Dating on the Cheap: Charlotte Edition

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Dating in Charlotte for me was a challenge at first. By dating, I mean finding things for me and my significant other to do. We are from Charleston, where everything is romantic. The other day, we reminisced about bike riding in James Island County Park and walking down the battery at night. The cool breeze and whispering sweet things to each other. I turned to him and said, “You know what? You inspired me to research date night ideas similar to what we broke college kids use to do.” So, without further ado, here you are. $ means it’s free or super cheap. $$ means there’s a cost involved.

  1. Hike or Bike: In Charlotte, there are several greenways embedded in the city. I have two favorites. One in Pineville near the Carolina Place Mall and one in the South Park area near Freedom Park. For more information, check out the CharMeck Parks and Rec website. If you’d prefer more of a challenge, there are also mountains you can hike nearby. My go-to is Crowders Mountain right outside the city. It takes about 30 minutes to get there. Or, you can hike to the waterfall at Rocky Creek Trail near Chester, SC. The rapids are absolutely stunning.  $
  1. Farmer’s market: Charlotte has a ton to choose from. See previous post. You can take your boo and grab some beautiful flowers or buy some fresh food to cook later. I also like the unique desserts and fruit available. Camp Northend’s market is on Wednesdays, while all the others are on Saturday morning. Grab your coffee and peruse at a snail’s pace. $
  2. Airport overlook: Have you ever watched planes take off? Perhaps this is only romantic to me because of how much I love traveling. If you guys own a pick-up truck, sit on the back with some blankets, pillows, and a glass of adult drinks and watch the planes take off. Maybe you can plan your future adventures together. If you don’t have a truck, you can always pack a blanket and have a picnic. There are a few benches and tables out there, but that’s less romantic in my opinion. $
  3. Outdoor movies: Each year in the city, there are several neighborhoods that offer movies in the park or at night. My absolute favorite is Camp Northend. On Thursday nights, they play a variety of throwback movies near the Ford building. You can either pack your own food and drinks, or you can purchase some from their vendors. It gets crowded, so come early. $
  4. Park picnic: You can do so much with a park date. Charlotte has some of the prettiest parks. My favorites are Freedom, Independence, and Fourth Ward. You can pack a picnic. Or, you can bring some canvases, some paint, and some wine for a paint and sip in the park. $
  5. Food Truck Friday: Now, technically, it’s free to attend. But, you will have to spend money. FTF takes place once a month in West Trade Complex. There are food vendors, as well as other material goods. You can find unique gifts like special soaps, candles, books, body butters, etc. There’s a dj and it’s a beautiful ambiance. $$
  6. Local festivals: Charlotte and the surrounding areas are full of festivals. We have Festival in the Park twice a year. It’s an art showcase in Freedom park. We have the Charlotte Caribbean festival, Hola Fest, and the Durag Fest. Most street festivals are either free or really cheap. But, again, you will need money to buy things because it’s super cute and it benefits local vendors and small businesses. $$
  7. Fitness classes: If your date is anything like me, I love a good fitness class. See previous post. There are a few new ones too. There’s a line dancing class at Tuckaseegee Rec Center each Tuesday at 6 and there’s rooftop yoga at Harvey B. Gantt at 12:30 on Sundays. Most classes are either free or under $15 per person. $$
  8. Art Walk: Enjoy murals and other forms of art around the city with a guide or by yourself. You can download the self guided tour or you can book a tour with Art Walk CLT on eventbrite. This is completely free and absolutely amazing. You’ll get to learn all the behind the scenes info on the artists and their inspirations. I personally prefer the guided tours because they bring the artists with them! $
  9. Music in the park: Everyone loves music. Why not listen for free? There are several opportunities for free music in the park in Charlotte. The most notable is South Park after 5 on Thursdays. Summer Pops is at Symphony park and Camp Northend has music on Friday nights. Each week offers a variety of genres and performances.
  10. Poetry Slam: Have an artsy date? Poetry is top tier. You can either visit local poets at Red @ 28 on Wednesday nights ($5) or you can visit Starlight for free. Or, you can follow ASC for their poetry slams that happen throughout the year. It will definitely have you in your feelings. Perhaps in a good way. $$
  11. Museum: We have some of the best museums. Harvey B Gantt has at least one free event each week. I believe the Mint Museum Randolph is free on Wednesdays. Many of the other museums offer free visits periodically, as well. And, if you’re a Bank of America customer, you get to visit a museum (Mint Museum, Bechtler, Museum of the New South) for free each month. Visit their websites for more details. $
  12. Matinee at the movies: Matinees are great because they are cheaper, it’s less people there, and you won’t have to worry about the awkward moment at the end of the night. You can see a movie then catch dinner or go somewhere else. Matinees in Charlotte are typically less than $10 per person. But, the food costs…yikes. And you definitely don’t want to pack a sneak meal on your first date. $$
  13. Church: we have a plethora of large churches here in Charlotte. Are you trying to woo her over? Show her that you’re well rounded. And, if you’re lucky, some serve dinner after service. Plus, you may find a church home in the process. Win win! $
  14. Panthers Training Camp: is your person into sports? You can watch the Panthers train for free at their training camp on the campus of Wofford the last few weeks of summer. Just make sure to pack a cooler with food and drinks. It gets hot out there. At the end, you get to meet the players and you could get their autographs. $
  15. Volunteer: want to see if your potential mate has a good heart? Try volunteering around the city. There are a ton of organizations who could use your help. You can volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House or you can feed the unhoused with Block Love CLT. Block Love has volunteer opportunities nearly each day of the week. $
  16. Beach: I know what you’re thinking. The closest beach is 3 hours away. Well, you’re in luck. We have a “beach” nearby in Lake Norman. It’s much smaller than a traditional beach, but it’s close by and you only pay for parking. Pack a picnic and spend the day learning about your date. $$

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