With Valentine’s Day less than a month away, ‘tis the season to brainstorm ideas for what you can do with the person you’re dating. Whether it’s a long-term partner or someone new, there are plenty of unique Valentine’s Day date ideas out there, because there are a lot more options than a fancy dinner. Sure, those can be nice, but everyone’s doing it. A dinner that may run you $50 a person normally could easily be doubled or tripled on the day of red hearts. And, TBH, is the food and service that much better?! “Low-pressure dates create a low-pressure Valentine’s Day,” Susan Winter, relationship expert and bestselling author of Allowing Magnificence, tells Bustle. “Be creative. Think of an ‘experiential’ date that bypasses the traditional routine of flowers, chocolates, and a dinner.”
I hear that. Think back to some of your best Valentine’s Days of the past. What stands out as the best? The worst? For instance, one of my favorite ones was when my then-boyfriend made me a CD of songs — of him playing guitar and singing, to lyrics he wrote. Awww. To me, that was way better than any $200 dinner at some overhyped place. Another memorable Valentine’s Day was when a few friends and I went to the Eiffel Tower— we were studying abroad in England — and it was completely platonic, yet full of love. “Valentine’s Day is not just about expensive reservations and gifts; it’s about celebrating that you found someone meaningful enough to spend this day together,” Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist and author of the relationship blog, You’re Just A Dumbass, tells Bustle. “Do something highly thoughtful, but simple, for one another.”
1Visit A Cat Or Dog Cafe Or Humane Society
By this time, you may have heard of cat cafes where, yes, you can go chill out with not just with a cup of coffee, but with a cat, too. Why not visit one with your date? Or you can opt for a local animal shelter. After all, many humane societies welcome volunteers to come visit the animals.
2Get Physical (No, Not Like That, But Do That Too If You Want After)
“You can always counteract the pressure of Valentine’s Day by trying to do something very non-romantic together,” Kali Rogers, CEO and Founder of Blush Online Life Coaching, tells Bustle. “Think of going to Top Golf or bowling, or even going to the gym together. Valentine’s Day is not about all the bells and whistles — it’s about appreciating the fact that you have someone to spend time with who happens to also love spending time with you. If you can focus on that, you'll be just fine!” Agreed!
3Be A Tourist In Your Own City
I’m always surprised at how many people don’t do touristy things in their very own cities. They’ll recommend things to friends and family; yet when I ask them if they’ve done them, they often say no. Well, what better a day to go exploring than on Valentine’s Day, especially with your significant other? You can either make a theme out of your tourists-for-the-day adventure, like hitting up a few speakeasy places, or focus on a particular neighborhood. For example, in Chicago, they have mob tours. In New York City, there are food tours. With a little bit of digging, you can find unique tours in your city, too.
4Get On The Road
Who doesn’t love road trips, right? Similar to the tourist-in-your-own city, this idea takes you exploring together — but on the road. For instance, if you live in L.A., you can be in beautiful Santa Barbara in a little more than an hour. Or you can close your eyes and point to a random town or city on a local map.
“As a culture, I think we can be too attached to the idea that Valentine’s Day has be centered around expensive gifts,” Tyler Turk, Founder, Crated With Love, a monthly date night subscription box, tells Bustle. “This can put a lot of pressure on the relationship, because we want to offer something that’s perfect. Instead, we should use this holiday as an opportunity to grow closer together. Creating memories and moments that truly reflect your feelings for each other is what it’s all about, like a day trip to a nearby destination.”
5Do Something Simple, Like Watching The Sunrise Or Sunset — Or Both!
When’s the last time you saw the sun come up, especially with your partner by your side? Exactly! On Valentine’s Day, you can watch the sunrise — perhaps from a scenic location or perhaps from your apartment — and perhaps follow it up with breakfast in bed afterwards.
I still remember one boyfriend who woke me up with apple pancakes on Valentine’s Day, something my grandma used to make for me. It was his first time making them — and he’d added way too much baking soda — but it was ~so~thoughtful. It’s the little things, as they say. We then went to watch the sunrise.
“Your date should provide an appropriate amount of intimacy based on the stage of your relationship,” says Turk. “Early in the relationship, date night is all about finding out if you both are romantically compatible. If you are in a long-term relationship, a date night is more about rekindling that romance. Either way, choose an activity that best fits your comfort level, like watching the sunrise/sunset and/or some quiet time to just talk.”
6Surprise Your Partner
Oftentimes on dates with your partner, you may do activities that you both enjoy. But Valentine’s Day is about celebrating your love for each other, so it’s an ideal time to surprise your partner with their favorite activity, like seeing their favorite sports team or talking to their boss in advance and getting them the day off, then taking them to that one place they’ve always wanted to go.
“For every new couple, remember that Valentine’s Day is JUST a day,” says Rogers. “You can make Valentine’s Day whatever you want it to be. “If you’re worried about the social pressure of Valentine’s Day, try staying in for the night and ordering take-out together or making something. That way, you don’t run the risk of comparing yourselves to other couples out doing a romantic dinner. Cooking is an inexpensive way to hang out together, but it’s also a fun activity!”
Plus,there’s heart-shaped pasta out there. I remember one Valentine’s Day when my boyfriend had to work late. I didn’t, so I made a heart-centric dinner — heart-shaped pasta, heart decorations, heart-shaped brownies. Whether you make this type of dinner as a surprise for your SO or whether you make a Valentine’s Day dinner together, one thing’s for sure — it’ll be memorable (even if you overcook the heart noodles like I did!).
“The whole point of a date, any date, is to get to know each other better, to have fun, and hopefully to connect intimately and emotionally,” says Turk. “You may end up thinking more about whether or not you can afford this date, a fancy one, rather than focusing on the moment. Money is never an excuse for a bad date. Focus on the moment. With a little creativity and planning, you can create an awesome date for almost nothing! And the best part is that you are focusing on each other!”
All in all, remember one thing — Valentine’s Day really is all about “it’s the thought that counts.”