A lavish dinner, a bouquet of roses, and a night where you’re dressed to the nines — you know the scene. Or maybe you don’t know it firsthand, but it’s the picture-perfect date you see in all the movies. Think Andy Sachs a lá “The Devil Wears Prada” — who wouldn’t want to stroll around the twinkling lights of Paris in their new chic wardrobe while on the arm of Simon Baker?
But while an over-the-top night is all well and good, the reality is that most college students’ bank accounts are rolling in slim by the end of the month. Our advice? Think less, do more. There’s no need to overcomplicate. These are our top recs for a night on the (college) town.
Complete the school bucket list.
Smelling the flowers in the courtyards, trying to identify the faces of the on-campus statues, seeing a guest speaker at your school’s historic theater, or hitting your college town’s late-night bite spots — you know the drill. Those cheesy bucket lists they give you freshman year are more fun than your orientation leader made them out to be. Tour around campus, and hit your school’s landmarks and “must-sees.”
Master the art of free sampling.
In the words of IHOP, “Come hungry. Leave happy.” Bop around your university’s supermarkets, restaurants, and ice cream shops on the hunt for freebies. You know you can’t resist those complimentary cheese samples. Better yet, be on the lookout for food festivals in your town. Odds are a lot of yummy local restaurants and food vendors will have free tastings galore. You’ll be their best customers, and they’ll probably give out coupons for future free stuff. Yes, please.
Sweat it out.
I know what you’re thinking. The gym? On a date? Yeah, right. But for those who are on the athletic side, the campus gym could be just the place for some competitive fun. Check your rec center’s schedule for free yoga, Pilates, dance, and cardio classes. If those aren’t your thing, snag a court and shoot some hoops. Plus, you won’t have to screw up your workout schedule for the sake of a date. And that, my friends, is what we call killing two birds with one dumbbell.
Hit a tailgate.
If you’re not feeling quite ready to do something outside of a group setting, make plans to tailgate together with friends. It’s the perfect low-stakes, high-energy atmosphere you need to get things started. Dress up in school gear and enjoy a day of grilling while you (not so) coyly make eyes at each other from across the beer pong table.
Visit a thrift shop.
This one is for the nontraditional dater. Visit the vintage and thrift stores nearby, and pick out stylish or, better yet, absurd looks with the goofiest, most retro items you can find. Think: the “27 Dresses” tacky bridesmaid dress montage. Call it an hour of good fun or buy your finds for real, because who doesn’t love a good bargain?
Take a hike.
You could take this literally and lace up your boots, but if that makes you want to go back to bed, opt to get fresh air and some peace and quiet at a nearby park. Split the chore of packing a day bag: you bring the water bottles and sunscreen while your date secures the PB&Js and granola bars. Wine is optional.