San FranciscoSex and Dating

The Penny-Pincher’s Guide to Date Night in the East Bay

What does a “date” mean to you? Traditionally, I guess a date would be defined by dinner and a movie, perhaps a little dancing. But as we all know, one of the “joys” of Bay Area life is the expense of it all. And maybe I should speak for myself here, but when the first of the month rolls around and I’ve thrown all my money into a housing blackhole, there’s usually very little left to get all romantic with.

When I’m broke and have a need to spend time with the honey, away from Netflix and chill, I have to think outside the “traditional” date night box and find budget-friendly ways to spend time with my squeeze.

Beyond Netflix & chill. Photo courtesy of The Spinoff

In an effort to be a good Broke-Ass Samaritan, I’m sharing some of my finds with all of you – I did the research so you can have the fun.

Check out these wallet-friendly East Bay dates for memorable adventures, all under $15 per person!

Cheaper Than Flowers: Berkeley Rose Garden

1200 Euclid Avenue, across from Codornices Park – Northeast Berkeley
PRICE: FREE

If the love of your life (or your love in this moment) is a plant nerd, you can take them on a mini tour of the best nurseries in the East Bay OR you can take them on an even less expensive adventure to the Bay Area’s most beautiful rose garden: Berkeley Rose Garden.

I love this place in the spring when the roses are at their full bloom, but any time of year can give you a beautiful labrinth experience – back and forth through expertly landscaped paths that showcase the award-winning rose varieties. Park at the top of the garden and wind your way down into a valley of colorful flowers. Don’t miss the opportunity to hold hands as you gaze upon the Bay views – it’s hella romantic.

Let’s get Silly and PLAY- Subpar Miniature Golf

1511 Park St, Alameda, CA 94501
COST: $6-$10 per round – per person
Glow Golf on every Friday & Saturday, 7:30 p.m. – Midnight for $10

I can be pretty freakin’ silly (in case you hadn’t figured that out yet), but my favorite thing in life is mischief. So, one night after we made some dinner at home, I turned to my boyfriend and told him I had an adventure planned. I surprised him with a trip over to Alameda for some good ole’ putt putt! Subpar is a Bay Area-themed course where you can challenge your significant other to a tee-off over a bunch of super adorable holes. Friday and Saturday nights get all shmancy when they kick on black lights for psychedelic Glow Golf.

Supbar Miniature Golf in Alameda, Calif. Photo courtesy of Hoodline

If you have some extra funds to spare, you can get in on their slot car races and some serious arcade gaming, but we opted for a few sweet scoops down the street at the legendary Tucker’s Super Creamed, because…ice cream!

Take a Detour through Oakland’s Black Panther History

Starts at 54th and Market, Oakland
COST: FREE

For me, some of my favorite dates with my partner are the ones when we come out the other side better connected to the area we live in. A while back, I stumbled across an audio walking tour highlighting the history of the Black Panthers. I swear this is not a plug…but the tour is through an app on your phone called Detour and (at least for the first tour) it was FREE!  

I’ve been bugging my boyfriend about this for a while and finally got him to tag along with me last weekend. Not to give too much away – the tour is narrated by Davin A. Thompson (Do D.A.T.) and as he speaks, you meander around a pretty unassuming part of Oakland’s Sante Fe neighborhood, learning all about the rise and fall of the Black Panther Party. As yet another reminder that Oakland is quickly changing, many places referenced along the tour look very different from the descriptions given when it was written, with things like Teslas parked where history was once made. It was a thought-provoking date that really got us talking about the current state of Oakland, about the things that have changed and the cultural icons that remain the same.

Black Panther Bobby Seale in Oakland. Photo courtesy of NBC Bay Area

PRO TIP: make sure your phone is fully charged when you start this. We went from 70 percent battery to 17 percent by the time the one-hour tour was done.

It’s Your Move, Darling

4920 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609
COST: Donation $3-5

A little healthy competition between couples is always a good thing. For a while there, I was regularly beating my boyfriend at Bananagrams…he’ll try to tell you otherwise. Since I was tired of easily beating him all the time, I sought out new way to whoop on him and found the It’s Your Move game shop, where they offer up Friday night open gaming (a.k.a. Boyfriend slaughtering). From 7 p.m. until the clock strikes midnight, you can play rounds from their used game collection or bust out your own favorites.

Photo illustration courtesy of Living Word

PRO TIP: This place gets packed on Open Game Night and it gets hot…like, really, really hot. Head over to Curbside around the corner for ice cream – it really does make everything better.

A Shmancy $15 Boozy Date: St. George Spirits

2601 Monarch Street Alameda, CA 94501
COST: $15 per person

Over the last two years of dating, my boyfriend and I have (clearly) had a lot of fun, non-traditional dates. But…let’s be real here…there’s been a ton of boring life stuff mixed in there, like one weekend during an unfortunate sofa-hunting trip at PB Outlet in Alameda. We found less than zilch – just dirty and extremely broken furniture for only a fraction off the retail price. I left with the regret that I wasted even a moment of my life in that warehouse.

The whole situation was so so disappointing that when we got into the car, I declared, “I need a drink after that!” The closest open “bar” with a stiff drink was St. George Spirits. I had never been so it wasn’t clear to me until we got there that it wasn’t a bar at all. Thankfully, we lucked out and were able to slide in for a tasting without a reservation, which we found out was a rarity, so get your reservations on here. We spent over an hour learning all about the magic that is St. George and how to properly taste alcohol. Hint: taking it as a shot with your nose plugged is not proper etiquette. We were schooled in what constitutes a whiskey versus a gin and came away armed with several completely awesome facts about how alcohol is made. It was amazing!  I went from sofa depression to a happy buzz and became St. George’s new biggest fan.

St. George Spirits in Alameda, Calif. Photo courtesy of Honestly YUM

PRO TIP: They don’t have food at St. George but I peeped a food truck next door at the brewery. In fact, in this one area of Alameda, you can get your taste of St. George Spirits, Faction Beer and wine from Building 43 – pick and choose your poison!

MORE CHEAP DATES ON MY LIST:

Just slyly putting these ideas out there as a hint-hint, nudge-nudge aimed squarely at my boyfriend…but also hoping y’all try them out, too!

Explore The Chapel Of The Chimes

4499 Piedmont Avenue Oakland, CA 94611
COST: FREE (unless it’s a special event)

Gawk at the millions of Ladybugs in Redwood Regional Park

7867 Redwood Road Oakland, CA 94619
(best during the winter)
COST: FREE!

Take in a $10 Movie at the classic New Parkway Theatre

474 24th St, Oakland, CA 94612
COST: $10

Picnic and Kite Flying at Cesar Chavez Park

11 Spinnaker Way, North of the west end of University Avenue
COST: Up to you. Cost of food & Kite

I need to be honest with y’all. When I re-read all of the fun cheap dates above, I realize one thing… you don’t even need a date to do them. Sure, they all go down in my little locked diary as fun times with my guy, but they work just as well for spending time with friends, meeting new ones or flying solo. The important part is, for those living paycheck-to-paycheck, just a little coin and some effort can still buy an adventure or a “date” out in the the East Bay…so do that, and I’ll see you out there!

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Katy Atchison

Katy Atchison

Katy is a professional smiling machine raised in The Bay Area since the age of 3. While other kids were attending summer camp & soccer practice, she was raised selling wares at craft shows with her working artist parents and spent vacations in a small 1920s Montana log cabin. This has all given her a unique perspective on the ever-changing texture of San Francisco and the Greater Bay Area. Currently a blend of all that is The Bay Area - she's a web designer at a tech-company, artist and DIY teacher.