Well, as sad as it sounds (and is), DH and I never did much formal "dating" (during the "courting" type phase of our relationship, it was mostly just hanging as friends by watching tv at his house, going fishing, etc. Started as friends for a while... I wouldn't "date" him at first b/c of the age difference). And now that we are married with kids, we don't do much now either. We do go eat out fairly often with the kids... but we RARELY do anything solo. So.....
But with my ex (dating all through high school and then the couple of years I was in college = 6yrs), we got very creative! We were poor students and practically attached at the hip. Our biggest thing was tent camping. I LOVE to camp (DH and i will start camping again when DS starts walking). But my ex and I went all the time. Camping gear - we got almost all of it for bdays and Christmas gifts (after only a year we had more equipment than we could fit in the car!). For a weekend away, we made it very affortable. When tight on cash, we stayed in state parks that were close by. State parks are cheap. We always cooked rather than eat out when we camped (breakfast on the Coleman and dinner over the fire). You can get cheap with camp food if you want/have to. Entertainment was in the park and included in the fee.
Ex and I also used to go to New Orleans for the day (we live close enough for a day trip). We were never drinkers or partiers (Bourbon wasn't interesting to us at all)... but we loved to walk around and look at the buildings, go to the river walk, go to the French Market, etc. We had our cheap parking lot that was only $5, add the gas for the trip (at the time wasn't too expensive) and a nice lunch at our favorite (yet cheap) little pizza place. All together it may have cost us $40 or less. For a FULL day of fun, lunch, etc. that wasn't bad.
Another thing Ex and I did was go to Barnes and Noble all the time. He loved magazines and rather than pay for a ton of subscriptions, he'd just grab a stack and I'd grab a book or two then we'd sit down in a comfy chair there and read. We didn't really drink coffee but there was a nice italian place next door. We'd spent $10 and get a meal to share. Made for a nice evening.
Now, with DH.. this might be TMI... but we like to relax in a nice bath together. Once the kids are asleep, we put a little spa bath thing we have in the tub and get the water as hot as we can stand it. We light some candles and every once in a while get a bottle of wine. It's nice to relax (DH does manual labor so comes home hurting a lot) and it's nice to be with each other.
I like the idea of couples walking together in the evenings. Lots of families (i.e. with younger kids riding the bikes) do this but I think it's a nice idea for couples too. Especially when you get older, the exercise is important and it's more "fun" doing it together. Plus, you can talk and reconnect while walking.
Ps.. about the having to get and pay for a babysitter... I hear ya! We are blessed to have lots of family and friends around who can watch our kids (for free) when we need or want. I'm very appreciative of that. We rarely take them up on that... but it's nice to konw that the offer is there. We barely get out alone as it is... if we had to pay for it, I doubt it'd ever happen!!! LOL. I encourage others... if you know a couple with small children and are able, offer to watch the kids every once in a while. Even if it's just for a couple of hours so that the couple can go eat... its such a blessing! We've watched other people's kids at times for that reason and were happy to do so because we KNOW what it means to others....
Have a blessed day,