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Best ideas for almost-free dates in and around Salt Lake City

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A candlelit dinner, fancy attire and a high-class opera venue may seem like the perfect date, until the thought of paying off that credit card bill sends you running for the hills instead. However, you don’t have to spend money to have a great night out on the town. For the history buffs and outdoor enthusiasts alike, the Salt Lake City metro area offers plenty of date night options that don’t include swiping a card.

Here are several free (or nearly free) date ideas for in and around Salt Lake City.

Take a chocolate tour

This should be the most popular daytime weekday date in town! Mrs. Cavanaugh’s offers  chocolate factory tours Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The tour takes about 45 minutes and costs $5 per person and the price includes chocolate and ice cream sampling. Also, $4 of the cost is redeemable at the end of your tour to purchase chocolates. Credit expires the same day as the tour and can only be used at the North Salt Lake factory. 

Call (801) 677-8888 to set up an appointment.

Visit famous Utah people

One sure way to impress a date is to introduce them to some of Utah’s most famous movers and shakers. This is more of a virtual introduction because you won’t actually have a face-to-face meeting. You’re going to visit the Salt Lake City Cemetery where you can see the gravesites of former political, religious and business leaders.

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As examples, some of the people buried there include Old West lawman and bodyguard Porter Rockwell, outlaw “Jack” Slade, who was buried in a coffin filled with alcohol, Hiram Bebee, who claimed to be the Sundance Kid, and many other prominent Utah figures. 

See the stars

Admission to the Clark Planetarium exhibits is always free (but be aware that there is a charge for The Hansen Dome and IMAX theaters). Make it even easier for your date and you and take the TRAX (also free in the downtown area) to the Planetarium Stop, which is located right outside the Planetarium’s front door.

On Wednesday nights, you can go to the South Physics Observatory at the University of Utah for free. There you can see a 14-foot-diameter sky dome and peek through the telescope into the heavens.

Take a hike

With mountains surrounding nearly every part of the city, hiking is fun, free, easily accessible, and accommodates both the athlete and amateur alike. With a relatively easy (even in snow) and short trail, hiking Ensign Peak gives you a spectacular view of the city. When it’s a little warmer, the trail to Donut Falls is gorgeous — and also not too long. The waterfall at the end is worth the walk.

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Tap into history

From fine arts to airplanes, there are numerous free museums throughout the city. Roam the Utah Museum of Fine Arts on the first Wednesday and third Saturday of each month for free. There are always new exhibits of artwork from around the globe, which could spark interesting conversation with your date.

If your date is a war history buff or even an aviation enthusiast, exploring the history displayed at the Hill Aerospace Museum can be a fun way to spend an afternoon. Admission is always free.

In Utah County, the Springville Museum of Art is a fabulous (and free!) source of both local and national artwork. Coming up later in 2020 is an exhibit titled, Utah Women Making History. The artwork is traveling all over the state this year, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.

Enjoy a scenic drive

Grab some ice cream to go (or hot chocolate during the winter months) and enjoy a scenic drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon. Once you make it to the top, you can walk around and take in the natural beauty of Utah’s mountains. In the winter you might need chains or all-wheel-drive to drive up the canyon, so make sure to check conditions before you leave.

In the summer, Guardsman Pass Scenic Byway is a beautiful drive into Park City from Big Cottonwood Canyon. During most winter months this drive is not open due to snow and dangerous conditions.

Walk the town

The hustle and bustle of the city can be exciting, and Salt Lake City is no stranger to beautiful sites such as the Cathedral of the Madeleine or the Utah Governor’s Mansion. Take your date and go at your own pace on a self-guided tour of the city. You’ll find many local eateries and places to stop in for a bite if you get hungry. There are also plenty of Instagram-worthy spots to stop and snap a few pictures.

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Play at the park

Salt Lake Valley is home to more than 145 parks. Liberty Park, the city’s second-largest public park (80 acres), features walking, running and biking paths, a swimming pool, paddle boats, tennis and volleyball courts and picnic facilities. Admission is free, though there is a small fee to use some of the sporting facilities.

Sugar House Park offers a variety of sports such as basketball, bocce ball, baseball, volleyball, horseshoes and a sports field (good for group or single dates). Bring your own picnic and blanket and enjoy the fresh breeze by its beautiful, large pond (or bundle up and bring a sled in the winter).

Memory Grove, a lush and elegant park, includes a scenic bridge, a U.S. veterans memorial, a replica of the Liberty Bell and walking and jogging paths. If you want a quiet evening stroll in a beautiful setting, you’ll enjoy this secluded little park.

In Murray, you can find Wheeler Farm — a public farm with acres of beautiful land to walk through. You can also see some cute farm animals and even feed them (for an added fee). The park is free to enjoy.

Wander the gardens

Even though it’s winter, you can enjoy a romantic winter stroll through Red Butte Garden and regular admission is just half price through the end of February. Wintertime hours are daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Also lesser-known to even the locals is the Gilgal Sculpture Garden. Here you’ll find 12 original sculptures and more than 70 engraved stones. You can visit the garden any day of the week during their seasonal operating hours. Be sure to check their website before you make plans.

Going on dates is a meaningful way to connect with someone — if you plan the right date. No matter what activity you choose to do, make sure you carve out time to really get to know the other person. 

* Robert DeBry is retired from the practice of law