Listen. I’m guilty as charged here but if one more Charlotte publication tells me to go on a date at Airport Overlook I will implode. It’s time for us to stop saying this. If a gravel lot overlooking a barbed wire fence doesn’t do it for you either, I’ve got a few upgraded suggestions that I think will spark chemistry instead of concerns that you’re about to inspire an episode of SVU.
Free & Cheap Dates
Low-pressure, budget-friendly experiences (many involving cheese) that are ideal for first dates
Hit up a free cookout at Sunday Funday at NoDa Company Store – They dish out free community lunch every Sunday with rotating cookout menus featuring hot dogs, burgers and even tacos. Spend your reserve food money on their house sangria instead.
Get $6 cheese plates every Wednesday at Craft Tasting Room – We will never stop talking about this deal because it’s a real gem. Details. Bonus: They show free outdoor movies on the patio every Friday during the warm weather months.
Cheer on the Knights at BB&T Ballpark – Or, you know, stand around and drink like you’re at a big outdoor bar like everyone else. Tickets start at $12. Don’t forget Thirsty Thursday features $3 domestic drafts, $5 craft drafts and $1 small sodas.
Catch a free outdoor music series – Check out Party in the Park (6-9 p.m. every other Wednesday May 15 – September 18) at Romare Bearden Park, Alive After Five (5-8:30 p.m. every Thursday through September 12) at the EpiCentre, Music at the Met (5:30-8 p.m. every Wednesday April 25 to June 13) at The Metropolitan, Whitewater RiverJam (7-10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday May 2 to September 28) at USNWC and The Music Yard (2019 dates TBD) at SouthBound.
Enjoy an entire plate of melted cheese at Raclette Night at Orrman’s Cheese Shop – Cheese, y’all. Raclette, a wheel of semi-hard cheese that’s fired under a broiler, is scraped onto a plate of potatoes, baguette, cornichons and charcuterie. The event takes place every Thursday 4-8 p.m. at their cheese counter in 7th Street Public Market. Details.
Experiential and Adventure Dates
Get out of your comfort zone and try something new with these hands-on, immersive adventures
Take a helicopter tour with Heliventures – Choose from Uptown, Lake Norman, Charlotte Motor Speedway (romantic) or sunset tours. All 30-minute experiences are $299 for up to three people (but hey, pro tip: it should just be the two of you).
Scale climbing walls at Inner Peaks – This is one of those Bachelor-worthy adventure dates dripping in metaphors about reaching new heights together. Plus, nothing says trust like anchoring the end of the rope that will catch your partner’s fall. First timer packages start at $28 including your day pass and equipment rental.
Learn to cook together at Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen – Preparing a meal is a great way to test chemistry but maybe you don’t want your roommate hovering around asking for leftovers. I present to you an upgraded off-site kitchen alternative. They offer group classes on everything from basic knife skills to sushi making. Classes are usually priced $65 to $85 and sell out fast so be sure to book well in advance.
Explore the U.S. National Whitewater Center – It’s free to access the 1,300-acre facility ($5 to park) where you’ll find 40+ miles of trails and regular live music and entertainment programming. If you want to participate in the adventure activities — including whitewater rafting, ziplining, kayaking and more — buy a $59 day pass.
Tube the Catawba River with Rockin’ River Adventures – You’ll float 3 miles from the Lake Wylie Dam to River Walk on a 2- to 3-hour excursion that includes shuttle service, a tube with a headrest, two cup holders and a life jacket. It’s $20 per tube and an extra $5 if you want a floating cooler for your BYO adult beverages.
Go hiking – Everyone claims hiking as an interest in their dating app bios. Put it to the test and see if they keep that same energy when you get to those steep stairs right before the summit at Crowders Mountain. Crowders is definitely your no-fail classic, convenient Charlotte hike but we’ve got more hiking suggestions if you want to mix it up.
Throw axes at Axe Club of America – Ah yes, the timeless tale of two young lovers hurling axes at a target to win each other’s praise and affection. It’s a fun, out-of-the-box activity where it’s unlikely either partner has previous experience so you can learn together. Hourly rates are $20/person at their Plaza Midwood and LoSo locations.
Take a cocktail class with Liberate Your Palate – Bypass the bar scene and learn to make your own drinks. Classes are usually $70-$85/person and include three full cocktails.
Dinner & Drinks Dates
No-fail combos for two-part dates when you’re not ready to go home yet
Dot Dot Dot and Flour Shop – You can always expect a wait at chef Trey Wilson’s intimate, no-reservations restaurant Flour Shop, but pros know to fill the down time with cocktails at Dot Dot Dot, a basement speakeasy in an old storage unit under Park Road Shopping Center (and the #1 cocktail bar in the city). Both are located in the shopping center’s Back Lot. It sounds counterintuitive but you should aim for a bar seat at Flour Shop so you can catch all the pasta-making action up close in the wide open kitchen.
The Crunkleton and The Stanley – This no-brainer combo on the corner of 7th and Pecan is the ultimate Elizabeth date night. Make a reservation at The Stanley, chef Paul Verica’s James Beard-nominated restaurant, and then cap off the night with after-dinner drinks at The Crunkleton.
Idlewild and Haberdish – Haberdish, NoDa’s hottest restaurant, has a renowned craft cocktail program of its own, but when you’re done with your Southern feast and ready to transition to a second destination, the place to be is definitely Idlewild, an intimate, members-only craft cocktail lounge where all the drinks are made custom to your preferences. Seriously, they don’t have a menu.
RuRu’s and Stagioni – A historic Tuscan-inspired villa in Myers Park is home to two hidden restaurants that make for a home run two-part date night. Start with margaritas on the gorgeous courtyard patio at RuRu’s before dinner reservations at Stagioni, an intimate Italian restaurant.
Barcelona Wine Bar and Superica – The buzzy new restaurants in South End’s Design Center are slammed at all hours so strategize your wait time with stops at both. You’re doing Spanish-inspired tapas and wine at Barcelona and trendy Tex-Mex at Superica. Pick your poison. Be cute and get ice cream at Jeni’s afterwards. Ugh, I hate you guys.
Dilworth Tasting Room and Zeppelin – Kick off the night with wine and cheese on the enchanting patio at Dilworth Tasting Room. It drips ambience with twinkling string lights and a fountain. From there, head just down the street to Zeppelin for on-trend craft cocktails and small plates.
Hello, Sailor and Kindred – Fire up your Lyft app and commit to a long commute north for waterside tiki cocktails at Hello, Sailor followed by dinner reservations at Kindred, the #1 best restaurant in the region. It’s worth the drive (or ride if you’re drinking).
6 more mandatory romantic date spots: Head to Soul Gastrolounge, a Plaza Midwood staple 10 years running, when you’ve hit that comfortable, committed milestone; Bardo, Michael Noll’s hot new small plates restaurant, when you want to flex your insider culinary scene knowledge with an edgy, boundary-pushing dinner experience; Fig Tree, a fine-dining classic in Elizabeth’s historic Lucas house that’s ideal for celebrating special occasions (like *cough, cough* an engagement); Beef N Bottle, an old-school steakhouse that’s like a rite of passage for all committed Charlotte couples; Good Food, the OG small plates restaurant that was serving small plates before small plates were a thing; and La Belle Helene, the prettiest restaurant in the whole city.
Entertainment for a crowd when you’re coupled up enough to double, triple and quadruple date
Order the entire menu at Dandelion Market – The “Everything at the Market” includes all 32 dishes on the dinner menu for $295. I’d say you want 10-12 people to tackle it, so round up a hungry crew that’s not shy about sharing.
Act a fool in a private karaoke room at Seoul Food – They have four themed karaoke rooms (priced $30-$100/hour) that can accommodate 7 to 30 people so you can hand select the audience you think will be most receptive to your rendition of No Diggity.
Paddle across Lake Norman on a floating bar with Charlotte Cycleboats – Your personal floating bar is similar to the raucous trolley pub bikes you see on the streets around town except you’re floating on the water. BYO beer, wine and snacks (but no hard liquor allowed). Reserve the whole boat (accommodates 15 people) for $540 for 2 hours.
Go bowling at 10 Park Lanes – A retro classic. Nighttime lane rentals are $25-$35/hour + $5 shoe rental per person (max 6 people per lane).
High Roller Dates
Spend a day at the spa at The Ritz-Carlton – The 80-minute couples massage is $390 and you’ll get access to the entire facility, including the Aqua Lounge, relaxation room, fitness center and men’s and women’s Vitality Lounges with saunas, steam rooms and a Himalayan salt room. Take a look inside.
Experience the 5-course chef’s tasting at McNinch House – Charlotte’s only AAA Four Diamond restaurant is located in a historic Queen Anne style home in Fourth Ward. The intimate, romantic restaurant features three daily prix fixe menus priced $105 to $185 per person.
Looking for more date ideas? Check out 50 Charlotte date night ideas that clock in at $20 and under, 23 indoor date activities (relevant for when it’s too hot or too cold out), 12 most romantic restaurants and 13 most beautiful restaurants.