Cheap Date Ideas in Memphis

An authentic Memphis meal and experience for $50 per couple any day of the week.

Making time to connect is essential in relationships, but dating can get expensive and monotonous. Solve the “What do you want to do? I don’t know. What do you want to do?” dilemma without breaking the bank. The fall air is just right to catch feelings and keep the love alive with this list of cheap dates, complete with a meal and an activity for $50 or less, all in.

Couple enjoying BSMF 2023  Craig Thompson
Craig Thompson


Picnic from Cordelia’s Market and sunset in Greenbelt Park

Most restaurants and activities take a well-deserved day of rest at the beginning of the week, but Cordelia’s Market in Harbor Town has the makings of a Memphis original picnic ready to serve. Check the weather, arrive an hour before sunset, and park by the market. Head straight toward the deli where prepared food selections abound. Best sellers from the hot box are chicken spaghetti and anything from Las Delicias, stocked daily. Cold favorites include Luchessi’s paninis, the kale and quinoa salad and “Dave Matthew’s favorite” garlic green beans. Grab a bottle of wine, a couple of waters and something sweet from the Muddy’s Bake Shop display. Easily build a meal for two for under $50, pick up utensils near the sushi case, and walk a few steps across Island Drive to Greenbelt Park.

Pro tip: Bring a blanket and bug spray (It is the Mississippi River, after all) and find a shady spot down the hill for privacy. After the final sunbeam fades, pack up and head out. The park closes at dusk.

Dixon Garden
Alex Shansky


Stroll through The Dixon Gallery and Gardens and lunch from Park + Cherry

The Dixon at Park Avenue and Cherry Road offers free admission to the gardens and museum until 2024. Throughout the 17 acres, winding paths lead to fun finds around each corner: outdoor sculpture, bubbling fountains and alcoves carpeted by soft moss. Open 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.for lunch, the restaurant inside the museum offers entree salads like the Little Gem Caesar with hearty portions of grilled salmon or chicken. Sandwiches including the signature honey glazed turkey with peppery arugula, brie and cherry compote come with kettle chips. Split a pastry from the case, and try a specialty coffee or tea. Wine is also served by the glass but might break the budget by a couple bucks.

Pro tip: Upon first arriving, order your meal to-go, and then journey to find the perfect spot at one of the 37 shaded benches or bistros placed all about the grounds. Wear flat shoes.

Memphis Rox / Alex Shansky


Rock climbing at Memphis Rox and fuel from Juice Almighty

Though the concept of Memphis Rox is always pay-what-you-can, standard pricing runs $26 per couple, including shoes. Most approachable for first time climbers, bouldering means climbing on the man-made rock formations using color coordinated holds secured to the wall. Soft, spongy floor mats keep climbers safe. Open from noon to 8 p.m. weekdays, make it a lunch date or have a healthy dinner at Juice Almighty, the cafe inside the gym. Try the Spicy BBQ baked wings or the Crimpin’ Chicken Sandwich with lettuce, cheese and avocado served on a potato bun. On the sweet side, the V5 smoothie adds a tropical vibe, or go the green route with pressed juice.

Pro tip: Fill out the waiver online beforehand to save time. Anyone can boulder, but the more challenging top ropes course with harness and belay requires a free 45-minute class.


Arcade classics at Nerd Alert and Maciel’s mix-and-match tacos

Facing your opponent at the PAC-MAN cocktail table is much different than playing video games online. Every Thursday, Nerd Alert on Cooper Street has all-you-can-play arcade games 5 to 9 p.m. for $15 per couple. Start the evening four blocks north at Maciel’s Tacos and Tortas Midtown with chips and salsa on the patio. Mix and match street, fajita or special tacos for $3.50 apiece with plenty left over for tax and tip.

Pro tip: The arcade is BYOB if you want to stop along the way for a little something extra.

Couple at Levitt Shell


Outdoor concert and food truck fare at the Overton Park Shell

The Orion Free Concert Series at the Shell on Friday nights runs through the first week in October. Bring folding chairs, bug spray and water. With a rotating line-up of musical performers and food trucks, each show is a unique experience. Purchase beverages from the ShellBar located stage right, cool off with MEMpops or use the new water bottle refill stations near the restrooms.

Pro tip: For an even less expensive meal, picnics and coolers are always welcome, but no glass. During the off-season at Overton Park Shell, visit the blog's music calendar to find more shows to see here. Many are also free to see.


Brunch at Dos Hermanos Cafe inside the Cossitt Library

The first floor of the downtown library during Saturday brunch feels more like an intimate restaurant. Soft live music lightens the mood of the vibrant space, and a side bar serves mimosas. The cafe offers an affordable yet concise menu 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Adventurous? The falafel waffle with mushrooms, jam and sunflower sprouts puts a robust spin on traditional breakfast food. Reserved? Go for the straight-forward turkey melt or classic quiches, pastries and parfaits from the lunch menu. Afterward, take the

main staircase up to the vast communal area to peruse books, play giant connect four or take photos in the life-sized display boxes decorated for public use.

Pro tip: Dine outdoors in the courtyard plaza at Front Street and Monroe Avenue, or for more privacy, round the corner to one of several bistro tables overlooking the river.

canoe at meeman Shelby forest state park
Alex Shansky


Canoe at Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park and lunch at Shelby Forest General Store

Get showered by falling leaves or spot a bald eagle in flight during Poplar Tree Lake floats on Saturday and Sunday mornings while the foliage turns. For $15 per person, including life jacket, paddle and boat. Bring water and dress in layers for the brisk air which warms up before take out. Go early and stop for homemade biscuit sandwiches at Shelby Forest General store or afterward try their most popular item, the $5 cheeseburger for lunch. Split a big bag of chips and grab drinks from the cooler. Picnic tables off the porch offer the best view of motorcycles pausing at the four-way stop as they wind along the country roads.

Pro tip: The Eagle Lake float is an alternate swamp ecosystem that costs $5 more per person, but the Cypress turn a gorgeous, bold red early in the season.

About the Author

Memphis for me is a dance floor. The progression swings from a childhood in the suburbs, to Midtown and Downtown through my college years, then back to the suburbs when hubs and kiddos blessed my days. I have swirled in the excitement of Tiger basketball, Beale Street bike nights, Coliseum shows, Zippin Pippin rides, Mud Island concerts, Rum Boogie side door slips and Alex’s Tavern shuffle board. I’ve cheered under high school Friday night lights, seen the Mississippi River reflect fireworks set to live symphony, and had my high-rise office computer blinded by the afternoon beam of the shiny pyramid. While I may dwell outside the city proper, one of the great things about living here is accessibility. Everything is about a half-hour away. My mission is to plant seeds, water roots and foster wings inside and out of the 240 loop. 

Say it. Memphis. There is a lip-parting breath in the beginning with grit and soul so strong it rises from within and reverberates outward. Memphis. A hard “F” in the middle. Memphis. Sharp finish with a trailing hiss. Memphis. Can you hear it? Memphis. Now move with me. Memphis. Let’s dance.

Build your perfect Memphis meal:

Start at the Peabody Lobby bar with a filthy martini in a crystal glass (ping!), half a dozen oysters Rockefeller from the Half Shell, a Greek salad from Cheffies all chopped to bite-sized bits with that Wolverine slicer they use, some BBQ shrimp from Second Line with extra soppin’ bread for all the sauce, duck fried rice from any SOB, and a box of Dinstuhl’s dark chocolate brandied cherries to pair with a middle-shelf Pinot Noir from Buster’s Liquor. I’m going home. Night, night.

What’s your favorite organization to support:

Literacy MidSouth makes such an impact in our city. From kindergarten to third grade, kids learn to read. From fourth grade on, they read to learn. If there’s a disconnect, statistics show the gap grows over time leading to behavior issues, increased drop out rates, teen pregnancy and incarceration. Last school year, I worked with nine third-graders in reading intervention to get them up to grade level. To see such smart children crack the code and feel empowered, thirsting for knowledge and devouring information they can finally understand and share, it’s nothing short of astounding. I’m proud to be part of the army of reading tutors serving our city. If you can read this, you can help too. Words have power!

Learn more about Candice Baxter here.

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