It’s that time of year where you’re very likely shocked and horrified that Valentine’s Day has snuck up on you yet again and you’re frantically searching for sweet, last-minute Valentine’s Day plans that won’t break the bank. We salute and support you in this annual panic and are here to help with a few low-key ideas for V-Day plans.
While it’s true that we should celebrate the love in our personal relationships every day of the year, and Valentine’s Day has become a totally commercialized holiday — that doesn’t mean we should stop celebrating it or miss out on the chance to keep the day a special one for our partners and loved ones. And, no, you don’t need to go all out with a bed of rose petals, a fancy helicopter ride or anything out of a RomCom. In fact, by keeping things low-key, you almost connect with your partner more, mostly because you’re dodging all of the horrible pressure that Valentine’s Day can put on people.
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend and getting wined and dined is all fine and dandy, but we think these simple — yet still super-fun — date ideas are just as good.
Take a hike
Take a couple of hours to totally disconnect from smartphones and social media and reconnect in the quiet solitude of nature. It’s still winter, so you’ll probably have to bundle up and pack a thermos of something warm for the trek — but the cold weather just gives you an excuse to exchange body heat while you enjoy gorgeous views.
Go ride a bike
If you’re lucky enough to live in an area that isn’t snowed-in or super icy, taking a nice long bike ride is a totally Valentine’s Day-worthy activity. Whether you are on a beach bike path or an old county road, there’s just something so delightfully romantic and old-fashioned about a long bike ride.
Valentine’s Day dinner is so overrated. It’s crowded, it’s expensive, and it’s nearly impossible to get a good reservation. Going out to brunch is way more fun, or opt to make it at home so it can be served up in bed.
Do something you used to do when you first started dating
Did you two have a go-to coffee shop, diner, parking lot spot you used to frequent? Is there an activity (bowling, roller skating, laying around playing Mario Kart) that you would do together? Give yourself a dose of TBT in a low-pressure way that can bring back some sweet memories. (Bonus: If it’s a PG activity, you can totally introduce the kiddos to something special and find a way to share it with them too!)
Have an indoor picnic
An indoor picnic is the ultimate low-maintenance date (especially if you’ve got kids in bed already or managed to score the house to yourself for the night). Pack a bunch of finger foods in a cute basket with a bottle of wine and camp out in the living room. Plus, you and your S.O. can totally bond by rolling around on the floor and making a fort out of blankets and chairs — which, incidentally, turns out to be really romantic.
Mess around in the kitchen
A night in can be a total adventure when you’re getting creative in the kitchen. Get crazy and challenge yourselves to cook up visually stimulating touches like individual beef Wellingtons (like the one pictured above), crystallized pansies and strawberry roses. Throw on a few episodes of Bon Appétit and see where your foodie muse takes you.
Even if it turns out to be a #PinterestFAIL, you’ll still have fun doing it together. Just make sure to have a backup frozen pizza/delivery numbers on hand. You know, just in case.
Or, while you’re at it, take a cooking class together
If you’re feeling really adventurous in the food arena, take a class from a professional. Sur La Table has a Valentine’s Day Date Night cooking class every year. Tons of local places usually offer classes for the occasion as well.
Go to the airport
No, really. Even though bringing a person to an airport is the deepest sign of commitment we can imagine, this is significantly more chill than racing to get through security three hours in advance. Watching the twinkling lights of planes coming in and out of the airport at night is exhilarating and romantic. You can usually find a good spot right outside your local airport, and a lot of airports even have designated areas just for observing (Gerald R. Ford International in Grand Rapids, Charlotte Douglas in Charlotte and Santa Monica Airport, just to name a few).
Originally published February 2011. Updated February 2020.