Cheap dates: 35 Charlotte date ideas under $20

Cheap dates: 35 Charlotte date ideas under $20

Photo: Brianna Crane/Axios

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Dating can be expensive, but you don’t have to spend a ton of money to have a good time.

Whether you’re on a first date or have been together for years, here are 35 date ideas under $20

(1) Take a self-guided tour of Charlotte’s street murals.

From NoDa to South End, there are a ton of cool street murals all over the city. In fact, there are over 70. Go out and explore them all. Hop on a scooter, walk or drive around town to see them all.

Who it’s for: The Instagram couple.

Cost: Free


Details: See our guide to 70+ murals here. There are 30+ to check out at Camp North End alone.

Camp North End Murals

Osiris Rain in Camp North End

(2) Do a walking tour of Fourth Ward.

Stroll through one of the city’s most charming historic neighborhoods and gawk at the beautiful Victorian homes. Take your pick of which one you’d want to live in. You can dream, right?

Who it’s for: The couple who appreciates architecture and history.

Cost: Free

Details: Friends of Fourth Ward created a guide you can view here.

(3) Tour wineries within driving distance of Charlotte.

Get out of town for the day and try out some of our region’s best wines, whether you want to taste test a flight or sip on a slushie.

Who it’s for: The wanna be sommeliers.

Cost: Under $10.

Details: We have a guide with 7 wineries nearby here.

wine slushie douglas vineyards

Wine Slushie from Douglas Vineyards.

(4) Share some laughs at Comedy Zone’s Funny on the Fly.

If you haven’t seen an improv show, put it on your list. Funny on the Fly features local comedians who have 30 minutes to prepare for seven topics.

Who it’s for: Couples who are tired of dinner and drinks.

Cost: $10 a ticket if you order in advance. Order here.

Details: The next show is 7pm Tuesday, August 17. Find Comedy Zone’s calendar here.

(5) Go on an art gallery crawl.

You can have a refined evening of art and culture without spending a dime. South End offers a gallery crawl every month for free, including free rides between stops if you’re not up for walking.

  • They even have a mural tour you can incorporate called South End Interactive. It includes nine murals, and you can scan the QR code next to the artwork to hear the story behind the piece.

Who it’s for: Self-appointed members of the Finer Things Club.

Cost: Free

Details: The gallery crawl includes Dilworth Artisan Station, South End Interactive and Gallery C3 at Alchemy. You can find details here.

alchemy c3 lab restaurant art gallery

(6) Seek out your favorite food trucks.

Track down your favorite truck or hit up Food Truck Friday at Sycamore or Resident Culture, or check out Black Food Truck Fridays which features dozens of Black-owned food trucks and vendors.

  • Bonus: Food Truck Friday usually features free live music, too.

Who it’s for: Foodies looking for a no-frills dining experience.

Cost: Varies.

Details: If you don’t have a favorite food truck yet, here are 18 of ours.

What the Fries burger and fries

What the Fries’ single cheeseburger and loaded cheesy fries.

(7) Show your competitive side over retro video games.

Head to one of Charlotte’s game bars to show your competitive side. Choose from old-school arcade games, pinball machines or duckpin bowling at spots like Pins Mechanical and Abari, which has a new location opening in Belmont.

Who it’s for: The competitive couple.

Cost: Most games are free or under a few dollars.

Details: 13 bars with indoor entertainment for rainy days.

Pins Mechanical Co.

Juice Box Hero mocktail

(8) Sweat together at a free workout.

There’s no shortage of free or inexpensive workouts at breweries around town that come in the form of run clubs, bike clubs and yoga classes. Grab a juice or smoothie (under $10 each) from Green Brother’s to keep your ~wellness~ date going.

Who it’s for: The health conscience couple.

Cost: Free

Details: Check out our Weekender or Weekday Planner, we regularly share free workouts.

(9) Lace up, put your phone away and do a walking trail.

Whether you’re looking for a leisurely walk through the woods or prefer city views, try one of these 20 trails for your next day date. I suggest Four Mile Creek Greenway or Irwin Creek and Stewart Creek Greenways for something in town, or Seven Oaks Preserve Trail in Belmont if you’re up for a drive.

Who it’s for: The couple ready to get off the grid.

Cost: Free.

Details: 20 walking trails in Charlotte for nature lovers and city views

(10) Eat your way through Charlotte’s 50 Best Cheap Eats.

Everything in our guide to 50 must-try Charlotte cheap eats is under $10, ranging from $2 Asada tacos at Tacos El Nevado to Grilled pork banh mi at Le’s Sandwiches.

Who it’s for: People who really appreciate a meal deal.

Cost: Under $10 each.

Details: 50 must-try cheap eats in Charlotte under $10

(11) Celebrate Taco Tuesday with $1.49 tacos at Sabor.

Hit up Taco Tuesday at Sabor. Each one will run you just a dollar, which leaves you with plenty of room for a healthy serving of chips and salsa, and an Amigos Marg if you’re feeling it.

Who it’s for: Those who love a theme night.

Cost: $1.49 per taco.

Details: Sabor has 17 locations in Charlotte. You can find all of their hours/addresses here.


(12) Hunt for antique treasures at Sleepy Poet.

You can spend hours wandering the winding aisles of this sprawling 60,000-square-foot antique mall. Plus, they’ve got free popcorn to snack on while you hunt.

Who it’s for: Quirky couples who enjoy the thrill of treasure hunting.

Cost: Free to look, items vary.

Details: Sleepy Poet is open 7 days a week. The exact address is 4450 South Blvd.

Sleepy Poet

(13) Flex your golf skills at a nearby driving range.

Who it’s for: The wannabe country club couple.

Cost: Under $10 per bucket.

Details: 5 driving ranges in Charlotte to satisfy your golf craving

westwood golf driving range charlotte nc

(14) Split a charcuterie or cheese board.

Sometimes dinner is a bit of a commitment. If you’re looking for a first date idea, consider going for charcuterie (and wine if you need some liquid courage) so you can chat and snack at your leisure.

  • Craft Tasting Room and Growler shop offers $6 cheese and meat boards every Wednesday. Go with the cheese board and you’ll get two selections of local cheeses, fruit, nuts and bread. Go with the meat board and you’ll get two selections of cured meat, olives, nuts and bread.
  • Dilworth Tasting Room offers a free cheese board with the purchase of a wine flight on Tuesday.

Who it’s for: Those on their first date.

Cost: Under $20.

Details: 7 best charcuterie deals in Charlotte under $20

dilworth tasting room cheese

Cheese and charcuterie from Dilworth Tasting Room’s original location in Dilworth.

(15) Do River Jam at the U.S. National Whitewater Center

The free concerts are Thursdays-Saturdays and are free to attend. Get there early to walk around, grab dinner/drink or go on the trails.

Who it’s for: The outdoorsy couple.

Cost: $6 parking, free to enter

Details: See the full music lineup here.

Whitewater Center Rafting

(16) Have a picnic in the park.

Pack up some sandwiches or a makeshift cheese board and head to one of Charlotte’s many parks for a romantic picnic. Freedom Park, Romare Bearden and First Ward Park are great picnicking parks.

Who it’s for: Couples who love rom coms.

Cost: Varies

Details: Check out 16 places to picnic around Charlotte.

Freedom Park

(17) Test your knowledge at trivia night.

Pick any night and most likely there’s trivia going on at some bar or brewery in the city, including Common Market and Wooden Robot. Opt for one of the many themed trivia nights or just stick to general knowledge questions.

Who it’s for: Jeopardy fans.

Cost: Free

Details: Find South End trivia nights on this calendar.

(18) Pretend to be sommeliers with a wine flight.

Learn more about which flavors you like by testing multiple types at once. Ask your server for guidance so they can walk you through the various flavors.

Who it’s for: Those who want to impress their supper club friends.

Cost: Prices vary but flights are usually under $15.

Details: The 6 coolest wine bars in Charlotte, right now

Dilworth Tasting Room SouthPark

(19) Go listen to live music.

Live music is back, baby! From breweries to bars, there’s tons of free live music offered throughout the city. Do a little research ahead of time to find a music genre you both like.

Who it’s for: Those who don’t want to drop $50+ bucks on concert tickets.

Cost: Free

Details: You can find our live music roundups here.

(20) Sip sangria at NoDa Company Store.

The casual neighborhood hangout is known for its classic and specialty sangrias, which you can enjoy from the comfort of one of the best patios in Charlotte.

Who it’s for: Those looking for a casual night out when the weather is great.

Cost: $7 for sangria

Details: They’re open 7 days a week. The exact address is 3221 Yadkin Ave.

noda company store new patio

(21) Spend time volunteering.

Ditch the dinner and drinks, and give back to the community. Here’s a roundup of 20+ nonprofits if you need help choosing.

Who it’s for: Couples who want to do good.

Cost: Free

(22) Celebrate Margarita Monday with $5 drinks at RuRu’s.

Don’t save all your dates for the weekend, especially when you can get $5 Friend Zone and Magic Mike margaritas every Monday at RuRu’s. Grab a seat on the patio when it’s nice out.

Who it’s for: Those who love a marg on the patio.

Cost: $5

Details: The exact address is 715 Providence Rd.

RuRu's to go marg


(23) Take the dogs to the park (or bar).

Whether you’re looking for a casual first date or are ready to introduce your new partner to your fur child, a dog park or bar could be the right pick for you.

Who it’s for: Animal lovers.

Cost: Varies.

Details: Try Lucky Dog or Skiptown.

skiptown dog bar south end

(24) Tour the Mint Museum.

The Mint Museum is a perfect date spot and every Wednesday from 5 to 9 p.m., tours of both locations (Randolph and Uptown) are free. You can peruse their permanent collections and check out new exhibits.

Who it’s for: Art lovers.

Cost: Free

Details: The Uptown location is at 500 South Tryon Street and Randolph is at 2730 Randolph Road.

Mint Museum


(25) Drink Transfusions at Selwyn Pub.

The iconic drink is made with vodka, ginger ale and a splash of grape juice, but they’ve rolled out an extensive menu with new flavors as well as “skinny” and non-alcoholic versions.

Who it’s for: Couples looking for a fun group date or game day spot.

Cost: $7.50 per Transfusion.

Details: Open daily. Exact address is 2801 Selwyn Ave.

(26) Take a stroll down Charlotte’s Rail Trail + grab coffee

The Rail Trail is always bustling with activity so it’s great for people watching. You can check out cool public art along the way and pop by a coffee shop like Not Just Coffee at Atherton Mill or Central Coffee Co.

Who it’s for: The active couple.

Cost: Free

South End Rail Trail Vertical Image

(27) Visit Camp North End.

You could explore this place without spending a dime, from the 30+ murals, to shops to swings and giant Jenga. If you are hungry, the food stalls have affordable options under $10.

Who it’s for: Couples who really appreciate supporting local.

Cost: Varies

User’s guide: Camp North End, the growing development near Uptown, now home to 41 cool tenants

van gogh exhibit camp north end charlotte

(28) Take a hike!

There’s nothing like a little day trip and getting out in nature. If you haven’t traveled with your S.O., a road trip is a great place to start.

Who it’s for: Couples ready to take the next step.

Cost: Free

Definitive hiking guide: The 16 best hikes around Charlotte

(29) Go for ice cream.

Some of the most memorable conversations I’ve ever had took place over ice cream cones in the car. Don’t underestimate the power of simple sweetness.

Who it’s for: Those looking for an easy last minute date idea.

Cost: Varies.

Details: Try Jeni’s, Two Scoops or Golden Cow.

two scoops ice cream

(30) Go flower picking at McLawland Farms.

McLawland Farms, less than 30 minutes from Uptown, lets you pick your own flowers and you can fill a mason jar for $14.

Who it’s for: People who enjoy the little things.

Cost: $14

Details: You can make a reservation here.

cutting flowers at mclawland farms charlotte

(31) Shop the farmers market.

Shop for fresh produce at the farmers market together and use your bounty to cook something fresh and creative at home.

Who it’s for: Those who appreciate a Nancy Meyers kitchen scene.

Cost: Varies.

Details: Detailed guide to 12 Charlotte-area farmers markets

Kings Drive Farmers' Market

Photo: Brianna Crane/Axios

(32) Board games and coffee at The Hobbyist.

If you’re looking for a laid-back day date, or even a double date spot, try coffee and board games at The Hobbyist. You could also for wine and free live music on Friday nights.

Who it’s for: The cozy couple.

Cost: Varies.

Details: The exact address is 2100 N Davidson St., Suite D.

the hobbyist coffee shop in charlotte

(33) Sip wine under twinkly lights at Rosie’s.

Roam the gardens then sip wine or beer underneath a canopy of twinkly lights. You’re allowed to bring your own food, which makes this is an affordable spot.

Who it’s for: Hopeless romantics.

Cost: Varies. Most drinks are under $10 each.

Details: The exact address is 940 N Davidson St.


Rosie’s Wine Garden

(34) Hit up burger night at Reids.

The patty is made from house-ground filet, sirloin and ribeye and is topped with lettuce, tomato, red onion, cheese and your choice of avocado, caramelized onions, mushrooms or applewood smoked bacon. You get a side, too (go with the truffle fries).

Who it’s for: Couples who crave gourmet.

Cost: $8.99 a burger.

Details: The special runs 5-9pm on Tuesdays for dine-in only.


(35) Go see a drive-in movie.

Hound’s Drive-In in Kings Mountain, Badin Road Drive-In in Albemarle or Sunset Drive-In in Shelby are all within driving distance of Charlotte. 

Who it’s for: The couple still lamenting the loss of Manor Theatre.

Cost: $20 or less per car.


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