Who says you have to spend a bundle on a date to have fun? Some of the best dates are creative, low budget affairs. A nice, not necessarily extravagant, dinner at one of the many fabulous local dining spots in the Twin Cities can easily cost $100. For purposes of this article I set the bar for cheap at $50 or under. This list includes activities that feeds the body, soothes the soul and gets your blood pumping.
Memory Lanes & Flashback Café & Cocktail Lounge
For a retro good time complete with flashbacks to junior high dates with your 1st love, hit the lanes. What better place for this than Memory Lanes? Grab a couple of burgers, split an order of chili cheese fries from the Flashback Café; then get in line for your bowling shoes. Monday through Friday after 5 pm, games are $ 2.99 each. On Monday nights after 10 pm, games are only $2. There are Happy Hour specials on drinks every day from 3 to 6 pm. There’s even live music from a stage built over the lanes three nights a week; including Monday starting at 10 pm. Total tab: food, drinks, shoes, and 2 games will run you an approximate grand total of $45.
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
On the 3rd Thursday during the months of April through October from 4:30 until sunset the Arboretum has free admission. Pack a picnic from home, pick up something from your favorite cheap sandwich place or choose from a selection of sandwiches, salads, snacks and beverages at the Arboretum Restaurant until 6 pm and head out to scope out a perfect romantic picnic spot: it could be in the rose garden, overlooking the prairie or in the middle of wooded vale. The scenery is up to you, but no matter what landscape you choose, you’ll be surrounded by natural beauty. After your sweet and simple meal, take a stroll hand in hand through the beautiful gardens or meander up and down and around the Three Mile Drive. Total tab: Depending on the picnic fare you choose, roughly $20.
Walker Art Center
Are you or your love an art enthusiast? Or maybe you are trying to broaden your horizons by learning about what qualifies art as modern and exploring this vast collection of beautiful, odd, perplexing and intriguing pieces. Each Thursday evening from 5 to 9 pm Walker gallery admission is free. There are also free lectures, films, art making projects, performances and more on Target Free Thursday Nights. For an upcoming schedule of such programming check the website. If you have a chance to take a tour with the well-versed, art loving docents, I highly encourage you to add this to your agenda for the evening. The docents’ knowledge of the arts’ history and interesting tidbits about the pieces and artists can really add to your perspective in viewing the art. Total tab: Approximately $10 if you park in the underground Walker Parking Garage.
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Looking for a different art vibe? Take your sweetie to the MIA’s Third Thursday. The galleries are open and are free as always, but on Third Thursdays there is also free live music, activities and programs. Each month’s programming is centered around a different fascinating theme. If all the creative energy leaves you in need of some nourishment, don’t fret. There is a cash bar and refreshments for sale during Third Thursday. As always, parking at the MIA is free. Total tab: Absolutely free.
St. Paul Chamber Orchestra
What’s more romantic than a little night music performed for you and your date by the world-renowned St. Paul Chamber Orchestra? You might think this date would soar above the $50 limit, but you would be incorrect. While the experience is valued high above $50, you can get tickets for as low as $10. The SPCO performs at the Ordway Center, in neighborhood locations throughout the Twin Cities, as well as the small and intimate Music Room in the SPCO Center. If you are 18-39 you can join the club2030 for free and get the best tickets available for $10 each. It’s a great deal. If you aren’t in that age group, you can still find $10 tickets available at various venues. If you go to a neighborhood location, parking is generally free. Total tab: $20 to $40, depending upon whether you have to pay to park and whether you order drinks at intermission.
St. Paul Farmers’ Market
The St. Paul Farmer’s Market has been around for 150 years. From May through October the vendor’s stalls are chock full of fresh, locally grown and produced foods, including: vegetables, fruit, meat, cheese, maple syrup, breads and other baked goods, honey, plants, herbs, bagels sandwiches, etc. A trip to the Farmers’ Market is a great way to experiment with new foods and flavors; and it’s a great way to support local farmers and businesses. You can leisurely stroll through the market, tasting this and that, chatting with vendors and buying fresh, local foods. When you’ve had your fill of the market, take your finds home and cook a delicious, fresh meal together. Total tab: with groceries for a meal, parking and bits of goodies to nosh on as you wander through the numerous stalls of food the total comes to about $40.
Sample Night Live
If you and your love can’t decide on which form of entertainment to attend and you want to save a bundle, this one is for you. At Sample Night Live you can preview a dozen performing arts events from the Twin Cities on the first Wednesday of each month. There are snippets of theatre acts, musical performances, magicians, independent film, spoken word, improv and many more all performed on one stage at the History Theatre. The tickets are $20 dollars each. There are two acts: the first act is G-rated and the second act is unrated. Total Tab: with 2 tickets and parking, this one comes in right at $50.
Lake Harriet Bandshell
4135 West Lake Harriet Parkway
Minneapolis, MN 55419
This one is a quintessential Minneapolitan’s cheap date night. Pick up a pizza on the way or stop at a high end grocery store and pack a picnic with small wedges of gourmet cheeses, briny olives and tangy peppers from the olive bar, a fresh baguette and a good quality chocolate bar and head over to the Lake Harriet Bandshell for the evening concert. Every single night from June through August a musical act of varying size and genre will perform against the backdrop of a gorgeous sun setting over a sparkling lake. Bring a blanket to cuddle up on, bug spray to share and enjoy the scenery; you won’t be disappointed. Total tab: The only cost is for the picnic, and depending on what you choose, the total cost could range between $20 and $40.
— Anna Berend is an attorney and the author of Motherly Law Blog. On Motherly Law, Anna writes about legal issues that affect families and offers tips and resources that pertain to those legal topics. On occasion, inspiration strikes and Anna writes about something totally unrelated to the law. Originally a Texan, Anna now resides in the Twin Cities with her husband, two young sons and a menagerie of pets. You can find Anna at www.motherlylaw.com, on Facebook at Motherly Law and on Twitter @MotherlyLaw.