Updated Feb 28, 2024 - Things to Do

Cheap dates: 30+ Charlotte date ideas under $20

best dates under $20

Photo: Brianna Crane/Axios

Dating can be expensive, but you don’t have to spend a ton of money to have a good time.

  • Whether you’re on a first date or have been together for years, here are 32 date ideas under $20.

Take a self-guided tour of Charlotte's street murals.

From NoDa to South End, there are a ton of cool street murals all over the city — there are 30+ to check out at Camp North End alone. Hop on a scooter, walk or drive around town to see them all.

If you go: See our guide to 70+ murals here.

Cost: Free

Camp North End Murals
Osiris Rain in Camp North End

Do a walking tour of Fourth Ward.

Stroll through one of the city’s most charming historic neighborhoods and gawk at the Victorian homes.

If you go: Friends of Fourth Ward created a self-walking tour.

Cost: Free

Tour wineries within driving distance of Charlotte.

Get out of town for the day and try some of our region’s best wines.

If you go: We've created a guide of 10 scenic vineyards within an hour of Uptown.

  • If you want to stay local, here are some popular Charlotte wine bars.

Cost: $10-20. Most wineries have glasses under $10 and bottles under $20.

wine slushie douglas vineyards
Wine Slushie from Douglas Vineyards.

Share some laughs at Comedy Zone’s Funny on the Fly.

It's an improv show where local comedians only have 30 minutes to prepare.

If you go: Funny on the Fly posts about upcoming shows on their Facebook page. You can also get event info on all of Comedy Zone's shows here.

Cost: $10 a ticket if you order in advance.

Go on an art gallery crawl in South End

South End's First Friday Gallery Crawl is a free monthly art crawl through South End art galleries with exhibits that change regularly.

If you go: Plan ahead. The crawl takes place, as it suggests, on the first Friday of each month.

  • Make it a whole night out with a brewery or restaurant visit.

Cost: Free

alchemy c3 lab restaurant art gallery
Photo: Axios Archives.

Go on a food truck tour.

Seek out a food truck event for an evening of cheap (but delicious) eats.

If you go: Check out HopFly's First Friday Food Trucks or Black Food Truck Fridays in West End, which features dozens of Black-owned food trucks and vendors.

  • Check the schedule before you go. These are often warm weather events.

Cost: Free to attend; menu prices vary.

What the Fries burger and fries
What the Fries’ single cheeseburger and loaded cheesy fries.

Show your competitive side with a game night.

Head to one of Charlotte’s game bars to show your competitive side.

If you go: There are plenty of places with games, including Pins Mechanical in South End and Abari Game Bar in Villa Heights.

Cost: Most games are free or under a few dollars.

Pins Mechanical Co.
Juice Box Hero mocktail at Abari.

Sweat together at a free workout.

There’s no shortage of free or inexpensive workouts at breweries around town — from runs clubs to yoga classes.

If you go: You can frequently find free and cheap workouts in our Weekender and Weekday Planner. A few include:

Cost: Free-$10.

Lace up and do a walking trail.

Whether you’re looking for a wooded walk or prefer city views, try one of these 20 trails for your next day date.

If you go: We suggest the Four Mile Creek Greenway for something in town, or Seven Oaks Preserve Trail in Belmont if you’re up for a drive.

Cost: Free.

Celebrate Taco Tuesday with $1.49 tacos at Sabor.

And add one of their Amigos margs if you’re feeling it.

If you go: Sabor has 17 locations in and around Charlotte. Find them here.

Cost: $1.49 per taco.

Sabor
Photo: Axios Archives.

Hunt for antique treasures at Sleepy Poet.

You can spend hours wandering the winding aisles of this sprawling 60,000-square-foot antique mall on South Boulevard.

If you go: Snag the free popcorn to snack on while you hunt.

Cost: Free to look, item costs vary.

Sleepy Poet
Photo: Axios Archives.

Flex your golf skills at a nearby driving range.

If you go: Here are 5 driving ranges in Charlotte to check out.

Cost: Depends, typically under $10 per bucket.

westwood golf driving range charlotte nc
Photo: Axios Archives.

Split a charcuterie or cheese board.

Sometimes dinner is a bit of a commitment, especially for a first date. Here are some great charcuterie deals in Charlotte under $20. A couple highlights:

  • Craft Tasting Room and Growler Shop in South End offers $6 cheese and meat boards every Wednesday. 
  • Dilworth Tasting Room in South End and South Park offers a free cheese board with the purchase of a wine flight on Tuesday.

Cost: Under $20.

dilworth tasting room cheese
Cheese and charcuterie from Dilworth Tasting Room’s original location in Dilworth.

Check out River Jam at the U.S. National Whitewater Center

The free concerts are Thursday, Friday, Saturday evenings May through September. All you'll have to pay for is parking.

If you go: Get there early to walk around, grab dinner/drinks or go on the trails.

  • Check the band schedule here.

Cost: $12 parking ($40 annual pass); free to enter.

Whitewater Center Rafting
Photo: Axios Archives.

Have a picnic in the park.

Pack up some sandwiches or a makeshift cheese board and head to one of Charlotte’s many parks for a romantic picnic.

If you go: Check out 16 places to picnic around Charlotte.

  • Two picnic-friendly options are Freedom Park between Dilworth and Myers Park and Romare Bearden in Uptown.

Cost: Free

Freedom Park
Photo: Axios Archives.

Test your knowledge at trivia night.

Pick any night and there’s likely trivia going on at a bar or brewery in the city. Most are hosted by Mindless Minutia.

If you go: Check out Mindless Minutia's weekly trivia schedule here.

Cost: Free

Go listen to live music.

From breweries to bars, there’s plenty of free live music offered throughout the city. Do a little research ahead of time to find a music genre you both like.

If you go: One option is Goldie's in LoSo, which has live music every night.

  • Live Music CLT keeps up with live music happening each night through the city.

Cost: Free

Sip sangria at NoDa Company Store.

The casual neighborhood hangout in NoDa is known for its classic and specialty sangrias and coladas.

If you go: Choose from the NoDa Colada, strawberry lemonade and red citrus plum sangria for $7 each.

  • There's also wine by the glass, Prosecco, mimosas and cold brew from Pure Intentions you can spike for $1.

Cost: $7 for sangria.

noda company store new patio
Photo: Axios Archives.

Spend time volunteering.

Ditch the dinner and drinks, and give back to the community.

Cost: Free

Take the dogs to the park (or bar).

Whether you’re looking for a casual first date or are ready to introduce your new partner to your fur child, a dog park or bar could be the right pick.

If you go: Try somewhere like Skiptown in South End or Lucky Dog in Wesley Heights, Steele Creek and Lake Norman.

Cost: Varies. Day passes at Skiptown range from $5 on Mondays to $15 on the weekends.

skiptown dog bar south end
Photo: Axios Archives.

Go museum hopping.

A trip to the museum is always a good idea, but it's an even better idea on Wednesdays.

If you go: On Wednesdays, The Mint Museum, The Bechtler and The Harvey B. Gantt Museum have free entry from 5-9pm with Wednesday Night Live.

If you go: Keep up with all Wednesday Night Live happenings on Instagram.

Cost: Free

Mint Museum
Photo: Axios Archives.

Drink Transfusions at Selwyn Pub.

The iconic drink is made with vodka, ginger ale and a splash of grape juice, but they’ve rolled out new flavors, plus "skinny" and non-alcoholic versions.

If you go: Transfusions taste even better on a game day.

Cost: $7.50 per Transfusion.

different-types-of-transfusions-at-selwyn-pub
Photo: Axios Archives.

Take a stroll down Charlotte's Rail Trail + grab coffee

The Rail Trail is always bustling with activity, and it's great for people watching.

If you go: Sip and stroll with a coffee from a local spot, like Not Just Coffee in Atherton Mill, Vicente Bakery, Resident Culture, Sycamore or Bitty and Beau's.

Cost: Free

South End Rail Trail Vertical Image
Photo: Axios Archives.

Visit Camp North End.

You could explore this place without spending a dime, from the 30+ murals, to swings and giant Jenga. A few budget-friendly date activities include:

  • Walking or running with Mad Miles on Tuesday evenings: Free.
  • Grabbing coffee or wine at HEX: Under $20.
  • Shopping local at the Wednesday farmers market: Prices vary.
  • Watching a movie screening on Fridays in The Ford Building, and outdoors in the summer: Free.
  • Dining on affordable eats at their numerous food stalls.

Cost: Varies

User’s guide: Camp North End, the growing development near Uptown, now home to 41 cool tenants

van gogh exhibit camp north end charlotte
Photo: Axios Archives.

Take a hike!

There’s nothing like a little day trip to get out in nature. Here are the 16 best hikes around Charlotte.

  • A close-ish option is Crowder's Mountain in Gaston County, only a ~45-minute drive from Uptown.

Cost: Free

Go for ice cream.

We're big believers that some of the most memorable conversations take place over ice cream cones in the car.

If you go: Know your options are plentiful — here are 25 of our fave places for a scoop.

  • A few include Two Scoops, Jeni's and Golden Cow.

Cost: Varies.

Go flower picking at McLawland Farms.

McLawland Farms, less than 30 minutes from Uptown, lets you pick your own flowers, and you can fill a mason jar for $14.

If you go: The farm is open for flower picking in June, July and October by appointment. You can make a reservation here.

Cost: $14

cutting flowers at mclawland farms charlotte
Photo: Axios Archives.

Shop the farmers market.

Shop for fresh produce at the farmers market together and use your bounty to cook something fresh and creative.

If you go: Check out our detailed guide to 16 Charlotte-area farmers markets.

Cost: Varies.

Kings Drive Farmers' Market
Photo: Brianna Crane/Axios

Play board games and drink coffee at The Hobbyist.

For a laid-back day date, or even a double date spot, try coffee and board games at The Hobbyist in Villa Heights.

Cost: Varies.

the hobbyist coffee shop in charlotte
Photo: Axios Archives.

Sip wine under twinkly lights at Rosie's.

Roam the gardens and sip wine or beer underneath a canopy of twinkly lights.

If you go: You’re allowed to bring your own food, which makes this is an affordable spot.

Cost: Varies. Most drinks are around $10 each.

Details: The exact address is 940 N Davidson St.

rosie's-wine-garden
Rosie’s Wine Garden. Photo: Axios Archives

Go see a drive-in movie.

Badin Road Drive-In in Albemarle and The Belmont Drive-In are both all within driving distance of Charlotte. 

Cost: Typically $20 or less per car. (For its 2023 season, the Belmont Drive-In was $25 per carload for two movies).

  • Camp North End also hosts free weekly movie nights through the year, both indoors and outdoors, depending on the season.
  • Don't want to drive-in? Many movie theaters show $5 films on Tuesdays — find your closest theatre.

Hit up burger night at Reid's.

On Tuesdays, you can get their steak burger for half-off. You get a side, too (go with the truffle fries).

If you go: The special runs 4-9pm on Tuesdays for dine-in only.

Cost: $10.99 a burger.

reids steak burger
Photo: Axios Archives.
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