Having a routine is nice for classes and the gym, but not when it comes to going out. Here are a few ideas to break up your usual Chipotle and Netflix dates that won’t break the bank. These are the best cheap and fun date ideas near The University of California Irvine!
1. Irvine Spectrum Center
We’re lucky to have some of the best malls on the West Coast only a few miles from campus. Just ten minutes from campus is the Irvine Spectrum Center where you can get dinner, go shopping, and take your date for a ride on the Giant Ferris Wheel. Check for special dates when UCI students get to ride for free!
2. Great Park Balloon
You might recognize the giant orange hot air balloon from Irvine’s Snapchat geotag, but did you know that it’s an actual thing? Near Irvine Station, you can take a hot air balloon ride for just $10! Definitely a one-of-a-kind date.
Go back to 7th grade for a night and take your date out for some mini golf and arcade games. Nothing heats up a night like some flirty competition, and what says old school romance like winning a stuffed animal in a claw machine?
4. Laguna Rocks
Everyone knows Newport, but if you’re looking for a more private beach day, head to Laguna. Park for free near Urth Café and take the walk down to the beach shore. You’ll find a secluded stretch of sand where the tide is always high. Time it so you’re there in time for the sunset, bring a picnic, and post up on the big rock safe from the waves.
5. Disneyland Fireworks
Don’t have the money for an annual pass? No worries, you can still experience the park’s nightly fireworks. Park at Downtown Disney for free (parking is free for 3 hours), but head over to the Mickey and Friends parking structure and take the elevator all the way to the top floor for the best view of the fireworks outside of the park. Avoid the fee and the crowds!
6. Free Movie Screenings
Depending on the time of the year, you can find movies showing for free around Irvine. In the summer, check the City of Irvine for free screenings on the lawn and make a picnic out of it. In October, The Lab Antimall shows Halloween movies every weekend of the month. Take your date to get a little spooked.
7. University Town Center
No car? No problem! Walk across the bridge to UTC where there are actually some great date night options that don’t include Blaze and Chipotle. Eureka and Mendocino Farms are perfect when you’re in the mood for a less-casual meal. In the mood for just desserts? Go to Stax for Instagram-worthy ice cream sandwiches.
8. Get Ramen in Newport
My favorite place to eat near school is a super low-key ramen restaurant in Newport called Local Healthy Tapas & Sake. The dim lighting and cozy atmosphere are perfect for date-night, as is the menu, which has options for vegans and meat-eaters alike in case you and your date have differing diets.
9. UCI Arboretum
Take a walk through 12.5 acres of beautiful, botanical gardens without even leaving campus. Best part? Admission is free.
10. Balboa Island
One of the things I was most excited about being close to when I chose UCI was Balboa Island. I remember coming here as a kid, getting Balboa bars and riding carnival rides. Relive a bit of your childhood at this OC staple.
11. ARC Fields Picnic
After hours, the typically crowded ARC fields are probably the most private place on campus. Bring a blanket and make sure it doesn’t get caught in the fence as you help your date hop over it.
12. OC Observatory
No, not stargazing. The popular concert venue often has underground artists that play and the tickets are pretty cheap. If you don’t want to drop major money on a concert, this is a fun alternative that may lead to a new favorite artist.
Break the ice of a first date with some comedy: ImprovCity puts on weekly improv shows for just $10 a ticket.
14. Take a trip to DTLA
A roundtrip Amtrak ticket from Irvine station to Union station is about $18 each. Spend a day in downtown Los Angeles checking out the free Broad museum, The Last Bookstore, or the view from the observation deck at City Hall.
15. Go on a Birthday Date to Catalina Island
Catalina Express Boat tickets are free on your birthday! Save the date with your special someone and enjoy a day in the sun without sacrificing your paycheck.