cheap thrills

Date on a dime: A few budget-friendly ideas to hold you over until the next Hallmark holiday

Date on a dime: A few budget-friendly ideas to hold you over until the next Hallmark holiday

Austin Photo Set: News_Jackie_cheap dates_jan 2012_stargazing
Star gazing at Zilker Park with a to-go cup of hot chocolate from Austin Java. Courtesy photo
Austin Photo Set: News_Kerri Lendo_thrifitng_October 2011_clothes
Have fun looking through old records and dressing up in 80's clothes at the Thrift store.
Austin Photo Set: News_Jackie_cheap dates_jan 2012_encyclopedia show
The Encyclopedia Show: This months topic Exercise.
Austin Photo Set: News_Jackie_cheap dates_jan 2012_stargazing
Austin Photo Set: News_Kerri Lendo_thrifitng_October 2011_clothes
Austin Photo Set: News_Jackie_cheap dates_jan 2012_encyclopedia show

With Jan. 1 just a mere week in the rearview mirror, retail havens around town (and the country in general, let’s be honest) have wasted no time in reminding unsuspecting shoppers that the next holiday is already “right around the corner.”

And of course, this is not your average special interest niche holiday à la Earth Day. This is the granddaddy of all manufactured consumer holidays: Valentine’s Day.

Now now, don’t worry. We’re not listing our favorite February 14th activities just yet. Consider these "date on a dime" ideas more like a happy hour of wallet-friendly ways to numb the hurried frenzy of the past month.

In such a creative and active city like Austin, there are always opportunities to get out and have a good time (on the cheap). So, kick those post-holiday blues and take advantage of our city with your sweetheart.

Zilker Stargazing ($)

Swing by Austin Java and grab a couple of cocoas-to-go before camping out in Zilker Park. Enjoy the panoramic night sky, framed by the Austin skyline. All you need is a few dollars, a blanket and a relatively cloudless night. Who knows, you might just get lucky and spy an elusive shooting star.

Film Society (free)

Not to toot our own horn, but CultureMap offers members of its CultureMap Insiders group exclusive access to free screenings of popular independent films at Violet Crown Cinema. Not a bad deal when you consider that a) every seat in the theater is ridiculously comfortable (and has a good view) and b) tickets usually cost $13 a pop. All you need to do is sign up to be a CM Insider (toot toot).

Thrift-hopping (free, unless you buy something)

Granted, this is essentially shopping — an activity that inherently involves spending money. But, when approached from a different perspective, scouring Austin’s cute vintage and thrift haunts can be a fun way to spend an afternoon. If you aren’t looking for anything in particular, you might be surprised by what you find along the way. We suggest strolling through the shops that dot both sides of the street on North Loop, but here’s a well-rounded guide to all of Austin’s vintage destinations.

Art Appreciation (free)

So you and your lady (or man) are art aficionados. In training. Well, nothing hones that eye like exposure. Austin boasts numerous beautiful galleries for you to peruse, so take a look at this calendar of local January exhibits before hitting the streets.

Wildflower Walk ($)

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is that back-pocket gem of an idea. Perfect for those sunny, 65 degree January days where you want to be outside while taking in a cultural attraction at the same time. Minimal activity required, and at only $8 per person, the self-guided tour of the grounds is a fun way to learn a little bit about the native landscape. You might also get some creative floral inspiration for when Valentine’s Day finally does roll around. Just saying.

Comedic Relief ($)

Who doesn’t love to laugh? The Encyclopedia Show Austin (co-hosted by CM’s own Michael Graupmann) is a wildly popular event, a “live variety extravaganza” meant to delight, excite and get you lol-ing. In other words, it offers all the makings of a perfect romantic outing  — at any stage in your relationship. Even though not one, but two, couples popped the question at last month’s show, rumor has it that it’s the best "hipster first date" around. The next show is Thursday, January 17 at 8 p.m. and advanced tickets ($6 each) can be purchased here.