Valentine’s Day should be easy. After all, the potentially disastrous bit – finding a partner to get all googly-eyed with – is done. Yet, the reality can be as far from cute and cuddly as a season of Narcos. There’s the panic gift buying – as if every man on earth suddenly remembers it’s his mother’s birthday. The overpriced roses that resemble a shrivelled scrotum the instant you leave the shop. Plus the restaurant dinners where the conversation is drier than a well-done steak.
However, there is a new Plan V. A cooler, slicker way to handle the day – starting with these 14 date ideas that are memorable and have just the right level of mush. You’ve got it from here.
1. Take A Cable Car
Valentine’s Day can feel like every town and city is crammed full of couples. Like, seriously, is no one binge-watching Netflix tonight? To escape to your own little pod of outdoor privacy, think vertical. Cable cars and Ferris wheels were made for this very occasion – they bring awesome views, the novelty factor, the fear of dangling perilously in the air. Okay, don’t dwell on that last one. Do pre-book wherever possible, however. Queuing is never an aphrodisiac.
2. Book A Chocolate Masterclass
Chocolate for Valentine’s Day, ground-breaking, right? Well, actually, it is if you think outside the chocolate box and turn the sweet stuff into an experience. For one, a masterclass with a chocolatier is basically a whole evening spent eating dessert together. You’ll smell chocolate, taste it and turn it into miniature truffley works of art. It’s a touchy-feely activity that brings out your creative and your sensual sides. The result? Prepare to adopt the charm of Ferrero Rocher’s ambassador with the sultry appeal of the Milk Tray man. Roll neck optional.
3. Go Star-Gazing
The night sky isn’t just romantic, it also doesn’t get booked up three weeks in advance and is big enough that you won’t bump into anyone else with the same idea. To ace stargazing, you need a spot away from artificial light (but not so remote that your date thinks you’re luring them into the wilderness), cosy layers, the Sky View Lite app to identify what’s above you, plus something stiff (liquor based, please). Of course, every great plan has a nemesis, and in this case it’s clouds. An observatory or planetarium is a strong back-up. Even if visibility is poor, 3D projections bring the planets to you.
4. Escape To A Boutique Hotel
No relationship was ever made worse by a king-size bed, Egyptian cotton sheets, a mini bar stocked with rum and someone else cleaning the toilet. Spending Valentine’s away in a swanky hotel elevates planning for the day from a chore into a treat. There’s also a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign that you can use without feeling guilty. Meaning all the usual mid-passion mood-killers – parents unexpectedly popping over, the postman needing a signature – are eliminated. Oh yes.
5. Have A Cook-Off
So you forgot to reserve the pop-up restaurant that your partner’s been dropping hints about since last October. No problem. Blame its booking system and inject some DIY fun instead. Propose a challenge: you both have to prepare the best or most inventive meal you can, using only what’s currently in the house. Depending on your level of reliance on takeaway apps, that dish could be a variation on pasta and sauce, or something to make Ottolenghi green with envy. Winner of the cook-off gets a week off washing-up duty.
6. Recreate Your First Date
Obviously it helps if your first date was a cracker. And, very important, that you remember the first date with the right person. A candlelit river cruise with some phone-streamed jazz might be date dynamite, but not if it actually happened between you and an ex. Caveats over with, a trip down memory lane always gets the heartstrings going. Throw on the same Oxford shirt, recreate the food you ate, choose the same bottle of wine, joke about the mishaps or funny moments and how you never could have imagined it would have worked out so well. You big softie.
7. Build Something Together
For a fun evening where time will evaporate, get your geek on and build something together. Lego and jigsaw puzzles are, frankly, wasted on the young. By our age, we should celebrate finally being allowed to buy the big Lego set (Star Wars Millennium Falcon, we’re looking at you). Plus, we won’t throw a tantrum if we can’t find the bottom right-hand corner of the jigsaw. Or so the theory goes. Fact is, games are silly and satisfying in equal measure, and, weirdly, it’s seriously hot watching your partner construct. Who knew?
8. Pick A Random Cuisine To Try
An interesting way to solve the dinner dilemma – i.e. how to eat out without being a clone of every couple in a 10-mile radius – is to pick the cuisine of a lesser known or country you’ve never tried and find a street-food truck or takeout. Maybe it’s Vietnamese or Bangladeshi or Lebanese. The food itself provides a more interesting talking point than ‘Will that couple over there please stop eating each other’ – and you might just stumble upon a new favourite to return to.
9. Give Pottery-Making A Spin
If it was good enough for Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze in Ghost… (okay, Swayze’s character wasn’t exactly alive at the time – but details, schmetails). For Valentine’s Day, a ceramics or pottery-making class is all kinds of sensual. Think about it: hands interlocking over wet clay while you sculpt next to each other at the wheel. Even if the end result is more mangled than majestic, you’ll have a romantic date and a souvenir to remember it by.
10. Belt Out Karaoke
Valentine’s Day singing isn’t just for drunk groups of singles on the train – it’s great for drunk couples, too. Though upgrade the train to a karaoke booth. Depending on which side of the X Factor stage you would be most likely to grace – the voice of an angel ‘Yes’ group or the voice that makes dogs howl – a bit of tequila beforehand may or may not be needed. Though, it’s really the attitude that counts. Grab your date, a classic playlist and belt out some cheesy duets. Sonny and Cher, eat your heart out.
11. Try An Adventure Sport
Not that thing you saw on PornHub that looked like you needed to be triple-jointed, this is good, clean, PG-friendly fun. In fact, your local sports centre is a good place to start. Have you ever been to a climbing wall together? What about trampolining? Or a zip-wire or tree-top assault course? Think outside your comfort zone (literally – there may well be muscle ache the next day) and choose an adrenaline-fuelled activity that’s good for your heart, both physically and romantically.
12. Wow With A Helicopter Ride
It’s hard to talk about helicopters without dropping in a ‘give them the ride of their life’ cliché. But, when in Rome and all that. A helicopter ride is a blow-the-budget, blow-their-socks-off date memorable for you, for your partner, and great for bragging rights on Instagram. Dating by chopper always trumps dating by Uber – even one of the fancy ones with Fiji Water. Where to go? Take a short flight around your city, over a river or near a famous landmark. It’s not just about the views, the bumpy bits are perfect moments for some impromptu hand-squeezing.
13. Relax In A Spa
However tough men like to act, moaning about always having a stiff neck and never doing anything about it, almost all agree – pampering rocks. Take those white spa robes. That’s a level of comfort and fluffiness that seems to defy the laws of science. A spa is a great Valentine’s Day activity because you’re both indulged, both relaxed, and both in a setting where there’s no pressure to competitively look at other couples and judge who is having the better time. In a spa, everyone is too blissed out and horizontal to care. Couple’s packages range from hours of knot-nuking massage to dips in hydrotherapy pools and scent-infused saunas.
14. Play The Flip-A-Coin Game
Still don’t want the pressure of producing a Valentine’s Day dud? Well, why not leave the evening to chance. Head into a town or city centre and flip a coin to make your decisions. Should we turn left or right here? There’s a bar on one side, a café on the other – which wins? Should we go to a museum or the park? Ice cream or cake? Like one of those ‘choose your adventure’ books you loved as a child, the coin handles your fate for you. One thing: just don’t forget your wallet.