Love, for less: 20 Brooklyn dates for under $20

brooklyn bridge park
How freaking romantic. Photo by Etienne Frossard, via Facebook

Dating is hard. It’s difficult to meet new people, whether in “real life” or online, and the process of dating itself can be exhausting, traumatic, heartbreaking, demoralizing…oh yeah, and expensive. You’re already (potentially) wasting time on a new date; don’t waste your money, too! While splitting the bill is usually the way to go, sometimes one party wants to treat the other.  Get creative without breaking the bank; do something other than stare blankly at each other while sipping overpriced cocktails. Need suggestions? Here are 20 Brooklyn date ideas that will keep both of you entertained/fed/watered/etc. for $20 or less. Who ever said a cheapskate couldn’t be romantic?

1. Wander along Brooklyn Waterfront

Here your cheapo options are endless! Stroll the waterfront pathway, relive childhood memories and take your date on Jane’s Carousel for $2 a ride, people-watch as adorable children and hilarious adults try to rollerskate at Pier 2’s new roller rink, play bocce or shuffleboard together, grab a large margherita pizza from Juliana’s ($19) to picnic in Brooklyn Bridge Park, and/or gaze upon the beauty of the Brooklyn Bridge hand-in-hand. There’s free kayaking in the summer, too! Brooklyn Bridge Park is the perfect setting for a fun and romantic date, so if you don’t get at least a little action, you’re doing it wrong.

2.  Attend a Brooklyn Brainery Class Together

The costs of classes at the Brooklyn Brainery vary, but there are plenty of options that will keep you under the $20 threshold.  Bond over the garbage that connects us all at TRASH: New York City’s Battle With Garbage or get cozy and hold each other through the scares of a class about vampires, werewolves and other creepers, each for just $10. Also, the Brainery is BYOB, so instead of shelling out on drinks, craft a DIY sixpack with those beers left in the fridge from your last houseparty.

3. Stroll the Brooklyn Bridge

Speaking of the Brooklyn Bridge, is there anywhere in Brooklyn more romantic (rhetorical question; of course not)? The scores of brides and grooms that crowd the bridge with their wedding photographer have it figured out. How adorable would it be if you had a first date on the Brooklyn Bridge and returned for a photo op on your wedding day? SQUEEE!!! But seriously, few things in this world are more beautiful than the history and architecture of the bridge and it’s a perfect place to begin or continue a romance.

Stop under the towers to actually read the historical information kiosks, or seduce your date by spouting Brooklyn Bridge trivia. Did you know that bridge architect John Augustus Roebling died before construction began and the bridge was completed by his son Washington, assisted by Washington’s wife Emily who was largely responsible for the calculations necessary for specifications and cable construction? Or that huge vaults built under the anchorages of the Manhattan side of the bridge were found to maintain a year-round temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit and were thusly rented to wine sellers for wine storage to offset bridge costs? Just don’t pull any shit hanging locks or trash from it, okay? Your relationship should be defined by the strength and endurance of the bridge, not destroying it with garbage.


coney island museum
There’s nothing more romantic than tiny versions of yourself. via the Coney Island Museum

4.  Coney Island Museum

Really, the best Coney Island date is a visit to the Freak Show, only $10/person and it’s guaranteed that your date won’t be the creepiest person in the room. However, that’s a summer only thing, so how about a trip to the Coney Island Museum (1208 Surf Avenue) instead?  The charge is only $5 per adult and it’s open Saturdays and Sundays, 12pm to 7pm. Funhouse mirrors (ask your date if they make you look fat), a 1:13 scale replica of Luna Park as it looked a hundred years ago, and other Coney Island novelties abound!  Afterward, satisfy your thirsts with a Coney Island brew and win your date that coveted carnival game teddy bear.

5. A night at Barcade

Impress your date with your mad crazy Tetris and Ms. Pac-Man skills at this Brooklyn bar/arcade (it’s not just a clever name).  Most arcade games at Barcade (388 Union Avenue, Williamsburg) only cost a QUARTER for a single player, so do the math and that’s a mere FIFTY CENTS if you choose to challenge your date to a Contra duel, leaving enough cash for a little healthy imbibing at the bar. Happy Hour is from 12pm to 8pm Monday through Friday and offers $1 off beer (normal price $6) and well drinks, as well as Fisherman’s Brew and a Jim Beam shot for $8. You can also buy your date a $5 Barcade souvenir pint glass as a memento to always remember how much fun you had (or to use as a missile if you break up). Game on!

6.  Go to a bookstore reading

Free and will show off your sexy intellect. Try WORD, Powerhouse Arena, Greenlight Bookstore or BookCourt for any number of events.  Bonuses: BookCourt (163 Court Street, Cobble Hill) serves wine with evening readings, Powerhouse (37 Main Street, DUMBO) often offers complimentary refreshments, Greenlight (686 Fulton Street, Fort Greene) is across the street from Black Forest so you can also share bratwurst or a giant Bavarian soft pretzel, and WORD (126 Franklin Street, Greenpoint) is just a few short blocks from The Diamond, which is not only in the Beer Book, but is the only place in Brooklyn, quite possibly anywhere, that you can get cozy drinking with your date in a gondola (from a ski lift, on loan from the Adirondacks). Readings at these locations have previously featured popular award-winning Brooklyn authors such as Chuck Klosterman, Jonathan Lethem, Adelle Waldman and Meg Wolitzer, to name a few.

7.  $1 oysters and Ample Hills ice cream

Most people can be wooed by ice cream. This is a scientific fact that has something to do with hormone levels, cold things, and the fact that ice cream is AWESOME. Any ice cream shop will do, but Ample Hills has the most adventurous and delicious flavors, like Ooey Gooey Butter Cake, Salted Crack Caramel, and Snap, Mallow, Pop! I believe it was the wise philosopher Jason Mraz who once said, “If you are what you eat, in my case I’ll be sweet.  So come and get some.”

Due to Ample Hills’ deliciousness factor, lines can sometimes be pretty crazy, so make sure you have plenty to talk about with your date while waiting for your cold confectionary wonders. Head to the Gowanus location of Ample Hills (305 Nevins Street), stop by Littleneck (288 3rd Avenue) beforehand for $1 oysters (served Monday-Friday, 5pm- 7pm). Oysters and ice cream? Your date will be as happy as a clam (no apologies for seafood puns).


green-wood cemetery
Death is romantic when it’s by such a placid view. via Green-Wood Historic Fund

8. Haunt  Green-Wood Cemetery

Prove your love is undead with a visit to Brooklyn’s foremost burial ground, Green-Wood Cemetery (500 25th Street). Find the final resting place of notables such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Leonard Bernstein, Charles Ebbets, and Samuel Morse. It’s free to traipse the nearly 200 year-old cemetery on your own (free maps available at any entrance) or purchase the Green-Wood Discover app for $1.99. After your journey through the cemetery, locating graves and admiring the various statues and headstones, head over to Greenwood Park (555 7th Avenue) beer garden which boasts 60 beers on tap and three bocce ball courts. You can catch happy hour from Monday-Friday 2pm to 7pm, which has $2 off select draughts, sangria, wine and cocktails.

9. Free Outdoor Movie at Table 87

Too cheap to take your date to the movie theater? With $15 tickets, who could blame you? Instead, treat yourself and your date to a free movie night at the Gowanus location of Table 87 (473 3rd Avenue). The coal oven pizza restaurant will be showing free films outside on Wednesdays at 8:30pm as long as weather permits. Buy a few beers and snuggle up to enjoy upcoming spooky showings of Hocus Pocus, and The Addams Family.

10. Explore Prospect Park

The obvious free date suggestion here is to throw a blanket on the Nethermead and make out like crazy. But did you know there are other cost-effective date activities available in Prospect Park? The Prospect Park Zoo is incredible and only $8 for adult admission. The Audobon Center located in the Boathouse has various live animals and other nature-related exhibits, and you can also get a map there to explore one of the park’s numerous trails. Enjoy the beats at Drummer’s Grove. Bring a picnic and toss a frisbee. Want to give a little back? Volunteer together with the Weekend Woodland Corps, Saturdays 10am – 2pm.  Then throw a blanket on the Nethermead and make out like crazy. You earned it.

11. See a Movie at Cobble Hill Cinema

There are very few movie theaters left that won’t rob you blind.  These film-house unicorns are even rarer finds in New York City, but Cobble Hill Cinemas (265 Court Street) is one of the gems. Adult movie tickets (tickets for individuals over 18 years of age; get your mind out of the gutter, perv) are only $8 all day on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Monday – Friday until 5pm, and Saturdays and Sundays until 2pm (excluding holidays and 3D showings). Your date will be so thrilled, he/she may even spring for popcorn and Jujubes.


city reliquary
Old Brooklyn will put you in the mood. via the City Reliquary

12. Get eclectic at the City Reliquary Museum

Free, with a suggested donation of $5-$10, the City Reliquary Museum (370 Metropolitan Avenue) is open Wednesday through Sunday, 12pm to 6pm. Home to a number of historical oddities and artifacts from Brooklyn’s past, the fascinating museum hosts exhibits such as Subway Handrails, The Williamsburg Bridge, Jackie Robinson, New York World’s Fair, Geology of NYC, and more. Explore some of the borough’s less known relics with your date without spending a ton, but please contribute a donation (come on, cheapskate; you can spring a few bucks to help keep Brooklyn’s history alive).  The museum will also host the 2014 Havemeyer Sugar Sweets Festival on October 25 from 10am – 4pm, free to attend with an all-donation bake sale.  What could be sweeter than sweets with your sweet?

13. Get thrifty

Hit up a local thrift shop together. Brooklyn has many Goodwills, Salvation Armies, etc., as well as Buffalo Exchange locations in both Williamsburg and Boerum Hill. There are a few fun thrift shop games to play, and no, I am not referring to getting it on in the dressing room. Challenge one another to locate a deal for the other under $10 each. Said item of clothing must be worn on your next date. Another fun idea: find the wackiest thing you can and make your date try it on, just for kicks, laughs, and maybe an embarrassing photo opportunity.

14. Attend The Moth’s StorySLAM

If you’ve never attended one of The Moth’s StorySLAMs, you’re missing out on one of the greatest joys in life. You’ll definitely laugh, you might even cry, and you’re guaranteed to have a really fun time. Brooklyn StorySLAMs occur on the first Monday of every month at the Bell House ($8 at the door). Doors open at 7:30pm and the event begins at 8pm, but it’s always a safe bet to get in line early because there are a limited number of tickets available. The story topic on Monday, November 3 will be Accident and on Monday, December 1 it’s Bouncing Back. Challenge yourself to impress your date by entering your name in the storytelling lottery and you just might get picked to tell your own personal tale on stage.


kings county distillery
Hug your date though, not the whiskey barrel. via Yelp’s Flickr

15. Find drunken love at Kings County Distillery

Get a little tipsy with your date on a tour of the Kings County Distillery (Navy Yard).  Tours cost only $8/person, last about 45 minutes, and include a tasting of the goods, as well as admission to the distillery’s Boozeum. Tours are held every Saturday and leave every 45 minutes from 1pm to 4:30pm, with the last tour of the day at 3:45pm. No reservations are required for Saturday tours, just show up ready to imbibe whilst learning about the first distillery opened in NYC after the end of Prohibition (spoiler alert: it’s this one). There are also ticketed tours every Friday at 3pm that’ll run you $8, but at least that will guarantee you a spot. Reserve your tickets online, because (perhaps in an homage to the early days of American whisky distilling) Kings County Distillery does not have a telephone (although they do have a Twitter account).

16. Smell the flowers at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Tickets to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (990 Washington Avenue, Prospect Heights) are $10 for adults, but $5 for students (or those lucky individuals whose college IDs were not issued with expiration dates). Tickets are also $5 for seniors aged 65 and older, which is handy if you look like Benjamin Button or prefer the company of, um, a more mature date.  October is a good time to view the gardens’ native wildflowers, and there’s currently a pretty cool Tree House exhibit, built by architect Roderick Romero from trees felled by Hurricane Sandy. A garden visit is also a perfect way to nonchalantly ask your date what his/her favorite type of flower is to surprise him/her with at a later time. Just don’t pick said flower from the Botanic Garden; that’s frowned upon (take only memories, leave only footprints).

17. Have your fortunes told

There are hundreds of nondescript, sketchy storefronts in Brooklyn that boast cheap Tarot and/or palm readings, so take your pick. These usually cost about $5 a pop and it’s a fun/cheesy/totally reliable way to discover the fate of your romance.  We bet (hope) your date has never before been wooed in a nondescript, sketchy storefront, so make your mark! Or, turn the fortune telling into a super romantic date night at Santos Anne (366 Union Avenue, Williamsburg). Santos Anne offers free tarot readings for patrons on Monday nights (8pm – 11pm) and Sundays during brunch, so come early, sign up, and sip some wine at the bar while waiting your turn. Happy hour is 5:30pm – 7pm daily.  Prediction: you and your date will have a wonderful time, fall madly in love, and live happily ever after.

18. Eat Oasis Falafel in the park

Looking for a way to impress your vegan/vegetarian date on a small budget?  Look no further than the truly delicious and wallet-friendly Oasis, with locations in both Greenpoint (230 Calyer Street) and Williamsburg (161 North 7th Street). $3 for a falafel sandwich and $6 for a falafel plate (which includes rice, salad, and choice of hummus or baba ghanoush) will get you as full as you need to be. All other menu items are similarly priced and  it’s only 50 cents to add hummus or baba to any order. Both locations are conveniently located close to both McCarren Park and East River Park, so pick a park and enjoy your falafel in the great outdoors (East River Park offers a fantastic view of the Manhattan skyline). If you live in the neighborhood and would rather have a cozy night in, Oasis delivers!  So settle in and get ready to snuggle up with some amazing food at a quality price.


bat haus drink and draw
Don’t draw TOO much better than your date though. via Facebook

19. Drink N’ Draw at Bat Haus

Just $10/person gets you admission, unlimited beer, and two and a half hours of staring at a naked stranger. Thus, while this is a fantastic date idea, it may not be the best idea for a first date (unless awkward is your “thing”). Drink N’ Draw is held at Bat Haus (279 Starr Street, Bushwick) every Wednesday from 8pm to 10:30pm and all you have to do is supply your own drawing materials and show up. The nude model is a professional, so please, no childish snickering. After over two hours of nudity and alcohol, maybe you and your date will be up for a little “naked drink and draw” fun of your own (wink wink, nudge nudge).

20.  Union Hall, the everything bar

Whatever your date preferences or dating style, Union Hall (702 Union Street) has something for you: beer, tis now the season for hot drinks by the fireplace, and there’s always bocce, bingo (Thursdays at 8pm, $5 per player), karaoke every Friday (free, beginning 11:59 PM), and a variety of great, cheap entertainment, including comedy, music, and films. There’s also the appropriately named Cheap Date Comedy Show ($5, every second Tuesday of the month, 8 PM), where you can see some of New York’s up-and-coming and best comedians for just a Lincoln. Prove there’s nothing wrong with being a cheap date!  In this economy, it’s a turn-on.

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