Sometimes you want to show that special guy or lady how much you care, but you can't afford to take them to Restaurant Iris or hold their hand courtside seats to a Grizzlies game. Don't worry, though, because there are plenty of creative, ahem, cheap date ideas in Memphis.
You can listen to the June 2014 I Love Memphs Podcast BONUS Clip below, where I share my tips with the gentleman of MemphiSport Live Radio, then keep reading for more tips and details.
Elmwood Cemetery is more park than graveyard. There are hills and winding roads and plenty of trees that lean dramatically over ornate monuments of angels, flowers, and stranger things, and lots of famous dead Memphians.
Cost: Free, $5 for a map, and $10 for an audio tour.
It's late, neither of you want to go home yet, but you're not really up for another bar. What to do, what to do? Gibsons, my friends. The east Memphis donut shop is open 24 hours a day, and the people watching improves as the night goes on. If you need it to be super cheap, all donuts are half price between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.
Cost: Less than $5 for the both of you. With coffee.
This is a variation on the affordable stay in and "watch a movie" date. There's nothing romantic or really fun about standing in front of a Walgreens picking out a Redbox DVD while a family of four in line behind you argues over which "Ice Age" they're getting that night. Same for watching your computer/TV screen say "buffering" for who-knows-how-long. Instead, take a trip to Black Lodge Video and peruse all manner of flicks and TV shows, from cult classics to horror to family-friendly films to blockbusters.
Cost: Less than $5 per DVD.
Especially in the summer, you can find plenty of free music in Memphis. The Levitt Shell concerts are just one of the series' where you can bring chairs, snacks, drinks, and hear tons of great local and national (even international) acts. Other concerts: Jams on Beale (Friday nights in Handy Park), Sunset on the Square in Collierville (Thursday nights), and Red Hot Summer Music (Wednesday nights at the gazebo in Cooper Young).
The Metal Museum grounds are open when the museum is open, and admission is free. You can check out the outdoor scuptures, the working blacksmith shop, and the sweeping views of the Mississippi River. You're welcome to bring in a picnic, and you can either eat it on the grounds or atop one of the earthen mounds across the street.
If you're looking for a casual, but classic place to take your date, take them to a ballgame. Tickets to Redbirds games aren't crazy expensive, but they're even cheaper (as in, less than $10) if you opt to sit on the grassy bluff in left field.
Cost: $6 if you buy in advance, or $9 at the gate.
Clean your car out, pick your date up, grab some take out and BYOB, and see a double feature at Memphis' only drive-in movie theatre.
Cost: $7.50 per person for two movies, plus cost of snacks and drinks you bring yourself.
Buy your beers (and a $5 Soul Burger if you're hungry), then head upstairs to the ex-brothel portion of the building. There are tiny, semi-private rooms with tables and chairs that are perfect for serious conversation. Also, if it's a weekend, the bar upstairs at the end of the hallway is open, and the bartender tells the best stories.
Cost: beers are in the $3 – $6 range, burgers are $5.
9. Pay-What-You-Can / Free Days
Most of the museums in Memphis have a day when admission is free. The Brooks is pay-what-you-can on Wednesdays, and the Dixon is free on Saturday mornings and PWYC on Tuesdays. The Memphis Zoo is free for Tennessee residents on Tuesday afternoons, and Mud Island River Park is always free (as long as you walk across the bridge / park on the Island and skip the museum). Many performing arts groups have PWYC nights for different performances, including Playhouse on the Square. All of Threepenny Theatre Company's performances are PWYC. Do a little digging and a little planning and you can access a lot of the arts and fine arts for cheap/free.
10. Dog Watching at Shelby Farms or Overton Bark
If you're both dog lovers, or better – if you both have dogs – a dog park is a good, casual spot. It's also nice, safe public place to meet someone for the first time if you plan to go during a busy time. I've tested this one out, and it was fun.
11. Just Order Dessert
There are a couple of ways to take this. For a casual day date, get frozen yogurt at YoLo, ice cream at La Michoacana, milkshakes at A. Schwab, snow cones at Jerry's if you have the patience/heat resistance, or pick out something sweet at Sweet Noshings. Or you can get the fancy restaurant experience without buying all the courses (or committing to a full-length dinner with someone you're just meeting). Some of my favorite places for desserts are: Beauty Shop for crepes, gelatos, and the best darn strawberry and coconut cake on the planet; Hog & Hominy for gelato and whatever insane pie concoction they have they day (picture above is the peanut butter pie), Cheesecake Corner downtown for cheesecake, or try one of chef Felicia Willet's Southern desserts on the gorgeous new patio at Felicia Suzanne's.
Cost: Under $10 per person, at most places.
What are your favorite cheap Memphis date ideas? Leave 'em in the comments.
Ed. Note: This is an updated version of last year's post.