3 Classy (But Secretly Affordable) First Dates

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When it comes to a first date, not every woman is going to be impressed by drinks and a burger. If you are looking to woo a sophisticated modern woman, you’re going to have to come prepared with activities that showcase both effort and class.

Unfortunately, the cost of a classy outing can often be just that: costly. But this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. “Class” is just another way of exhibiting refinement and being in-step with the times—these concepts don’t need to be tied to a plump price tag.

As it turns out, there are a multitude of first date options that will impress even the most cosmopolitan of ladies, but won’t drain your bank account. By delving into Bundle.com’s  vast reserves of data based on billions of aggregated, anonymous consumer credit card transactions throughout the United States, we were able to cull some classy first date alternatives that are secretly affordable.

We won’t tell if you won’t.

1. Weekend Brunch

Image courtesy of YoungToymaker

Brunch is a criminally underutilized first date alternative. But this weekend breakfast/lunch hybrid offers many advantages over the typical nighttime rendezvous. First off, it’s generally cheaper than a dinner of comparable quality—typically, the only difference between a top-notch dinner and top-notch brunch is the time on the clock.

The Clinton Street Baking Company, for example, is one of Manhattan’s most renowned brunch spots (our data shows this popular eatery is overwhelmingly attractive for the dating demo—68% singles, 41% between ages 26 to 35). However, the numbers also show that the typical (median) cost per transaction at Clinton Street—where brunch entrees run anywhere between $10 and $20—is only $46 (inclusive of tax and tip).

While $46 may be a bit more than you’re willing to pay for what cynics label a glorified breakfast, a good brunch is so much more than eloquently prepared eggs. This underrated, in-between meal can be a culinary experience—and one that will cost you less than a typical evening dinner date.

Clinton Street is the rare brunch joint that requires a long wait to just get in the place (and they don’t accept reservations). Let her know beforehand to expect a wait—you can use this time to talk each other up. Which brings us to another brunch advantage: it’s low pressure. A brunch runs anywhere between one and two hours and doesn’t necessitate doing anything afterwards (though you should keep some activities in your back pocket if you want to extend the afternoon).

A third important brunch advantage: it’s one of those times when it is perfectly acceptable to drink during daylight hours. For a first date, when nerves may need to be settled and inhibitions lowered, this is a must. Any brunch spot worth its weight in maple syrup will offer a stellar cocktail menu. But research drink menus online beforehand, and check if your state or city has any “blue laws” regarding serving alcohol on a Sunday morning—New York City actually does, but it’s blissfully ignored for the most part.

You might also try the Eastern-European themed Korzo in Brooklyn (with a $51 median cost, and a customer base that is 61% singles), which offers unlimited Bloody Marys or Mimosas for only $9. Broadway Cellars in Chicago (unlimited brunch drinks, overwhelmingly youthful crowd) is another good choice for daytime weekend dining, and has a median cost of $57. Austin Texas’ South Congress Café boasts a youthful scene and will only cost diners, on average, $44. 

Like the saying goes: there’s no such thing as a free lunch (or brunch, for that matter), but compare these afternoon tabs to footing the bill for a dinner, movie, and drinks. With the brunch date, you’ve not only supplied a lovely day (and possibly more), but you’ve also managed to stand out from the dinner date status quo.

2. Thursday Night Gallery Tour

Image courtesy of Jason Weinberger

First, we must differentiate art galleries. There are main street venues that call themselves “galleries”—they sell pleasant watercolor landscapes at reasonable prices to adorn the walls of diners and hotels lobbies. Generally speaking, these are not where you should bring a sophisticated date. You’re looking for the hipper, weirder fine art galleries (though keep in mind, anyone can and will use that term “fine”).

Most cities boast a “gallery district” of some kind where several galleries are congregated within blocks of each other. These gallery spaces change up their art on a regular basis, sometimes as often as weekly or monthly. And to mark these new offerings, they have opening receptions, which nearly uniformly offer light snacks and more importantly, wine. All free.

And as it turns out, most gallery openings tend to happen on the same day of the week. Lori Zimmer of ArtNerdNewYork told us that when it comes to gallery openings all around the world, “Thursday is a biggie. They’ll also happen on Friday or Saturday, but pretty much Thursday is the big day.” You can spend around 20 minutes at each reception, but once you’ve hit a few, all of a sudden, you’ve experienced a full evening date ripe with art and conversation.

Imagine you and your date are strolling around the neighborhood, taking in some culture, conversing, people watching—the conversation gets easier and the laughs deeper as you consume ever more plastic glasses of white wine (but you’re in an art gallery, so remember, this is classy). Galleries generally hold their openings in the early evening, so you may want to plan an activity for later in the evening if everything is going well.

Our data for the Robert Mann Gallery in NYC’s Chelsea district reveals a clientele that is made up of 73% married couples, and around 80% of visitors are between 36 and 65—not the kind of crowd you might associate with a hot date. But, keep in mind, Bundle’s numbers only represent people who actually purchase multi-hundred or thousand-dollar works. The open receptions attract younger, classy freeloaders (classloaders), who imbibe the complimentary culture and drinks.

But what if you’re not an art guy? Don’t be intimidated. Just remember some buzz phrases “this makes me think of…” or “I think the artist was going for this…” And you can easily move the conversation to people watching or just say, “let’s hit the next one.”

3. Get Ballsy

Image courtesy of trostle

Bundle contacted Emma Merkas, founder of $30 Date Night, for suggestions on cutting the costs of going on a date. And as she pointed out, one avenue to classy is through unique. “It doesn’t take much imagination to take someone out for dinner and a movie,” says Merkas. “If you’re looking to impress someone, the best way to do it is to use a little imagination.”

For example, Merkas has a friend who takes women to the driving range to try golf. “He likes to see what they’re like under pressure and whether they turn up in heels,” she adds. “It’s a good way to see someone’s personality straight away.”

As you might expect, our data shows that the top golf-crazy cities are sprinkled throughout the Sun Belt (FTR, Fort Worth, Texas has the most golfers, while Plano, Texas spends the most on golf per customer). But golf courses are everywhere, and the average total check is typically below $50.

You should check ahead to see if the courses near you offer 1) access to the general public and 2) a club house that serves drinks (as stated earlier, acceptable and necessary for any first date) or will allow you to bring some wine of your own if you’re out on the green.

The golf outing may give you a chance to show off your skills (or, if golf isn’t your strong suit, then share some laughs) while you feel each other out. It’s a fun, unique outing that she will be happy to tell her friends you suggested.  

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Evan Dashevsky is the Editor of Bundle.com, follow him @haldash