What’s better than a cheap date? A cheap date that doesn’t realize they’re a cheap date. Now that takes a little know-how. We’ve got suggestions for fun times no matter who you’re entertaining. And by the way, these budget-friendly activities really aren’t just for lovebirds — They’re equally fitting for a night out with friends.
Date 1: Drama Queen
How to impress the girl in drama class with the Tina Fey glasses? Take her to a play, of course. While buying tickets to a show at a local theater might cost you upwards of $40, if you keep your eye on the calendar, you can get away with much less. For instance, downtown theater companies PURE Theater and the Footlight Players both offer pay-what-you-will nights, and student rush discounts. Bonus: these companies both feature some of the most cutting-edge, youthful shows in town. Also keep your eye on companies like Charleston Stage, the Village Playhouse, Flowertown Players, and Deuce Theater. If you’re going during the week, take her out for drinks and apps at happy hour — check out the calendar on page 42 for some of our suggestions.
Date 2: Sporty Spice
You met her at the gym, where she was pounding out more glute presses than you ever could. Dang, girl. She’s the sporty type, so an obvious choice is to take her to a ball game. RiverDogs tickets start at just $5, and a night at the Joe is truly a quintessential Charleston experience, whether you like baseball or not. It’s all about the atmosphere, the jovial crowd, the gut-busting hot dogs, the insane diversions between innings, and the $1 mystery beers. Keep your eye on their website for promotions and giveaways — Thirsty Thursdays are always a good bet. You can also snag Charleston Battery (soccer) tickets for under $10, and though you’ll have to drive out to Daniel Island, it’s worth it to see our bumblebee uniform-clad boys tear it up. Once winter rolls around, the S.C. Stingrays ice hockey team draws a rabid crowd to the North Charleston Coliseum. Tickets aren’t quite as cheap (they start at $14), but it’s definitely worth it to check out a game at least once. Don’t forget fringe sports — like the Lowcountry Highrollers roller derby team, where you can get tickets for cheap. And there’s always college sports, like CofC Cougar basketball and Citadel Bulldogs football.
Date 3: Funny Girl
We already gave you the lowdown on local theater companies, who often host comedic plays, but for straight-up comedy — improv, skit, and stand-up — head to Theater 99. Every Wednesday is Laugh for a Lincoln night, and tickets are only $5. The shows are typically improv-based, meaning you’ll never see the same show twice. On the weekends, tickets rarely go above $10, and when they do it’s because there’s a fairly well-known comic in town. Most recently Todd Barry (of Flight of the Conchords fame) took the stage. Does all that laughing make you thirsty? Good thing Theater 99 sells beer and wine, and Miller High Life is always $2.
Date 4: Movie Make-out
Let’s face it: a night at the movies has gotten way too expensive. Between tickets (sometimes even with the student discount), popcorn, and snacks, you’re looking at a pretty expensive proposition. Lucky for you, there are some affordable cinematic options in town. Up in North Charleston, the Greater Park Circle Film Society regularly screens movies for just $5 ($2 for members) — and the popcorn is free. They typically show indie films and documentaries that have been out for a couple of years. Eye Level Art also recently started showing movies in the courtyard of their Spring Street Gallery. Tickets are $5 there as well, and you can bring your own beer or wine for a $5 corking fee. Come spring, City Paper hosts its annual Movies in the Square series in Marion Square. It’s always free, and always a good time with a fun selection of flicks — this past spring, Twilight was a big hit. Cinebarre also recently started hosting free midnight screenings on their outdoor inflatable screen, but you’ll be watching from their parking lot.
Date 5: Park Princess
If you’re not afraid to show your romantic/sensitive/nature-lover side, pack up a picnic (or pick up some yummy food from Ted’s Butcherblock or Caviar & Bananas) and head to one of the area’s many beautiful parks — bikes are always a lovely option for getting there. Ride up past the Crosstown to Hampton Park and set up under the live oaks, where you’ve got a good view of the little pond. Or ride a little farther up Meeting, where you’ll come to Magnolia Cemetery, an oft-forgotten place overlooking the marsh. Believe us, taking her to this historic, scenic spot is not creepy. You can also head right over the Cooper River bridge to the new Waterfront Park in Mt. Pleasant, complete with an unbeatable waterfront setting, swings, and picnic tables. Then of course there are all the typical but equally beautiful spots on the lower peninsula: the Battery, Waterfront Park, Washington Square — all great places for kickin’ back on the grass and staring soulfully into each other’s eyes.
Date 6: Tortured Artist
Charleston frequently plays host to arts events, and they’re often free or cheap. Because, you know, tortured artists don’t got a lot of cash. On the first Friday of most months, you can head down to Broad Street for a fun party also known as an art walk. Most of the galleries stay open late with meet-the-artist receptions, which equals free wine and hors d’oeuvres (but don’t abuse it). The crowds are often big and the lines are long, and if you’d like to avoid the madness, the galleries are open throughout the week and always free. Some of our favorites are Robert Lange, Corrigan Gallery, and Scoop Studios. Redux Contemporary Art Center also hosts occasional free arts events, with a funky, young, and super-stylish crowd typically in attendance. Also keep your eye out for the Upper King Design Walk, highlighting the shops and restaurants of this up-and-coming district. You’ll often find great sales and give-aways. Another event to look out for is Kulture Klash, a giant, and affordable, art-themed party.
For more date options, check out our event calendar every week. We always highlight the best bets for the week, and list every event worth checking out — and Charleston is literally swimming in affordable or free events.