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Can’t Buy Me Love

Charlotte Date Nights on a Dime Budget

By Lauren Levine

Whether you’ve just swiped right on each other on an app or you’ve been together for what feels like forever, memorable date nights are a key part of a relationship’s success. When you’re living in Charlotte, you don’t have to spend big to get the most out of your quality time. Here are some of the Queen City’s best free or low cost date picks.

Watch the sky light up with Friday fireworks at a Charlotte Knights game.
Grab tickets to a Charlotte Knights game (they go for as little as $11) and, on Fridays, enjoy a fireworks show after the game is over. BB&T Ballpark boasts a wide selection of tasty bites, from healthy options to typical ballpark fare, plus your favorite local beers. Take a stroll through Romare Bearden Park before the first pitch and head out Uptown after.

Sample Charlotte cuisine at What The Truck Thursdays.
The Food Truck Friday event you used to love has had a few different iterations since the original lot in South End was sold. Get back to sampling food from the area’s best food trucks during What the Truck Thursdays from 5 to 9 p.m. at 1508 Kee Court in South End. Foodies are welcome to bring leashed pets to the event.

Pedal your way to romance.
See the city from a totally different perspective when you rent a bike from Charlotte B-cycle. With kiosks all over the city, including uptown, you can pedal off from virtually anywhere. A 24-hour pass is just $8 and gets you an unlimited number of 30-minute rides.

Live out rock star aspirations at Jeff’s Bucket Shop.
Karaoke can require some liquid courage, so enjoy half-priced bottles or glasses of wine at Brazwells Premium Pub on Montford Drive on Tuesdays. As you sip, strategize about the perfect duet. Then stroll down the street to Jeff’s Bucket Shop and deliver the karaoke performance of your life.

Get active at the U.S. National Whitewater Center.
Lace up your sneakers for River Jam Run, a trail race that precedes the River Jam concert series on the second Thursday of each month. If pounding the pavement isn’t your thing, take part in the Open Water Swim that also happens each week before the River Jam festivities commence. Afterward, grab a bite to eat at River’s Edge Bar & Grill and then jam out to the live music. The event is free, but bring $5 for parking.

Ring in the weekend at Alive After Five.
On Thursdays, make a stop at Rooftop 210 at the top of the EpiCentre for this event filled with live music, drinks and an unbeatable view of the city. Admission is free. Grab a bite at Mortimer’s Café & Pub on the lower level of the EpiCentre when you’re done.

Find your freak-out factor on an Uptown ghost tour.
If you’re okay with sleeping with the lights on for a little while, take a 90-minute candlelight ghost tour through the streets of Uptown Charlotte. You’ll listen to eerie tales of the places you visit daily (or maybe used to visit after your tour is done). Tickets are $15 for adults via Carolina History & Haunts.

Catch up-and-coming stars at Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte.
Enjoy contemporary shows at far-from-Broadway prices at the Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte. Catch works you already know and love, like “Rock of Ages” and “American Idiot,” as well as up-and-coming performances. Single tickets go for as little as $16.50. If you plan to attend regularly, buy a flex pass and save. When the company moves into its new home on Louise Avenue, stop into Dish in Plaza Midwood for delicious yet shockingly affordable comfort food pre- or post-show. 

Showcase your smarts at trivia night.
If the two of you are looking for a low-key way to socialize with friends, trivia is a perfect pick. Music junkies should head to Angry Ale’s for music trivia on Tuesdays. Grab tacos across the street at Maverick Rock Taco beforehand and get two tacos and a side for $9.50. Kickstand Burger Bar offers trivia on Wednesdays, which is also conveniently half-price bottle of wine night. Come hungry and enjoy the inventive, mouthwatering burger menu.

Pack a picnic for Freedom Park.
Pack up some sandwiches and a blanket and take a picnic to Freedom Park. If you don’t want to put your culinary skills to the test, snag some of The Mayobird’s famous chicken salad sandwiches (you’ve seen them on The Food Network). A sandwich and a side is $8.95. After you’re done, go for a bike ride or walk on the Little Sugar Creek Greenway.

Donate your time for a good cause.
Volunteering is the perfect way to spend time together while contributing to a worthy cause. If you’re not sure which group you’d like to be involved with, Hands On Charlotte offers a number of different opportunities. This includes everything from helping adults with literacy skills to working with children or seniors.

Find cool vibes and cold brews.
With a name that points to its precious offerings, Carolina Beer Temple in Matthews is a beer lover’s haven. Among the 16 constantly rotating taps—plus one dedicated to cider and another to mead—find a new favorite brew for as little as $2.50 for an 8-ounce pour. Grab a sandwich or wrap to complement your beverage, or feel free to bring in outside food to enjoy as you sip.

This article ran in the July 2016 issue of Happenings Magazine.