As college students, we often find it difficult to think of date ideas that are entertaining, memorable and affordable. One look at your bank account and you’re wondering what your date would think of meeting up at the on-campus dining hall for a romantic dinner covered by your meal plan. With the upcoming school year quickly approaching, keep these 15 cheap and fun date ideas near Cal Poly SLO in mind to alleviate yourself of any potential date-idea stress.
1. Sunset Drive-in
We all know that going to see a movie is a go-to, classic date. However, San Luis Obispo offers an even better option. With tickets for only $9, the drive-in is open every night of the week. Pack some blankets and pillows for the car, pop open the trunk, and enjoy the laid-back environment of a drive-in theatre. And don’t forget to stop by the old-fashioned concession stand.
2. Prefumo Crest
San Luis Obispo is home to the stunning Prefumo Crest. A drive up Prefumo Canyon Road leads to this overlook and its striking views of SLO. Impress your date by bringing some food and a blanket for a picnic while watching the sun set behind the mountains. You can also enjoy some time watching the stars away from the lights of Cal Poly’s campus and downtown.
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I was looking through old photos in my phone, and some of the photos from March just blew me away. Remember all that rain we got?! Most of you were there, so needless to say, California was in a good place. This was a sunrise in Prefumo Canyon, complete with cows a'grazin! Sorry, but it's too good to hide in my camera roll! 🐮☀️❤️
3. Surfing, Paddle Boarding, Kayaking, Oh My!
If you and your date share a mutual love for the ocean, this may be the perfect idea for spending some time together in a new way. Cal Poly students have access to all of Poly Escapes’ rental equipment, making it easy to obtain a surfboard or kayak for the day at a low price. With Pismo and Avila Beach right near campus, this is an easy way to make the date more exciting and unforgettable.
4. SLOSA Archery
The San Luis Obispo Sportsmen Association allows visitors to take a shot at archery with their archery ranges. This can be a whole new experience you and your date can try out together and the range is known to be flexible.
5. Gaviota Peak Hot Spring Hike
If you drive towards Santa Barbara and take Exit 132, you will find the Gaviota Peak and Campbell Trailhead where you can take your date on a one mile roundtrip hike that leads you to a hot spring you can swim in. Besides the need to watch out for poison oak, the trail is a very easy and a simple trip that allows you and your date to enjoy each other’s company and the scenery.
6. Tri Tip Challenge
When you’re up for a more adventurous date, you can take on the Tri Tip Challenge. This consists of three individual hikes to the three main peaks in San Luis Obispo: The Cal Poly “P”, Bishop’s Peak, and Madonna Mountain. All three trails are easy to reach from Cal Poly’s campus with Bishop’s and Madonna being quick, short drives away and the “P” being on campus behind the Sierra Madre dorms. Each provides a spectacular view of San Luis Obispo and sometimes the ocean. After reaching the top of each mountain, treat your date to a classic tri-tip sandwich at Firestone Grill to complete the challenge. Tackling this task together will make the date one to always remember.
7. Avila barn
“The best memories are made on the farm.” At Avila Barn, you and your date can ride the tractor out to the berry patches and fruit orchards to pick some treats yourselves. There are also farm animals you can pet and feed, such as baby calves, goats and miniature ponies. During the fall, you can also visit their annual pumpkin patch and have a pumpkin carving contest with your date.
8. Hammock at Montaña del Oro State Park
While students aren’t allowed to use hammocks on Cal Poly’s campus, there are plenty of areas around the school with perfect spots to “hang” out, such as Montaña del Oro State Park. Spending some time in a hammock is a great way to relax, and turning it into a date makes for a fun and unique way to talk and get to know each other while taking in the views of MDO.
9. Pismo Beach
A day at the beach is a failure-proof date idea, especially when you have a place like Pismo Beach only 15 minutes away from campus. Not only is it a great beach to swim in and lounge on, but there are also some food spots that will instantly make your date even more fun. The Steaming Bean is a small coffee shop on Shell Beach Road and from making your own grilled cheese sandwich to trying their unique drinks such as the “Milky Way”, you and your date are sure to enjoy the shop. It may even become a favorite place for the two of you to return to together.
10. Morro Bay
Cal Poly students seem to overlook this exciting spot, thinking it’s too far away to visit. However, it is only a 15 minute drive from campus and contains countless forms of easy entertainment. Head over in the morning to share some high-quality pancakes at Dorn’s Restaurant with your date and then take a walk down the main street along the bay. The local shops vary greatly from The Garden Gallery to Sea Shore Candy Co, making it easy to lose track of time while enjoying the area. You and your date can also rent kayaks and paddle out to the famous Morro Rock where you’re likely to run into some otters and seals.
11. Slo-Op Climbing
You don’t need to be a pro to have a blast on this date. Slo-Op Climbing is a bouldering gym that offers full day passes for just $12. As long as you wear comfy, athletic clothes, you and your date are ready to climb. While there are classes you can sign up for ahead of time or drop into when you’re there, you are also free to test out climbing all on your own. Whether you or your date have climbing experience or not, the two of you will have plenty of fun attempting it together.
12. Line dancing
It is nearly impossible to attend Cal Poly and not be told at least once that you must (it is a must) go line dancing at The Graduate. Whether you have been line dancing your entire life or you don’t even know how to do a Grapevine, you can have endless amounts of fun figuring out the dances with your date. The Graduate is a nightclub only 10 minutes away from Cal Poly’s campus and entrance costs $10 for those 18-20 years old, and $5 for 21+ year olds.
13. Blades On Ice
Ice skating is inevitably a good time regardless of your relationship with your date, although it does prove to be an especially good icebreaker for a first date. Located in Atascadero, Blades on Ice allows you and your date to glide gracefully (or ungracefully) across the ice together. Tickets cost $12 to enjoy the rink while music plays and lights bring color to the ice. There is also a concession stand and arcade games for when you and your date need a break from all the skating.
14. Art After Dark
Art is displayed on the first Friday of every month from 6-9pm in the downtown area. This is a part of Art After Dark. There are more than 20 galleries and venues and it is completely free, meaning this event is a great and easy way to see inspiring art pieces right near Cal Poly’s campus with your date. While downtown, the two of you can also get dinner along the way.
15. Bike Night
On the first Thursday of every month take your date on a fun bike ride! Great amounts of people from all around the community meet at the Mission Plaza at 9:30 pm. They dress up for the designated theme and proceed to bike their way through the streets. This is a great way to have some fun with your date while exploring San Luis Obispo.