So Valentine’s Day came and went, and you’re in the doghouse since you couldn’t get a reservation at Olivebee’s Factory? Cheer up, smuckers! Lean in close for some non-obvious, mostly cheap green date ideas, many of which I’ve tested for you myself. These aren’t “green” in the sense that you’re eating hummus and watching An Inconvenient Truth outside on a blanket made of stars — boooring! — but they’re low-impact, legitimately fun things that don’t require buying crap. Bonus points if you bike, bus, or walk! Ready?
- Hit up an arcade. It’s my go-to first date: cheap and super-fun. Grab your lucky lass or lad, get a roll of quarters, and crack those thumbs. For Seattleites, I recommend the Waterfront Arcade (a stroll by the water afterwards is perfect for seaside snogging) or Full Tilt, where you can get cheap, generous portions of ice cream when your eyes start to cross.
- Hang out in the library. Get the weirdest play script you can find and whisper the lines to each other. Synchronize your watches and give each other five minutes to find the book with the best title (hint: probably An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles). Sneak a picnic basket up to the stacks (but no celery; too noisy). Some bigger libraries may have musical practice rooms where you can dink around on the piano.
- Go pet some cats. Live in an animal-free box of sadness? An animal shelter or cat adoption center like Cat City, where furry buddies roam free, gives you something adorable to focus on (in addition to each other, I mean). Dogs work too — the Seattle Animal Shelter lets trained volunteers walk the dogs. Or walk a friend’s dog, or find a dog park to lurk at (but don’t be a creeper).
- DIY junk food. Cupcakes are burps of an angel, so whip some up with an easy recipe like this one. Make your own garlicky fries, crazy popcorn toppings, or food god Mark Bittman’s fluffy popovers. Vegan types can blend up soy milkshakes or craft a vegan pizza. (Like Michael Pollan said, “Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.”)
- Get artsy. “She’s crafty; she’s just my type!” Dude. The Beastie Boys were on to something. Check out an art museum and pick your favorite pieces, then make your own versions with kiddie paints and popsicle sticks. If you’re daring, use found objects (read: litter) to make a messy collage. Garbage art is hip — and as any 5-year-old will tell you, eating paste is where it’s at.
- Go outside, I guess? I’m no nature girl, but some people dig hiking (and even meet their honeys out in the woods). The less-crunchy can wander around an arboretum or public garden. Or for the 21st century version of a treasure hunt, go geocaching.
- Photo scavenger hunt. Grab your cameras, give yourself a starting and an ending location, and photograph things on the way that start with each letter of the alphabet (in order). Pasting the photos in your love scrapbook is optional. (If you have a love scrapbook, let me know in the comments so I can punch you in the face.)
- Use your noodle. “The only thing sexier than someone who will dumpster dive with you is someone who can out-Scrabble you, IMHO,” wrote former Grister Kate Sheppard. You can always make it Naked Scrabble if you need some, uh, excitement. Or stay fully clothed and flaunt your brain at a local bar’s trivia night.
- Find the best cheap view of your town. From riding a municipal elevator to climbing the winding staircase inside a water tower, you can usually find a great view of your city or town without paying Statue of Liberty prices. Plus, sneaking up a fire escape can make your glands squirt out adrenaline, giving you a nice natural high.
- Get random. Take a cue from the couple that “ate pancakes and then went to Teddy Roosevelt’s house and then watched the first season of Miami Vice.” Brilliant.
Now you know my secrets. Go forth and use them responsibly … and let me know what I forgot down below in the comments.