Valentine's Day is often known as a commercial holiday filled with gifts, chocolates, and stuffed animals. But if you ask me, some of the best investments for any relationship are cool experiences in new places you've never been before. Sightseeing can be expensive, but there are numerous cheap Valentine's Day trips that you can take with your significant other that won't result in a broken piggy bank.
In many ways, travel makes relationships stronger in that it teaches both of you how to manage space and time together, it helps to create intimacy, and it sparks interesting conversations that you possibly wouldn't have had otherwise. Whether you've been dating for eight months or eight years, there's nothing like hiking, learning about history, or trying new types of wine as a couple to celebrate your relationship.
Although I am a huge fan of surprises and cheesy gifts, I've come to value experiences even more. More often than not, the memories from a road trip or the knowledge, skills, and deep discussions I gain from sightseeing end up having a much greater impact on my life in the long run than, say, a bouquet of flowers or a Harry Potter t-shirt (although I really wouldn't mind a Harry Potter t-shirt, either).
Of course, it's also worth mentioning that even if you don't have a romantic partner to go on trips with, you can totally make it a Galentine's Day trip or go with your fam. In fact, my sister and I have made it one of our "sister resolutions" for 2017 to go on at least three big trips together, either in the United States or out of the country.
Here are 13 different inexpensive trips you can take for Valentine's Day that are perfect for people with just about any type of interest:
1. Manhattan, New York: The Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum
If you love geeking out over stars and ships with your partner, the Intrepid Museum is a great place to visit. Enjoy multiple workshops and interactive exhibits on some of the nation's most well-known aircraft carriers, space shuttles, and other machines of transportation. With tons of historical artifacts and stories about legendary space travelers, your Valentine's Day is sure to be out of this world (literally).
Tickets for adults are only $26, although for an additional $10, you can also visit the Space Shuttle Pavilion in addition to the rest of the museum, including submarine Growler and On the Line: Intrepid & the Vietnam War.
2. Cleveland, Ohio: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Good music goes well with any date. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is the go-to place for anyone who's a fan of legends like the Rolling Stones and Guns N' Roses. Even if you've gone to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame before, exhibits change every so often, which means you're not likely to experience something twice. With a ticket, you can watch a film about Elvis Presley, learn about the birth of rock and roll, and enjoy exhibits about stars like Michael Jackson.
General admission is $23, although tickets may cheaper if you're a student or nearby resident of Ohio.
3. Linville, North Carolina: Grandfather Mountain
If you're wanting some peace and quiet for your Valentine's Day, consider visiting Grandfather Mountain. Definitely a playground for the outdoorsy type, there are endless activities for you to do: camping, fishing, boating, picnicking, and hiking, just to name a few. (Keep in mind, though, that it'll still be rather chilly in February!) There is also a nature museum and fudge shop for those who want to take it easy.
Tickets are only $20 for adults, and that includes everything in the park. Plus, all proceeds go toward a foundation that's dedicated to preservation of the park.
4. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress
Bookworm couples will love the walking tours — which often include a guide — of just about any section in the Library of Congress, from Thomas Jefferson to the early Americas to the history of performing arts. (And in general, there's something extremely sexy and romantic about going on a library date.) There are also public exhibitions, temporary displays, and other events that take place every day. The best thing about visiting the Library of Congress? It's free.
5. Bentonville, Arkansas: Crystal Bridges Museum Of American Art
Crystal Bridges is one of the most underrated museums in the United States, providing little-known facts of the nation's art and natural history. View any of the permanent collections for free, such as the Early 20th Century Gallery. Special exhibits, performances, and other special events may require a small ticket price. (Bonus: On your way out, you'll get a glimpse of a lighted sculpture called Buckyball.) You're both guaranteed to learn or discover something new.
6. Mosca, Colorado: Great Sand Dunes National Park
If you're feeling really adventurous, hit up the sand dunes in Colorado, the tallest in the country. Besides hiking through the sand, go stargazing at night or let horseback riding up the romance. And if you've never heard of sand sledding before, well, you have now. (Just remember to wear lots of layers because it's cold.)
7. Brooklyn, New York: Coney Island
Coney Island is a year-round amusement park, so you can be sure it'll be open during Valentine's Day. There are dozens of rides to choose from, like Deno's Wonder Wheel and the Sling Shot in Luna Park (which, by the way, encompasses 29 rides alone). When you're ready to take a break, head over to Nathan's Famous with your partner for the world's best hot dogs. Afterwards, go and take a few selfies at the carousel. You'll feel like kids all over again. (Admission won't break the bank, either.)
8. Memphis, Tennessee: Memphis Zoo
If you could greet penguins on a rock, visit the Dragon's Lair, and discover a herpetarium all in one day, why wouldn't you? Take your partner to the Memphis Zoo, which houses more than 3,500 animals, and steal a kiss while feeding tropical birds. Totally worth the admission price of $15 for adults.
9. Napa Valley, California: Frog's Leap Winery
Ever wanted to become a wine connoisseur? Make a visit to Frog's Leap, one of the many wineries in Napa Valley, also known as wine country. Stop by the Barrel Cellar, take a walk through the garden, go on a guided tour with wine specialists, and of course, enjoy a signature wine tasting. All experiences are $20-$25 per person (visits must be scheduled beforehand). What could be better than drinking wine and getting tipsy together?
10. Amana, Iowa: The Amana Colonies
There are many national historic landmarks to visit, but there's nothing like the Amana Colonies, where German-speaking European settlers once called home. Step back in time on Valentine's Day and go shopping for some new furniture at a woodworking store, buy handcrafted art, go hiking on the 3.1-mile Kolonieweg trail, or check out the local meat shop and smokehouse.
11. New Orleans, Louisiana: Preservation Hall
Go dancin' for Valentine's Day at Preservation Hall, a longstanding home of New Orleans jazz. Special shows take place once in a blue moon at the hall, but luckily, Steve Pistorius & The Southern Syncopators are playing in mid-February. Reserve your tickets online for any jazz night for, on average, $30-$50.
12. Salem, New Hampshire: America's Stonehenge
There's something tranquil about holding hands amidst giant stone structures that were once built by humans long, long ago. At America's Stonehenge, try snowshoeing for the first time or make friends with a few alpacas. Tickets are only $12.
13. Pensacola, Florida: Pensacola Beach
Nothing screams romance more than a walk along the beach during sunset (or sunrise). Pensacola Beach is an inexpensive but beautiful community to visit on Santa Rosa Island if you're looking to be near the water for Valentine's Day. Play a game of mini golf, go paddle boarding, or listen to live music at the Sandshaker Lounge.
You don't have to break the bank to have a special Valentine's Day getaway, just find a new place you and your partner have never seen and explore it together. It doesn't get any more romantic than that.