11 Free and Cheap Date Ideas to Try in Long Island City

| © Vladimir Kudinov / Unsplash
Julia Goicochea

For couples on a budget, Long Island City is rich in free and cheap date ideas. From an intimate museum to a casual comedy club, this Queens mini-city with a neighborhood feel is where affordable romance lives. Whether it’s a first date or the fiftieth, save money and energy with our guide to Long Island City’s best budget dates.

Catch a cheap comedy show

Nightly comedy shows and a menu of Mexican staples make The Creek and the Cave a good casual date spot. Evenings here feature three to five free performances, plus drink specials like “Sangria Sundays” ($3 a glass) and “Margarita Mondays” ($4). With drinks this affordable, patrons are guaranteed a good time – even if they’d prefer the “open mic” had stayed closed.

MoMA PS1 Warm Up

When contemplating where to take your summer crush, this outdoor dance party series is a no-brainer. Warm Up at MoMA PS1 is a Long Island City tradition thanks to its low cover ($18 in advance), eclectic line-up of live performers, and unique setting: the world-famous Museum of Modern Art’s Queens location.

Share drinks at a local brewery

Impress a beer-buff date with a trip to LIC Beer Project. On Wednesdays through Sundays, the taproom here is the best place to sample the freshest beers in Queens, made at their on-site brewery. Free popcorn and entertainment, including a photo booth and board games, keep the night low-cost.

Long Island City Kleaners

Window-shopping is free at Long Island City Kleaners, a beloved local space functioning as a boutique, gallery, and design studio. Have fun perusing the eclectic streetwear stock, which includes vintage dead-stock snapbacks, street photography books, and tees emblazoned with the word “LICK,” the store’s self-given tongue-in-cheek nickname. If visitors are inclined to make a purchase, the store’s sale section is known to feature half-priced T-shirts.

Gantry Plaza State Park

Manhattan skyline views and 12 acres of romantic piers and waterfront seating make Gantry Plaza State Park a favorite of Queens couples. Pack a picnic (homemade treats save money and earn you points), watch animals in the park’s dog run, or stroll hand in hand along the city’s East River. If the date’s going well, walk on to Hunters Point South Park, which recently unveiled a $100-million extension.

The Noguchi Museum

This under-the-radar museum will feel like a shared secret between couples. With its reflective outdoor sculpture garden and nearly 100-year-old building, the Noguchi Museum inspires intimacy – and thoughtful conversations on Isamu Noguchi’s art in the museum’s cafe.

Have a coffee date at Sweetleaf

A coffee date is always a safe bet for new courtships, and Sweetleaf has perfected the staple. The local chain’s original Long Island City location is set in a 19th-century building and features antiques from Paris, its original tin ceiling, and a record room. In other words, it has everything one needs to turn a casual coffee date into a romantic escape.

Have a photoshoot at Socrates Sculpture Park

For this free, artsy date, all would-be models will need is a camera phone and a signature pose. Socrates Sculpture Park, a former abandoned landfill and illegal dumpsite turned renowned open-air museum, makes for a unique date locale thanks to a rotating sculpture collection set against New York’s waterfront. Admire the art, much of which was built on-site, and give it some competition, when you indulge your creative sides by taking turns posing and photographing.

Casa Enrique

For budget eaters, Casa Enrique may provide the only opportunity to dine at a Michelin-starred restaurant. New York City’s only Michelin-rated Mexican eatery serves brunch, lunch, and dinner at fair prices. That means, couples can afford to order the guacamole, chicken enchiladas in salsa verde, pastor tacos, and the pastel tres leches to split.

Take the NYC Ferry

For the cost-conscious couple, a romantic cruise around New York City is still in reach. Join the NYC Ferry on its Astoria route at Long Island City Gantry Plaza to ride the waves of the East River and take in views from the deck of famous Midtown Manhattan and the Wall Street area. Did we mention this glamorous voyage is only $2.75 a ride?

LIC Flea and Food

From June through October, for one weekend each month, Long Island City is the coolest place to be in New York. The popular LIC Flea and Food boasts a beer garden pouring local craft brews, international food vendors, and curated vintage for shoppers. Schedule a date in advance to be able to share the event’s “donnolis,” liquid nitrogen ice cream, and other concoctions.

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