Let’s face it, in this economy paying our own way is is pretty expensive. Add in another person, it can get pretty pricey just to go on the most basic of dates.  But it's Spring (even if it doesn't seem that way), and love is supposed to be in the air.  Here are some great not-so-expensive springtime dates.

1. Take some time to enjoy nature. This week (April 16-24, 2011) is National Park Week.  Admission to the 394 national parks are free (this week only).  Even beyond National Park Week, the parks are a great way to hang out without breaking the bank.  Daily admissions are usually under $10, and annual passes are a steal, generally.  Go for a hike, hang out at the beach, spend some time taking in nature and enjoying each others' company.

West Michigan has some fantastic State Parks for you to take advantage of including PJ Hoffmaster in Muskegon, Holland State Park and Grand Haven State Park. 

2. Take me out to the ball game! I’m not the biggest sports fan, except when it comes to baseball.  There is something to be said about a great baseball game.  Of course we have the Major leagues.  But are you up for something different?  Try a minor league game.  Tickets are cheaper, food and beverages are usually cheaper, and the between-inning entertainment is great for the non-sports lovers out there.

In West Michigan?  The West Michigan Whitecaps offer ‘Thrifty Thursday’ games with $1 hot dogs and $2 beers.  You can see their full schedule of games and entertainment here.

3. Stay local while getting tropical. This time of year, there is no balance between winter and summer temps. It can be eighty degrees one day and thirty the next.  While most of us would love a tropical vacation, there is an option closer to home; the local botanical gardens.  These indoor gardens offer not only tropical plants, but also tropical temps.  As an added bonus, this time of year many gardens also house butterfly exhibits.

Check out the Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids.  (Don’t miss the outdoor sculpture park too!)

4. Plan a picnic. Whether it’s the small park in town, the county park in the backwoods, or the not warm enough to swim at beach, there are few things more romantic than a picnic.

Tip: Some beaches and parks don’t allow alcohol.  But, let’s face it, wine is a picnic must have!  Plan ahead and pack your own pitcher of ‘juice’.

Need some inspiration? Check out this site completely dedicated to picnicking.

5. Take a walk on the Wild Side.  Remember your trips to the zoo as a kid?  Well no one ever said that adults can’t enjoy the zoo as well. (In fact, the first time I ever went to the zoo was as an adult.)

The John Ball Park Zoo is a great way to spend a day together. Especially if it's a nice day out. You can wander around and check out the animals while chit-chatting and holding hands (Awwwww).

If you're willing to make a bit of a drive, the Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek is a great place to check out as well.


What are your favorite low-cost dates?