You’ll love these 7 cheap date ideas in Chicago. Opportunity doesn’t always knock at the same moment Love calls. If your heart’s full of passion but your cash must be rationed, here are a few date night ideas that won’t sacrifice the fun for frugality. Remember, no matter your budget, Chicago is for lovers.

7 of the Best $20 Date Spots in Chicago

Jay Pritzker
Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park

Movies in the Park is a cheap date night idea in Chicago.

Movies in the Park

The Movies in the Park series provides an opportunity to laugh and cry with your love under the grand gaze of the world’s most beautiful skyline. If the park allows, as Millennium Park often does, bring a picnic basket full of (inexpensive) wine, cheese, and charcuterie. If alcohol is not permitted, as is typical, just skip the wine and save a few more dollars.

More info: Chicago Park District, and Millennium Park

The Art Institute is a cheap date spot in Chicago.
Jazz Night at The Art Institute

Free Day at The Art Institute of Chicago

For Cook County residents, general admission to the Art Institute of Chicago is free every Thursday from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. That means full access to a world-class museum (seriously. It was voted #1 museum in the world by Trip Advisor), for the low price of zero ninety-nine. Local tip: Thursday nights, the museum also hosts a live jazz performance in its super romantic McKinlock Court. Enjoy live music under the watchful gaze of the fountain’s mermen.  Order a few items from their menu – if you feel you just must spend a buck or two.

More info: Art Institute of Chicago

Throwback Games and Drinks at Emporium

Let your inner kid run wild at this megabar slash arcade. Make no mistake, this is an adults only establishment, stocked with over 50 whiskey varieties. For a 25 cent token, enjoy throwback video games and save the bulk of your cash for a lively libation. Locations are in Wicker Park, Logan Square, and Fulton Market.

More info: Emporium
Garfield Park Conservatory is a cheap date idea in Chicago

Garfield Park Conservatory

Another completely free option, the conservatory houses some of the rarest plant life in the world. In addition to its fantastic foliage, art installations, including a permanent installation by glass artist Dale Chihuly, are always on display.

More info: Garfield Park Conservatory
Lincoln Park Zoo is a great cheap date idea in Chicago.

Lincoln Park Zoo

Gratis, Lincoln Park Zoo is full of babies – cute animal cubs, kids, chicks, and piglets. Come coo over the new arrivals being born and hatched on a regular basis. Save your dough for the zoo’s café or bring your own picnic basket and plant yourself somewhere in the surrounding park.

More info: Lincoln Park Zoo

Tour Hyde Park

Take a stroll through the famous Hyde Park neighborhood on Chicago’s Southside, once home to the Obama family, and finish your day among the Japanese Gardens near the Museum of Science and Industry. These gardens provide a romantic, hidden sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the city. Listen to the waters flow from its many streams and feel the peace of the gardens overtake you.

More info: Hyde Park

Divvy it Up

It doesn’t get more romantic than an evening bike along the lake. Need some wheels? Pick up a Divvy bike from the city’s extensive bike sharing system. The cost per 30-minute trip is currently $3. Each time you take a bike, remember, you are allowed to keep that bike for only 30 minutes. Before your time is up, trade out at another station for a different bike. Needlessly complicated but super affordable.

More info: Divvy