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Ten Best: Cheap college dates

by Dave Roberts

Elm Street

On a Friday or Saturday night, Elm Street in downtown Greensboro is hopping with party people, most of whom have enough unconventional ideas about fashion to provoke hours of conversation. We suggest starting at Elsewhere Artist Collaborative, “an experimental museum sculpted from a former thrift store housing an immense collection of objects amassed by one woman from 1939-1997.” A visit is like roaming through the world’s largest junk closet, packed to the brim with old toys, games and clothes in freaky designs. It’ll bring out the child in the most stolid individual. Split a slice at Cheescakes by Alex, then walk it off with a stroll up to the new Center City Park, where the fountains in the moonlight will set the perfect mood.

Trade Street

A light meal and/or a drink at 6th and Vine, followed by a walk up Trade Street in Winston-Salem with frequent stops in the abundance of art galleries that have popped up, make for a classy evening all around. Depending on you and your date’s personalities, you can wax intellectual at the works of under-recognized genius or mock derisively the scribblings of con artists. Whichever tack you take will speak volumes about your levels of compatability.

North Carolina Zoo

Not recommended for the height of summer, a trip to the zoo is probably not the best first date material. For that second or third encounter, though, it can be a wonderful regression to lighter days of field trips and brown-bag lunches. To heighten the experience, pack a picnic and borrow a niece, nephew or friend’s kid. They’ll have a blast, their parents will owe you a favor and it’ll give you a genuine idea of your date’s long-term goals vis-a-vis parenting.

Bianca’s

No listing of any kind of dating locales, cheap or otherwise, could be complete without mentioning Bianca’s Italian Eatery, winner of more awards for value, ambience and romantic potential than we have room to list. Two three-course meals, including dessert, for under $30 makes it perfect for birthdays, hard-to-impress first dates or any kind of special occasion.

Grasshoppers/Warthogs Game

If you’re both sports fans (both of you, Casanova; nothing spells romantic doom like boredom) then an old-fashioned ballgame with players that aren’t making more money than you will ever earn in your life (and tickets that won’t threaten your rent payment this month) is a fun way to get the adrenaline going. Avoid Thirsty Thursdays, however, unless your idea of romance is being surrounded by sweaty drunks (and hey, if that’s your thing, no judgments).

Salsa lessons

Is there a sexier dance than the salsa? (By dance I mean anything that doesn’t involve dry-humping in public; not that there’s anything wrong with that.) If you and your date have two left feet, amend that condition and get the blood pumping at Artistika on Elm Street, Saturday nights at 8 p.m. For five bucks you get two hours of lessons and can stay the rest of the night to practice your moves without having to shell out the cover charge.

The park

You’re both in excellent shape. You’re both adrenaline junkies. You both spend obscene amounts of time working out. Show it off. Get into your most flattering/revealing workout wear and grab your bike and/or running shoes and work up a sweat. A pair of protein shakes and Gatorades qualifies it as a lunch date. If exercise isn’t so much your thing, exercise your taste buds instead by packing a picnic lunch and a Frisbee.

Pub crawl

This one’s more of a double-date/group activity, but what the hell, it’s still fun. Fourth Street in Winston-Salem is designed for pub crawls, according to our top ad guy, with eight places to drink in a half-mile radius. In Greensboro you have to be a little more creative, so start with College Hill at Spring Garden and Mendenhall streets, move down to New York Pizza, stroll across campus with a stop at Old Town Draught House for a fantastic selection of microbrews (and unless you’re all seasoned drinkers and/or Irish, a meal with plenty of starch), ending up at Corner Bar on Spring Garden and take advantage of the drink specials.

Museums

For the intellectually-minded lovers (more Heloise and Abelard than Romeo and Juliet) museums can be a fun way to spend the day impressing each other with your big, throbbing, sexy brains. In Greensboro there’s the Green Hill Center on Davie Street, the Natural Science Center on Lawndale and the Weatherspoon on the UNCG Campus. In Winston-Salem there’s the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art on Marguerite Drive, SciWorks on Hanes Mill Road, the Reynolda House and the Museum of Anthropology on the Wake Forest Campus. Remember, planetariums are prime make-out spots if you’re daring enough.

Your house

Let’s face it: This is where you’re hoping to end up anyway if all goes well. So cut out the middleman by preparing a meal together, doing a jigsaw puzzle, building a house of cards, fingerpainting, challenging each other at whichever board game you’re the universal masters of or whatever else might happen, as long as it’s fun and unconventional. Resist the urge to turn on the TV and have a number of activities planned. A bottle of wine doesn’t hurt either.

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