Of those celebrating on Feb. 14, the National Retail Federation says 56 percent plan to gift their Valentines with candy. Other popular gifts include greeting cards, flowers, jewelry and an evening out. But if you want to think outside of the heart-shaped box, how about celebrating with unique experiences?
Planning a special outing or a meaningful trip that you and your partner enjoy together may even resonate better than the Valentine’s tradition of gifting. While love languages vary by individual, quality time is one of the most popular ones, trumping gift giving.
Looking for some date night (or date weekend) inspiration? Here’s five fun and unique ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day in 2023.
1. Spend 24 Hours Exploring a New City
Maybe it’s a one-tank trip within your state or perhaps it’s a quick direct flight to a new destination. Regardless, there’s something inherently romantic about discovering a new city and—it’s made even better with a loved one.
Stroll the streets scouting for the best lattes, explore local art museums, catch a show at the theater or comedy club and take locals’ recommendations for can’t-miss, hole-in-the-wall restaurants.
Need help deciding on where to go? Make it a game with your partner! On individual sheets of paper, you can each write down a few cities that you want to explore and that are do-able for a quick trip. Fold up your pieces of paper, put them in a jar that you shake up and then alternate drawing pieces of paper to reveal the cities. The last city that’s picked is your Valentine’s destination. The bonus? While narrowing things down, you’ll learn about your partner’s bucket list destinations.
If you need some more inspiration, The New York Times recently released its “52 Places to Go in 2023” list and it makes a good case to check out some domestic destinations like Charleston, South Carolina and Louisville, Kentucky.
2. Take a Staycation and be a Tourist in Your Own City
Is there a restaurant in town that’s been getting rave reviews? How about a hotel spa that you’ve been curious to check out? Or a visiting art exhibit that you’ve been meaning to get tickets to see?
Use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to play tourist in your own city (or a nearby one) with your partner. Book a room at a local hotel and use it as a launchpad for exploring what’s new near you. With plush robes, turn-down service, extra-cozy bedding, and the chance to order breakfast in bed, there’s just something special about spending a night in a luxury hotel.
When you enjoy your city at a more leisurely pace and through the lens of a tourist, it’s amazing the things you’ll notice—an art mural you’ve somehow managed to walk past or a local gelato shop you never knew existed.
There’s an art to staycationing; some hotels, for instance, offer discounts to locals, for instance, and without a flight to catch, you may be able to request a late check out or book a couple’s massage and enjoy the spa amenities all afternoon long.
3. Instead of a Fancy Dinner Out, Enjoy a Culinary Experience
An alternative to a fancy dinner is to partake in a local food crawl and sample fare from a variety of restaurants. You may just stumble upon your next favorite spot for future date nights.
Another idea? Many chefs offer interactive classes, teaching specialized courses to small groups of gourmands, with classes centered on everything from making dumplings to rolling sushi, shucking oysters or cutting dough for homemade pastas. Other classes will satiate your sweet tooth, with lessons on, say, gourmet chocolate-making or learning the art of French pastries.
If you’re interested in taking classes with your Valentine, check in with your local food halls, kitchen stores, culinary schools and the events listings on Tock to see what kinds of classes are available near you. Once you’re equipped with new skills, you can bring the techniques back to your own kitchen for future at-home date nights.
4. Take a Class Together
Combine your New Year’s resolutions to “learn something new” with your Valentine’s plans to do something romantic and enjoy a class (or series of classes) with your date.
You can hone an existing skill or learn something new altogether. The possibilities are endless, from wildlife photography courses to mixology lessons, dance classes and calligraphy workshops. To narrow things down, though, ask your date: “What’s something you’ve always wanted to do or learn?” Determine where your passions reside, and areas where there may be some overlap, and sign up for a class to nurture those passions.
Art studios, community centers, breweries, park and recreation divisions and community colleges are all great places to find classes to suit your hobbies.
5. Volunteer Somewhere Together
Did you know that in the Greek language, there’s seven words to describe the concept of love?
Valentine’s Day most often celebrates romantic relationships, but why not spread the love and expand the meaning of the day to embrace “agápe,” the word that’s used to describe love for others, including strangers and the less fortunate.
In addition to showing love for your community, volunteering provides couples with a shared activity that they can both enjoy. One survey found that 80 percent of those who volunteered their time agreed that their relationship is better based on this unifying experience.