Date night doesn’t have to break the bank

For the budget-conscious couple (and who isn’t?!), here’s a list of free or low-cost date ideas.

Have a culturally-themed night. Pick a movie that takes place in a different country and create a homemade dinner inspired by that country. Splurge for a bottle of wine from that region.

Gaze at the stars from the Apollo Observatory at Boonshoft Museum of Discovery. 

Spend an afternoon exploring an independent book store like Bonnett’s Book Store on East Fifth Street. Treat yourself after with a new brew at nearby Fifth Street Brewpub.

Enjoy an open-mic night at a local bar. By the next week you and your special someone might have the courage for your own karaoke duo.

Free movie night at the library. The Dayton View branch on Salem Avenue offers free screenings of newly-released films on Monday nights with popcorn to boot. 

Be a tourist in your own city. Explore a neighborhood you’ve never stepped foot in, check out a business you hadn’t considered before, or taste a new food you’ve only dreamt of trying.

Pick a recipe and cook a romantic meal together.

Take in views from the highest point in the city at Woodland Cemetery’s Lookout Tower & Columbarium.

Build and paint your own birdhouse to get in the mood for the spring season. There’s nothing like seeing that first birdie land and nestle into the home you’ve built for it.

Peruse the art collections at Dayton Art Institute. They ask for an $8 donation but anyone unable to contribute the suggested admission is welcomed to the museum’s galleries free of charge.

Pack a picnic and go for a walk in the park. Search for a park in the Five Rivers MetroParks district by name, type or amenities

Go to an animal shelter and play with the cats and dogs. The Montgomery County Animal Resource Center has “Mingle With Our Mutts” from noon to 2 p.m. the second Sunday of each month. You can also volunteer to help with animal care, kennel enrichment and dog walking.

Find a BOGO deal from Groupon or Living Social for an activity or restaurant in your area.

Fill up on food samples while walking around Jungle Jim’s International Market. This market is worth the drive to Fairfield and can keep you entertained for hours. Plan wisely and time your visits for one of the upcoming unique festivals and special events throughout the year.

Learn something about Dayton’s history. There’s no fee to walk through the “Photography of Wilbur and Orville Wright, 1897-1900” exhibit at the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center. For just $8, you can see the original 1905 Wright Flyer III at Carillon Historical Park. It’s the only airplane to be designated a National Historic Landmark — how cool is that?!