Romantic Tips for Charleston Lovers – On a Budget

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By Mark A. Leon

Charleston is known throughout the region, country and the world as a quaint historic coastal city where the people are friendly, the homes provide a stunning backdrop, history howls with the haunting sounds of ghosts in the alleys, the culinary artistry is mouth-watering and the romantic ambiance showers you with a rainbow of hearts.

Being one of the top wedding destinations in the United States, it is no wonder love is always in the air.? Whether it is fine dining, a walk in the park or Gelato on King Street, Charleston offers couples a romantic retreat.

Sometimes even romance has a budget.? We wanted to provide some tips on how you can bring out your romantic side, without finding yourself with an empty wallet or maxed out credit card.

  • Buy a bouquet of flowers at Tiger Lily.? Voted best Charleston florist since 2000, Tiger Lily offers some of the freshest and most unique flowers in the area with a staff that is always smiling and ready to please.? Their expertise and careful crafting of bouquets makes you want to come back over and over and shower your special someone with the gift of nature.? Here is a little secret.? All walk in customers get half price on all purchases.? A beautiful bouquet that may run $20 if ordered by phone or online, will cost you $10 and you can watch the TLC right before your very eyes.
  • Movie in the Park or on the beach – Couple Style – This is more of a Spring/Summer event:? Marion Square does movies in the park in the Spring and The Tides on Folly Beach in the Summer and Belle Hall Shopping Center Parking Lot as well, but what about a movie in the park for just the two of you?? Most of the Charleston Parks offer free wifi.? We have that out of the way.? One evening, take your IPad, Tablet, etc, get some ice cream or thai take out and a blanket and get comfortable under the stars.? Set up camp on the grass and watch a movie on Amazon Prime, Netflix or Hulu.? Watch out, people may see you and steal your idea.? It is pretty romantic.

Double Sunset Magical Show of Nature – This one is a little tricky to pull off, but achievable.? Just past Omar Shrine Auditorium in Mount Pleasant, take a right on Bridgeside Blvd and take it all the way to the end and park.? Once there, you will witness the most spectacular view of the Arthur Ravenel Bridge.? Walk down the steps through the grassy courtyard and find a perfect spot to watch the sun set over the bridge.? If you have time, stop by Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s to get a six pack or bottle of wine.? Once the sun sets over the suspension wires, jump in your car and go one street over (Harry M. Hallman Jr Blvd).? This will take you to the Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Pier.? Go to the end of the pier and you will see the final moments of sunset and if you are lucky a blue, orange or amber sky.? Bring your camera; you will get spectacular shots.? If it is warm out, make sure you stop in the store afterward for some ice cream.

  • Free Salsa Lessons and Cuban Salsa Dancing/Music with Gino Castillo at Prohibition – Every Tuesday at Prohibition at 547 King Street is Havana Nights.? From 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM, local expert salsa dancers offer free lessons.? If you are an amateur dancing couple, but want to spice it up on the dance floor, come out for a lesson or two and bring a new level of heat.? After the lesson, Gino Castillo and his band will bring energy to the restaurant with some action packed tunes to keep your feet moving.
  • Open Mic Poetry at East Bay Meeting House – Have you ever written your special someone a poem, but were afraid to read it?? Do you have a special anniversary and really want to impress the love of your life?? Come to Open Mic Poetry on Monday nights and express your feelings in this accepting open forum.? This small intimate setting is one where you can be free to open up your heart.? While you are there, have a cup of tea or champagne.? The location is 160 East Bay Street.? The event starts at 8:00 PM but sign ups to perform begin at 7:00 PM.


  • Sunrise on the Beach – There is nothing more romantic than a sunrise walk on the beach.? There are a number of options, but the coastal angle of Folly Beach makes this an ideal sight.? Plus, Roasted (coffeeshop in the Tides Hotel) is open ridiculously early if you want to grab coffee or a frappe.? Hold each others hand, let the sand caress your feet and watch the sun rise from the ocean and lift itself into the sky welcoming an new day.? It is breathtaking and makes for an perfect start of your day, no matter what follows.? If you plan on staying a while, set up a hammock under the pier.
  • Reflect on some culture/art – The Halsey Art Institute offers modern and culturally relevant exhibits that test the mind and open your eyes to the world around you.? It is a wonderful way to learn about each other and challenge each others minds.? You are also a hop, skip and jump from Kudu or Starbucks to get a hot chocolate to enjoy while you walk around.? If you are really feeling educational, head to the Mace Brown Museum of Natural History Just on the other side of Calhoun Street.
  • Fishing – This is who we are.? Whether it is the Mount Pleasant Waterfront Park pier or just a small bridge on James Island or John’s Island, fishing in the South is as romantic as it gets.? Get your loved one, a bottle of wine or six pack, those fishing poles and enjoy a quiet outdoor moment together.? If you happen to catch dinner, let the night continue at home.
  • Dance to the music of a street performer – If you think Second Sunday or the Charleston Farmer’s Market is the only place to see street performers, you are so wrong.? There is a beautiful brass performer on East Bay and even an amazing folks singer.? Find a great performer, slip a few bucks and enjoy a romantic dance on the side walk.? You will make everyone around you jealous.? Or just sit outside Carmella’s, rev up the IPhone with some Sinatra and make your moment together.

How do I know if he is interested in “Me” or just “My Body”? – Dating 101

By Mark A. Leon

I have a number of female friends and some questions often come up with common repetition. Regardless of age or maturity level, many women still cannot seem to read the signs of men to determine if they are looking for a quick fix or a possible long term relationship.

It is important to know that for the most part, we are not the complicated gender. We are quite simple in our behavior and feelings toward dating, relationships and commitment. Reading our patterns of behavior will give you a clear indication of our intentions. We hear the unscientific study that indicates that a man or woman knows within five to ten minutes if they want to sleep with, have a relationship or an easy exit on a date. It is very true. As we grow and mature, we become more set in our personalities and interests. If the compatibility is not there, we are left with one option, “Is she attractive enough to want to sleep with”.

So here it is, us males meet you at a bar, restaurant or coffee shop and follow this chain of thinking:

  • If she is very attractive, we want to get to know her.
    If she is average looking, we lean toward possible one night stand unless our personalities are so
    amazingly similar.
    If she is not attractive, we try to come up with a plan or polite way to end the date.
    Subset to the attractive girl – If we feel she is out of our league, we may lie and try to give
    the impression we have a great deal in common to get that one shot at amazing sex with a really
    hot girl knowing it will never amount to anything further.
  • Having the mindset of a one-night stand is not exclusive to males. Females, for various reasons, do
    choose to go out and pursue that option. If that mutual fit is found, it is a win win situation.
    The parties should try, if possible to be up front and honest about the intentions. Both males and
    females do run the risk of falling for their date. If this arrangement will be successful, it is key
    to bring honesty into the picture right away.
  • I know it is impossible to avoid the mind games, but having the courage to try and break them down slowly could help decipher the date quickly and make for a more comfortable evening.
  • Our interest level is a direct correlation to our attention level. If we are making strong eye
    contact, saying your name and responding to what you are saying, that is a very positive sign.
    If we have our mobile on the table, respond to texts or have wandering eyes, not a good sign.
  • The equality of the meals and drinks is also a clear indication. If we have a possible interest,
    we will order at an equal level to you. If you order a grilled salmon and he orders a dinner salad,
    he is trying to rush through things and thus not interested. If you order salmon and he adds prime
    rib, then he wants to take his time and get to know you.
  • If there is a call or text after 45 minutes or an hour and he ignores it, great sign. Yes, men still
    use the fake call from their friends to get out of a bad date.

So what else do I look for to know if he is interested or not.

If he jumps into discussions about ex-girlfriends and beats those stories to death, typically he falls into the category of a player who cannot separate the difference between an emotional and a sexual relationship. Also, that could be an indication of an ego-maniac who is self-absorbed in himself.

If you met through an online dating service, there is a strong likelihood, he is juggling multiple dates. The online community broadens your reach and allows for a much larger pool of potential mates. Many men will try and schedule a few dates and narrow down the pool. If you go on a first date and never hear back or get excuses for scheduling a second date, it is a safe bet that you didn’t make the second round.

Look at some of the common patterns of behavior including eye contact, equal distribution of conversation, use of your name, questions showing a clear indication of getting to know you better and hand gestures. If your date is listening, maybe holding your hand over the table, asking questions about you and focusing on you and not the room, all signs of a positive first date. On the other hand, if he is focused on everything else in the room including everyone that walks in (in the event there is better eye candy after he has already scoped the room for the present occupants), looks down at his phone for texts or sports scores (better yet even if the phone is on the table – not a good sign), seems more interested in talking about himself than you and is rushing through the ordering process then these are all possible red flags.

  • Ask him his expectations. If he is slow to response or provides a vague response such as “depends on the attraction”, “taking it one date at a time”, “not sure what I want yet in my life”, “just got over a bad relationship and not sure I am ready yet”, or “let’s just see where this goes”, then you can expect that he either isn’t interested or not looking for anything long term.
  • Suggest ordering up a little, but not in excess and see how he reacts. I am not saying order the most expensive thing on the menu because that may create the impression you are a “gold digger”, but suggest a nice appetizer that will see his financial limits and lengthen the date. If he is immediately in favor of the idea, good indication for the evening.
  • Look at restroom habits. During a dining experience, one would expect to go to the restroom once. Maybe two or three times if they are a germ phobic. If he is using the restroom several times during the drinks or dining experience, he either has a huge bladder issue (which he will most likely tell you about) or is making other plans, taking to friends or seeing who is winning the football game (all options that show a lack of interest toward you).
  • Let us not overlook the obvious: What is he wearing? If he is dressed like Charlie Harper in shorts and a bowling shirt…run. If a man shows cleanliness in attire and hygiene, then he at least sees this as a date with potential and is open to the possibility of more.
  • Is he sharing in the conversation? If he is letting you do all the talking, he could be boring or lacks interest or on the other hand, if he is asking a lot of questions about you and then agreeing that he has the same interests or background, he may be lying to get you in bed with a false sense of compatibility.

There we have it. Dating 101 from the male perspective. This is clearly not the end all of dating tips but a fundamental start to help you through that next date.

Whether you are going on your first date ever, recently divorced or widowed or ended a long-term relationship, remember whether you are male or female we are in the same boat. We are trying to break down the emotional walls and understand the thought process that is going on at the other end of the table or next to you at the bar. Be honest, be open and most of all, don’t become something you are not.

Dating, when you are at your most relaxed state is so much fun. The idea of getting to know someone from the ground up and all the new and exciting possibilities is a wonderful thing. The one thing that often screws that up is ourselves and the mind games we play.

We cannot eliminate that element of dating, but if you know what to look for, it will make the evening go so much better.

Unless you go on a row boat for a first date..? That is a lesson for another time..

Happy Dating.

Great Free Date Ideas for Couples

By Mark A. Leon
By Mark A. Leon

So, you are head over heels in love.
He looks into her eyes and know she is the one.? She gazes back and all worries go away.
The one you dreamed about all your life and now that your dreams are complete, paranoia sets in.


Thoughts running through his mind:?

How do I keep her interested?
Will she get bored and move on?
She is way to beautiful to be with me.
I am doing okay financially, but I how can I afford to buy her expensive things and take her on high priced dinners and trips?

Oh no!
I can’t win.
Wait, wait wait, there are other options.

We are here to help. You are surrounded by 26000 miles of earth who’s beauty and opportunity are waiting at your feet.? Plus, you are in one of the most romantic cities in the United States, Charleston, South Carolina.

Here are a few surefire and FREE ideas of great things to do with your partner (in crime).

As long as you understand her interests, keep the relationship exciting, diverse and spicy and continue to show her the affection and love she deserves, you will have a long and amazing life together.

1. Wash the car or clean the bathroom together. It is an activity you can do together and more importantly you will both get wet and soapy. I hope I don’t have to explain anymore about this activity.

2. Keep an eye on your local bars and restaurants online and on Facebook. Some offer free food or drinks if you like them or sign up for their newsletter. Free drinks…Bonus!

3. Look around your kitchen. Round up all the food and spices you have, Google what you have and you may just find a great recipe or two you can make that will make her smile and full enough to want to cuddle in bed.

4. Volunteer together. Look for a running event, fund-raiser, music or arts festival and work it together. That way you are helping a good cause and getting some free entertainment.

5. Go camping under the stars or stretch out a hammock under the pier. How romantic is that?

6. Throw a Potluck Party!!! Call, text, Evite, Facebook all your friends and have an impromptu party where everyone brings a bottle, mixer or snack. Instant party and all you need to provide is the front door.

7. Why not a little education? Go to a museum or art gallery. Many only ask for a small donation at the door or have totally free admission.

8. There is a model in all of us. Break out your point and shoot, SLR or IPhone and have a couple photo shoot. Go to the beach, bedroom, river, gazebo or anywhere fun and scenic and take photos of each other and then you can make a virtual or physical collage.? Clearly, we are not lacking in photo locations in the Lowcountry.

9. Hit the rivers, ponds, marsh, harbor….. Go cliff or rock diving (Not in the crazy Acapulco kind of way) or swim and frolic together.

10. Go people watching and storytelling. Sit at the park with a coffee, tea or latte and try to create a story about all the people that walk by. Be imaginative. It can be better than the movies.

11. Learn a new skill. Can you sing or play guitar or even hula hoop? Teach each other your special skills.

12. Find a free music or comedy showcase. In Charleston, there are many free shows from young up-and-coming performers that are free of charge. You may even have a friend or two in a band. Go support them.

13. Get silly with a flash mob. You know you’ve always wanted to try it. Learn more at

15. Join clubs that offer free trips or group events ( Many have biking or running clubs that you can do together and maybe make some new friends.

16. Watch the sunrise or sunset. It is a classic but always one that reminds you of how important you are to each other.? Not to brag, but nothing beats a Charleston sunset.? Nothing.

17. Play indoor card games…You know what I mean.

18. Walk the dog. Perhaps one of you has a dog. If not, borrow a friend’s dog and offer to take Fido out for a walk.? Or go to the dog park and make new puppy couple friends.

19. Put your health first. Find a farmers market and browse all the vendors. If you are feeling the urge, buy an apple or peach and have a little light fruit or veggie snack together.? From John’s Island to James Island, to Charleston, to Mount Pleasant, to Folly Beach, we have you covered there.

20. Go to an open mic night and do a reading or play a song. Showcase your talents and witness others showing their skills and confidence.

21. Sit on a street corner or in the park with a sign that says “Information” and offer advice and tips to tourists who are looking for things to do locally.? Believe it or not, we almost had tourists offer us money for a carriage ride thinking we were real information/booking agents.

22. Make a music video. With flip video cameras, IPhones, IFilm, YouTube and so many other free software options, you can let out your creative side and make a funky music video as a couple.

23. Samples, samples samples – Hop over to Costco, Sam’s Club, Whole Foods or Earthfare one Saturday, browse and take advantage of all the samples offered throughout the store.

24. Do yoga on the beach or in the park. All you need is a mat and some technique, and you have a mental and physical task you can do together.

25. Be a child. Get a group of friends together and play “Duck, Duck Goose” or “Hide and Seek”.