Lovers’ Lanes: 21 Valentine’s Day visitations on a budget
The initial meet-up with an online match can be intimidating. The Pitch is here to help with first-date suggestions that are free or inexpensive, public, and low-stakes to take the pressure off. Fun and—most importantly—safety are focal points of these spaces.
Laugh your asses off at Scarlett Jones’ one-woman show The Year of Sluttery
Enjoy an evening at the Black Box theater in the West Bottoms, laughing at Scarlett Jones’ story of self-discovery and sexual exploration, The Year of Sluttery. Described as “a journey of purposeful sluttery and joyful feminism,” the show offers self-deprecating humor and motivation to take claim of sexual agency. Jones navigates mid-life post-breakup, and her stories of sluttery are relatable and real. The Black Box will produce the show Thursday through Saturday of Valentine’s Day week, so you have a few chances to see it. Tickets can be purchased in advance online.
Get cultured at a First Friday art walk
On the first Friday of each month, you can take your date to view gallery showings, murals, and one-of-a-kind wares from art vendors in the Crossroads District (also home to several unique shops, restaurants, and a food truck plaza, if you’re searching for an affordable bite to eat on your date night, too). First Friday events often feature live music performances. With a night full of eclectic offerings, your date shouldn’t get bored.
Get in touch with nature at the arboretum and botanical gardens
Home to 14 different walkable gardens, including the international sculpture garden and the train garden, the botanical gardens in Overland Park provide a full day’s worth of exploration. Year-round, the gardens boast over 1,700 species of beautiful seasonal plants that attract various local insects and wildlife. Admission is only $3 per adult, but you can schedule a guided tour of the gardens for an additional $10 per person.
Imbibe over a board game at Pawn and Pint
Pawn and Pint is Kansas City’s only board game cafe and pub, launched from a Kickstarter campaign in 2016. Grab a drink and peruse the library of board games, from classics like Settlers of Catan to newer games like Battlesheep. Play an old favorite and bond over the nostalgia, or put their patience to the test by learning a new game together. The menu includes cocktails and beer, as well as coffee-based drinks.
Enjoy the scenery at City Market
Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., you can enjoy a walk through the farmers’ market at the City Market. Fresh local fares are offered at low prices, and many vendors at the market even accept SNAP/EBT. Offerings from vendors include fresh produce, dairy, and some booths even sell antiques, clothing, and collectibles. The market will offer a feast for your senses even if you don’t plan to purchase anything. Plus, City Market is located right on the Missouri River, so your weekend walk will come with beautiful scenery and a soundtrack provided by nature.
Start a friendly competition at Up-Down
Appeal to your date’s playful side at Up-Down, KC’s bar arcade in the heart of the Crossroads. With a menu of affordable craft beers and cocktails, plus a huge selection of vintage quarter-operated video games, this venue will surely provide a fun night for you and your new match. At Up-Down, you can also challenge each other in Nintendo 64 games, human-sized Jenga and Connect Four, and skeeball. If gaming and drinking stimulate your appetite, order an in-house pizza to share. Try not to judge your date on what toppings they pick.
Share a rooftop drink at Fountain Haus
Fountain Haus is an LGBTQ+ bar that offers delicious drinks and food at an affordable price. Attend the Boozical drag shows Monday nights at 8 p.m. or hang out on the rooftop for some fresh air. Grab a drink or two with your date and enjoy the different themed levels complete with their own DJs.
Toast to your new connection at Marco Polo Selections
Located in Waldo, just south of Downtown, Marco Polo Selections is a wine shop and tasting room offering free wine samples and a large selection of obscure vintages, both imported and domestic. If you fall in love with a particular pour, you can bring home a case. They offer indoor and outdoor seating, so pick your preferred environment to make a toast with your new beau. Reservations are required but can be made online.
Chill out at Midtown Kava
Midtown Kava is a CBD and kava bar that promises a relaxed setting for any kind of date. Treat yourself to CBD teas, slushies, sodas, and other refreshing drinks to help calm the jitters. The aquariums in the lobby also provide ambiance as you sit and enjoy your warm fuzzies. There are several restaurants nearby if you want to eat after, or head two blocks over to Prospero’s Books and check out their one-of-a-kind selection.
Stuff yourselves at Joe’s KC
How comfortable your date is with messy-eating in front of you is a good test of compatibility. Enjoy oversized portions of barbecue in the original gas station restaurant located just across State Line Road—a charming environment for getting-to-know-you talk. If your date is too high-maintenance for barbecue in a gas station, it’s probably best to find out sooner rather than later. There are even options for vegetarians, such as the portobello mushroom “Z-Man” sandwich or, of course, the classic mac and cheese.
Jazz it up at Green Lady Lounge
Green Lady Lounge is a retro-style jazz bar that offers nightly live music and handcrafted cocktails. Simultaneous performances are put on upstairs and downstairs, so you will have options for your listening pleasure. Green Lady Lounge is free of screens, so you can focus on getting to know your date and soaking up real-life entertainment. On Valentine’s Day, expect performances from the Tyrone Clark Trio and the Reyes Brothers Organ Trio. Reservations are not required, but there is a $5 cover at the door.
View vintage tattoo memorabilia at Bert Grimm’s Tattoo Museum
Kansas City is home to one of the most significant tattoo shops and museums in the country: Bert Grimm’s. The shop is the last founded by prolific American tattoo artist Bert Grimm before his death, and the tattoo museum houses an impressive collection of his vintage machinery, memorabilia, and flash designs—you can even walk away with a new tattoo from one of the shop’s iconic flash sheets. A first date you’ll never forget.
Thrift shopping makes a fun date because you never know exactly what you’ll walk away with. The surprises you’ll encounter while thrifting are sure to make great conversation starters. Our favorites in the KC area include Troost39 near South Hyde Park for books and artwork and Arizona Trading Company in Westport for clothing (they even offer a $1 rack). If antiques, oddities, and vintage furniture are more your jam, we recommend Good Ju Ju Vintage Treasures in the West Bottoms, along with several other vintage/antique stores on 13th Street—you could make a day of hopping between them all.
Let cats judge your date at a cat cafe
Animals are great judges of character, especially cats. Bring your date to a cat cafe and get to know them through how they treat animals. The Kansas City area is home to two cat cafes: Whiskers in Westport and Sugar Kittens in Liberty. Aside from a room full of adorable felines to cuddle and play with, each location also offers a selection of delicious beverages and pastries. Who knows—you may even bond with one of the kitties and leave with two new companions.
Impress them with your intellect at the public library
Go to one of the many beautiful branches of the Kansas City Public Library and chat (at library-appropriate volumes) about titles you’ve read, abandoned, or want to read. Pick out a book for the other person to dive into—this will give you a reason to schedule another date to discuss your selections. We love the Central branch due to its incredible architecture, including the oversized books that adorn the outer wall of the building. The Central branch offers special art exhibits that don’t close until March. You can also head over to the Plaza branch at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 12, for a special screening and discussion event, “Why We Love Rom-Coms: Heartburn;” the discussion will be led in part by Pitch film editor Abby Olcese.
Unleash their wild side at a rage room
Unleash your date’s passion at Rage! KC. You and your date will receive a bag of breakable glass objects, such as jars, vases, and dishes, followed by unsupervised time to smash everything in an empty room. The rage room is a fun stress reliever and, arguably, early couple’s therapy. If you’re really raging, Smash House KC is a space where you can destroy large appliances and even furniture. Breaking furniture and old electronics together is an adorable introduction to your date if you ask us.
Flirt among the flora at Roots KC
If you’re a plant lover, go to Roots KC in the Crossroads. Check out the variety of plants and plant-themed merch, and maybe even head home with a new plant baby. Discuss the plants you’ve helped thrive, the plants you’ve killed, and the plants you dream of raising while enjoying the greenery and natural lighting. For couples 21+, Roots also offers complimentary beer and wine on Friday nights from 5-8 p.m. If you’re hungry, Town Topic Hamburgers is a short drive away and offers quick, cheap bites.
Test your musical compatibility at GotWhatULike Vinyl Records
GotWhatULike Vinyl Records is a hidden gem in South KC at 11539 Hickman Mills Drive. Their vinyl collection is extensive, and they also curate hard-to-find vintage electronics. Flipping through the record collection and discussing your favorites (and least favorites) is a great way to adventure in place on a date. Afterward, head across the street to Peppermill Lounge South for bar food, beers, and a game of pool.
Indulge in ice cream creations at Rainbow Snacks Mexican store
It’s easy to miss Rainbow Snacks and ice cream parlor—but you don’t want to miss out on their flavorful treats. Nestled in a shopping strip at 208 Blue Ridge Boulevard, Rainbow Snacks is a Mexican grocer that offers handmade confections with fruity and spicy twists, such as mangonadas and paletas. The store is family-owned and staffed, so you can feel good supporting a small business as you enjoy your sweet treats.
Trick your eyes at the Museum of Illusions
The Museum of Illusions offers an interactive and whimsical first date. The installations will cause you to slow down, do double-takes, and challenge your perception. Tickets are $15 per adult, but the optical magic is priceless. There are plenty of cute photo ops like the wall-to-wall mirrored infinity room and the vertigo-inducing vortex tunnel. You and your date can also play brain teaser games or complete puzzles in the museum’s “Smart playroom.”
Lock it down at KC’s historic covered bridge
For long-term (or overzealous) couples, try walking the trails in Minor Park and leaving a lock on the old red bridge, a nearly 200-year-old covered bridge, and the namesake of Red Bridge Road. One of only 30 covered bridges in the state of Missouri, the bridge represents KC’s longstanding and dynamic history. If you’re an animal lover, leash your dogs or bring your cat backpack and explore the trails as a family. Couples have also taken to writing their initials on padlocks and leaving them locked on the red bridge—maybe a bit grand for a first date, but you do you, boos. In this case, we think the decoration of a historic landmark is kind of cute.
Whatever you choose to do this Valentine’s Day, your Pitch family encourages you to be safe and savvy. Always be mindful of your surroundings, and when meeting up with online matches for the first time, do so in a public space—that’s called self-love.