Date night, that sounds so familiar….what is that again? Oh yes! It’s when you pay someone else to watch your children so you can spend several hours checking your phone, talking about your kids over dinner, showing the waiter little Emma’s iceless hockey picture then making Facebook check-ins at every stop so the whole world can know what fun people you are. You know, romance.
My husband and I used to rock date night by getting the two for $20 meals at Applebee’s then hitting Target on the way home. EVERYBODY HAS A DIFFERENT IDEA OF ROMANCE, OKAY?
In case your idea of romance is different…
Here are some outside of the box suggestions for you to have fun while you are checking your phone and talking about your kids.
10 Cheap Date Night Ideas
1. I’m your private dancer
Admit it, you suck at dancing. But fear not! There is help for you and your two left feet. Head to Libertyville Ballroom Center for some one-on-one time with a professional dance instructor. You could even do a double or triple date with friends and book a private group lesson. They also teach wedding dance lessons. Or do what I did, drink heavily before you hit the dance floor. Make sure to call ahead to book your lesson.
2. Drive in the country
Instead of a date night, why not try a date day? I have found that it is much easier to find a teenage babysitter during the day because teenagers have grand plans at night and don’t care about middle-aged parents who need a break from their kids. What?? There are many beautiful drives within an hour or so from Lake County. A favorite of ours is Kettle Moraine State Forest South which is a 45-90 minute drive from here depending on which town you are coming from. The forest has many places to stop off and enjoy the view and it is beautiful any time of year. Maybe stop in the nearby college town of Whitewater for lunch or depending on the weather, walk the campus and pretend you are 20 again.
Head here for scenic tour directions for Kettle Moraine State Forest; the starting point is located at the intersection of County Roads P and J in Elkhart Lake Wisconsin.
3. Take in the Arts
We are lucky enough to live close to a few colleges which makes seeing the arts a lot cheaper than going to see them in the city. The James Lumber Center at the College of Lake County has featured big names such as Jim Brickman, Rita Moreno, and Kathy Mattea but also hosts the Lake Forest Symphony. They also have plays and concerts featuring students who attend the college so if you are looking for entertainment without hurting your budget, this is the place to be. Visit the James Lumbar Center schedule for complete details. Or take in an evening of arts and culture at ArtWauk in downtown Waukegan. ArtWauk is a monthly event in the Arts and Entertainment District in downtown Waukegan. It’s FREE, and lot’s of fun.
4. Go for a walk
I love that we have so many forest preserves in our area and they aren’t just for walking the children in the stroller or photography backdrops. With over 64 locations in Lake County alone, there is no excuse not to get out there and go for a romantic stroll with your honey. My personal favorites are Hastings Lake in Lake Villa or Independence Grove in Libertyville but why not bring your dog along on the date day and head to the several dog parks within the forest preserves. Head to the Lake County Forest Preserve District website to find a forest preserve near you.
5. Drink a beer
There are several cool breweries in Lake County that I had no idea existed because I don’t drink beer. But I would totally try some of these out for a fun date night because ALCOHOL. Two of my top choices are Tighthead Brewery in Mundelein and Light the Lamp Brewery in Grayslake. Tighthead offers tours one Saturday a month at 3 in the afternoon which coincides with their tap-room opening at 4:00 p.m. Party on Wayne and Garth. Light the Lamp only offers a tap-room but come on…ALCOHOL.
6. Read and get caffeinated
This is becoming harder and harder to do because of Amazon, but there are still brick and mortar bookstores out there, you just have to do some searching. If you aren’t a fan of Fox Books (watch You’ve Got Mail) then you will want to stick with the smaller version which I personally like best. Visit This Old Book in Grayslake, which is a favorite of mine, as well as the Lake Forest Bookstore in downtown Lake Forest. Of course, their hours might not be conducive to date “night” so maybe make this another date day. Or go to the OPEN LATE Barnes and Noble in Vernon Hills. They even have coffee there.
7. Eat at the grocery store
Okay, I know you think I have lost my ever-loving mind but hear me out. My husband and I took our oldest daughter to lunch at Mariano’s in Gurnee on her last day of school this past year and it was, dare I say, fun. Whoever thought that eating to the sound of MARGE, I NEED A PRICE CHECK IN AISLE TWO would be such an experience? Mariano’s is a great place to eat because you won’t drop as much coin as you would at some fancy restaurant and you can pick up your toilet paper and toothpaste on the way out. The Mariano’s in Vernon Hills has a large seating area but if you like intimate, try the Gurnee location.
8. Go grocery shopping
Which reminds me, it is fun to go grocery shopping in peace and quiet with your loved one. Parents of children know this to be true: there is no solitude like shopping for Eggo waffles without any advice from a human being under the age of 20. But why not try a fun grocery store instead of your regular place? Trader Joe’s is what I call a fun grocery store and if they would ever put one up in the northern sector of our county, it might become a regular grocery store. Did that slip out? The two in Lake County are located in Libertyville and Lake Zurich. Another really fun grocery store to walk around in and drop a paycheck is The Fresh Market which has locations in Kildeer, Lake Forest, and Lincolnshire. Sunset Foods also has a cafe area, and the Libertyville location even has a bar.
9. Break it down. Or up. Just don’t break a hip.
Do you remember the last time you got on the dance floor, all hot and sweaty singing Paradise by the Dashboard Lights at the top of your lungs and passing out on the way to the parking lot? Maybe that was me……but seriously, when was the last time you and your significant other went out and had a time? I mean A TIME? Unfortunately, many of our favorite haunts have disappeared. But there are few left…if you’re up for it.
- Austin’s Saloon & Eatery, Libertyville
- Famous Freddie’s Roadhouse, Fox Lake
- The Loaded Buffalo, Mundelein
10. Be a kid again
This would depend on the season but every time my husband and I go to the pool or water park, we always look at each other and say, “this would be so much fun for a date night.” Next date day or night, why not be a kid again and go to the pool just the two of you alone. Two words: adult swim. When is the last time you could take advantage of that? In the winter, why not go sledding together? Or to the pumpkin farm in the fall and maybe a nursery or garden in the spring. The possibilities are endless and yes, I know there will be children on your date but they are other people’s children.
Now, where did I put that sitter’s phone number……
What is your favorite cheap date night? Tell us about it in the comments section below.
Kari loves to write and take photos, not necessarily in that order. Kari loves making people laugh, being real, and spending time with her husband and two daughters. She also really loves her dog Buddy and fish Lucy. When she is not busy writing or going through the Starbucks drive-thru, you can find her talking to her plants Zoe, Evie, and Albert. She didn’t name Evie. Her nine-year-old did. But she’s totally an Edna so that’s what Kari calls her when her nine-year-old isn’t home.