by: Mariann Devlin
I’m a feminist who likes dates, but doesn’t like to spend money. So, in order to avoid paying for my meal and a movie ticket, which is (arguably) the egalitarian thing to do, I’ve devised a few cheap Chicago date ideas that are neither costly nor tedious.
I live in East Rogers Park, and take full advantage of the romantic opportunities Lake Michigan has to offer- especially in the evening. Bring your medium-sized beach towel (you don’t want to give them too much of an option not to cuddle.) Enjoy a picnic with a discrete water bottle full of Three-Buck-Chuck. Or, if you’re feeling frisky and aren’t intimidated by the lake’s varying toxicity levels, get wet.
Music and Street Festivals
If you’re a poor hipster, Wicker Park Fest (the weekend of July 28th) is the perfect opportunity to see great bands on the cheap. This neighborhood festival, voted the best in the Reader only costs $5 and you get to see Cursive, Kill Hannah, the Drums. Bitchin’! Last month’s Green Music Fest costs the same, and featured the
Raveonettes and, one of my favorites, Dinosaur Jr.
Wicker Park and Bucktown have some of the coolest street fests in Chicago, but there are good, solid ones all over. Last month I went to Andersonville’s Midsommarfest, and I danced the night away to Sixteen Candles- one of Chicago’s most popular 80’s cover bands. To keep it cheap, I bought drinks and snacks at the Walgreen’s, whose entrance was right inside the festival gates. Blues Fest and Jazz Fest cost even less- they’re free!
The Chicago Cultural Center
I’m on the Chicago Cultural Center’s monthly mailing list, because of all the wonderful and free films, art exhibits, lectures and concerts. The guy I went to Blues Fest with? I took him
to the Cultural Center, a beautiful building with a magnificent stained-glass dome, for a Studs Terkel film festival. Afterward, we looked at some of the art exhibitions.
Lincoln Park Zoo
I hesitate in making this suggestion, because keeping wild animals in tiny spaces is truly an injustice. But, so are the contents of my bank account. This zoo’s free. I’m keeping it at
Windy City Soul Club, Etc.
Okay, I haven’t actually gone to Soul Summit or any of the Hideout dance parties, but that’s because Windy City Soul Club is just too much fun for me to even consider trying other venues out. For $5 you can dance the night away to rare soul, alongside people with dorky ties. It’s one of my favorite things to do in the city.
Farmer’s Market Followed By A Picnic
Where I live, in Rogers Park, the outdoor Glenwood Farmers Market and Andersonville Farmers Market are great places to buy cheap produce- and it’s a rather suggestive activity, comparing the size and firmness of ripened zucchinis, cucumbers, slender eggplants…
You can also find baked goods and cheeses. Once you’ve picked out what you’d like for lunch, head to the lake or a park and have a picnic.
I came up with this short list at the top of my head, and it’s based on my own cheap hobbies, the things which I enjoy the most. Brainstorm a list of things you’d be excited to share with someone else. Having a full dating life, especially if you’re meeting randos online, doesn’t have to be dull or expensive. And even if it’s a colossal waste of time, as most of those online dates are, it will never be a waste of money.
Mariann Devlin is a journalism school graduate from Loyola University. She’s a reporter for Patch.com, and a volunteer contributor to Streetwise magazine, a publication dedicated to ending homelessness. Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, Mariann moved to Chicago four years ago and still complains incessantly about the cold winters.