I've been wanting to be more proactive about planning exciting dates for Trucker and I. It's far too easy to fall into the routine of Chinese food and a movie, or a favorite bar and pool. Often, these can provide relatively little pleasure for the money spent, since it is a routine thing. When we go on "new" dates, we end up having a lot more fun and we are creating new memories together. The problem is constantly coming up with new ideas, or remembering what is going on the particular day we want to go out. I've solved this with my date night calendar.
I use Google Calendar. As I find out date ideas, whether it is a concert in two months or a regular event in our price range, I add it to the calendar. If the event is a regular event, say every Thursday or the first Saturday of the month, I add the event, set it to repeat and make it never end. That way I don't forget about it and can see at a glance whatever is going on.
I am always looking out for fun dates and there is no shortage of them. I find fun date ideas in all sorts of places, some unexpected.
Some museums have a regular free day or at least one a year. If they are every week, I add it and set it to repeat weekly. If it's once a year, I'll try to look early in the year to find what date it will fall on, so don't forget about it until it is past. All year, our art museum is free on Sundays, and during the summer, they have free concerts as well. As soon as the concerts are announced, I add them all to the calendar. If I hear that a city within a reasonable drive has a free day, I will add it as well, so we could make a day trip around it. Don't forget about hole-in-the-wall museums in small towns.
Zoos sometimes have free or discount days as well. One day a week county residents get a discount. Around the holidays, they put up holiday lights. This year, they had a benefit day for the local food bank. For that night, if you brought 5 non-perishable food items to donate, you got free admission and parking.
Two local fancy grocery stores have wine tastings once a week. It is 5 wine samples for $5 (the other is 7 wine samples for $8) and, of course, no tip necessary. Each of these also offer food tastings along with the wine, and lots of samples as well. Between it all, it would be a light meal. While not the best on ambiance, it could be a fun way to try some new wines. This would be particularly nice if there was a concert or other free event nearby that you could walk to after.
A couple of coffee houses offer free concerts. One has an open mic on Fridays and a jazz, blues or folk concert on Saturdays. We tried the open mic, but it was a bit too crowded with school-age kids for us. We occasionally go to the Saturday night concerts when a musician we enjoy is playing. At this coffee house, they offer one free refill, so our date night, with tip, will cost around $6. Also look out for poetry slams.
Wineries also offer free concerts, usually jazz or singer/songwriter. If you can keep it to one glass of wine, and perhaps an appetizer to share, it can be a relatively cheap date. Some of them have a happy hour that ends when the concert time starts, but there is no reason you couldn't get there twenty minutes early, order your drinks and appetizer and nurse it. Some bars also have free concerts, in all genres. The website will usually have a calendar, and you can add all the concerts that sound appealing.
I love the symphony, but $50 tickets is a bit steep for regular attendance. However, my local theatre has some bargains. They have a happy hour event a few times a year intended to introduce younger people to the symphony. An hour before, they have drink specials and free appetizers; admission is free. One concert series offers $10 tickets for basically the worst seats in the house; that being said, this theatre is so good that no seats are horrible. Another concert series designed to teach newbies about classical music offers $15 tickets for any seats. When they release the new season's shows, I check for each type and add them all to my calendar.
In the summer, a local theatre troupe offers Shakespeare in the Park. It runs Thursday through Sunday. For any performances that interest me, I add it to each day that it is going on, so if I have something going on Friday, maybe I can make it Sunday.
Also, many parks departments put on concerts or drive-in movies in the park during the warm months. Add the event for any movie that interests you.
Add small town or city festivals, cruise-ins, or flea markets, as they interest you. Again, look within a reasonable driving distance so you could make a day trip out of one that is farther out.
Two movie theaters offer once-a-week discounts. One first-run theater sells $5 tickets that include a small popcorn. A second-run theater usually costs $2.25 each, but one day a week (a different day than the other theater) has $1.25 admission. Add it to repeat weekly, and if you want to see a movie, you can look up showtimes.