After one year of dating, Mr. Fancy and I started to spend a lot more time at his house or my apartment watching movies and cooking dinner. It’s easy to fall into a comfortable rut. Although this was so relaxing and still a bit fancy, we needed to get back out there to try new things. Realizing that we missed hitting up art museums, tasting interesting cocktails at downtown bars and going to shows at one of many theaters in the Twin Cities, we were looking for a solution. So began date night (or in some cases, date day)!

I am a huge advocate of date nights. Whether you have been together for a few weeks or a few years, are married or unmarried, date night is the perfect excuse to treat Minneapolis and Saint Paul like you are a visitor to these two fabulous cities. Mr. Fancy and I do a date night several times a month. We take turns planning and get extra points for finding inexpensive things to do that are still very fancy. We keep the date a secret until the night of. This makes it especially fun for the person not planning. I have put together 10 free or cheap date nights just for you. Because these got a bit long, I am only posting five now. Watch for the other five later this week. And don’t forget to share these fancy ideas with your friends. Enjoy!

Saint Anthony Main photo

A photo of us on our wedding day near Saint Anthony Main and Vic's! Photo courtesy of Photogen-Inc.

Date #1: Low-key, low-effort cozy date night!
Sometimes Mr. Fancy and I just don’t have the energy to plan something that takes much effort. Here is a date idea with little work. Cozy up at Vic’s at Saint Anthony Main. After all, what’s better than cheap wine and live music by the fire with a downtown view? Vic’s offers several types of wine at wholesale prices, so share a bottle with your sweetheart on a Friday or Saturday night. Vic’s also has live music most weekend nights ranging from jazz to blues to some rock groups in the summer. It’s simple and nice. Another tip, follow Vic’s on Twitter for a chance at some free wine. Vic’s validates parking at the Saint Anthony Falls parking ramp on 2nd and 2nd. You can even take a tunnel to Vic’s so no need to step into the cold Minnesota winter.
Total cost: Between $10 and $45 depending on which bottle of wine you choose.

Date #2: Relaxing date
With work and work and more work, we all need some relaxation. This is a great way to feel a little closer to your special someone. Get a massage together at Centerpoint Massage School (located on the campus of the U of M in Dinkytown). They always offer coupons which means you and your date can each get an hour massage for only $35. I realize this isn’t “dirt cheap” but for a 60 minute massage, it really is. Follow your massage with a light but yummy dinner at one of Dinkytown’s many restaurants.
Total cost: $35 per person for a massage plus dinner. Of course, relaxation is priceless!

Date #3: Warm green date
Como Conservatory makes a great winter date because you feel like you are walking in a rain forest. Make a $2 donation and enjoy the sights, scents and sounds of the seven indoor gardens for as long as you want. After your visit, head over to Pizza Luce Saint Paul and split a baked potato pizza or whatever pizza you fancy most.
Total cost: Less than $25 including a small or medium pizza of your choice.

Date #4: Photography date
All you need for this date is a digital camera, warm clothes and comfortable walking shoes. Park near Nicollet Island Inn in Minneapolis. There is cheap parking at the Saint Anthony Falls parking ramp on 2nd and 2nd. Walk from Nicollet Island, down the picturesque Main Street at Saint Anthony Main. Take photos as you go. With a brick road as your path, downtown to the right and cute buildings to your left, you will quickly become a photographer. Cross the Stone Arch Bridge into downtown Minneapolis. Take photos at Mill City Museum’s Ruins and then head into the Guthrie Theater. Take the escalator up to the Guthrie’s Endless Bridge for a good view and a coffee or beverage. The Endless Bridge is an observatory for the Mississippi River and even offers a partial view of downtown. The theater is free to visit. The only cost is your refreshments. For a fancier end, grab one of the signature cocktails at the Guthrie’s new restaurant Sea Change or at Spoonriver next door. You leave this date with some great photos and you’ll even get a bit of exercise in!
Total cost: Price of drinks.

Date # 5: Art date
Minneapolis Institute of Art offers free admission everyday! Head to the museum and you might feel like you are in Paris or New York City. With a large art collection plus special collections including the current exhibit featuring works from the Louvre (cost is extra), you can spend hours here. Follow your visit with lunch or dinner at one of the great restaurants on Eat Street. I personally enjoy Evergreen Chinese Restaurant and The Bad Waitress. Warning: Evergreen doesn’t have the best service or a fancy ambience AT ALL! But the food is fabulous and cheap. The Bad Waitress is great for breakfast or brunch.
Total cost: Price of food (ranging from $6 per person to $12 per person).

One more fancy note:
My fellow Twin Cities blogger Jenna has a review of Palomino’s happy hour on her Eat Drink Pretty blog. This could be an easy addition to almost any of these dates for some inexpensive fancy food and drinks!

If you have any fancy date ideas, please share! E-mail me at