9 summer date night ideas under $20

When’s the last time you and your significant other went on a date? If the answer is “Uh…,” it’s definitely time to schedule a night out. If a tight budget is keeping you from sneaking a date night in, not to worry. Here are a few low-cost, super romantic ways to spend the evening with your sweetie.

Check out a festival or concert.

The city is full of festivals during the summer (over 150!),  many of which have no or very low-cost admission. Music lovers can check out the Chicago Blues Festival in Millennium Park, which has free entry and performances from award-winning artists. Want a more low-key concert experience? The Millenium Park Summer Music Series features free live music on 11 dates throughout the summer. Bring a blanket, a picnic dinner and relax while listening to everything from indy folk to instrumental orchestra. Check out more free festivals and entertainment here.

Go for a bike ride.

There are few things that make you feel as carefree as an adult as riding a bike (and I’m not talking marathon-biking; I mean a leisurely ride through the park). Plus, there’s nothing like cruising Chicago’s many trails and paths on two wheels. If you don’t have your own bicycles (or, like me, your tires went flat over the winter-whoops!), rent them through Divvy Bike for just $3 a half-hour.

Visit Garfield Park Conservatory.

While you’ve probably visited the conservatory with your kids for family events, it’s, ahem, a little more relaxing to stroll their 12 acres of gardens sans children. Bring your honey for a zen afternoon at one of the conservatory’s meditation or yoga classes, check out a lecture series or simply enjoy the weather with a leisurely walk around the grounds. The conservatory has free admission and parking (a rarity in Chicago), but they do ask for a small donation at the front desk.

Take a tour at Chicago Cultural Center.

This city landmark is worth visiting — and not just because it’s free! The center is home to rotating art exhibits, classical music and chamber concerts and world-class events. Explore the building’s gorgeous architecture on one of their free, year-round tours, held every Wednesday through Saturday. It’s the perfect place to sneak in some Instagram-worthy photos with your spouse, too.

Walk along the Riverwalk.

While the Riverwalk is a family-friendly destination, there’s nothing like taking a romantic stroll along the river on a summer night. From there, you can enjoy one of the new eateries opening this summer including Batter and Barries, Chiya Chai and Justice of the Pies. Don’t forget to stop by Art on the Mart to see projections every day, 15 minutes after sunset. 

Play bar trivia.

You may think you’re not the trivia type, but even if you lose, it’s fun to work together with your partner on something other than kitchen cleanup or bath duty. There are 100s of Chicagoland bars that host free trivia each week, with themes ranging from “The Office” to “Harry Potter.” Chances are, you’ll be able to find a pub trivia night that fits your interests. Even better, many bars offer specials during trivia time, so you can score a couple of drinks on the cheap. No promises that those cocktails will help your trivia knowledge, however.

Dance all summer long. 

Have you ever wanted to take a dance class with your partner? Here’s your chance! Chicago SummerDance offers dance lessons at Theater on the Lake (2401 N. Lakeshore Drive) and Grant Park (601 S. Michigan Ave.). You can learn a variety of genres from swing and salsa to folk dances and music from India. Check out their website to see the full schedule. 

Get competitive.

Prefer playing against your spouse to being on a team with them? No problem. Work your aggressions out playing pinball or video games at Emporium Chicago, an adult arcade bar. Each game is either 1 or 2 tokens and tokens are just 25 cents each, meaning you could easily keep play for a couple hours without breaking the bank. Since Emporium’s Wicker Park and Fulton Market locations don’t sell food, they allow you to bring whatever grub you’re craving into the bar. Grab snacks from the store before you head out to keep the night ultra thrifty.

See a movie in the parks.

The Chicago Park District hosts free movies at area parks throughout the summer. And while many of the flicks are family-friendly (here’s a roundup of those), others are definitely geared towards a more mature audience. Pack some food and enjoy hits like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Grease,” “Cabaret,” and “Dirty Dancing” under the stars. Here’s a full schedule of what they’re showing through mid-September.


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