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5 Creative Ideas for Valentine’s Day Dates (That Don’t Involve Dinner Reservations)

These Valentine’s Day date ideas may be atypical, but they’re still romantic.

I have always been a bit of a Valentine’s Day scrooge. Each year on the day of all things red and pink, you will find me wearing black (mostly because that is the only color in my closet but also because I’m a rebel like that), ranting about this contrived consumer-driven smarm fest, and warning those with fancy dinner reservations that restaurants are price-gouging on this very special day. Yeah, I’m a real joy to be around on Valentine’s Day.

That being said, on any other day of the year, I’m a sucker for romance. So in the spirit of a loving but atypical Valentine's Day, I would like to suggest five romantic date ideas that don’t involve the colors pink or red, dinner reservations, or Cupid’s arrow.

01. Mix and match.

Instead of spending the evening gazing into one another’s eyes, team up to do a little matchmaking.Host a couple of single friends (both men and women) for dinner and see what happens. This isn’t a setup—at least your single friends won’t think so—but an opportunity to mix and match friends and catch up over dinner. Even if there are no sparks, your single friends will appreciate the TLC, while you and your man can have fun watching to see if your “secret setup” is gaining any traction.

02. Have an ‘Open when . . .’ night.

This idea was inspired by one blogger who was looking for an inexpensive but thoughtful gift for her husband. For those of you whose love language is "words of affirmation," this date night idea is a winner. Grab your guy and settle in for a cozy night of writing letters to one another to be opened at a later date—an anniversary, a tough day, a vacation, etc. Make the evening special by setting up shop by a fire or cuddled on the couch with a bottle of wine. Go all out with special stationery and maybe even a wax seal to add old-timey charm.

03. Kick off a ‘thing’ night.

Verily’s contributing couples therapist Zach Brittle says one of the keys to building a healthy relationship based on shared goals is to have a “thing.” This, Zach explains, is a process. It requires sharing your hopes and dreams and creating a shared bucket list, if you will. So why not use your Saturday night to focus on your “thing”? It could mean spending your date night creating a list of ideas or, if you have already figured out your “thing,” putting them into action. Sign up for that rock climbing club you have always wanted to do, take the time to share your art projects with one another, or work on that volunteer project you are both excited about. Add a touch of care in your preparation for the date to keep this evening special. Painting your nails, setting the ambiance, and later sharing a decadent dessert are always sure ways to send the message that this night is not like every other.

04. Try something new.

Add instant fun and discovery to your love life by picking a day or night to try something new. I’m not a huge advocate for trying things you have never wanted to do just for the sake of trying them because usually there is a fairly good reason why you don't want to partake. But there is something to be said for trying out something that you want to do or are curious about and just haven’t had the opportunity to try. Maybe it’s a pottery class, a poetry reading, Ethiopian food, a black box theater performance, improv, or streaking (just kidding!), but you get the point. Do it together and revel in the discovery of new experiences.

05. Go for a hike.

This is my all-time favorite date, even in the winter! Bundle up if need be and venture outdoors, just the two of you. Taking a hike or even just going for a walk is a great way to savor being with someone whom you love to be alone with. Grab your man's hand and a light backpack with a blanket and snacks, and head uphill. Trudging through nature offers a time to talk, reflect, and just be. Savor the sound of silence or the wind blowing through the trees, and when you reach the top, cuddle up together and enjoy a view or private place to picnic.