But you don’t really want to take your date through the drive through of Carl’s Jr. or Golden Corral and call it a night either. Add that to the list of dating dealbreakers! There has to be an attractive middle ground for Chicago’s young dating population.

Luckily, there are some great first date ideas where you can have an amazing time without completely emptying out your wallet. After all, you want to have some money left for date number two (hopefully). Here are a few of my favorite first date ideas in Chicago:

Lincoln Park Zoo

Forget about movies — animals are a hilarious source of entertainment. Traditionally, a visit to the local zoo isn’t occupying the top list of first date ideas, but c’mon, have you ever seen monkeys interact with each other? Classic comedy at its finest. You and your date can wander around Lincoln Park Zoo and check out all of your favorite exhibits. The best part about this option? The zoo is free to enter. That means you’ll have money left over for dinner and drinks later.

Millennium Park

Whether it’s the middle of summer or the dead of winter, Millennium Park is always a wonderful first date option in Chicago. When it’s warm out, take pictures in the reflection of the bean and stroll through the green grass. Or you could take part in one of my personal favorite activities: people watching. Just choose a bench, sit back and enjoy. When that fierce Chicago winter turns its head, you can show off your ice skating skills (or lack of skills). Of course, living in Chicago means that you’ll have to be prepared to brave the temperatures.

Headquarters Beercade

This has to be one of my favorite first date ideas. Headquarters Beercade is far from your typical bar. Located in the city’s Lakeview neighborhood, Headquarters offers you and your date wall-to-wall retro video games. Don’t worry, you don’t have to show up with a jar full of quarters– the games are free to play.

Get ready to jump back in time with these game options, some of which include NBA Jam, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, NFL Blitz, Frogger, Donkey Kong and more. Chances are, you and your date might never leave this place.

With all of the fun games available, you won’t be left trying to fill an awkward lull in the conversation. Headquarters’ craft beer and cocktails are totally reasonable and can range from $4-$10. Best of all, this is a first date idea that is totally out of the box. Even if your date doesn’t like video games, they’ll leave with a lasting impression. That’s got to count for something!

Bottle & Bottega

Show off your creative side by scheduling your first date in Chicago at this chic art studio. You can create your own art while sipping on a glass of wine. And if you’re not confident in your artistic abilities, well hey, that’s what the wine is there for.

You’ll walk into Bottle & Bottega and instantly feel comfortable as it mimics a cozy living room. The studio provides you and your date with hands-on instruction to create your very own masterpiece. You might be surprised at what you’re able to make — and you may even impress your date in the process.

Adler Planetarium

Looking for a romantic first-date setting in the Windy City? Then head over to the Adler Planetarium. While it’s a great place to visit during the day, it’s even better at night. In fact, Adler After Dark is one of the planetarium’s many programs, and this one is aimed at the 21 and over crowd.

You and your date can sip on your choice of cocktails as you take in the view of the incredible Chicago skyline seen from Adler. Each month, the themes of this event change, so there’s always something new and exciting to experience. If your first date becomes something more, you can return to this first date idea to keep the romance alive down the road.

Bang Bang Pie Shop

Dinner and a movie tops the list of typical first date ideas … but for those who want a more casual spin on this classic first date idea, meeting at a coffee​ shop is a better option. But I have something better than coffee — pie.

Located in the bike-friendly, Logan Square neighborhood, Bang Bang Pie Shop offers many unique flavors — get ready to stay awhile because you’ll want to try them all. The establishment only uses seasonal fruit and produce to bake their pies, so they’re as fresh as can be.

If you love fall favors, order the caramel apple crumble pie, which consists of apples in a caramel sauce with a cinnamon brown sugar crumble on top. If your date is more of a chocolate lover, get the chocolate mud pie — a creation that’s made up of graham cracker crust, dark chocolate pudding, peanut butter, pretzel puppy chow, and fresh whipped cream. Brb, going to get that.

Navy Pier

Alright, I know this is a classic touristy spot, but it’s popular for a reason. You and your date can stroll along the boardwalk and enjoy a bite of food and a drink. If you’re really looking to create a romantic setting, ride the iconic Ferris Wheel while you watch fireworks shoot off the pier. It may be cliché, but this is one of the more memorable (and affordable) first date ideas in Chicago.

Photo by Jack Finnigan on Unsplash

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