Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Fifty Cheap Dates

This seemed like a fun idea from Shalee's Diner, so I thought I'd participate! Here are some of our ideas for cheap dates. Some of them are L.A. specific, but let them inspire you to find similar things in your community!

1. IKEA. We love IKEA. If you live near an IKEA, you have got to check it out. The food in their restaurant is delicious and cheap. You can spend hours "window shopping" the store, and even if you do pick up something small, it's not going to be a lot of money. It's fun just to walk around, try out the furniture, laugh at the more outlandish stuff, spend time with your spouse. And if your kids are 3 or over and potty-trained, they provide FREE BABYSITTING! That's right, leave your kids in "Smäland" and they watch the kids, there's a ball room, usually craft tables or other activities, and they've got water and snacks as well. If your kids are younger, not potty trained, or not up for that, and you can't get a sitter, take the kids with you and just hang out while they play in the toy area in the Children's department.

2. Picnics. Picnics may seem trite, but they don't have to be! Don't limit yourself to the normal sandwiches in the park (although that can be fun, too-- bring a kite and have fun giggling, cuddling, and reliving your earlier years!) Go to the beach, the mountains, the public courtyard of an art museum where you can sit surrounded by beautiful sculptures, anywhere that you like that is a little shut off from the outside world, bring a blanket, and feed each other while you lounge on it. Some ideas for picnic food: soup in a thermos; appetizers; spanikopita, pita, hummus, canned giant fava beans and olives; or pick up take-out from an inexpensive local restaurant.

3. Olvera Street. We love to take the train down to Olvera Street (it's right across from Union Station; you can park at your local train station for free and a day pass on the train is only $2.50 a person, I think.) We walk around, enjoy the noise, the smells, get some candy from the little cart with the good dulces de calabasas, there are often free art exhibits to go to, and if not, the folk art all around is fascinating in itself, my husband holds up dresses or points them out and tells me I'd look sexy in them, we listen to the street musicians and hold hands. If you go on Saturdays, there are usually folklorico or Aztec dancers performing, all for free. And if you get hungry, no need to do a sit-down restaurant, there's a taco stand there or just hop across the street to a cheaper Mexican place. If you really want a sit down meal, I suggest walking a block or two to Pollo a la Brasa, a Peruvian place where you can get a whole chicken for less than $10 and sides for a few more.

4. Chinatown. L.A. has a great Chinatown district, with cheap delicious food, fun architecture, fun little shops, historical sights, LOTS of cultural interest, and is also accessible by train. Don't think you have to buy anything, although if you do haggle for it and it won't cost you much at all. Grocery stores in Chinatown have all kinds of fascinating snacks to try, or there are Vietnamese-Chinese noodle shops, or restaurants where the cost per person is usually less than $5. As an alternative, check out the Little Tokyo district just a few blocks over.

5. Free night at the art museum. Most major cities have a decent art museum-- and most of them have a free admission night. I know LACMA does, although I have not personally taken advantage of it and I'm not sure exactly when it is. In Dallas we used to go Thursday nights because Thursday nights at 5 admission starts being no charge, and they're open until 8 so you can get a good 3 hours in.

6. Historical sites. There are a ton of historical sites in California, and I love visiting them with my husband! So many fun things to look at and talk about, whether it's a mission (San Fernando is the closest to us), the Mormon Battalion Visitors' Center (about 20 minutes from us), or El Pueblo (on the afore-mentioned Olvera Street; the oldest surviving house in L.A., I believe.) They have given rise to many of our family jokes, and we love to just wander and feel the sense of history. Admission is usually either free, a voluntary donation, or less than $5 each.

7. The library! We have a HUGE central library in L.A., and they (as well as some of the branches) often put on events with low or no cost admission. From cultural events such as folk music or dancing to "history of food", local history, or other fascinating lectures sponsored by local societies, they can offer a world of low-cost and no-cost entertainment. Last year we enjoyed a bagpiper in full Highland dress, no cost, at our local branch, part of the cultural awareness program, they have one event every month. Plus it's fun to just wander around afterwards and maybe find some new books to read (free, of course, as long as you remember the due date! ;) )

8. Santa Monica Pier. What is more romantic than a ride on the Ferris Wheel at sunset, followed by ice cream at Ben and Jerry's a few blocks down? After a certain time of day most days of the week, parking is free. My dad sometimes comes with us so he can stay with the kids while we get a few minutes alone together on the Ferris Wheel while he spends time with his granddaughters. This idea, I think, could carry over to other activities-- do a "group activity" with someone you trust watching your kids for a little while here and there and the pressure is off for both of you-- they don't have to babysit all night, you don't have to be with the kids all night.

9. Hanging out at a relative's house. My aunt lives in a "planned community" with nice paths to walk and a swimming pool that's open in the summer. My kids love playing there and she has toys and videos and books for them. She's always happy to watch the kids for an hour or so while we walk, swim, go to the store, or whatever we want. It's good for quick "alone time." And let's face it, sometimes it's just nice to get out of the house, even if it's just someone else's house and you're in the same house as the kids-- at least you don't have to be in the same ROOM and there's someone to watch them!

Finally, don't forget to take advantage of the little moments here and there when the kids are occupied or somewhere else, and you can just hold hands and sneak a kiss. It may not be a real "date", but it sure makes for good memories. I cherish those little moments when I find them, and I hope you can too.


txmommy said...

great ideas!!
Going to the beach was a favorite activity of mine when we were in CA. Also 3rd street promanad.

Anne/kq said...

Oh, I love the Promenade! It gets expensive when I go there, though, so I didn't list it. ;)

Overwhelmed! said...

These all sound like wonderful ideas! Thanks for sharing. :)

I offered one, cheap and fun idea in my post!

Kathleen Marie said...

Great ideas. Some of mine were similar but I have never heard of an IKEA ??? But then I live in the mountains, not near much. ☺

Anne/kq said...

Yeah, it looks like the two closest to you are in Minneapolis and Winnipeg. :o

You might have fun shopping their website or catalog, although the website doesn't provide babysitting...

Shalee said...

These are fabulous ideas, Anne. And my favorite one is your last one: "Finally, don't forget to take advantage of the little moments here and there when the kids are occupied or somewhere else, and you can just hold hands and sneak a kiss. It may not be a real "date", but it sure makes for good memories."

It's the little moments that can make a world of difference in how your love flows.

Thanks so much for sharing your ideas. I WISH we had a Chinatown around here...