It’s hard to know what Valentine’s Day means in the modern world. It began as a touching story about a man who believed in true love at all costs. From there, it became a holiday to celebrate the ones near and dear to us, to take them out to dinner or invent special ways to let them know we cared. It was the holiday of epic romantic dates and foolish gestures. now, in an age driven by spontaneity and open expressions of love, setting aside one day to be affectionate seem silly.
When affection isn’t taboo anymore, we go on romantic dates when we feel like it and give nice gifts whenever it feels right. Simply put, if Valentine’s Day can be every day, why latch ourselves to February 14th? Take in these Valentine’s Day date ideas with a grain of salt. Whether you want to surprise your loved one on Valentine’s Day or save these Valentine’s Day ideas for another romantic occasion, here are some tried and true ways to make your significant other smile.
HOST A HOME-COOKED MEAL
This first date idea is simple, cheesy, and everything else you could wish for in a Valentine’s Day date. It’s got intimacy on its side. Going out to dinner is nice, but you have to keep up appearances when other people are watching. There’s extra pressure to look charming, you must remember all your manners, and that kiss on the cheek suddenly feels bigger and more intimidating. You’re also plagued with the awkwardness of who picks up the check and f whose place you’re going to for a ‘Netflix and Chill’ (if you get that far).
With a home-cooked meal, there’s no debate about where to go next and you have the privacy of your own home to get to know each other. It’s also nice to be the chef. Whether you each cook a dish or one of you is the chef of the night, you’re making something for each other. Home-cooked meals are a great way to show your loved one you care and get a taste of how you two connect one-on-one without any outside distractions.
GO SEE SOMETHING
Valentine’s Day is the day for grand gestures and big romantic dates. Don’t take your date to the movies for their Valentine’s Day surprise. Give them something more exciting to remember than a dingy cinema. A night at the opera has been a Valentine’s classic since opera began. If you’re not into opera, swap it out for a play or musical. Dress up for the occasion, go out to a nice romantic restaurant before the show, and then sit back and enjoy a live performance.
You may even be able to find their hand to squeeze when the plot reaches its zenith. Enjoying a live performance with your date is a fun way to share something you both have in common while getting to know each other on a more personal level. Most theaters and concert halls are intimate enough for a tender kiss while maintaining a sense of community and fun. If theater really isn’t your thing, find a band or genre of music you both enjoy and go to a concert. If you’re wild and crazy, you can even break the ice in a mosh pit together. The key is that you’re having fun as a duo and connecting through something you both love to do.
PLAN A PICNIC
In some areas of the world, a picnic on February 14th sounds like the worst Valentine’s Day date idea ever. Though a date picnic in February does work better in warmer climates, don’t rule out an evening outing if you live in the north. You may not be lying on the grass finding cloud figures in the sky, but you can still have a fun romantic date in the great outdoors.
Build a bonfire and roast s’mores while you try to scare each other with family ghost stories. Swapping stories is a great way to get to know one another. It shows you how you communicate and reveals what you care about in life. The picnic has the same advantage as a home-cooked meal date in that it’s just the two of you learning about each other over food you’ve prepared. It’s intimate, and with the open sky overhead, liberating too.
What is more romantic than a night of stargazing? You’re side by side enjoying the wonder of nature. Star-gazing is one step up from a picnic because there’s less food and less talking. Sometimes, it’s nice to find someone you can simply lie in silence with. If the nights are too cold to stargaze comfortably where you live, head to a planetarium. It won’t have the same expansive feeling as a night outside, but you can still feel a sense of wonder and romanticism gazing up at artificial stars.
THE SCAVENGER HUNT
This date idea is a date and a gift rolled into one. If you’re stuck trying to think of original Valentine’s Day gift ideas that will stand out, make a scavenger hunt. The possibilities for this idea are endless. If you two share a house or apartment, hide clues in different special places where you share special memories. Give them the first clue and watch as they solve the puzzle you’ve created to get to their present.
If you’re ambitious, you might even be able to pull off a broader scavenger hunt that spans an entire town. Get local baristas to give clues or hide notes in small places where they won’t get disturbed. This idea takes a lot of time, but it’s totally worth it when you see the smile on your partner’s face. This Valentine’s Day date idea is specifically for couples who are already together. It’s a great way to look back and remember how you got to where you are today.
In broader terms, if you want to go out for Valentine’s Day dinner it’s your job to make the experience memorable. Aim higher than a table at the nicest restaurant in town. The reason Jen suggests going out for Ethiopian food is that most Ethiopian dishes are meant to be eaten with your hands. If you choose this option, you’re guaranteed a night of messy fingers and unconventional manners. Pick a dinner option that breaks the ice and gives you a bit more freedom than a tailored suit and perfect etiquette.
When you have the means, a hotel date is a stylish way to spend your Valentine’s Day evening. Book a room at a nice hotel and order room service. Wander the decorative halls and take a dip in the jacuzzi if you feel like it. It’s nice to have the intimacy of home without any of the responsibility to tidy everything beforehand and clean up after. Let’s face it. We all wish we were millionaires. If you choose the Ritz Carlton for one night, you can spend your moment of luxury with someone you care about and really get lost in the romanticism of being rich and famous.
Finally, if all this talk of staying in the same place makes you feel restless, take you loved one on a trip. This can be a day trip or a weekend getaway. The point is, you’re going to discover an entirely new city with someone special. A trip can be a nice Valentine’s Day gift idea too. If you can’t carve out time for a getaway on February 14th, buy them tickets for a later date and make them follow a scavenger hunt to find them. Adventures with the one you love are precious. Again, it’s a way learn about each other and explore sights neither of you have ever seen before. If you can travel, get out there and go epic this Valentine’s Day.
People may debate what Valentine’s Day means, but at its core, Valentine’s Day is a holiday about love. In many ways, whenever you bring home flowers or plan a sporadic romantic date night, you’re declaring your own personal Valentine’s Day. So take these ideas and run with them. Whatever day you choose to celebrate, just make it special.
For more Valentine’s Day inspiration, check out our video below!
— Timothy Vest