Whether its your first date or you’ve been together for 40 years, you can have an awesome date night in Columbus on the cheap. Skip your standard go-to date and do something fun, romantic, or unique in our city with these inexpensive date ideas around Columbus.
Many of these can be used as nights out with friends too, so don’t skip this page if you aren’t dating!
Columbus Attractions and Museums
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is a great place to walk, talk, and explore. Don’t forget if you take the COTA Zoo Bus from Downtown Columbus or a park and ride, you’ll enjoy a huge discount on admission for the Zoo.
Play all day at Zoombezi Bay or stay late for Family Nights, which are included with admission on select evenings. Get $10 off admission to Zoombezi Bay by taking the COTA Zoo Bus from Downtown Columbus or a park and ride. Advance reservations are required for 2020, though members can visit the Zoombezi after 3 pm without a reservation. We suggest going in the late afternoon when its less crowded. Tickets after 4 pm are just $12.99! Croctail Creek & The Sandbar is an adult-only feature that includes a brand new walk-up and swim-up bar, and featuring a heated lounge pool complete with in-water seating, and heated lazy river.
Franklin Park Conservatory has so much to explore with permanent and seasonal gardens and biomes. Chihuly Nights are perfect for date nights on the 2nd Saturday of July, August, September and October from 7 pm – 10 pm. Chihuly Nights are an amazing way to see the conservatory after hours in a new light. Tickets must be reserved in advance for regular visits and Chihuly Nights.
Everyone gets free Sunday admission at Columbus Museum of Art. You can also pay just $5 on Thursdays from 5-9 pm. Reservations are require for all visitors. Masks must be worn inside.
Discounted and Free Museum Days in Columbus: Check out this whole list of free and check museum days and explore the arts in Columbus! Note: some of the museums remain closed or have restrictions, so make sure you click through the links to see the most current details.
Columbus is a festival town. There are over 325 festivals around Columbus this year. The list is constantly being updated as new festivals are added. Enjoy a yearly favorite, or find a new one!
Wexner Center for the Arts offers FREE admission for exhibitions for everyone on Thursdays from 4-8 p.m., as well as on the first Sunday of every month.
Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State has exhibits and programming that comic book and cartoon fans will love.
Food and Drink
Happy Hours are the ultimate cheap restaurant experience! Dine early on tasty appetizers, have a drink or two, and head home to catch a movie on the couch! This happy hour list around Columbus is constantly being added to, and you can try a new place each week!
Check out breweries around Central Ohio by following the Columbus Ale Trail. Earn prizes by filling up your passport book. There are so many stops on the Trail that you’ll fill up plenty of date nights at you visit stops on the trail over the next year!
You can also head down the Route 33 Brew Trail from Columbus through Lancaster to visit 8 breweries including RockMill Brewery, Combustion, BrewDog DogTap, and more.
Catch a caffeine buzz with the Columbus Coffee Trail. After four stops, you earn a free Columbus coffee experience t-shirt and after all 19 stops, you earn a prize
Tour the Butler County Donut Trail at your leisure and earn a t-shirt if you complete all of the stops – attempt it in a day (start early!) or head out over a period of weekends or months.
Celtic Cocktail Trail in Dublin: Enjoy a delicious beverage at each of these uniquely Dublin Celtic Cocktail destinations and redeem great prizes! Complete 5 trail stops and redeem a commemorative koozie. Complete all 11 stops and score an exclusive Celtic Celtic Cocktail t-shirt! Take your time completing this trail – no need to complete in one day!
Gahanna Herbal Cocktail Trail: The Herb Capital of Ohio is Gahanna, and local restaurants, pubs, and distilleries have created some special herbal-based recipes. Collect 6 stamps and earn a prize!
Check out these other Fun and Tasty Adventure Trails, including Licking County Wine Trail, Route 33 Brew Trail, Columbus Taco Trail, Ohio Buckeye Trail, and more!
Go on a Thursday lunch date to Food Truck Food Court at Columbus Commons. Pick 2 things and share!
House Wine Thursday Night Tastings are just $15, including flatbreads and cheese, and will get you ready for the weekend.
The North Market is an amazing place to spend a day or evening exploring. There are so many great food options, you can grab a drink at The Barrel and Bottle. Pick a few food items from various merchants and share in the upstairs seating area or on one of the patios. They also host Sip and Stroll Happy Hours, Farmer’s Markets every Saturday morning, and the Peddler’s Picnic on Sundays.
Movies, Theatre, and Music
Pack a picnic and enjoy free movies under the stars at 15+ locations around the Columbus this summer – there’s definitely something playing near you! Perfect cuddle opportunity!
Listen to some tunes at outdoor concerts around the city at over 17 locations nearly every night of the week
Most outdoor movies will attract lots of kids (which is fine, if you don’t mind), but the Nightlight 614 outdoor movie series is for grown-ups only!
Wexner Center Drive-in Movies are screened in 35mm; food and adult beverages are available for purchase.
Go on a movie date like your parents probably did – at the Drive-In! Catch a double feature at the South Drive-in Theatre or Skyview Drive-in in Lancaster. We recently visited Skyview Drive-in and were impressed with how nice and clean it was.
Head to Schiller Park for live plays with The Actors’ Theatre, Thursdays through Sundays. Pack a picnic and enjoy some the theatre under the stars.
There’s something charming about watching old movies in a beautiful old theatre for the CAPA Summer Movies Series. Tickets are cheap and the movies are fantastic!
Tickets for Picnic with the Pops Concert Series at Columbus Commons are $30-35, but you can bring your food and drink (alcohol included) and enjoy a picnic while listening to national acts performing with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. There are other concerts throughout the season at Columbus Commons as well – both free and ticketed.
Active Fun and Sporting Events
Ride the Olentangy Bike Trail! If you don’t already have a bike, you can rent a bike from COGO Bike Share for $8 per day.
Take a hike! There are lots of hikes and activities at Columbus Metro Parks
Hike at Hocking Hills: So much to explore, with trails, waterfalls, caves, and more. Book a cabin or take a day trip!
There are plenty of free fitness activities in Columbus to try, both indoor and outdoor – take one together!
Run or Walk a race for a favorite charity or to just challenge yourself.
Columbus Clippers have awesome promotions, a fun atmosphere and admission is cheap!
Cheer on our local MLS soccer team at the Columbus Crew SC games at the new Downtown Lower.com field!
Play Disc Golf together. Disc golf is a fun way to get out in nature and enjoy safe competition. Start-up costs are minimal and there are free courses in parks all over Columbus.
Go Canoeing and Kayaking in Columbus! We’ve gathered a list of places to rent kayaks, canoes, SUP in Columbus. Get on the water and have fun together!
Explore over 20 farmers markets around Columbus
Stroll through Westerville, grab some food and drink, and pop into some shops on 4th Fridays in Uptown Westerville
Short North Gallery Hop celebrates art, local shops, good food, and great people watching on the 1st Saturday of each month!
Check out this revitalized neighborhood during Franklinton Fridays on the 2nd Friday of each month
Shops, restaurants, entertainment, and sidewalk vendors are open late for the Columbus Moonlight Market on the 2nd Saturday of the month
Enjoy brunch, shopping, and entertainment during the Sunday Sunlight Market on Gay Street on the 3rd Sunday of the month between 10 am – 3 pm
Short North Arts District Art Trail: Enjoying arts and culture in the Short North Arts District is easy and rewarding with the Short North Arts District Art Trail. Navigate the trail and gain access to a series of exciting offers and deals from businesses in the Short North area! From iconic permanent murals to colorful Short North Arches and the Six in the Short North temporary mural series, the streets in the District are filled with enlightening and oft-unexpected works of art. Pricing: Free; access the trail app at arttrail.shortnorth.org.
Explore different communities in Columbus with these Monthly Neighborhood Hops and Walks. You’ll find entertainment, vendors, sales at local shops, and great eats.
Nature and Outdoor Date Ideas in Columbus
Visit Dublin, choose a “Picnic Pack”, and head to one of the 60 (yes – 60!) parks and green spaces in Dublin to enjoy your picnic! Twenty-five Dublin restaurants have suggested their best picnic-friendly food for you to enjoy outdoors. Order your meal to-go and pick a dining areas in downtown Dublin or set up in a scenic picnic at a Dublin-area park. Don’t want an entire meal? You can grab drinks, baked goods, or whatever sounds good. Check out the Picnic Pack menu suggestions, plus downtown dining areas and amazing parks.
Have a dog? Head to one of 15 dog parks in Columbus with your pooch! Dog parks are social for the dogs and the humans, and is a great place to hang out and talk while your pup plays.
Sunflower fields are a top date option for August and September. Wander through the sunflower fields around Central Ohio, take tons of pictures, and enjoy the outdoors. This is a date you don’t want to skip this year! Some fields offer food trucks, live music, or allow picnics, so read the details. Check here to see what fields are opening this year, and when,
Head to the Hills! So much to explore, with trails, waterfalls, caves, and more at Hocking Hills. Book a cabin or take a day trip! Most cabins are booked up for the summer, but there are always last minute cancellations, or you can still book for Fall for many! Here’s a list of rentals around Hocking Hills.
Explore over 20 farmers markets around Columbus.
Pick berries and other fruit at a u-pick farm near Columbus. Drive into the country and enjoy the outdoors together with a sweet treat at the end (berries!).
Go apple or peach picking! Pick your own apples and peaches in beautiful orchards throughout central Ohio. It’s a great date for photo ops and memories. U-pick farms for peaches and apples start in late July and go through the fall for apples.
Picnic in Topiary Park and check out all of the amazing sculptures (or any park near you!)
Other unique options
Go treasure hunting together and search for treasures at garage sales in Columbus. Look for something specific that you need, or pick out something wacky for each other!
Check out the iconic Book Loft in German Village! It has 32 different rooms; you’ll love getting lost together while you explore. Grab coffee at Stauf’s afterwards, or head into German Village or Brewery District for food or drinks.
Plan an escape with Breakout games! This fun, fast-paced adventure will have you working together to solve a challenge!
What would you add to the list?
If you have kids and you are looking to take them on a little date, check out this Bucket List of Free and Cheap fun for Kids in Columbus!
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Check out our day-by-day recommendations for great dates in Columbus!
Thursday, October 21, 2021
Friday, October 22, 2021
Saturday, October 23, 2021
Sunday, October 24, 2021
Monday, October 25, 2021
Tuesday, October 26, 2021
Wednesday, October 27, 2021
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Saturday, October 30, 2021
Events currently suspended
COSI After Dark is the first Thursday evening of the month and is for grown-ups only! These themed events feature COSI exhibits (without all the kids), activities, food, and drink.
LEGOLAND Discovery Center Columbus hosts Adult Nights on the 1st Thursday of each month to give LEGO fans ages 18+ a chance to play without kids!
Kingsdale Market District Friday Night Flights feature 4 wines and paired samples for just $8 from 6-8 pm.
Explore Whole Foods while you enjoy 5 after 5 Wine Tastings with wine (or beer) samples and small plates. Pick up something from the prepared food section and head home early for an evening cuddling on the couch.
Go out for dessert, or stop of the way home from an earlier event for SONIC half-price shakes and ice cream slushes after 8 pm
Watch Ohio Roller Derby in fast-action, family-friendly sporting event