Tubing
Sometimes, you want to relax and not have a care in the world. River tubing offers just that. Once on the water, you don’t have to do anything but sit back and enjoy the ride. Prices vary based on location, but you can generally find these river trips for less than $10 per person.
To find places you can go river tubing, search for “river tubing near me” or look for a list of the best spots by searing “best river tubing [your state].” For example, Texas-based online publication Wide Open Country has a list of the seven best places to go tubing in Texas.
9. Use a Bike Rental Service
Biking is a fun way to explore your city and get some exercise while you’re at it. If you live near a major city, many have bike-share programs that allow you to hop on a cruiser and spend a few hours checking out the scenery.
Bike-share companies vary by city. In Minneapolis, there’s Nice Ride. Citi Bike operates in New York City and Miami. These companies are often partnered with or operated by Uber or Lyft, so you can search there if you have an existing account. Or you can search “bike-share near me.”
You can plan a more relaxing or scenic ride in a park or a rural area, or you can tour your city and check out spots you’ve never been. Visit your city’s tourism website and look at all the “touristy” things locals don’t usually do. Is it time you finally visited your city’s most well-known tourist attraction? Take goofy pictures of yourselves, ride to that gimmicky restaurant you’ve never been to before, and experience the city the way out-of-towners usually do.
10. Take a Dance Class
You might think dance classes are for older people or dance competitions, but they can be a fun and intimate new experience with your partner. To find a dance class, decide what kind of dance you want to learn — such as salsa, urban, two-step, or even ballet — then search for a studio using “[dance type] studio near me.” Many offer free introductory classes.
There are also virtual classes if you prefer to learn in the comfort of your own home. Learn urban dance from Steezy Studios (seven-day free trial available). And Udemy has a variety of dance classes, from ballroom to burlesque, many of them around $10 for one dance type.
Additionally, many major cities also have dance groups and communities that host monthly or weekly dances, and they often offer a complimentary beginner lesson before opening up the floor. You can learn the basics of swing, salsa, and ballroom dancing, then spend a couple of hours practicing your new moves with your partner. Check out what your city offers and put on your dancing shoes.
11. Train for a Race
Whether you already live an active lifestyle or not, you and your partner can bond in a new way by training for a race together. There are hundreds of races of all kinds every year, including walks to support various causes, 5-kilometer (K) runs, 10K runs, half-marathons, full marathons, and obstacle courses. Whatever your interest, you can probably find a race to match it.
You can locate a race, including many charity races, anywhere in the U.S. at Race-Find.
Tantalize Your Taste Buds
According to a 2015 joint Dutch and Canadian study covered by Psychology Today, couples who eat together feel more agreeable and pleasant and feel better about their partners. In fact, meals produced more positive effects than any non-meal activity studied. So if you could use a boost in your relationship, tantalize your taste buds with one of these inexpensive food- or drink-related activities.
12. Take a Food Factory Tour
Plenty of food manufacturers offer tours of their facilities, giving you a behind-the-scenes look at how they make their products. From sodas and snacks to candies and ice cream, you can find a tour that’s sure to satisfy. And the best part? Free samples.
Unfortunately, there’s no central repository for locating food factory tours. Your best bet is to search “food factory tours near me” or check the website of any interesting food factories you have locally to see if they offer tours. The easiest way to find those is to search “[Name of Company] factory tour. For example, if you type “Ben & Jerry’s factory tour” into Google, you’re directed to their tour page.
13. Take a Beer & Winery Tour
Beer and winery tours have become immensely popular. If you live near a brewery, chances are you can snag a tour for less than $15. Most tours offer a complimentary beer glass and a handful of drink tickets to sample their beer with admission price. There’s also no limit on the number of times you can attend a tour, so if you and your partner are beer or wine enthusiasts and want to try seasonal beverages, bottoms up!
Many craft breweries and wineries offer tours. If you’re more into ales and lagers, CraftBeer.com has a U.S. brewery locator. Once you find a brewery you’re interested in, check their website to see if they offer tours.
If vino’s more your speed, download Winery Finder for iOS or Android. The app delivers more than just the best wineries near you. It also gives you exclusive access to discounts on tastings and lets you locate nearby food, buy event tickets and wine, join wine clubs, and make reservations at restaurants and wineries.
14. Host a Flight Night
Want to enjoy the taste of local beer without the hassle of leaving the house? Plan your own flight night. Do a little research on different types of beer, then head to the liquor or grocery store and select a variety to sample.
Combine several different kinds of beers — such as IPAs (aka India pale ales), lagers, stouts, and ales — grab a pack of 8-ounce glasses, and challenge each other to identify the type by flavor. Whoever gets the most correct guesses must give the other person a massage or let them choose the next date night activity.
You can also rate each beer using the free printable scorecards at TemplateRoller.
15. Go Fruit-Picking
For many, picking local fruit is a novel weekend activity that gets you outside and in the sunshine. You can visit peach and apple orchards, berry farms, and pumpkin patches. Whatever the fruit, there’s probably a place where you can pick it yourself. You can enjoy your haul then and there or head home and whip up a tasty snack or dessert.
To find a farm near you, go to U-Pick Farm Locator, and select your state and the produce you want to pick from the drop-down menus, then click “Go Picking!”
16. Cook an Exciting New Recipe Together
A 2016 Lightspeed Research (now Kantar) survey covered by Brides magazine found that 87% of people surveyed believe cooking together helps improve your relationship. It’s easy to see why. Cooking together requires working together to achieve a goal, making it an excellent way to practice life skills you’ll need in potentially higher-stakes situations.
To get in on the action, select a recipe from a cookbook or reputable blog — something you’ve both always wanted to try or learn to make. It doesn’t have to be fancy (though that’s fine too). Just make sure it’s not too advanced for your cooking skill level, or you’ll both get frustrated (which could quickly end in a fight).
Some reputable cooking bloggers include:
- Half Baked Harvest
- Brown Eyed Baker
- Dad in the Kitchen
- Damn Delicious
- Pinch of Yum
- Don’t Go Bacon My Heart
- Gimme Some Oven
- Kevin Is Cooking
You can choose one recipe or do a three-course meal. Before you start cooking, set a romantic scene in the dining room with a tablecloth, flowers, and candles to light once dinner starts.
Sometimes, going out isn’t an option. Whether you’re trying to save up for a down payment on your dream home or just want to cozy up together at home, there are plenty of date night options that don’t require you to step foot outside.
17. Do Puzzles
Staying in for date night doesn’t have to mean binging Netflix in your sweatpants. Sharing an intellectual pursuit with your partner lets you bond over something that involves both teamwork and critical thinking skills. Working on a puzzle or solving a crossword together fosters conversation, engages your brain, and helps you build a stronger relationship.
Many libraries let you check out jigsaw puzzles and other activities. But even if you have to pay for them, you’re likely to get several date nights out of a 1,000-piece or more puzzle, which you can buy on Amazon for between $20 and $30. Just make sure you set it up on a table out of the way so you can work on it over several date nights.
As for traditionally paper-based puzzles, such as crosswords and sudoku, you can find those inexpensively in many bookstores, big-box stores, and even at the checkout lines of some grocery and convenience stores. But you don’t have to pay for them. Many publications, such as The Washington Post and USA Today, offer free online access to their crosswords (either printable or interactive). Just search “free online [puzzle type]” to find them. For example, you can type “free online sudoku,” or “free online logic puzzles.”
18. Try Scrapbooking
Since social media has made photo-sharing instantaneous, it seems like the art of scrapbooking has been all but lost. However, dozens of online stores let you turn your digital memories into magnets, canvas prints, stickers, coasters, and even hardcopy books — check out places like Shutterfly, Easy Canvas Prints, MakeStickers, Collage, and Artifact Uprising. If you already have a collection of memories on social media, you can create a unique digital-turned-analog scrapbook without the mess of glue and glitter.
19. Start a Book Club
If you both enjoy reading, starting your own book club is another way to pursue something intellectual while enjoying each other’s company. If you don’t share the same literary interests, then take turns choosing the books you read together. You can make it even more fun by taking turns reading aloud to each other. The important thing is the discussion that results from a shared reading experience.
To keep costs down, visit a used bookstore, check out a book from your local library, or subscribe to an e-book service like Audible.
20. Redesign, Reorganize, & Repurpose
A large home improvement project can be costly, time-consuming, and often requires an expert. But you don’t need to knock down walls or tear out cabinets to give your home a makeover.
Spend a weekend cleaning out the spaces where junk tends to gather, organizing your belongings, or finding a way to repurpose things you already have. For example, you can grab some cheap organizing baskets from Walmart or Target and put away loose items like batteries, cables, and knickknacks.
To make this feel less like a chore and more like a date, order some takeout and turn up your favorite tunes while working to make your space feel more like a home.
21. Have a Spa Night
Nothing says “romantic evening” like an at-home spa night. Get into the mood by lighting some candles and playing soft, soothing music, then take turns giving each other massages using massage oils.
If that’s not your thing, create a romantic setting that works for you. Other ideas include taking a relaxing bubble bath together, trying an at-home face mask, or giving yourselves do-it-yourself foot soaks. The important thing is to tailor your spa night to whatever you find most relaxing and stress-reducing.
You don’t have to go to a professional therapist for your relationship to benefit from a little art therapy. Couples who are just trying to spend a little time together can immerse themselves in the arts and bond during many art-based activities.
22. Take a Paint-and-Sip Class
If you enjoy creativity and an evening glass of wine, there are plenty of art studios that offer a painting class with a complimentary glass of vino. These lessons are generally under $30 per person, depending on how complex the lesson is. Create a masterpiece, learn a fun hobby, and drink wine with your love.
For an even cheaper way to get in on the action, pick up an inexpensive bottle of your favorite wine or beer and buy an adult paint-by-number kit that comes with everything you need to DIY a work of art. They’re available on Amazon for as little as $10.
23. Visit a Museum
Museums can cost a pretty penny, depending on where you live. But many offer discount days, such as free admission on the first full weekend of the month or free admission on a particular day.
Make your museum date more fun by scheduling a guided tour, or grab some audio guides and wander at your own pace. Spending an afternoon admiring works of art is a low-key, inexpensive way to enjoy some quality time with your partner.
Don’t just look for the major installations. Many lesser-known museums offer fascinating looks at history, often in a niche area, such as cowgirls or local lore. Use MuseumFinder to uncover hidden treasures in your area.
24. Go Antiquing
If you have a sense of adventure but are on a budget, you can have a great time searching through the aisles of an antique shop, where you’ll find a ton of cool stuff you wouldn’t see in a chain store or at a garage sale. If you enjoy the thrill of bargain-hunting, then grab your partner and some cash and see what you can find. You can even make a game of it by competing to see who can find the coolest or most unusual item in the store.
Find the best antique stores and malls in your neighborhood at Antique Malls.
25. Go to a Poetry or Book Reading
Many coffee shops and bars host weekly open-mic and reading nights for both big-time and lesser-known authors to debut their work. Search their schedules a few weeks in advance to see if a favorite author or poet is coming to your area, or head out spontaneously and see if any of that night’s readings spark your interest.
26. Visit a Local Theater
Whether you live in the city or the suburbs, chances are you have a local community theater nearby. These theaters perform original works and popular productions at a significantly discounted rate. Support your community instead of shelling out the big bucks for a national touring show or traveling to New York City or Chicago. The performances can be just as enriching as high-dollar professional shows. You can also support local high schools and colleges by taking in one of their shows.
Spending time with your partner doesn’t have to be expensive, and it doesn’t have to involve hours of TV binging. There are plenty of ways to have a fun new experience together that don’t cost a fortune. As long as you’re enjoying being with each other, what you do doesn’t matter nearly as much as who you’re with.
Which date night ideas are you ready to try? Do you have any creative ideas for a date night on a budget?