LOVE IS IN THE AIR
Summer brings plenty of opportunities to do something with that special someone besides dinner and a movie. And you don't need to spend a lot of money to have a memorable time with your favorite gal or guy. These low-cost summer date ideas are equal parts fun and romance -- the perfect combo for a day in the sun or an evening under the stars.
WATCH THE PLANES
Head to the closest airport and find a place to watch the planes come and go. If you can't find a good spot nearby, the top of an airport parking garage usually works. This is a chance to fantasize about where you'd like to go on a romantic getaway.
EAT AT A FOOD TRUCK
Go for a cheap meal at a local food truck. Use a free app like Roaming Hunger or Street Food Finder to locate one to try.
Enjoy the bounty of summer produce: Go to a local farm and pick your own berries, then come home and make a dessert to share.
You don't even have to leave your yard for this one. Set up a fire pit and roast some marshmallows or make s'mores. Dig out sleeping bags and a tent (if you have one) and sleep under the stars.
TAKE A DRIVE
Turn up the volume on a favorite playlist, roll down the windows, and hit the road. Find some scenic back roads to explore and see where the day takes you.
TAKE IN A FIREWORKS DISPLAY
Fourth of July isn't the only summer occasion with fireworks displays. Check the calendar, find a good spot (hint: try the top level of a parking garage), and gaze at the spectacle. Bring along some sparklers and chilled beverages in a cooler to make it more fun.
PLAY IN THE PARK
Playing in the park was fun as a kid -- and it's still fun for a carefree and cheap summer date with someone young at heart. Go prepared with a kite, a Frisbee, a football, baseball mitts and a ball, a blanket for lounging, snacks, sunscreen, bug spray, and plenty of water.
ATTEND A FAIR OR FESTIVAL
Forget the local pub -- it can wait till the weather turns chilly. Instead, head out to the fair or a festival for a merry summer date. Take a spin on cheap rides, play games, sample food and drinks, and enjoy being out and about holding hands.
VOLUNTEER AT AN EVENT
Want to attend a summer festival but can't afford the admission? Volunteer at the event. Helping set up or sell merchandise can be rewarding and fun. When the shift is over, you can catch the headliner or get in the next day for free.
HELP OUT IN THE COMMUNITY
There are many other ways to volunteer all summer, such as coaching a kids' sports team, walking dogs at the local shelter, helping spruce up public parks, or taking part in a Habitat for Humanity project. Check local listings to find an opportunity you will both enjoy.
BROWSE THE FARMERS MARKET
Treat your eyes and stomachs to fresh local produce and homemade goodies at the farmers market, and people-watch for entertainment. Buy what you need for a romantic dinner, then head home and whip up something delicious to share.
GO TO AN OUTDOOR MOVIE
Many communities host summer movies in parks and on lawns, which can make for a particularly romantic summer date when the right movie is playing. A local drive-in is a fine alternative and can provide more privacy. It may be a blast from the past, but it's a nice change from a run-of-the-mill megaplex.
Athletic types can rent bicycles and take a ride. Some bike-friendly cities have rental programs or offer biking tours. If no such program is available, improvise. Use your own bikes or borrow from friends to explore the city on wheels. Or, head to a state park and take a hike instead.
Many cities have a variety of cheap outdoor exercise classes in the summer. An outdoor yoga class would be just the way to relax and enjoy a Saturday morning together.
Geocaching is the ultimate scavenger hunt. Using a smartphone and GPS coordinates, participants search for hidden objects. Just sign up for a free Geocaching account and download the app. Then pick a geocache near you and start hunting.
ENJOY LIVE ENTERTAINMENT
Many communities host summer concert series -- often for free. Pack some snacks, maybe a bottle of wine, and a blanket to cuddle up for a delightful and romantic summer date.
CATCH SOME TUNES
If a summer concert isn't happening, hit up a local bar with a patio. Chances are there will be a band, a solo act, or an open mic night if you go at the right time. Take in the scene and enjoy a cold one.
Miniature golf has been a classic date activity for years. Prices are generally reasonable, and players who hit a hole-in-one on the last hole are often rewarded with a free round.
Instead of the typical dinner out, go cheaper and opt for dessert out. What better way to celebrate summer than with an ice cream treat? Or, stop by the local pastry shop and snack on sweet delicacies. As a capstone to this summer date, choose a place with a patio and linger as the sun sets.
Pack a cooler, grab some poles, and head to the nearest fishing hole. In today's fast-paced world, a slow day of fishing is a chance to catch up and relax in each other's company.
Find a spot with a view and watch the sunset together. Once the stars come out, search for constellations and identify them using an app or book. Make a game of it: Whoever finds a specific star, planet, or constellation -- or the most of all three -- wins.
GO TO THE ZOO
Many zoos are free and most others offer free or discount days, making this an affordable outing even without a membership. Spend the day visiting the animals together and share experiences such as feeding a giraffe.
GO FAUX HOUSE HUNTING
Even if you aren't ready to take the next step and move in together, it can still be fun to hit some open houses. It's free (and there's sometimes free food), and you can get to know each other better by comparing likes and dislikes.
HAVE A PHOTO SHOOT
Choose a picturesque location and set up an outdoor photo session. Make it goofy or romantic. You can even pick up some cheap props at a discount store.
GO GARAGE SALING
Make a day of bargain hunting at local garage sales. You may find super-cheap treasures and even some good props for your photo shoot.