Love is in the air, but it doesn’t have to drain your wallet. Hidden gems and local flavor can help you plan a fun, inexpensive date with someone special.
1. ENJOY NATURE
Strolling through Concord’s local gardens and nature centers is a nice way to spend a few hours in a quiet, peaceful place. With colorful blooms and stunning scenery, you will connect with your date without the distraction of cell phones (although you may want to take a few selfies along the way). With so many California native plants and flowers in public parks, you may come up with a few ideas on how to start your own garden.
A few area gardens to consider?
Markham Nature Park & Arboretum is at La Vista Avenue in Concord. Enjoy 17 acres of natural scenery every season of the year. Admission is free.
Ruth Bancroft Garden & Nursery is on Bancroft Road in Walnut Creek, a short drive from Concord. The planted area of the garden is 3.5 acres, with a self-guided tour booklet to help you on your way. The entrance fee for adults is $10 each.
Mount Wanda/John Muir Nature Trail in Martinez offers nearly 3-miles of scenic views of rolling hills, the Bay, Mount Diablo, and the Carquinez Strait. You’ll even be able to catch a glimpse of Mount Tamalpais in Marin. Dogs and bicycles are allowed, and once again, it’s free.
The Gardens at Heather Farms is 6 acres on Marchbanks Drive in Walnut Creek. Admission is free.
2. TAKE A FOOD TOUR
Get to know your companion by the kinds of food they like:
Visit the Concord Taco Trail.
Try out the best burgers in the area.
The Concord Farmers’ Market is in downtown Todo Santos Plaza on Tuesdays. No entrance fees but many tasty treats to purchase and enjoy.
A specialty in Concord is a cheese-filled bread roll from Patty’s Cheese Zombies on Forestview Avenue. Grab a plain one for less than $3: Meat-filled zombies are under $6.
3. BEACH PICNIC
Sun, sunsets, and food equal romance in a simple and unobtrusive way. No cell phones or computer tablets -- only you, your date, a picnic basket, blanket, and a book of your favorite poems or lyrical compositions. Fill the basket with sandwiches, cured meats, cheeses, apples, breadsticks, nuts … anything you like. If you play the guitar, bring it along! (Bring some sunscreen too). You’ll find a handful of beaches within a 30-minute drive, including:
Benicia Public Pier & Beach - Dogs are welcome and allowed to swim. A 20-minute drive
Crown Memorial State Beach -No dogs allowed, but you’ll find barbecue grills in the park. A 30-minute drive
Contra Loma Swim Lagoon - There is a $4 swim fee in the Chlorinated Lagoon. A 30-minute drive. Dogs must be leashed in the park.
Alameda Beach - A great place to swim and picnic year-round, and it’s free. There’s a bathhouse for changing and picnic tables and barbecue pits. No dogs allowed. A 35-minute drive from Concord.
Martinez Waterfront - Picnic season lasts till the end of October, but you do need to reserve a spot online. The 150-acre park includes a marina and fishing pier.
4. BIKE AND HIKE
Planning a scenic tour is a sweet way to get to know each other while exploring the diverse culture of Concord. Before hitting the trail, be sure you’re both physically able to handle the trek, especially those who don’t bike or hike regularly. Map out the walk or bike ride, grab a GPS (in case you take a wrong turn), carry several bottles of water and a few energy bars.
Bike and hike trails in Concord include:
Iron Horse Trail (Multi-use trail runs 32 miles from Concord to Pleasanton)
Briones to Mt. Diablo Regional Trail from Acalanes Ridge to Mt. Diablo State Park.
Contra Costa Canal Trail -- a horseshoe-shaped path connecting to several local parks in the area.
Mt. Diablo -- a rigorous hilly terrain best experienced by mountain biking enthusiasts.
5. OUTDOOR EVENTS
The City of Concord offers plenty of free downtown events throughout the year. Check out the schedule for community concerts and shows. Tribute bands are a big draw these days. If you cannot afford tickets to see your favorite high-end bands (or if they’re no longer around), enjoy musical acts that look and sound like the real thing.
Concord Pavilion hosts Live Nation concerts from spring through fall. Catch top acts like Alanis Morissette, Maroon 5, TLC and Santana with Earth, Wind & Fire. Lawn tickets start at only $42.
Spending quality time together helps determine whether your personalities mesh for the long run. That’s what “dating” is all about! Simple, inexpensive activities are the first step to having fun and getting to know each other.
Written by Caroline Witts
Caroline Witts is a wedding planner and self-described matchmaker who prides herself on saving couples money wherever she can. At her wedding, her cousin caught the bouquet and was married six months later.