Ah, Valentine's Day. The day where you feel left out if you're single, or pressured to buy a gift if you're in a relationship. Shops fill up with shiny red boxes of chocolates, factory-fresh teddy bears, and bouquets of factory-farmed roses. So what can you do if you're not into dropping your hard-earned cash on an expensive dinner out or some mass-produced candy? We've been hearing a lot about how experiences can be more meaningful than things, so this year, ditch the meaningless purchases and plan a fun activity instead. We've come up with 8 non-consumerist activities you can do this Valentine's Day by yourself, with your honey, or with a friend. Invigorate your senses, learn something new, spread the love to your community, and laugh with someone special on this hallmark-studded day.
Craft cocktails together
Even if you splurge on top-quality ingredients, you’ll still save money over bar-hopping. Start your day off with a kick by making a batch of spicy, crunchy, treat-filled Bloody Marys with your sweetie or a group of friends. With an entire salad’s worth of organic veggies, you might even be able to convince yourself it counts as breakfast. Whip up a batch of Bloody Marys using your favorite recipe, then make it extra special by creating a DIY Bloody Mary garnish bar. Set out small ramekins and fill them with an assortment of delicious accompaniments: pickle spears, celery, garlic-stuffed olives, peperoncini, lemon and lime wedges, and maybe even your favorite homemade pickles.
Set out on an urban exploration
Whether you live in a small town or a big city, there’s always something new and unexpected to explore, especially when you set off by foot. Invite your date and prepare your urban exploration bag – you’ll want to bring a camera, warm jacket, comfy shoes, tasty treats, something warm to drink, a map or a well-charged smartphone, and bus fare (just in case you end up miles away). Prepare in advance by scanning a map of your city and listing out some cool spots to visit — a park you’ve never been to, a walk along a riverfront, a historic district or maybe an area with something more unusual like the landfill, water treatment plant, or bread factory. Snap plenty of pics, check out hidden street art, and get some exercise before stopping for a romantic outdoor lunch at a unique vista.
Give away flowers
Instead of buying expensive flowers for your significant other, source some free bouquets and give them out to people who could really use a little extra thoughtfulness this Valentine’s Day. Did you know that flower shops regularly discard bunches of flowers and foliage once they’ve gone slightly past their prime? Ask around at local flower shops or grocers – flower markets and wholesalers are particularly good – to see when they toss their blooms for the week. You can ask if they might be willing to donate some leftovers to you to distribute for free this Valentine’s Day. You might also see compost or trash bins full of expired blooms after closing time. There’s still plenty of life left in those stems — simply clip off any curled leaves, pinch off brown buds, and re-arrange to create a colorful bouquet. Then get your date and spread the love together; you might even hand flowers out on the street, in your local park, to neighbors, or in nursing homes and shelters.
Get out there
There’s nothing more thrifty and eco-friendly than inviting your date for a day in the great outdoors. Pack up a backpack with a picnic lunch and a flask of hot Irish coffee (it is February after all) and hit the trails. Whether you explore your local park, scale a peak, strap on some snowshoes, or wander along the seashore, you can find a way to get outdoors almost anywhere. Nature offers plenty of opportunities to peace out and reconnect with your significant other, so bring a warm layer – and if you’re feeling romantic, maybe even a book of poetry – and get hiking.
Create and connect
Invite your date to a DIY art night at home. All you need to so is set out some art supplies like watercolors, paintbrushes, water, and paper, open a bottle of wine, and put on some relaxing, romantic tunes. You don’t need to be an artist to get creative – you’ll be surprised at what you can create by simply grabbing a paintbrush and a sheet of blank paper and just doodling. If you want a little more direction, check out a fun tutorial on watercolor painting and follow along.
Cook a gourmet meal
Cooking is a natural fit for a romantic date: you’re close together in a small space, and there are plenty of tactile, sensory elements to preparing food. Interactive, time-consuming recipes like gnocchi or pasta aren’t an everyday menu item, but they’re perfect for a fun, partner cooking experience. You’ll both need to get involved to make the dough, roll it out, shape the pieces, and finally, prepare the meal. Try this scrumptious recipe for ricotta gnocchi from Serious Eats, and don’t forget a nice bottle of Italian red to enjoy while you roll the dough. Finally, set your table and use all your nicest serving ware, break out the candles, put on your favorite music and enjoy your handiwork.
Write a love letter
A handwritten letter is so much more meaningful than a store bought card that includes a message written by someone else. Grab your favorite pens and markers and settle in to write your own love letter – it can be to your sweetie, or even to a favorite friend or relative. Start out by listing all the things you love about that person, and let your imagination take you from there. Fold up your note and tuck it inside an envelope, then deliver it to your special Valentine.
Go ice skating
When was the last time you rented a pair of skates and glided around an ice rink like a graceful Olympic athlete (or like a totally awkward penguin)? This classic winter activity is still super fun, and falling on your behind in front of your date can be just as heartwarming as gliding along in perfect harmony. Get into the Valentine’s Day spirit by adding a ridiculous thrifted accessory like a sparkly red vest or heart-shaped sunglasses. If you don’t have access to an ice skating rink, try another fun sport where you and your date can simultaneously make fools of yourselves, laugh, and have an excellent time. Stand up paddle boarding, rock climbing, or Acroyoga are all great alternatives.