Love doesn't have to cost a fortune

Dating is blissful and exciting, but sometimes tough on the pocketbook. With upscale movie theaters and dinner bills reaching new, wallet-exploding prices, daters’ bank accounts are groaning.

But who says love has to cost a fortune? There are a variety of choices around San Diego that are romantic, fun and won’t leave you stressed out and running numbers in your head when you should be making out.

Here are some of PACIFIC’s favorite options for free fun and romance.

Resident Free Tuesdays, Balboa Park

For a day of culture, hand-holding and sunshine strolling, head to the park any Tuesday of the month for free admission to designated museums. Check the schedule for which will be open for your love jaunt. Not available on a Tuesday? The Timken Museum, May S. Marcy Sculpture Garden, Botanical Building (with gorgeous orchids) and trails are always free and worthy of their own days in the park.

balboapark.org

Hike, bike or run

For athletic and outdoorsy types, the idea of a perfect date means getting out and breaking a sweat. With an endless selection of trails, including Cowles Mountain, Torrey Pines, Mission Trails Regional Park, and the thigh-busting Mount Woodson (also see 10 top hikes in San Diego or 10 more top hikes in San Diego), there is a heart-pumping free date out there waiting. Lovebirds taking on Woodson can get a photo on top of Potato Chip Rock for a keepsake memory.

Fiesta del Sol

Musical couples will love going coastal at this ever-popular and free music festival. Each spring, Solana Beach rocks out from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Fletcher Cove. For nearly 40 years, the Belly Up-sponsored event has featured a knockout lineup of musicians and food vendors. For an extra early morning date, don’t miss the annual pancake breakfast to support Solana Beach’s firefighters, from 7:30-10:30 a.m. For more information about this year’s event (which takes place May 19-20), including the music lineup, visit fiestadelsol.net.

TGIF Concerts in the Park

Every summer, music fans head up to Carlsbad for free music, dancing and fun. Running for more than 30 years, it’s a North county tradition not to miss. Held in parks around Carlsbad, the events feature live music, along with food vendors, art activities for all ages, and convenient shuttles to get music-lovers to and from the concert.

carlsbadca.gov

Ray at Night

For a cultured date night out on the town, head to North Park the second Saturday of every month from 6-10 p.m. for San Diego’s longest-running monthly art walk. Pop in and out of galleries, sway to live music and munch on local goodies for a memorable night in the neighborhood.

rayatnight.com

California Surf Museum

Okay, so it’s not completely free, but if $1 is too much for your pocket, you need to get out of the dating scene altogether. On the first Tuesday of every month, head north and soak in the SoCal surf culture with a museum dedicated to riding waves. Permanent exhibitions include a history of surfboards from wood to fiberglass, The Evolution of the Fin, and Body Surfing and Handplanes. The current exhibition is entitled Surfing During the Vietnam War.

312 Pier View Way, Oceanside, 760.721.6876, surfmuseum.org

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