Some of the best dates with my husband have been at little to no cost: when we walked around a flea market, sat on a tennis court to watch fireworks, or laid on a dock overlooking the lake at night. We learned about each other’s goals and how we could support each other in reaching the—all without paying a dollar. My husband and I quickly realized how many fun and completely free things there were to do (because what’s more romantic than saving money while falling in love?). Almost 10 years later, we still treat ourselves to dates that cost nothing but mean everything. Looking for free date ideas that make for a fun and romantic night? Keep reading, I got you.
1. Go on a scavenger hunt
I’ll admit, when my husband first told me we were doing a scavenger hunt, I was skeptical, but it ended up being one of the most fun and romantic dates we’ve ever had. If you’re unfamiliar with scavenger hunts, here’s the tea: Find a pre-made scavenger list online or create a list of clues for each other that describe the next item you are searching for, which ultimately leads to the “treasure.” It’s completely customizable: You can do it in your apartment or relive your favorite memories around the city and make it short and simple or turn it into an all-day date. Total cost for you to embrace your inner creative child and bond on a date with your boo: $0. If you’re with a date, working through clues together will bring you two closer. If you’re with a long-term significant other, doing something totally new will help your relationship feel fresh.
2. Learn to make a new meal together
Skip the restaurant and pricey cooking classes and prepare a new meal together at home that neither of you have cooked before. For example, if your favorite restaurant is Italian or sushi, learn how to recreate similar meals from the comfort of your own home. Try a free class on Skillshare, YouTube, or search Pinterest for a recipe with step-by-step directions to follow along with. Don’t forget to grab some candles to set the table! Trust me, neither of you are going to miss your go-to restaurant. If you’re both not confident in your cooking skills, DIY a favorite meal from when you were a kid (did someone say mac and cheese and chicken nuggets?). Not only will making a variety of your favorite meals be fun (even if they’re frozen!), but it also could spark some conversations about your childhoods.
3. Hit the library
OK, so this may sound more like a middle school field trip than date night idea, but hear me out. Fun fact: My first date with my husband was at our local library. We spent the evening roaming aisles to compare reading lists and make suggestions for each other based on our favorite authors. The best part was that we found out we had a lot of the same taste in books, which gave us so much to talk about beyond the typical first date conversations. Take your date to the local library and pick out books for each other or check ahead to see if there are any scheduled speakers or author readings. Bonus: the hushed tones help take pressure off a first date and can be used to whisper sweet nothings (IDK about you but “this date was totally free” really does it for me).
4. Have a movie roulette night
Between Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+, having unlimited options for movie night is great. But with all the apps and options, searching for a movie to stream can be a little overwhelming; you might even spend half of your date night deciding what to watch instead of enjoying a movie. The solution: Have a cozy movie date night at home but with a twist. Instead of scrolling for 30 minutes to find something to watch, make it into a fun game of chance. Use Reelgood, which includes all your different streaming services (for free!) and filters options by genres and ratings so you can “shuffle” your movie options without too much risk for an optimal movie suggestion. For a non-tech version, write down your favorite movies on pieces of paper and pick the winner from a bowl. Because movie night is nothing without snacks, pop some popcorn or make a charcuterie board for a fancier night in.
There’s nothing more rom-com cliché than laying under the stars, but it’s romantic AF. Indulge in the free romance that nature has to offer by going to open park or field (or your own backyard) and have a date night under the stars. Try a free stargazing app to add a layer of fun and turn it into a game to find certain stars, planets, or constellations. You don’t need to spend anything to go stargazing (hot cocoa or a bottle of wine optional), and you’ll both feel like you’re in your own little world. If it’s a cloudy or cold night, try the local planetarium instead on one of its free admission days.
6. Take in a local show
One of my favorite memories is laying on a blanket in the park with my husband and watching local actors put on Romeo and Juliet. TBH, I had never been to a Shakespeare play (let alone one at the local park!), but my husband sold me on it with three things: the romantic setting of the park, a cheese plate, and the two of us getting cozy on the blanket. To recreate for yourself, look for free local events at parks on your city’s website. Maybe you’ll discover a band or show you’re both unfamiliar with or enjoy something that you already love. You could also pack a picnic basket to make it a dinner and a show under the stars as the sun sets (way cheaper, more fun, and more unique than a restaurant date!).
7. Visit a museum or art gallery
Tap into your artistic side for an afternoon of culture and check out your local museum or art gallery for free admission days. Bonus: You’ll never run out of things to talk about. Roam the galleries hand-in-hand and point out your favorite pieces to each other or share interesting facts you learned. You can learn a lot about someone from the way that they experience a museum. Pay attention to what peaks their interest or how they act about what’s interesting to you. If you head to an art gallery, their art preferences can say a lot about them too (do they love the Renaissance style and are fascinated in history, or do they prefer cubism and have an edgier side?) You’ll connect over learning new things, have fun experiencing something new, and will feel less pressure than sitting at a fancy dinner.
8. Go camping (on your terms)
Camping trips are not created equal. For example, my husband is all about roughing it in the wilderness and putting his Boy Scout patches to good use. I, on the other hand, am not about that life. I much prefer glamping. The good news is that you can choose your own adventure. Are you both excited about spending an evening in nature? Pack enough supplies (don’t forget the s’mores!) to spend a night under the stars. If you’re more like me, camp in your own backyard with your warmest pajamas, throw blankets, and maybe a bottle of wine (and go back indoors when you’re over it!). If all else fails, build a blanket fort in your living room (trust me, you are never too old for a blanket fort) and use lighting and pillows to make it more romantic. Microwaved s’mores are just as gooey and delicious.
9. Take a hike or romantic walk
Feeling adventurous? Lace up your sneakers and fill up your water bottle for a hike to get outside and sightsee together. Prefer a shorter time commitment (and less rigorous exercise)? Walk around a new neighborhood or nearby park to explore somewhere new. You can also visit your local city’s tourism website or try GPS MyCity to go on a guided walking tour (being a tourist in your own city is always fun!). Besides getting the opportunity to hold hands with your boo, walks can be romantic year-round because of the views. In the spring and summer, head to the community gardens to enjoy blooming flowers. In the fall, take in the changing leaves, and in the winter, grab a cup of hot cocoa to-go and check out the Christmas lights.
10. Have a spa day at home
No need to spend $$$ on a couple’s massage! Break out the plush robes and pamper yourselves at home. A soothing self-care date is the perfect way to wind down after a long day or week. My husband and I usually start at-home spa dates with a face mask that we’ll leave on while we read, watch an episode of our favorite show, or just talk. Next up: Take turns giving each other a massage. For an extra romantic step, take a bath together (don’t forget the luxurious bath bombs!) and warm your towels in the dryer for that special spa feeling. Diffuse lavender oil or light a scented candle to set the atmosphere and turn your phones on silent. When you’re done, you’ll both feel relaxed—and your skin will thank you with that post-spa day glow.
11. Treat yourself to breakfast in bed
Instead of making dinner plans for later in the evening, why not start your day off with a romantic date at home? Breakfast in bed sets the mood for the day in the best possible way. Head to the kitchen and whip up something delicious to take back to bed with you. My husband and I like to make it special by finding a tray around the house and some flowers from our yard. We stay in the moment by turning off our phones, talking, reading the newspaper together, or watching TV. This is the perfect time to reconnect with each other after a busy week. Stay under the covers as long as possible and veg out on a cooking show like the Great British Bake Off. Clothing may be optional, but savoring time together is mandatory.
12. Have a game night
Tap into your playful (or competitive) side and host your own game night. Depending on your couple style, playing games together might mean strengthening your bond and laughing way too hard, or it might mean some friendly (and hot!) competition to spark some banter between you two. If you have a deck of cards laying around the house, even a basic card game can make a date night in more fun (double points if it’s strip poker), or pull out all of your two-player board games for a marathon that will determine who is the ultimate winner. Even if you don’t have any cards or games, you can play Charades or a DIY version of Pictionary and take turns guessing. Game night not your thing? Try Two Truths and a Lie, Never Have I Ever, or Truth or Dare to get to know each other better and explore your daring side.