Contrary to what Hallmark would have you believe, Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to include a dozen roses, a heart-shaped box of chocolates, and a dinner out at the fanciest restaurant in town to feel special and romantic! Think outside of the box (of chocolates) this year and invite your sweetheart out for a fun and unique date that doesn’t cost a dime.
Here are 8 fun free date ideas for a Valentine’s Day you’ll remember warmly – long after those heart-shaped mylar balloons start to deflate.
1. Go stargazing
One of the prettiest (and most romantic) backdrops in nature is right there above us every single night. For the most breathtaking view, you’ll ideally want to get as far as possible from any city lights, so you can see the twinkling of every single star.
You could drive to a scenic vantage point and set up a few lawn chairs, or head to a local beach or park with a peaceful trail for a moonlit stroll. If you live in a cold climate, you may need to bundle up for this one – don’t forget a snuggly blanket big enough for two, and a thermos full of hot chocolate! If it’s too cold or bright to stargaze outside where you live, see if any of your local museums or universities offer free (or low-cost) planetarium shows, for a stellar experience with far less wind chill.
2. Have a game night
There’s nothing like a little friendly competition to get you laughing together! So dust off those board games that have been sitting on the shelf forever. Tap into your playful inner child, and remember how much fun games like Monopoly, Scrabble, backgammon, or even classic card games can be.
Board games have experienced a bit of a revival in the last decade, and your friends and family may have some interesting new choices – or old favourites you’d forgotten about – sitting on their shelves.
3. Snuggle up with a movie
The classic dinner-and-a-movie date doesn’t have to involve expensive movie theater tickets. And let’s not even get started on how much they charge for popcorn! Snuggling up at home with a snack (or a glass of wine if you prefer) and your honey on the couch can feel incredibly cozy and romantic.
If you’ve been together for a long time now, try re-watching something that you enjoyed together way back in the beginning. Bonus points if it has a romantic storyline! Or check out something brand-new that you’ve both been dying to see.
4. Attend a free local event
Take a look at what kinds of free community events your city has going on the week of Valentine’s Day. Local recreation centers, businesses, or houses of worship sometimes plan Valentine’s-specific events, if you want to stick close to the holiday theme. But most cities will have a wide variety of free events going on year-round.
Start by checking out the “events and recreation” section of the webpages for your city and the neighboring ones. You can use Pinterest to find blog posts that round-up fun and unique activities in your area. Try searching “free things to do in (your city).” Google and Facebook are also great resources for information about local events.
5. Browse an art gallery or museum
If you and your sweetheart enjoy admiring and sharing your thoughts about works of art together, local art galleries are often free to visit. Some cities also have small, free (or voluntary donation-based) museums and nature centers you can walk through and learn more about a specific landmark, historical aspect, or the creatures that live in your area.
Most big museums do tend to have high ticket prices, but in many cities across North America, public libraries have begun lending out a limited number of museum passes! Check with your local branch in advance to see if this is an option where you live. Another way to score free museum passes could even be through your bank. Some banks offer free admission to select museums as a perk of being an account-holder.
6. Create something together
As long as the two of you enjoy working together and can do it without butting heads, creative projects can be a fun way to bond. This can be as simple as cooking or baking something together, or you can get super innovative and build a new headboard for your bed or start crafting your elaborate Christmas or Halloween decorations in advance.
If you work better when you each have control over your own project, try something you can do side-by-side and enjoy some music and conversation while you create. Whether it’s painting, sketching, each of you building your own birdhouse for the garden, or one of your cooking up a delicious meal while the other whips up a cheesecake for dessert, whatever you create together will have the added bonus of a happy Valentine’s Day memory attached to it!
Quick disclaimer: if you don’t normally have the supplies on hand to get creative, this one could require spending a little money. But if you’re crafty by nature, you probably already have what you need at home.
7. Go window shopping
Sometimes browsing funky or fancy shops with someone you love can be even more fun than actually buying from them. From browsing flea markets, antique shops, or record stores for unusual treasures, to strolling through the ritziest shopping mall around, seeing which items your significant other gets excited over can be a fun way to get a peek inside their head. There’s no pressure to buy anything, just enjoy admiring all of the goods with your sweetie by your side.
8. Take a walk down memory lane
If you have a bunch of photo albums (or even digital photos) that you haven’t looked at in ages, putting on some of the music you and your partner used to listen to when you first got together and sitting down to flip through the photos with one another can be a beautiful reminder of how far you’ve come together, and inspire you to keep on making more memories. If you have any old home videos (or your own wedding video, if you’re married), grab a bowl of popcorn and settle in for an incredibly touching movie night – starring you!
It really doesn’t have to cost a bunch of money to celebrate Valentine’s Day – despite what the TV ads and gigantic displays in every single department store want you to believe. And in reality, the Valentine’s Day dates that stick out in most people’s memories for years to come are not those cookie-cutter fancy dinners. The unique experiences that make you laugh together and remind you of just how special your bond is are the ones that truly do make the fondest long-lasting memories.