FREE Phoenix Date Ideas (You've Probably Never Heard Of)
Your local Phoenix Event Oracle is on track with fun, free things for you and that special someone to do right here in Phoenix. While Phoenix is known for its sprawling fancy suburbs, not everything in Phoenix has to come with a high price tag. Whether you're on a budget or want to try something that isn't a "typical" Phoenix tourist trap, the all-knowing Oracle has just what you're looking for. It can be difficult to find affordable date options. This hotter than a cat on a hot tin roof town truly has a lot to offer, from high-end dining and shopping, fun outdoor adventures, and even some hidden treasures that you'll only know if you're a local (or are fortunate enough to be favored by my crystal ball). If you live in the area or are heading to town for a short visit, here are the best FREE Phoenix date ideas that you should check out while there. Or if you need to know what is going on today in Phoenix, visit the Best Things to do in Phoenix Today.
First Fridays Art Walk
The Artlink's First Friday Artwalk is a great way to spend an evening once a month on the. . .you guessed it. . .first Friday of the month. Galleries and cultural centers are open for free to the public, as well as areas such as Roosevelt Row where you'll find street vendors selling all manor of things. If you really want to get serious and find out about specific exhibitions and art happenings during the event, you can sign up for Artlink's newsletter on their website, which will keep you informed.
But downtown Phoenix is so big you say. Well the Oracle happens to have the answer to that dilemma. There's a free trolley that runs especially for First Friday Artwalk. Park your car at any of the three hubs, and take the free trolley. Or ride the cities light rail system (which unfortunately isn't free), which takes you through the heart of the city. It is all very easy really, and with Phoenix's famous good weather, it's sure to be a great evening that also doesn't break the bank.
Find Yourself a Food Truck for Lunch or Dinner
OK, this isn't exactly free, but when you consider the alternative of a dinner out in a fancy restaurant, you'll find the bill at your favorite food truck to be considerably less. And you never know. . . the food might actually be better! There's actually a Phoenix Street Food Coalition whose website has a list of tons of Phoenix area trucks, along with website and facebook links for each truck. The Coalition also has a facebook page where they often list where certain trucks are on any give day. Got a favorite truck? This might be the place where you can track down where they are in case you have a hankering for that extra special Sonoran Dog or your favorite Asian Street Fusion fare.
It's fun to go through the list of trucks, pick out one you haven't tried and track 'em down for a special lunch or dinner treat. Or check out Food Truck Friday at the Phoenix Public Market. There you'll find seven or eight different trucks for your noshing pleasure.
Phoenix Public Libraries
Libraries are for everyone and they most certainly aren't just about books anymore. Sure you need a library card to take out items like books, music or videos, but there are so many different events, classes and art exhibits that you can attend even without a card. The Oracle does suggest however that you register in advance for those events where attendance is limited. With 17 different libraries spread across the Valley, you'll be certain to find one near you, so something fun and interesting is never far away. There are a lot of events and programs especially geared towards kids, teens and even babies! There are ever changing art exhibits, special events and book clubs, book discussions and lectures.
Need help with your career? Or computers and technology? Or maybe your internet is down and you just need to jump on a computer for free. They have all that too. There really is a wide range of classes, free events and services to be found all around the Valley at the Phoenix Public Libraries.
Splashpads for Cooling Off Fun
Everyone knows that Phoenix is one of those cities that gets so hot, that you really can fry an egg on the hood of a car. And it isn't really possible to keep kids inside all summer long, even if hanging out in the air conditioning is exactly what you want to do. That's where Phoenix's numerous Splashpads come in. There are several parks dotted around the city that have splashpads for your kids (or you) to play in. Nine to be exact. What exactly is a splashpad you ask? Imagine water squirting out of all kinds of fun and interactive spouts, that are safe for your kids to run through, get wet and get cool in. Bring along some towels, cool drinks, sunglasses and a hat, and plenty of chemical free sunscreen and you are all set for some wet and wild fun.
The Phoenix Parks and Recreation site lists the following parks as having splashpads: Altadena, Civic Space, Dust Devil, Edison, Francisco Highland, Mountain Vista, Nuestro, Pecos and Trailside Point parks. They operate from the last Saturday of May through October 1st. Here are some tips to remember when bringing your kids to a splashpad. First, let your kids know that even if they are thirsty, they shouldn't drink the water from the nozzles, which means you should also bring lots of water for them to drink. Make sure all the kids are playing nicely with each other by keeping an eye on them. As mentioned earlier, bring lots of chemical free sunscreen and reapply often. And if your little ones are still in nappies, then be sure to change them immediately if they are soiled. And last but not least, don't be afraid to get a little wet yourself. After all. . .five minutes in the Arizona sun and your clothes will be dry! For another kid friendly idea that includes water (the frozen kind), try cooling off at the Arcadia Ice Arena where they have public skates, lessons and more.
Visit the St. Mary's Basilica
Even if you aren't a Catholic, you might appreciate the history and beauty of the Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (or St. Mary's Basilica for short). We don't think twice about going to a beautiful church in Paris or Rome, but forget about the ones right here in our own cities. Sitting at the corner of Third St. and Monroe, it is a peaceful oasis of color and beauty found in the middle of a fast-paced modern city. Founded in 1881 and rebuilt starting in 1903, this is the 2nd oldest church in Phoenix. The rebuild took place in two phases starting with the basement in 1903, and finishing with the upper church in 1913. It was done in the mission revival style, with the interior being Romanesque. The church was declared a minor basilica in 1985 by His Holiness Pope Saint John Paul II, who visited in 1987
But what's so special about this church you say? Well for starters it has some really wonderful stained glass windows done in the German or Munich style, which involves detailed painting on larger plates of glass. Also while at the church you might be blessed to hear the 80 year old bells ring, as they were lovingly restored in 2006. You may be imagining something like the Hunchback of Notre Dame pulling like crazy on the ropes each day to make them ring, but today they are simply set to a timer. Maybe you will be blessed to hear the pipe organ or simply take a stroll in the garden. Even if you never go in the church itself, you will find four wonderful bronze statues in the garden along with a soothing fountain. Three of the statues are done by Michael Myers from Prescott. There is Mother Theresa, St. Francis of Assisi and Pope John Paul II. A fourth bronze statue by Gary Lee Price is called Circle of Peace. Children play and laugh in a circle, holding hands and sending us a message of hope, peace and joy. And one last reason to visit the church. . . a really sweet gift shop. The Southwest is no stranger to religious iconography, and this little shop has some really wonderful Catholic inspired artwork done by local Arizona artists.
This unique geological feature is located in Papago Park which is just minutes from downtown Phoenix. Papago park is host to two major Phoenix attractions, the Phoenix Zoo and the Desert Botanical Gardens. The park range contains several sandstone buttes rising and falling throughout the landscape. Hole-in-the-Rock butte is just one of the natural phenomenon in the area. Because it is sandstone, and sandstone is a relatively soft rock, this rock has. . .you guessed it. . . a huge hole in it. You might even say it is natures picture frame, as the view out from the hole itself is rather picturesque, showcasing the city of Phoenix. It is a super fun place to take some great photos or selfies.
You can get there by going to the Papago Park visitor's center parking lot. From there you will find the Hole-in-the-Rock trail. It is a relatively easy hike of maybe only 10 or 20 minutes, depending on how fast you walk. This is one of those fun, easy places to take kids too as it is not too strenuous or long. Just remember that the park has a ban on dogs on the trails once the temperature reaches triple digits. Once you arrive at the butte you will be met by an interesting chamber like space in the rock towards the top of the butte. But what is even better is on the back facing wall of this rather large chamber is a hole right through the rock. The path up to the chamber is a pretty easy climb. Of course it is a popular place, so expect there to usually be others there and at times it can even get crowded. Of course even a short walk in the heat can have you hankering for a cool drink with a seaside vibe, so the Oracle recommends the nearby Salt Cellar Restaurant for a late afternoon libation and some wonderful seafood appetizers.
Desert Botanical Gardens
Before you start fussing over the fact that in fact the gardens has quite a hefty fee on most days, there is one day a month you can visit the gardens for free all day long. That day is the 2nd Tuesday of every month and is worth marking your calendar for, as the gardens is a world class destination with over 140 acres of desert landscape. Also, children under three and members are free, along with free general admission for active military personnel with valid government ID. No matter when you decide to go however, remember this is desert landscape so be smart when its hot out and bring a hat, water, sunscreen and sturdy walking shoes. Oh, and don't forget your camera as well!
The gardens is well known for its exhibits and events. Outdoor art exhibits often help bring the garden to life with things like sculpture and light. Or come for one of their special events, including musical, food and family related fun. If you do decide to visit on a free 2nd Tuesday you can choose to spend all the money you saved on the entrance fee at their patio cafe, fine dining restaurant or gift shop.
Ballet Under the Stars presented by Ballet Arizona
This amazing program of free ballet performances happens once a year in September. Catch one of several performances around the Valley at several unique outdoor settings and parks. They dance pieces from classical to contemporary and it is the perfect opportunity to expose your children or even yourself for the first time to this timeless dance form. There is no assigned seating, or any seats at all at these performances. Bring a blanket or lawn chair with you. The weather is generally perfect at this time of year, so there won't be any worry about rain (or snow for that matter).
The performances usually span a four day period with events happening at four different locations. That means if you just loved it and can't get enough, then you can potentially catch the show a 2nd or even 3rd time... all for free!
Phoenix Art Museum
The Phoenix Art Museum has what they call "Voluntary-Donation Admission" times scattered throughout the month. This is a pay waht you can type of offer for general admission that is very much worth taking advantage of. The times are: Wednesdays from 3 pm–9 pm, First Fridays from 6 pm–10 pm and Second Sundays from noon–5 pm. This means that there is a time that works for almost everyone when they can go to the museum for a pittance. After all, art should be for everyone. Add to that a program offering military personnel and their families free general admission, including veterans and you have some great opportunities for everyone in the community to experience great art. Keep in mind that voluntary-donation dates do not include special exhibitions.
The museum has three floors of exhibits. It is always good to check online first to see if certain exhibits or galleries might be closed, as it is rather frustrating to look forward to seeing your favorite piece only to find out it is off limits at the time. Still there is always something inspiring or interesting to see at the Phoenix Art Museum.
Marvel at the Carnival of Illusion
We admit it, this one isn't free. It is one of our favorite date spots though and if you haven't heard of it, you're in for an evening of magic that will leave you and your date looking at each other and saying, "how did they do that?" The Carnival of Illusion is a vaudeville style magic show that will keep you on the edge of your seat – and maybe holding your date's hand – for the duration. They will certainly have you mesmerized, laughing and even participating in the show, making this is a great evening for special nights out like birthdays, anniversaries, date nights, and celebrations.
Shows are on select Friday and Saturdays at three favorite Valley locations, the Arizona Biltmore Resort, the Tempe Center for the Arts, and the Mesa Arts Center. Each of these locations has something special (and FREE) to offer if you decide to arrive early for the show. Both the Mesa Arts Center and The Tempe Center for the Arts have art gallery spaces to wander through and admire. Or spend some time admiring the award winning architecture at the Mesa Arts Center. And for an architectural journey back in time, The Arizona Biltmore Resort is worth a walk around to admire the Frank Lloyd Wright inspired design. The Oracle knows that Carnival of Illusion is more than a Great Magic Show. It's the only place to experience Magic, Mystery, and OOOH La La!
These are just a few of the many fantastic date options that you'll see here in Phoenix. It can be tough to find a free date idea that's fun, entertaining, and romantic, but free dates can very well be some of the most memorable ones. You don't have to spend a lot of money to have a great time in Phoenix, and as you can see, there's something that's fun (and free!) for everyone - the Oracle sees one of these exciting date ideas in your near future.
We'll look deep into our crystal ball for any additional free date ideas for future posts - if you have any suggestions or recommendations for unique date ideas that are free or inexpensive in Phoenix, be sure to let us know!