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Splurge ideas for your $500 date

Fantasize for a moment. Imagine you were given $500 and could use it only to go on a date. How would you and your spouse or significant other choose to spend it?

Perhaps you have already put aside money and are thinking of what you could do that would be fun, adventurous or relaxing – or all three.

“I’d have to go to New York City. I mean, that’s like the most romantic place, right? That’s where I got engaged. So we did a horse-drawn carriage ride (around Central Park), dinner at a fine dining Italian restaurant,” said LaStella Pizzeria owner Justin Burrows, who has been married for nine years.

If they had enough money left over, he said they could possibly go dancing (her preference) and to a comedy club (something he loves to do).

For Erik Thomas, a $500 date might involve a nice lunch, couple’s massage and walking around Mystic to check out some of the thrift shops and have a drink at an area bar.

He said he also likes “taking it back to being kids” and doing activities like roller skating, bowling, playing pool or going to the Foxwoods’ arcade — activities that “spark conversation.”

Mayor Peter Albert Nystrom said he thinks he’d take his wife, Linda, “to Nantucket Island, which is beyond Martha’s Vineyard. It’s still more historic. I’ve always wanted to see that. We love being on the ocean, except she gets seasick. So we have to be land side unless it’s a large ferry, then she’s OK.”

His fantasy includes staying at a bed-and-breakfast inn and having breakfast and dinner. “We don’t have extravagant tastes. So yeah, we can make that work. We split meals these days.”

Nystrom added, “You can get away without going really far. There’s so much to see in this part of our state and in Rhode Island. I never feel the need to get on a plane.”

Niagara Falls on the Canadian side is Lisbon resident Emma Michaud’s idea of a great $500 date, she said, “because the view is more beautiful.” Michaud said she and her significant other are in the process of updating their passports. Since she doesn’t think he has ever been there, she said it’s something they can share together. She said her favorite time to see the falls is during the wintertime “when it’s super cold and everything’s covered in ice from all the mist. That’s really cool. It’s kind of like Yantic when you come by that way (where ice forms on the high rock formation) in the wintertime.”

Costs would include dining at restaurants, gas, a budget place to sleep and shopping for souvenirs and an outfit.

“If you told me that’s all I have to spend, I can make it work. Trust me,” said Michaud, who formerly lived in St. Catharines, Onatario, Canada, near Niagara Falls.

Scott DuPont of Norwich, 47, said “Strawberry Park (70-acre campground in Preston) is pretty cool and that’s close.” He said one can rent a cabin or trailer mid-week cheaper than on the weekend or a holiday. Plus, you save money by bringing your own food.

DuPont said he likes it there because there are three pools. “There’s an adult pool, which is great because then the kids aren’t there and you’re allowed to have cans of beer in there. They got two full-court basketball courts, a softball field, four horseshoe pits, a bocce ball pit and a snack station to get food if you didn’t bring enough food to cook. Basically, I like playing sports.”

Even though he is not dating right now, Marc Pimienta, co-manager of La Stella Pizzeria, said his idea of a great $500 date is having a nice dinner and glass of wine at Ballo Italian Restaurant at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville. Afterwards, he and a future date could attend a concert and then go dancing.

“I dance very good. I dance tango, Paso Doble, salsa,” said Pimienta, who was born in Casablanca to a French mother and Spanish father.

Louise Lemire of Norwich said she would go to a concert and a nice restaurant with her husband, Jean. She said they could “buy somebody else’s lunch” and/or food for an area food pantry with the rest of the $500 allotment.

“In the real world, I would not feel comfortable spending that kind of money on a date.”

Harly Cantave of Norwich said he would go to a national park, maybe the Grand Canyon.

“You’d have to be fiscally responsible; find as many discounts as possible; bring your own food. You can make it with $500. There’s nothing wrong with car lodging. Forget the hotel room. If you enjoy each other’s company, you could be in the car. You can legally sleep in the Walmart parking lot. Probably not the most comfortable, but the cheapest, definitely. You could also camp, and if you pick the right location, you can definitely find a spot that’s around a very woodsy area. You could get a tent at Walmart for less than $100. Maybe get a couple sleeping bags. You could literally go anywhere you want to and make the best of wherever you are.”

Mackenzie George, 28, of Norwich said she would probably take her 7-year-old son, Beckett, on a “date.” Since he likes to collect rocks and crystals, she said she might take him on an overnight trip, stay at a hotel and go gem mining by the Connecticut Falls, possibly in Roxbury, “where you can find natural garnet.”

Their other favorite spot is Nature’s Art Village (which includes The Dinosaur Place, a 60-acre nature park) in Oakdale to look at dinosaurs and pan in the sand to identify crystals.

George’s other idea would be to take Beckett to Colorado for turquoise if she could get good flight rates, because that’s his favorite stone.

“It’s huge in the Colorado area.”

In reality, Cantave, a Haitian native, said “a date has nothing to do with the financial aspect of it,” and everything to do with memories created and “the emotions that are felt throughout the day. So a $500 date could be the same as a zero-dollar date.”

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