10 Free (or Affordable) Date Ideas in the Milwaukee Area

Dating doesn’t have to be so expensive, let me help you out!

February 11, 2020
date night

I think we can all agree that dating is expensive, whether it’s a first date or the hundredth date with your spouse. Alley Faith has given me the nickname of ‘Two-Dates Guy’ and while that is a little funny, my bank account isn’t laughing!

Related: 10 First Date Ideas in Milwaukee

I’d say 4 in 5 first dates I end up paying for (1 in 5 get split), which I’m okay with doing… but on the 10th first date, it's an expense that quickly adds up! Now, let’s fast-forward to dating someone for a month plus, hopefully, the two of you are switching off on who pays for what and it’s a little more equal.

Even with splitting the dates, the idea of spending $20-$50 on an average date (not scientifically backed, purely based on my current average) can add up fast. Probably why many couples that have been together for a while opt to go out less and just Netflix & Chill at home instead.

Related: 10 Fun Second-Date Ideas in the Milwaukee Area

With all of this in mind, I thought it was time to provide a list of date ideas that won’t break the bank and depending on mutual interests, could be enjoyable by both people.

1. Concerts in the Parks

From Chill on the Hill to Jazz in the Park, enjoy free music at various Milwaukee County Parks from late Spring to the end of August. While the carry-in policies may vary, typically alcohol can't be brought with you and is something you have to buy at the event (if available). Most concerts allow you to bring your own food (think, picnic basket), but you'll definitely double-check before heading out.

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2. Free Outdoor Movies

Last Summer, Fiserv Forum hosted “Movies Under the Moonlight” in the Deer District. Veterans Park also has been known to host movie nights on select Saturdays throughout the Summer. As for what to do when it’s not summer, check towards the end of this list for an affordable way to see current movies.

Movies Under The Moonlight are BACK!! Join us tonight at 7:30 PM in the Beer Garden for a great American classic....Top Gun ✈️

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3. Free Festivals

Can you say people watching? When the summer is in full swing, there’s a festival going on just about every weekend, from Summer Soulstice on North Avenue to Brady Street Festival to Bay View Bash. Don’t forget about Mitten Fest (not all Milwaukee festivals land in the summer, this one is outside, in the Winter!). Heck, even Summerfest is free if you attend during one of their promotions or score free tickets at an event leading up to the big gig.

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4. Hiking/Exploring

If you Google ‘hiking Milwaukee’ you are going to find so many options, like Seven Bridges (a must-see if you haven’t already) which gives you a good hiking option through the trees and out to the water. Also, there’s the hidden gem of Lakeshore State Park which has views of the Summerfest grounds and Discovery World along with the rest of Milwaukee’s skyline. Don’t overlook the Milwaukee Riverwalk, not so much ‘hiking’ but certainly a lot of walking and exploring (can you find the Bronze Fonz?).

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5. Slice of Ice at Red Arrow Park

Okay, I know I featured this on the 10 First Date Ideas list, but it can be free; if you already own your own skates! Need ice skate? It’s only $9 per adult to rent a pair. Ice skating is open December through March (weather permitting). If you’re seeing this outside of the Winter months; well, there’s always Bradford Beach, pack a lunch and have a day date at the beach under the sun!

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6. Volunteer together

Find a cause you’re both passionate about and spend an hour doing it together. For example, with the Wisconsin Humane Society in Milwaukee you get to pet dogs (or cats) among other tasks, but good luck trying not to adopt and bring home a new pet!

Are you looking for a fun, goofy lab mix friend?! Well look no further! -- Tux is a 1 year old pup available now at the Wisconsin Humane Society. He’s got a lot of energy and a lot of love to give ❤️ #wisconsinhumanesociety #dogsofinstagram #adoptdontshop #rescuedogsofinstagram #rescuedog #blacklab #lab #dog

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7. Go to Open Houses

Realtors are constantly putting out snacks and sometimes wine (among other beverages), sure… it may not be a great first date, but aren’t we all looking to buy a house at some point in our future? Plus, you get to explore neighborhoods you may have always been curious of.

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8. Milwaukee Public Library

A great date for a couple that loves to read… plus, library cards are free! Go and pick out a book you think the other would enjoy.

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9. Milwaukee Public Museum

Every first Thursday from 9 am to 8 pm, all MPM visitors receive free admission (special exhibit fees may still apply).

Day trip to Milwaukee

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10. Milwaukee Art Museum

MAM is also free every first Thursday (10 am to 8 pm) of the month. Did you know that if you don’t go in the actual exhibits, you can explore the open areas on the marble floor on any day that they're open? This includes all the student artwork featured in the main corridor among other impressive sculptures as well as the architecture of the prow of Windhover Hall (the wall of windows that looks like a boat).

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For those looking for a specific deal in the city, it’s worth keeping an eye on this list of Milwaukee County Free Days. Their website includes some of the locations mentioned above but also the Milwaukee County Zoo, Mitchell Park Domes, Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum, and more!

Related: 10 Ways to Meet Other Singles in Milwaukee (After College)

To my surprise, I was able to come up with 10 decent options that were in fact free (assuming you don’t need to rent ice skates), but I had a few more ideas that will require spending money… albeit, a small budget. Here are a few bonus, ‘cheap and affordable’ ideas for the frugal:

Bonus Idea: $5 Movie Tuesdays at the Marcus Southgate Cinema

Okay, technically it’s all Marcus Theatres, but the list is specific to Milwaukee. Pretty much the only time I go to see movies anymore are on Tuesdays because it’s the best deal. Who says going out to the movies has to break the bank. Plus, as a Magical Movie Rewards member, you get a free complimentary-size popcorn.

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Bonus Idea: Farmers Market

While you can get away with some free samples and ‘just looking’, set a budget and see what you can get without spending over that amount. Then cook a meal together using those items specifically.

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Bonus Idea: Date Roulette

This final idea is inspired by TikTok. Go to Goodwill or a thrift shop together and either pick an outfit for each other to wear or have one person close their eyes and the other person tell them to stop randomly and pick out an outfit you’d never have thought of before. Next, pick a random number from 1 to 10 (or roll a dice) – hop on the highway and with the random number, get off after that many exits have passed. Use the same number to decide which random restaurant to eat at. There is certainly some wiggle room in making this idea work, but for the spontaneous couple (or a couple just looking for something different) – this could be a lot of fun.

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I hope you were able to spark at least one good date idea from this list! Do you have any suggestions for future date blogs? Hit me up on social media at @JMattMke (same handle on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and TikTok)!


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