Save money and save your romance: 10 cheap Charlotte date ideas that don’t look cheap

·8 min read

Inflation is treating most of us like a bully who wants our lunch money. People are spending more on what used to be cheap stuff as the economy metaphorically punches us all in the face.

Even though we are caught in the crossfires of what seems like a very intense squabble, we can make the best out of it. This list of cheap date ideas for both couples and besties in the Queen City can help you connect with the people you love without emptying your piggy bank.

For the adventurous ones

Anne Springs Close Greenway

Location: 2573 Lake Haigler Drive, Fort Mill, SC 29715

Neighborhood: Fort Mill

Just outside of Charlotte, the Anne Springs Close Greenway lets you and your other half explore the beauty of nature. The greenway has a 36 mile trail system that guests can bike, hike and run. Markers are placed at every ¼ mile to provide a reference point that corresponds with the trail map.

Make sure to bring clothes that you have no issue getting wet in because fishing, kayaking and paddle boarding are available to guests.

Cost: $12 per person and $6 for children ages 5-16

U.S. National Whitewater Center

Location: 5000 Whitewater Center Parkway, Charlotte, NC 28214

Neighborhood: Moore’s Chapel

Find your zen at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. Free, daily yoga sessions with varying difficulty levels are available to all between May and September.

Guests have the option of Slow Flow, Open Level Flow, Fun Flow and Sup Flow. All guests must be 14 years of age or older and register in advance to participate in Sup Flow, yoga practice on stand-up paddle boards on the Catawba River.

Cost: $6 for daily parking and $60 for yearly parking pass

Activities including free yoga are available at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. Courtesy of the U.S. National Whitewater Center
Activities including free yoga are available at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. Courtesy of the U.S. National Whitewater Center

For the influencer pairs

Hodges Family Farm

Location: 3780 Rocky River Road, East Charlotte NC 28215 Neighborhood: North Charlotte

Pumpkins are the hallmark of the fall season. These versatile fruits — yes, they are fruits — are used to make pies and jack o’lanterns and are the inspiration for the beloved fall flavoring: Pumpkin Spice.

The farm allows guests to pick pumpkins from Sept. 24-Oct. 31. This is the best opportunity to take aesthetic photos for your socials. At the pumpkin patch, the farm offers pumpkins of all shapes and sizes, a hay mountain to climb and jump on, barnyard animals, photo opportunities and a picnic area.

But wait, there’s more. On Saturday and Sunday, you can go on hayrides, shop at the farm shop and eat tasty treats like kettle corn, funnel cake and drinks. The farm shop offers a variety of items including grass-fed beef, pastured pork and poultry, locally harvested honey, dairy, vegetables and coffee.

Cost: free parking on weekdays, $5 parking on Saturday and Sunday, $5-$20 for pumpkins, $13 for one pound of locally harvested fall and spring honey and $8 for one pound of ground beef.

While pumpkins are a hallmark of the fall season, so are apples. Here are some farms where you can pick as many apples as you’d like:

Home of the 90s Museum

Location: 404 Winecoff School Rd Concord, NC 28027

Neighborhood: Concord

Spice up your social media feed with a nostalgic trip to the Home of the 90s. The selfie museum features just about every hallmark of the era including the Kool-Aid man, Pokemon and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Each piece of art in the home was hand painted by a local artist.

Spice up the deal by renting the house. The museum doubles as an Airbnb, where you can not only take Instagram worthy selfies, you can also shower, sleep and cook while reminiscing about the 90s.

Cost: free for guests ages 0-3, $20 per hour for guests ages 4-12, $30 per hour for guests ages 15 and older and $250 per night to rent the Airbnb.

Are you looking for something more modern, check out these other selfie museums:

Camille Stinson (left) and Jessica Jones (right) are the owners of Home of the ‘90s in Concord.
Camille Stinson (left) and Jessica Jones (right) are the owners of Home of the ‘90s in Concord.

For the quiet folks

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Libraries

Location: multiple locations

Neighborhood: multiple locations

The library has 20 locations in the Charlotte area. Here are some ideas of things to do when visiting a branch:

  • Choose a random book from your partner’s favorite genre and have them do the same.

  • Start a book club with fellow couple friends and rotate who chooses the book of the week or the month.

  • Start a competition of who can read their book the fastest.

Each branch hosts events for anyone interested to get involved. Bring your partner and have a blast getting to know others in the community.

Cost: free

Mint Museum Uptown

Location: 500 South Tryon Street, Charlotte, NC 28202

Neighborhood: Uptown

Take some time to rest and relax in each other’s company at the Mint Museum Uptown. Go on Wednesday evenings to get free admission into the museum and explore all the various exhibits it has to offer.

The museum also offers online exhibits that guests can view from the comfort of their own home. These exhibits are perfect for the introverts who still want to spend time with their soulmate (platonic or otherwise).

Park at Levine Center for the Arts Parking Garage. Visitor parking for the museum is on Levels P1 and P2. Make sure to get a parking validation coupon at the admissions desk.

Cost: Free admission from 5-9 p.m. on Wednesday, $1 for the first hour of parking, $1 for each half hour after the first hour of parking, $10 is the maximum price for weekday parking, $5 is the maximum for parking on Saturday and Sunday.

For the foodies

Aggie’s Ice Cream & Grill

Location: 7209 E W.T. Harris Blvd # B, Charlotte, NC 28227

Neighborhood: Hickory Ridge

Whether you’re getting dinner with your partner or finishing off with dessert, Aggie’s Ice Cream and Grill allows for you and your partner to bond over food. Try the Bulgogi wrap — Bulgogi beef, lettuce, tomato, grilled onion, mayo and mozzarella cheese — Philly Cheese Steak sub — made with steak, onions, mushroom, bell pepper, mayo and melted provolone cheese — and Aggie’s Wings — six or 12 piece wings tossed in hot or spicy sauce and peanuts.

Cost: $7.45 for the Bulgogi Wrap, $7.45 for Rib Eye Steak sandwich, $1.99 for a kiddie ice cream cone and $5.29 for six piece Aggie’s Wings.

Aggie’s Ice Cream & Grill offers milkshakes, banana splits and hot fudge sundaes.
Aggie’s Ice Cream & Grill offers milkshakes, banana splits and hot fudge sundaes.

Derita Dairy Bar & Grill

Location: 2737 W Sugar Creek Rd, Charlotte, NC 28262

Neighborhood: Derita/Statesville

Remember those ‘50s diners from TV shows where the main couple would share a milkshake? Well, you can recreate that at Derita Dairy Bar and Grill. The milkshake comes in chocolate, vanilla and swirl. Go to the walk-up window where you can order the milkshake to-go.

Pair your milkshake with a footlong hot dog (yes, it is in fact a foot long). Top off the dog with whatever toppings you’d like. And since you will be at a dairy bar, take advantage and finish off your meal with an Italian ice, a sundae or a float that each come with up to three toppings.

Cost: $4.50 for a Footlong Hot Dog, $6.50 for a five piece DBG Wings, $4.50 for a large milkshake, $4 for a sundae and $0.25 for each additional dessert topping and mix-in

Co-owner Devin McDaniel’s face is usually the first one you see when you visit Derita Dairy Bar.
Co-owner Devin McDaniel’s face is usually the first one you see when you visit Derita Dairy Bar.

For the cinema lovers

Badin Road Drive-In

Location: 2411 Badin Road, Albemarle, NC 28001

Neighborhood: Albemarle

What’s more romantic than watching a movie with your special person? Watching a double feature in a car with your partner. The Badin Road Drive-In in Albemarle has two screens that each show two different double features.

The gate opens at 6:30 p.m. and the first showing is at dark. Make sure to turn off all the lights to not disturb the other guests and fully immerse yourselves in the showings.

Cost: $7 for guests ages 12 and up, $5 for guests ages 6-11, free for guests ages 5 and under, $3.50 for a large fountain drink, $5 for a milkshake and $2.50 for two ice cream scoops.

James McDaniel of Salisbury, and his wife Barbara McDaniel look for a parking spot at the Badin Road Drive-In in Albemarle.
James McDaniel of Salisbury, and his wife Barbara McDaniel look for a parking spot at the Badin Road Drive-In in Albemarle.

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Cinergy Dine-In Cinemas

Location: 5336 Docia Crossing Rd, Charlotte, NC 28269

Neighborhood: Prosperity Church Road

Why just watch a movie with your partner when you can watch a movie with your partner and have a meal. Step on out of those pajamas and into your nicest date night outfit.

Skip the popcorn and go straight for the Funnel Cake Sticks — served with chocolate or strawberry sauce — Kong Burger — made with pulled pork, thick cut bacon, white American cheese, crispy onion strings, beer braised onions, barbecue sauce and Cinergy smoky slaw — and Troy’s Brownie Sundae — a freshly baked brownie topped with vanilla bean ice cream, whipped cream, sprinkles, Ghirardelli chocolate and caramel sauce.

Cost: $9.25 for adults, $7.25 for children ages 3-11, $8.25 for seniors ages 55 and up, $8.25 for active military, military family members and veterans, $5 discounts on Tuesday, $6.99 for Funnel Cake fries and 5.49 for a soft drink.

Cinergy Cinemas allows guests to dine on chef-prepared meals that are brought directly to their seats.
Cinergy Cinemas allows guests to dine on chef-prepared meals that are brought directly to their seats.