Living in Portland is expensive. Your date night doesn’t have to be! Here are plenty of wallet-friendly ways to invest in your relationship, almost all under $12 per person.

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Cash in on live theater deals. Yes, you can go to the theater on a budget! Portland Center Stage offers pay-what-you-will nights for all of their live performances. Or use your free cultural passes from the library to get free admission at many venues around town.

See fine art for free. There are few things more romantic than slowly meandering through the quiet halls of the Portland Art Museum, looking at beautiful pieces of art. Every quarter, Portland Art Museum hosts a free admission day, and nothing says budget-friendly date like free entry.

Game at Ground Kontrol. The beloved local arcade Ground Kontrol is a perfect night out for gamer couples. From 5 p.m. to midnight it’s adults 21 and over only, so you can order your favorite junk food, drink a cocktail, and try to beat each other’s high scores. Plus on 2nd Thursdays and last Wednesdays get unlimited play on 120 classic arcade games and pinball machines for only $10.

Go to an event at The 4th Wall. This new cinema-themed cafe offers tons of free trivia nights (Game of Thrones anyone?), board game nights with Portland Game Library, and very affordable comedy shows with tickets around $10.

Get nerdy at Mississippi Pizza. Use all that random trivia you know to impress your date! This new weekly trivia event is only $5/person.

Stargaze. Cliché dates are cliché for a reason – snuggling under the night sky has always been a date night winner. Check out one of OMSI’s free star parties in the summer if you’re interested in astronomy, or just head to Rooster Rock State Park or L.L. Stub Stewart State Park on a clear night for some DIY stargazing. For an even better night, plan your dates around this meteor shower calendar.

Picnic at a Portland park or local farm. Enjoy one of the city’s beautiful green spaces during a sunny daytime date or at sunset with a blanket and a tasty takeout spread. If you’re on a strict budget, pack the picnic full of your favorite grocery store finds. If you head out to Topaz Farm, they have everything you need for your picnic in the farm store.

Drive to the drive-in. The classic drive-in is having a moment. Kiss your sweetie in the car like you’re sixteen again, or just enjoy watching the latest Marvel movie on an extra-large screen, for only $10 per person. (Open seasonally.)

Choose your own adventure dinner. Food carts make amazing food affordable, and Portland has the best. We recommend these fabulous food cart pods for a date night: Portland Mercado, Cartlandia, and The French Quarter.

Go roller skating at Oaks Park. Tuesdays from 7 to 9:30 p.m. are just for the adults. Enjoy the live DJ and a romantic skate with your partner, without worrying about running over any young skaters. $12 per person, including skate rental.

Go for a soak at the Kennedy Pool. For only $8 per person, you and your partner can relax and unwind in the saltwater soaking pool at McMenamins Kennedy School. This ceramic work of art is nestled in a private, outdoor courtyard, and the pool is heated. $8 per person; reservations required.

Go bowling at Grand Central. Engage in classic date-night fun at Grand Central Bowl. For $8 per game (and $5 shoe rentals), it makes for an affordable night of friendly competition.

Treat yourself with a scoop at one of Portland’s ice cream shops. Portland has outstanding ice cream shops, and enough flavors for a year’s worth of affordable date nights.

Get drinks at your favorite bar. Who says date night has to include drinks, dinner and dessert, plus an event? That gets expensive fast. Linger over your cocktail and enjoy a night out for a fraction of the cost. For cheap-but-good cocktail options, check out this list from Eater PDX.

Have a daytime date at a waterfall. This Instaworthy excursion will cost, at most, $5 to park. Pack a picnic, and you’ve got a date with an unbeatable view. For waterfalls with plenty of space to stay awhile, try Dry Creek Falls, Wahclellah Falls, or Eagle Creek.

Browse at independent bookshops. This is a great add-on to an ice cream or cocktail date! Whether you visit iconic Powell’s City of Books or one of the city’s other amazing independent bookstores, you’ll love strolling through the stacks with your significant other.

Even with all of the great ideas listed here, is the cost of a sitter still a barrier? Consider swapping date night childcare with a friend. Or ask a friend without kids if they would mind coming over after kid bedtime so you can have a night out. It’s an easy ask (the kids will be sleeping!), and if you throw in a home cooked meal, it’s win-win for you both.

And remember, if Netflix in bed with chocolate chip cookies is your perfect date night, you do you. That’s an even more budget-friendly way to spend time with your partner, and it’s no less special than these out-of-the-house ideas.

Meg Asby
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