Cheap Durham Dates

How to date in Bull City on a budget.

Maybe you’re a long-term couple and you’re saving up to buy Hopscotch tickets together. Maybe you’re single, mingling, and don’t want to shell out too much cash on a first Tinder date. Or you’re a student and you want to go out, but you’d also like to, y’know, eat food this month. Any way you slice it, we all want maximum romance at a minimum cost- so  The Triangle Guide presents the “Dates on a Shoestring” series. This week, I’m serving up the best the Bull City has to offer in terms of great dates that won’t break the bank.

Coffee Date at Beyù Caffè

The Oprah Mocha

Meeting for coffee is a classic first date for a reason. It’s low-commitment, and it feels perfectly natural to stay for half an hour, or to linger late if the conversation flows. But you can tip the scales in favor of the date going well if you choose the right setting- and, of course, if the coffee is good. And for ambiance and coffee quality, you can’t beat Beyù Caffè.

With its exposed brick and big windows, Beyù Caffè’s sophisticated, airy environs are low-key romantic. And the coffee is top-notch. Local roasts, plus cream and milk from Homeland Creamery? Yes, please! Grab one of their tempting lattes or mochas (shoutout to the Oprah Mocha!) or split a French press pot for $4.95.

Date at Duke Gardens

Love may just bloom at Sarah P. Duke Gardens.

It’s harder to think of a more romantic, or more uniquely Durham date than strolling Duke Gardens with your beloved (or beloved-to-be.) The Gardens’s picturesque settings have seen many a Carolina date, proposal, and nuptial. You can bank on the romance factor- love has a long history of blossoming here.

Wander the Garden’s 55 acres hand-in-hand, plotting how to spend the money you saved on this date, because admission to the gardens is free! (Be aware parking will set you back $1 per half hour. More details on the Duke Gardens website here.)

Open from 8 AM to 5 PM, you may want to consider going to Duke Gardens on a weekday if you have the option, as things can get pretty packed at primetime on the weekends.

Ice Cream Date at The Parlour

Sweet romance at The Parlour.

Ice cream is an underrated low-commitment date, or a lovely little outing for a couple. The Parlour on Market Street makes phenomenal ice cream by hand, in classic and imaginative flavors, and all served up in a pretty, pastel environment. There are great vegan options, milkshakes, baked goods, and every manner of sundae customization you can think of. This is a great afternoon or evening date- The Parlour is open from 12 PM to 10 PM Sunday thru Thursday, and 12 PM to 11 PM Fridays and Saturdays. Yes, sometimes the ice cream line can go out the door, but that’s part of the experience. The ice cream is that good, and the line gives you more opportunity for conversation. (You’re right across the way from Major Bull, and if he’s not a conversation piece, who knows what is.)

Art Gallery Date at 21c Museum Hotel

21c Museum Hotel’s signature pink penguins are tucked all over the galleries.

Whether you’re a sophisticate, or you just want to look like one to impress your date, a wonderful way to take in modern art on a tight budget or a tight schedule is to visit 21c Museum Hotel on North Corcoran Street.

21c is part of Museum Hotels, a chain of boutique hotels with modern art galleries on the premises. The Durham version, housed in the historic former Hill Building, has rotating exhibitions of contemporary art on over 10,000 square feet of exhibition space. The sleek galleries are free and open to the public 365 days a year. If you and your date want to get some context for the art, guided docent tours are available at 5 PM Wednesdays and Fridays, and are also free and open to the public. So put on your finest (or not), impress your date, and get your culture fix for the best price of all- free.

Bathroom signs at 21c- for dates of all gender identities!

Drinks at The Atomic Fern

Let’s face it- pricey cocktail bars are a lot of fun. They’re also a guaranteed way to make your wallet weep, and chances are you won’t be focused on getting to know someone when you’re thinking about your dwindling bank account. Luckily, the remedy lives on East Parrish Street in Durham, and it’s called The Atomic Fern.

The Atomic Fern does have a membership fee… but it’s $3, and you can bring a guest. Beer goes for around $4, wine and mixed drinks for around $6. The focus at The Atomic Fern is on conversation- so no TVs, no loud music, and board games to settle into (bonus points if you bring your own!) The surroundings are cozy and quirky, the patrons are chill, and it makes for a great date spot if you just want to relax over a drink and really get to know the person sitting across from you. This is let’s-get-a-drink done right.

Major Bull is a romantic at heart.

Check out cheap Raleigh dates here!

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