Summer in the City: Cheap Dates


You don’t need to spend a lot of money to impress your honey. These five fun date ideas embrace simple summer pleasures—and won’t sock it to your pocketbook.



Join the party at the Davis Farmers Market on Wednesdays from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m., when the whole town seems to gather in Central Park to socialize, shop for produce and pick up dinner from an array of food purveyors. Grab a couple of hot dogs from The Hotdogger and some lavender lemonades from Monticello Bistro, then find a spot on the lawn to listen to live music. Near dusk, slip away to the UC Davis Arboretum, home of the Carolee Shields White Flower Garden(aka the Moon Garden, so named because the flowers appear to glow in the moonlight). Stroll hand in hand through the garden, taking in the fragrant flowers—magnolias, roses, rhododendrons—and the sounds of night-chirping birds.

Romance factor: High.

The White Flower Garden, open 24 hours a day, is one of the valley’s most romantic hidden treasures. Get there at dusk for prime viewing; stay past dark for prime romance.

Cost breakdown:
2 hot dogs: $8 
2 lavender lemonades: $4
Total: $12  


Sojourn with your sweetie to the Second Saturday Art Walk, when the streets of midtown pulsate with throngs of people promenading amid dozens of art gallery openings. Help yourselves to free wine and snacks as you peruse the galleries—most are open from 6 to 9 p.m.—and be sure to check out the street performers and vendors hawking their wares. At the MARRS building on 20th Street between J and K—the street is closed to car traffic, making it a prime people-gathering hub—share a casual dinner, perhaps some mini tostadas from Azul and a slice of pizza from Luigi’s Slice. Pick a spot on the patio facing the street and dine alfresco. It’ll be packed, so you’ll have to sit closely, maybe even share a seat. And don’t forget dessert: Head over to Hot Rods and split a hot fudge sundae shake. Sit on barstools facing the window and watch the culture-seeking crowd become the late-night clubbing crowd.

Romance factor:

Sauntering through the streets of Sacra-mento on a sultry summer night gets the romantic juices flowing. Plus, sharing a shake ups the romantic ante.

Cost breakdown:
Pizza: $3.45
Tostadas: $6.90
Hot fudge sundae shake: $3.89
Total: $14.24


Usher in the day with an early-morning walk (or jog) along the American River Parkway. Start at William Pond Park in Carmichael (where Arden Way runs into the river) and head upstream toward Ancil Hoffman Park. Stay on the bike trail’s shoulder, allowing room for cyclists to zip by. Get your hearts pumping going up and over the Harold Ritchie Bicycle Bridge. All along the way, you’ll be treated to the parkway’s flora and fauna—watch for deer scampering across the path—and peaceful views of the river in the hushed morning light. After you’ve worked up an appetite, dive into an order of French toast and some fresh fruit and yogurt at Bella Bru Cafe (Arden Way and Fair Oaks Boulevard).

Romance factor: Medium. Studies show those who exercise regularly tend to feel friskier. The earlier you head out, the more romantic your date; the trail bustles with runners, walkers and cyclists after 8 a.m.

Cost breakdown:
Parking: $5
French toast: $7.50
Fruit and yogurt: $6.25
Two coffees: $3.30
Total: $22.05


Spending the morning pitching in at Soil Born Farm’s American River Ranch in Rancho Cordova gives new meaning to getting down and dirty on a date. Side by side, you’ll sweat and toil as you work the soil at this nonprofit organic farm, which provides produce to urban farm stands in underserved areas of the community. Volunteer days take place the third Saturday of every month through October (except September). Register to volunteer and greet the resident farm animals between 9 and 10 a.m., then attend a 30-minute mini gardening seminar related to the day’s activities: In July, you’ll help harvest tomatoes; in August, you’ll prune fruit trees and taste peaches. Bring along a picnic lunch to share after the hard work is done (usually between 1 and 2 p.m.), when you can sit back and reflect upon the fruits of your labor.

Romance factor: Medium.

You’ll love the exercise, not to mention the feel-good vibe from helping out. Plus, a little sweat can be sexy.

Cost breakdown: Free


Escape the hot summer sun by ducking into the Crocker Art Museum; admission is free on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Hold hands as you admire the museum’s permanent collection and rotating exhibitions: Fantasies and Fairy-Tales: Maxfield Parrish and the Art of the Print runs through July 19. Afterward, brave the heat with a walk along the Sacramento River waterfront into Old Sacramento. Poke into the souvenir and sweet shops, including Candy Heaven, which offers free samples from specially marked bins. Buy a bag of taffy and caramels to share, then sit close on a bench facing the river. Watch the boats go by, count the cars crossing the Tower Bridge and, on a game day, listen to the sounds of summer baseball emanating from Raley Field across the river.
Romance factor: Low.

A morning at the Crocker followed by a walk along the river into Old Sac? Treat the day like you’re on a mini vacation together.

Cost breakdown:
Candy: $3.75 (half-pound)
Total: $3.75