Whether you’re single or married, going out on a date can be expensive – especially if you only think in terms of the traditional “dinner and a show” type date night. (Love is grand, but should it really cost a grand to spend some quality time with your sweetie?) What follows are ideas for free and cheap activities you could do on a date in Wichita.
First, a few tips for great dates on a budget!
- Not every date needs to happen on a Friday or Saturday night. Mornings and weekday evenings offer amazing opportunities for great, inexpensive, and fun dates.
- Mix and match the ideas below and you’ll never have to do the same thing twice!
- Eat dinner at home first. Obviously, you might not want to do this for a special occasion or a first date, but couples who are in that comfortable, “openly-broke” stage can skip the big dinner and go for dessert or appetizers at some of the swankiest places for a lot less money.
- If you have kids, trade off babysitting with friends! We did this with a group of four couples: Each month one of the couples would have all the kids over to play together while the other three couples went out for date night. The next time, it would be a different couple’s turn to take the kids. Our kids loved it and looked forward to date-night almost as much as we did!
Budget-Friendly Wichita Date Ideas
Now for the ideas! Wichita has so much to offer, I’m convinced that anyone can have fun and inexpensive dates. Museums, coffee shops, farmers markets, flea markets, lunch at a pop-up park, or taking a walk are all fun, inexpensive date ideas. Just pick a place or an activity and add food or beverages.
Inexpensive Events in Wichita
The events calendar is where you’ll find out about date-night options like free live music, summer concerts, festivals, classes, film screenings, and other things to do that aren’t available year-round.
If the two of you like to get out and do something, here are several good and affordable date ideas.
Go bowling. Northrock Lanes has a discount night and Shocker Lanes on the WSU campus is open to the public and always inexpensive.
The Wichita Ice Center also offers discount ice skating sessions during the week.
Carousel Skate Center and other skating rinks in town sometimes offer adult skate nights.
Bike/Walk Wichita often hosts rides or walks in different areas of town or during special events.
The Ark River Coalition puts on monthly “floats” year-round. Grab your canoe and kayak or borrow one of theirs to take a float down the big or little Arkansas River!
Coffee Shops in Wichita
A distinctly less expensive option than going out to eat dinner, exploring little local coffee shops in Wichita is wallet-friendly and endlessly interesting. No two shops and no two cups are the same; you could visit a new one each week, or pick one and keep going back until you’ve tried everything on the menu. Plus, coffee shops are often open all times of day, so they’re perfect no matter what your schedule. Here is a list of a few local places to get you started:
Mead’s Corner is welcoming, cozy, and has free live music on some evenings.
Ecclesia is a comfortable west-side spot.
Espresso To Go-Go is loved by Alton Brown.
Twisted Java has funky-chic decor.
R Coffeehouse has live jazz every Saturday morning, open mic nights, and many other live performances.
Romantic places to walk in Wichita
Pretty much every romance movie has a scene in which the couple walks companionably, talking and getting to know each other, unhurried, and looking at the sights. It’s romantic, and it’s a great way to get to know each other. Wichita has so many places for a romantic walk! These are just a few of my favorites:
WaterWalk Fountains From spring through fall, the fountains at WaterWalk will come on at certain scheduled times with a show of lights, water, and music. The schedule changes, so you will have to do your homework before planning a date. See the City of Wichita page or the Wichita WaterWalk Facebook page. You can park in the Gander Mountain parking garage, or in the open lot just west of the WaterWalk building.
Swanson Park The entrance to this gorgeous park is off of Maize Road, and that’s where you’ll park your car. The park is open from sunrise to sunset. If you go just before sunset, you may even see some deer.
Sedgwick County Park The whole park is great, but in the summer one of the best places to walk is the delightfully shaded path on the west side of the park, across the covered bridge. Bring your camera for some fun shots! A good place to park is near the park office, approximately halfway between 13th and 21st Streets.
Keeper of the Plains Park in the Exploration Place parking lot (off McLean) or in the lot off Seneca Street. Walk across the pedestrian bridge to the Keeper plaza, or follow the paved sidewalk along the river. Read more about the Keeper of the Plains.
Chisholm Creek Park You can park your car in the Great Plains Nature Center parking lot when it’s open, or at the park entrance, 3228 N. Oliver. Read about Chisholm Creek Park. Pets and bicycles/skateboards are not allowed in the park.
Downtown/Delano/Old Town These are three distinct areas in the middle of Wichita, and each offers a unique walking experience. On a nice day, you could explore the bronze sculptures downtown along Douglas and in the Hyatt/Century II area. Delano has lots of neat shops and restaurants to discover. And Old Town is filled with dining, entertainment, art, and awesome brick walkways and cool old buildings.
For more places to walk in Wichita, including Themed Walking Trails and the Old Town Sculpture Walkabout, see Where to Walk in Wichita.
Dessert Shops in Wichita
Sweets for the sweethearts! Do you or your date have a sweet tooth? Going out for dessert instead of dinner is just as much fun and will save you a lot of money. Try these local places:
Churn and Burn specializes in ice cream and coffee. It’s just south of Kellogg on Oliver Street, and stays open in the evenings. Prices are in the $6 to $8 range per item.
Milkfloat in Delano serves from-scratch desserts, craft sodas, ice cream and coffee, and direct origin loose-leaf teas. Looks amazing! Open hours vary depending on the season, but it looks like they don’t close until 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. (It’s closed on Sundays.)
Freddy’s Frozen Custard is a national chain now, but it’s first location is still operating near 21st and Tyler in Wichita.
Hurts Donut Fun name, fun donuts, good atmosphere. Relax on a comfy couch or pull up a table and have a Hurts Donut. They have two locations – northwest and northeast Wichita.
Donut Whole is a Wichita original located on East Douglas Street. They have 40+ kinds of donuts made from scratch using locally sourced ingredients. Donut Whole also has live music from time to time.
Cocoa Dolce is dreamy and delicious, and you can actually go to its east side location to sit and have coffee or a glass of wine with gelato, chocolates, or other sweets. It’s very classy. 🙂 They now have a location in New Market Square! Perfect for west-siders looking for Valentine’s Day sweets.
Nifty Nut House isn’t precisely a dessert place, but they do have sweets! I think Alton Brown called it a “national treasure,” so it absolutely needs to be on any list of Wichita date ideas. Maybe it should be in the shopping category instead…
Cero’s Candies falls into a similar designation. It’s more of a place to shop for sweets, but since they’ve been making candy in Wichita for more than 100 years, it needs a spot on the list. Stop by during a day on the town. (Cero’s isn’t open in the evenings.)
Some couples like to shop together, while others can’t think of anything less romantic. But Wichita has some shopping events that will make anyone fall in love with shopping. (To me, they’re less like shopping and more like community gatherings.)
Farmers Markets in Wichita often include live entertainment and a huge variety of local food, plants, and wares. If you and your date are up early on Saturday mornings, try the Old Town Farmers Market and/or the Kansas Grown Market at the Sedgwick County Extension Center.
2nd Saturday is a monthly shopping event in Wichita during which local shops have special discounts for people who have a 2nd Saturday shopping bag (available for $5). Part of 2nd Saturday is an Artisan Market at The Workroom, which brings together a lot of local makers and small retailers in an open air market setting. It’s fun!
Coleman Factory Outlet is a real treasure, because it isn’t just a store – it’s also a museum, and it’s located in a historic building downtown. This is an interesting bit of Wichita history. (Plus, you might find some deals on camping equipment.)
Thrift Store or Flea Market shopping can be fun, if you both enjoy a treasure hunt. It might be a good idea to bring along some hand sanitizer and paper towels, since some items you’ll be handling will be dusty. See: Wichita thrift stores or Wichita-area barn sales and flea markets.
Even if you’ve been to every museum and attraction in town, going with a date makes it a different experience. (Plus, is it really possible that you’ve seen them all?) In Wichita, admission prices to most local attractions are already low – even if you’re paying full price. But if you’re really strapped, check out the list of Local Attractions on the Cheap that’s filled with insider tips on how or when you can get the best deal. Here are few top contenders for date-night:
Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum is in one of the most interesting buildings in Wichita, and has even more interesting exhibits about Wichita and the area inside. Admission is really reasonable. They often hold exhibit openings and other special events. Not to be missed.
Museum of World Treasures never gets old, because there’s so much to see. On Family Nights admission is only $5 per person, and you don’t have to bring the family. Better still, MOWT hosts “Fantastic Fridays” events just for grown-ups that are fun and a good value.
City Arts in Old Town Square has a great gallery on the first floor, and always free admission. It’s also close to good entertainment and dining, and is in the center of the action on Final Fridays.
Wichita Art Museum is always free on Saturdays, but they have great evening events for adults under 50. Art Chatter is “part open mic, part thought cocktail,” and is only $10 (free for museum members). Find these events under the category of WAM Contemporaries on the art museum calendar.
Botanica‘s Tuesdays on the Terrace at Botanica in the summer and fall months are another example of a relatively inexpensive weeknight date. There’s a $10 cover (members only pay $5), a cash bar, food available for purchase, and live music. If that’s not in the budget, consider going to Botanica on $3 Thursdays in June and July.
Lake Afton Observatory was almost lost to us when the university couldn’t afford to keep it, but a local group took it over and reopened it. Admission to the observatory was only $8 per adult the last time I checked, and the group will be raising funds to make it even better. What’s more romantic than star-gazing?
Classes and DIY
Couples with shared interests might really find themselves looking forward to class night. There’s something refreshing about having an instructor show you how to do something rather than having to figure it out yourself. Wichita has plenty of free or inexpensive classes and hands-on workshops for just about any skill. A few good places to check first:
The Wichita Public Library offers talks and how-to workshops on everything from gardening to reducing student loan debt. Try there first.
Home Depot still has free DIY home improvement classes.
EJF Studios has a good, affordable class for learning how to use your DSLR. I highly recommend taking it with a friend so you can practice your photography together between classes.
Wichita Park and Recreation offers adult classes in almost everything you can imagine.
Visit Make ICT on Maker Mondays to find out what all they have available if you and your significant other are makers. It’s great!
Wichita Sporting Events
If you both love sports, share your love for the game together. Wichita has plenty of sports teams to cheer on, no matter what the season, and they’re usually very affordable.
Shocker Sports We’ve got college basketball, baseball, and more. Root for the home team!
Wichita Wingnuts Go nuts for Wichita’s own minor league baseball team. Home games are played at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. Check out my list of Wingnut ticket discounts for great deals for you and your date.
Wichita Thunder The Thunder hockey team is now a feeder for the NHL, so games are pretty exciting.
High school sports are another option for going to a game with your date, and high school games can be really fun because of the enthusiasm of the students and parents in the stands. Find a high-schooler in your circle of family and friends or visit your old school for a nostalgic date night out.
Discount Movies and Shows in Wichita
Date-night for many people means going to a show or to a movie, and we do have options here in Wichita for saving money on those. Wichita has great movie theaters, and a movie ticket is only about $10. But by the time you add up snacks, drinks, and the price of two tickets, it gets really expensive. Here are some less expensive but amazingly awesome date-night movie ideas:
Warren Old Town has $5 movie tickets on Wednesdays. These are first-run movies, so you can see whatever’s just come out. But here’s another money-saving tip: Your typical movie date night means paying for dinner, then buying two tickets, then paying for drinks and popcorn at the theater. At the Old Town Warren, you can have dinner while you watch the movie! They’ll bring it right to you in the theater.
Starlite Drive In is an experience that not everyone in the country has, and it’s extremely affordable. (In the spring and fall, you only pay per car!) And if you can handle staying up really late, you get three movies for the price of one. Here again, you can have dinner while you watch the movie. Concessions are very reasonably priced, so you won’t break the bank. Starlite Drive In Wichita, KS
The Wichita Orpheum has a film series every year that shows popular classics, and a ticket is only $5.
If “theatre” to you means live performances, you’ll expect to pay more for a ticket. But Wichita does have some options that can bring down the price of a show – if you’re flexible.
Music Theatre of Wichita is highly regarded and some say they have the best shows in town. The least expensive option is a balcony seat during a weekend matinee, but there’s a secret way of saving on tickets. Shh! Here it is, from their website: “…[unsold] tickets remaining in the rear orchestra and balcony sections will be sold at the Box Office for half price two hours before curtain (on the day of a performance only).” So, you have to be flexible because if there are no unsold tickets, you and your date won’t get to see the show. But this is a fantastic deal and MTW is awesome for offering it.
CYT of Wichita offers musicals as well, and tickets are very reasonable. These young people put on full song and dance productions of family-friendly shows several times a year. Tickets are usually in the $12-$15 range.
Wichita Community Theatre is affordable and usually offers discount tickets for opening night of each show. This is a good live theatre option for date-night year-round. Current ticket prices are $14 for adults or $12 for seniors, military, and students. The opening night ticket deal is $10.
High School performances might not be the first thing you think about when you want to see a show, but I’ve been to some very good concerts and plays at area high schools. The best way to do this, of course, is to go in support of a teen you know who is involved with the production. Ticket prices can be anywhere from $0 to $12. Truthfully, one of the most entertaining shows I have seen in Wichita was a high school choir adaptation of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. They made it into a musical/variety show, and it was amazing.
College theatre or music productions are another great option for live shows and concerts. These aren’t always less expensive than professional theater around town, but they do usually have really good student discounts, so if you and your date are both attending college, look into this option. (Start with your own school, of course, but don’t forget to check other universities’ performing arts calendars.)
Romantic (but less expensive) Dinner Options
Sometimes a romantic dinner out really is what you want to do on a date, so here are a few ideas for saving money on dinner dates. As with all the other date-night ideas, flexibility is often the key to saving money. For example, if you can go on a weeknight or a little bit earlier than the usual dinner crowd, you will probably be able to find some great specials. If you do it this way, you might be able go to some of the nicest restaurants in town for “regular restaurant” prices.
Another option is to find good local mom-and-pop restaurants, which can have great food and atmosphere, but a lower price tag. Ask what the specials are and look for menu items like fajitas for two, which are usually budget-friendly but provide plenty of good food. Also, trying different local restaurants is a foodie adventure. Here are some fun and reasonably priced local (casual) Wichita places to try:
- GangNam Korean Grill & Bar
- Mexico Viejo
- Let ‘Em Eat Brats (food truck serving German food and real brotchen)
Chain restaurants always seem to be running specials, like Logan’s Roadhouse Meal deal, or Longhorn Steakhouse’s frequent coupons. Before you decide to pull out a coupon or suggest the special, be sure your date is also frugally-minded. (It could either be the beginning of a beautiful friendship or it could be… well, your last date with that person. :)) If you do have a frugal date, be sure to check out the Restaurant Deals section here at Wichita on the Cheap for new deals as they come up.
Make your own fancy dinner. Steak and lobster aren’t really that difficult to cook if you have a grill and just a bit of kitchen know-how. If you’re all thumbs when it comes to cooking, you could buy a high-end frozen entrée (like lasagna; I’m not talking t.v. dinners!) or a rotisserie chicken and add a fresh salad, dinner rolls, and a fancy dessert from the grocery store bakery. What makes this special, and not just an ordinary meal at home, is paying attention to the details. Set a nice table, go all out with the salad (rather than just buying the bagged stuff), and have your favorite music playing. It can be simple, but special. Pro tip: don’t attempt a recipe you’ve never made before; who wants that kind of pressure on date-night???
Have a picnic. Any meal, even a modest lunch of chicken wraps with hummus and fresh celery or carrot sticks, can be romantic when it’s taken as a picnic. As with dinner at home, details are what make it special, so remember to think it through and plan it well. Make sure the location allows you to bring in food; any public park should be okay, but there are other locations in town too (like the zoo)!
- The Grace Hill Winery in Whitewater has free wine tastings, and they’ll let you bring a picnic and enjoy it on the grounds or in their event center (when it’s free).
- Sedgwick County Zoo will also let you bring a picnic (but no alcohol, and don’t feed your people food to the zoo animals).
- Exploration Place has picnic tables on the grounds, and it’s right by the Keeper of the Plains plaza. You could also go inside and purchase a round of mini-golf for around $2. That’s a really inexpensive date activity!
Again, don’t miss the Wichita Events Calendar to find current and season-specific free and cheap date night events. There’s always something new and fun to do!