18 Ideas for new ways to spend $50 on a night out

Jun 5, 2014 at 12:00 a.m. ET
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It's not that you don't like going out with your partner or your BFF any more. It's just that you've been to the same restaurants, bars and coffee shops with them a million times. How much more is there to say about the house special calamari/awesome jukebox/guy who's always playing the same three folk songs on his guitar? But don't sweat it — we've come up with some new date night ideas that will stimulate conversation and won't break the bank.

1. Try a new food that's out of your comfort zone

The easiest way to spice up your average dinner date is to literally spice up your dinner date. Skip all the regular places and head to a restaurant that serves ethnic cuisine you've never tried before — Yemeni, Serbian, Scottish or any other cultural cuisine that's new to you.

2. Check out your local comedy scene

Comedy clubs have come a long way from the classic '90s image of some guy with a piano key necktie, rambling about airplane food. Not only do most modern comedy clubs book a broad variety of performers — and often host special nights devoted to alternative comedians, female comedians or touring comedians from another area — but your area probably also has specialty comedy clubs that only host improv or sketch comedy shows.

3. Spend a night at the museum

Find out what wine pairs with a Van Gogh when you hit a local museum's late-night, adults-only event. Art, science and history museums across the country are running special events on weekend evenings that include adult beverages, late hours and live entertainment.

4. Play movie roulette

"Movie roulette" is a game exactly as potentially dangerous and thrilling (for your evening's plans) as it sounds: Pick a time to show up at the multiplex, and buy tickets to whatever the next movie showing is. If you get lucky and pick a good movie, you win. If you accidentally end up at an animated movie about pushbrooms, you can cry into your Junior Mints (or sneak into a different movie after 10 minutes, but we didn't tell you to do that).

5. Snack like a farmer

Hit the farmers market with a different agenda: Instead of trying to grab your groceries as quickly as possible, stop and smell the free samples. Check out some stands you would normally pass by, watch the cooking demonstrations, and see if you come home with an elevated understanding of bok choy.

6. Show off your smarts at trivia night

Can you remember the exact dates of the Teapot Dome scandal? Can you hum every Billboard Number One song of the past 10 years from memory? Are you the only person in America who actually understood what happened at the end of Lost? Don't let your massive body of history/Hurley knowledge go to waste. Check out what kind of themed trivia nights your local watering holes offer.

7. Hit the big (minor) leagues

Did the three-hour parking lot traffic jam that followed the last major league ball game you went to make you a little reluctant to go again this summer? Minor league baseball games provide all the same opportunities to throw back beer and hot dogs, get some sun and feel the thrill of victory and/or the agony of defeat — just on a slightly smaller (and cheaper) scale.

8. Get a (small) taste of the high life

Skip all the bad parts of eating at a super high-end restaurant — like the hassle of long waiting lists or the trauma of receiving a bill that is equal to your monthly student loan payments — by going to the bar for an appetizer and a glass of wine. You'll get to soak up the ambiance and enjoy the people watching, without the whole "taking out a second mortgage to pay for this meal" thing.

9. Get on the market

Haul over to your local flea market or antique mall to find a world of things cool, weird and beautiful that you never knew you totally needed. As a bonus feature, a lot of antique malls are located inside historical buildings that are quite interesting in their own right.

10. Ride the waves

If you live near a body of water, odds are there's someone eagerly waiting to teach you how to negotiate it in a kayak. From traditional outdoor sports organizations to urban kayaking societies devoted to tackling city rivers and tributaries in the boats, there are tons of opportunities for newbies to grab a kayak and take a spin... er, paddle.

11. Turn game night into an Olympic event

Raise the stakes on game night higher than "loser has to microwave more popcorn." Take it out into the wild, where you turn whatever games are available at a bar — board, video or otherwise — into a decathalon of recreation, competing for the greatest number of points overall for the evening (loser has to buy the last round, obviously).

12. Sip your wine straight from the source

There's nothing better than a fancy excuse to get tipsy, right? Most vineyards and microbreweries offer reasonably priced tasting tours and special sampling events on-site.

13. Rent some wheels

Did your own bicycling career end the second you passed your driver's license exam? Check out how far bicycling has come since your own Huffy-riding days by renting a bike for the day at your local park or waterfront.

14. Cultivate your culinary skills

Whether you're a top-notch home chef or someone who has somehow mastered the art of burning water, there's something you can pick up from a cooking class. Check out your local specialty cooking supplies store for ideas — if they don't offer one-shot or weekend-long classes themselves, they'll have some tips for local places that do.

15. Become a local art expert

Take your appreciation of art out of the museum and into the streets by joining in on an art walk. Most cities have a group that hosts a regular art walk that takes visitors through the area's galleries and arts spaces, and usually includes some live entertainment, too.

16. Feast on the food truck scene

The recent foodie revival means that fancified food trucks serving unusual fare are popping up all over the place. Read up on your area's food truck offerings and then take a bite of the one that sounds the most delicious, or, if your area has a food truck food court, make a whole evening out of sampling the snackable wares.

17. Rock out locally

If your main interaction with music these days is listening to your iPod while you jog, mix things up and see a show at a small rock club or bar that has live acts. If nothing else, it'll give you an excuse to wear that black leather motorcycle jacket that never quite seems work-appropriate.

18. Pair paint with pinot

As any struggling artist will tell you, painting and drinking definitely mix. A number of art workshops are embracing this fact by running BYOB painting classes that allow students to relax and tap into their creative side with the help of their favorite tipple.

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