Thursday, August 18, 2022

Romanticizing East Lansing: Your guide to low-cost, creative summer dates

August 1, 2022
Illustration by Madison Echlin
Illustration by Madison Echlin —
Photo by Madison Echlin | The State News

Summer is the time in which our professional and academic lives typically slow down, allowing us to give a little more attention to our personal – and romantic – lives.

But if you're a college student on a budget, keeping your dating life fun and interesting isn't always a matter of whether or not you have the time – it can also be a matter of if you have the funds.

If you are living in the East Lansing area this summer or returning for the fall semester, here is a list of ideas to keep you and your significant other entertained without tapping into your tuition savings account.

Attend a free concert

If you or your partner love music, or just enjoy an upbeat, lively time, concerts can make for an exciting date night. However, concerts are typically reserved for a more special occasion because tickets can get pricey.

This summer, a couples concert outing can cost you nothing. The City of East Lansing will host six completely free shows each Friday from July 8 to Aug. 12, as apart of the Summer Concert Series. The concerts will take place in Ann Street Plaza and will start at 7 p.m.

“For the summer concert series, we highlight local and Michigan-based groups,” East Lansing Administrative Services Coordinator Justin Drwencke said. “We usually see approximately 200 people come by just for the concert.”

Explore art exhibits

Art exhibit visits are a great way to spark conversation between you and your date. 

Discussing the art allows you to catch a glimpse into their perspective of the world. East Lansing offers many free and low-cost opportunities to see artwork. 

The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum on MSU's campus is a popular attraction for visitors and locals alike. Open Thursday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., you can reserve your free tickets online.

The East Lansing Public Art Gallery is more of a hidden gem located on the second floor of the Hannah Community Center. Admission to the gallery is always free, and you can access it whenever the community center is open.

“The first Saturday of every month, there's an art gallery opening and there's snacks,” Art Festival and Arts Initiative Coordinator Heather Majano said. “You get to ask the artist some questions and check out their art.”

Majano said that the art gallery is small but impactful to the artists. Typically, she said, it’s an artist from the East Lansing area being featured and it’s their first showcase, so you and your date will be supporting new artists while having a fun time.

Shop at Farmer’s Markets

Farmer’s Market days can be a great way to enjoy a slow morning with your partner. Set the romantic scene by listening to feel-good ‘70s jams on your way to the market, and picking out a fun snack to try out together.

The East Lansing Farmer’s Market, or ELFM, will take place every Sunday until Oct. 30. You can shop at ELFM from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Valley Court Park. Every item sold by vendors at ELFM is 100% homegrown meaning that every item is made or grown locally in Michigan. There is also live music each week, to enjoy while you wander around the market.

"The goal is to create a safe space for all to enjoy," Farmer's Market Manager Karla Forrest-Hewitt said. "It provides access to local fresh food, it gives vendors a way to connect with customers. It gives the community a place to engage."

Farmer’s Markets do not have to be strictly a Sunday activity. Just outside of East Lansing, the Meridian Township Farmer’s Market is open on Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 1995 Central Park Drive in Okemos.

Go bookstore-hopping

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If you or your partner is a bookworm, you’re in luck, because there are several bookstores in the East Lansing area, waiting to be explored. Grab a latte from your favorite coffee shop and visit them all for a low-cost day of entertainment.

The Curious Book Shop, located at 307 E. Grand River Ave., has been a part of the East Lansing community for over 50 years. The shop is a three-story space that is filled with books. The shop offers fun specials like “blind dates,” where employees wrap a book in paper, concealing it’s cover, and allow you to choose a book based solely on a short synopsis that an employee writes.

Just a half-mile down the road lives The Archives Book Shop, Curious Book Shop’s companion store. This store is perfect for those that are more interested in antique or collectible books. The space is home to more than 60,000 books.

Schuler Books is an independent bookstore located just outside of East Lansing, at 1982 Grand River Ave. It’s a relatively larger store, and likely a better fit for those that want to explore more contemporary reads. The store also hosts various events, which can take your bookstore-hopping date to the next level.

New to the area is Hooked, a bookstore that doubles – triples? – as a coffee shop and wine bar. Here, you can explore a selection of books that is a bit different from other stores; they focus on keeping stock of books by MSU professors, Michigan-based writers and up-and-coming "indie-next" authors. And if the date is going well, you can stay for a drink on the patio.

If you’re feeling adventurous, introduce a fun game to your bookstore date: ask your partner to pick out a book that they think you would enjoy, and refrain from peeking at their choice until you get home.

Try out a new sport or exercise

There are many opportunities to get active around East Lansing, and many of these options are free.

Yoga State has partnered with downtown East Lansing to offer Yoga On Albert, a free outdoor yoga class, three times per week this summer. The classes take place on Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday on the corner of Albert Avenue and Grove Street, in the Albert El Fresco space.

Practicing yoga with your partner is a good opportunity to try something new and there are also several effects that could benefit your relationship. Yoga is known to positively impact your mood by producing endorphins and decreasing anxiety.

Dating doesn't always have to be expensive or stressful. Hopefully, this list helps you get creative and turn up the romance this summer!

This story is part of our 2022 mail-home print issue. Read the entire issue here.

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