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Cheap Date Philadelphia just turned One!  I can’t believe it!  To celebrate, I gave myself a Facebook page. Now you can follow me on Facebook or on Twitter @cheapdatephila. Hooray!

I also took some time to reflect on the growth of the blog, which has been thrilling and encouraging.  I’ve especially enjoyed being able to engage with other Philly bloggers through I’m Seeing Other Blogs, and I look forward to more to come! Note to Philly bloggers: if you’re interested in being featured, get in touch!

I have also been thinking about what I’d like to see happen in year Two.  There’s a lot on that list, and you might see some changes to the layout and content of the blog in the coming months.  But it won’t be anything drastic, I promise.  Because mostly I’d just like to keep exploring this city, keep finding great deals and fun things to do for less than $15, and keep telling all of you about it.

Thanks for reading!

I’m going to eat a cupcake now.

My Date’s Stats:

Blog: City Girls World

Age: CGW launched in 2009. Katie started blogging for them as a “Gal about Philly” in 2010.

Likes: Martinis, Sex in the City, brunch, finger tattoos, wasabi.

Dislikes: Girls who bring their boyfriends everywhere, people who can’t deal with women in control of their sexuality, and party-crashing night time SEPTA schedules.

Little Known Fact: Katie studies social work and human sexuality, and actually has her own blog, which she describes as more or less a “sex blog,” (although it’s name, “There’s vodka in my sippy cup but I need to grow up,” perhaps reads a little more like a diary-of-a-party-girl).

Favorite Cheap Date: The Yards Brewery tasting/tour. “My boyfriend and I went here and it was an awesome way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon-HIGHLY recommended.” As for a girls night out: “I’d pick the Center City Cocktail Crawl-I love XIX but haven’t made it to Vintage–maybe this summer with my fellow CGW writers!”

It seems natural that Katie would think of the writers at City Girls World when planning a girls’ night out, since clicking through CGW feels much more like hanging out with a group of really fun women than reading a one-dimensional blog. The articles are frank and conversational, and the columnists continue their stories from week to week so you can stay current on their latest (mis)adventures. There’s Single Girl, Working Girl, Married Girl, and Gals About Town, and they report on everything of interest to the modern urban-“ette”: shopping, dining, grooming, and, of course, relationships. Plus, the blog covers both Philly and Washington, DC, making it a particulary great resource for those straddling both cities, or planning a visit. One of their most unique features is Single Man Spotted, which reassures readers that these rare specimens are not urban legend by spotlighting cute (and single!) guys they meet on the street. This take on meeting men is a breath of fresh air from those who bemoan the apparent lack of eligible bachelors remaining on planet earth. But snark-lovers never fear – the Single Girl chronicles are brutally (and hilariously) honest and make it clear that, yes, a lot of guys still don’t have a clue. But at City Girls World that doesn’t matter, so long as you have your online girlfriends to commiserate with at the end of the day. At least that’s how the CGW crew sees it.

I recently got a window into City Girls World when I met guest writer Katie Butler at POD for a (surprisingly) cheap date of martinis and sushi.

How cheap we talkin’: Martinis are $5 during happy hour from 4-6pm. Sushi train plates range from $2.50-$5.00.

Why this will impress your date: There’s a sushi conveyor belt! Hey, it may be a novelty, but it’s a darn fun one.

The Inside Game: You can’t take cocktails from the lounge to the sushi bar, so this is a good spot for first dates that you’re not sure will last past the first drink. If things are going well, suggest grabbing a bite. If not, it’s still a cool atmosphere to have a cocktail. Especially before or after a visit to the free Institute for Contemporary Art just up the street!

Score Extra Points: By pointing out the “Pods” to your date. Customers can choose and change the color of the lighting in these private, circular booths.

Next date: Happy hour is weekdays 4-6pm. The sushi train is available anytime.

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The Beneluxx Tasting Room in Old City is easy to miss, but for those looking for romance on a budget, its wine, cheese, beer, and chocolate are well-worth discovering.  Read the full review at Drink Philly and find out why!

On the first Friday of every month, Philadelphia’s art galleries stay open late and welcome everyone — from casual passerby to serious collectors — to come in and peruse their current curations.  The aptly dubbed “First Friday” has been happening, rain or shine, since 1991, and has become one of the city’s most visible and popular events.  Although historically focused on the 40+ galleries between Front and Vine and Market and 3rd streets in Old City, First Friday open houses are now hosted by galleries all over the city, from Space 1026 in Chinatown to the Projects Gallery in Northern Liberties to Highwire in Fishtown.  The best thing about this expansion is that, even though every First Friday shares the same core elements, depending on who’s showing what where, you can have a radically different experience every single time.

How cheap we talkin’: FREE!

Why this will impress your date: Because you can show you are as comfortable around refined oil portraits as you are around avante-garde video art.  This is a good thing, I promise.

The Inside Game: If you want to know who’s showing where, need to plan a route, or find galleries in a particular neighborhood, there are a lot of great resources for planning ahead, like this linked list of Philly art galleries.  Another great resource is Phrequency’s “DIY First Friday” list, conveniently organized by neighborhood. The Philadelphia Weekly also shares its pick of noteworthy exhibitions each month in its Arts and Culture section.

Score Extra Points: By doing a little homework before hand (see above) and then leading the way. Strolling from gallery to gallery is perfect for hand-holding.

Next date: Friday April 1, 2011! And then the first Friday of every month, all year round (approximately 5-9pm).

Keep reading for highlights from First Fridays past, and where to find the galleries that still have free booze!

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The bowling date is a classic, and one of my personal favorites. While not generally recommended for a first date (it can be a bit stilted trying to get to know someone in alternating 30 second increments while the pins reset) it is great for a group date, or for couples who enjoy a little friendly competition every now and again. “Social bowling” has experienced a resurgence in popularity recently, giving rise to slick and cavernous enterprises which seem to cater to large parties or corporate events, complete with fancy finger food, flashing lights, and frenetic music. That’s fine, but for a date it can be a little overwhelming, not to mention expensive. That’s why I was so thrilled to discover PEP Bowl at 1200 Broad street in South Philly. Small and laid-back, this six-lane establishment opened in 2009, but dates back to the 1950’s and maintains a retro-ambiance that is both winning and romantic in its charm. At the same time, its scoring mechanism, lanes, shoes and equipment are all modern and well-maintained, guaranteed to satisfy even the most serious of recreational bowlers. It’s also 100% handicapped accessible.

How cheap we talkin’: $3.50 per game per person and $3.00 shoe rental. Tuesdays they do one better, with $2.50 shoe rental and games from 5-11pm. And it’s BYO!

Why this will impress your date: At PEP, you are also bowling for a good cause. Patronage of PEP Bowl helps support PEP’s mission to provide education, recreation, vocational training, and job placement services to people with disabilities.

Score extra points: By throwing a gutter ball at least once. Now that may seem counter-intuitive, but it depends what kind of points you are really trying to score.

The Inside Game: Because there are only 6 lanes, it’s a good idea to call ahead and reserve one. 215 952-BOWL.

Next Date: Anytime! Well, almost. Lanes are reserved some early evenings for league play hours. Check here for the complete schedule, and here for special deals.

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My date’s stats:

 Blog: Claire Folkman: A Web Comic

Age: Started blogging in September 2008.

Likes: Beef, noodle soup, word bubbles, young love.

Dislikes: Superheros.

Little Known Fact: Ms. Folkman is a vociferous reader of dime-store romance novels.  She likes them for the happy endings.

Favorite Cheap Date:  Free Student Recitals at the Curtis Institute

Claire Folkman is a self-described mid-twenties art hipster who writes an autobiographical comic about a mid-twenties art hipster named Claire Folkman.  But that is by no means all.  She is also a conceptual artist, a memoir comic web-blogger, and a most charming date. She has an art show coming up May 6-July 7, 2011 at the DCCA in Wilmington (accessible by SEPTA!) featuring her captivating video work that transforms life’s absurdities into one profound comic strip (or transforms life’s profundities into one absurd comic strip). Meanwhile her blog contains wry and insightful comics, reflections on art school classes and critiques, and musings on everything from the best drawing markers to babysitting to Lady Gaga.  It is updated (usually) on Wednesdays, and definitely worth following.

As for our date, when Claire told me she would take me to the Philly Comix Jam – a monthly gathering of comic enthusiasts that meet at Manny Brown’s on South Street to draw together – well, I was nervous. I mean, this seemed about as intimidating as being brought to a party by a first date to meet twenty or so of their best friends. But as it turned out, I was silly to worry. Everyone at the Comix Jam welcomed me with open arms and assured me that I needed no more drawing skills than a third grader to participate and have a good time. And it turns out they were totally right.

How cheap we talkin’:  The Comix Jam is FREE, and Corona and Dos Equix are $2.50 until midnight.

Why this will impress your date: Not all comics are about Superheroes. Memoir comics are about feelings, too. Plus, no one is going to stop you if you just want to sit and draw hearts around your date’s name all night long.

Score Extra Points: By stopping for a bite first at nearby Tattooed Mom’s.  $1 beef or bean tacos plus half-off all draft beer every Tuesday until 10pm!

The Inside Game:  Don’t forget, it’s BYOP.  (That’s Bring Your Own Pens/Pencils).

Next Date: Tuesday, March 29, 2011! Otherwise, mark your calendar for every third Tuesday at 8pm. Click here for more info.

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A lot of people think Valentine’s Day is a sham. A commercial holiday designed to make Couples (capital “C”) feel like they have to spend money on limp flowers, overpriced dinners, and pro forma cards, and make Singles (capital “S”) feel like, well — crap.

But I disagree.

I think that, regardless of your relationship status, Valentine’s Day is a opportunity and a reminder to show affection and appreciation for the special people in our lives. And for me, the best way to do that is by spending time together, not money. So here are a few ideas from yours truly, dedicated to all those whose hearts are bigger than their bank accounts, for whom this site is really for.

  • Make your own Valentines! In a twist on my Coffee and Crayons date idea, bring supplies like scissors, glue, paper, crayons, and an old magazine or two to your favorite coffeehouse, treat yourselves to a favorite pastry, and spend a few hours making Valentines for each other or for your friends.

  • Stay in and cook your own pre fixe meal! Make it special by shopping together somewhere new and different, like the Asian Market, the Italian Market, or other speciality food store.

  • Read poetry and eat chocolate! For a wintertime spin on my Magazines and Munchies date idea, pick out a book of poetry and take turns reading by moonlight in Rittenhouse square. Or hand-pick a box of your favorite chocolates and feed them to each other in Washington Square Park. Both parks have plenty of perfect-for-cuddling benches.

  • Laugh about the past! First Person Arts Story Slams are one of my favorite cheap dates. World Cafe Live is hosting this Valentine’s Day event with stories on the theme the “Ex-Files,” sure to make you cringe, laugh, and cry in equal measure.

  • Wander the world together! You may not be able to afford Paris this year, but Philadelphia is a pretty great walking city, too.  What could be nicer than strolling through historic and charming Society Hill with a hot beverage in one hand and your date’s warm grip in the other? Want to keep walking? South street is always a lively scene, as is Baltimore Avenue in West Philly, and Passayunk Avenue in South Philly.

Whatever you decide to do, and whoever you decide to do it with, here’s to doing it with all of your heart, and not all of your cash.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

With Love,

Cheap Date Philadelphia