Okay, can we just start by agreeing that the words “cheap” and “budget” are sort of outdated pejoratives? Not that we’re not going to use them over and over again (precision of message and all that), but here’s what we believe: there’s no shame in frugality. Or in free! In fact, one of the most amazing things about Anaheim’s Center City is its urban appeal—it’s a vibrant cityscape of sights, sounds and sensations, all of which can be enjoyed by anyone. That makes it a pretty outstanding place for a cheap date.
For example, say you’re a foodie. On Thursdays, Downtown Anaheim’s Certified Farmers’ Market and Craft Fair takes over Center Street Promenade from 11am-4pm, with a mix of market stalls and food vendors. Then on Fridays, it’s the Farmers Park Market from 4pm-8pm, which features shopping and food, of course, but also free (yes!) yoga from 10-11am. Is the farmer’s market a great place for a cheap date? Um, are locally grown, farm-fresh tomatoes a taste of heaven? Of course. The trick to a fun, nearly-free farmers’ market date is to use it as an opening act of sorts. So plan ahead and bring a basket, maybe a blanket and a few utensils—enough to pull together a picnic and nosh al fresco on your edibles.
After eating, it’s time for a workout. The Frank Gehry-designed Anaheim Ice offers open skate sessions daily for $10, plus $3 for skate rental (Gehry’s eye-candy architecture is a bonus freebie). Under the rink’s undulating wooden curves you can make like a Duck (it’s the Anaheim Ducks NHL team’s training facility) showing off your speed work, or get in touch with your inner Michelle Kwan. Just remember that dating etiquette demands one thing: solidarity. So if one of you slips and goes down on the ice, make sure you both go down. It’s called bonding.
After that, drinks and maybe a few more nibbles may be in order. If you and your date are into vino, pop into Gypsy Den at the Center Street Promenade. The menu is as eclectic as the boho ambience, and the from-scratch fare pairs well with one of the vintages on offer at the winebar/coffeehouse/eatery. Or, if you’re a craft brew aficionado, head for The Iron Press, where “hoppy hour” from 3-6pm, Monday-Friday, features pours from $3-$4.50. The rotating selection of local beers on tap is truly impressive (check out taphunter for the latest line-up), and the $10 Bird in the Hand waffle cone—stuffed with buttermilk fried chicken and spicy slaw and served with jalapeno maple syrup—is a great cheap date dish, big enough for two to share and messy enough to inspire conspiratorial laughter (and maybe even a little finger licking). But if instead you’re into cocktails, head for the Packing House, and Hammer Workshop & Bar. It’s the spot to convene with the spirit world, thanks to inventive craft libations, many of which are based on fresh fruit elixirs that harken back to the locale’s roots as an orange-packing facility.
You’ll want to stay put at the Packing House to satisfy your sweet tooth and wind down your cheap date with dessert. Popbar has frozen gelato and sorbetto on a stick, which get dipped, drizzled and sprinkled to create your own hand-held pop art. Or Crêpe Coop has a wrap on French flair, using the thin, sweet Parisian pancakes to envelope fillings of hand-scooped ice cream, nuts, chocolate and fresh fruit. And finally, there’s Hans’ Homemade Ice Cream. Why is it the perfect cheap date spot? Because housemade flavors like lemon custard, root beer marble and wild mountain blackberry are chill enough to elicit brain freeze, but hip and hot enough to cement your bona fides as a cheap date impresario.
And that’s what budget dating at Anaheim’s Center City is all about.