The day of love, friendships, relationships and every confusing stage in-between is rapidly approaching. Even though those special people in our lives deserve the world, let’s face it: it’s not always affordable. But you can break out those heart-shaped balloons and boxes of chocolates as you dare to wear your heart on your sleeve with some of these budget-friendly Valentine’s Day date ideas that will be sure to make a statement.
Independent book store
In the Pioneer Valley, we’re very fortunate to have a plethora of local bookstores from Raven Used Books in Northampton to Amherst Books in downtown Amherst to Grey Matter Books in Hadley.
For a scenic, slightly longer drive, visit the Montague Bookmill in Montague for a cozy and intimate experience either in the Lady Killigrew Cafe or buried in a book.
Even though I’ve grown up in the area, I still discover new hikes all the time. Mount Sugarloaf in South Deerfield has the option of driving up to the peak (weather permitting) if your goal isn’t to participate in a physical activity in front of your valentine.
Coffee shop date
This is one of the least committal and embarrassing options if you and your valentine are just getting to know each other. Along with many other perks to living in the Valley, there are loads of local coffee shop options if you’re like me and the typical Starbucks option doesn’t exactly scream romance.
Some of my favorite locations that provide a relaxed, candlelit ambiance include The Roost and Woodstar Café in Northampton, Amherst Coffee in the center of Amherst, Esselon Café in Hadley and Thirsty Mind Coffee and Wine Bar in South Hadley.
Galactic bowling at Spare Time
Again this is a dimly lit environment to help you either calm your nerves or get extra cozy with your valentine.
Your best bet is bowling earlier on in the day when shoe rentals are $4.00 alongside a $5.00 fee for each individual game. The night price of $15.99 per person may leave a hole in your pocket.
If the date is not going well, there’s always the option of the on-site bar and cheese fries to numb the pain.
Build a Valentine’s Day-inspired snowman
With the effects of climate change, we’re actually more likely to have a white Valentine’s Day than a white Christmas. Why not take advantage of that? Building a Valentine’s Day snowman could be a fun way to put those confectionery hearts that no one actually likes to good use.
This idea could also earn you major creativity points with your valentine for thinking out of the box.
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but sometimes simplicity really packs a punch. Pick up a printed wool blanket or quilt and a basket with snacks and a sparkling beverage and you’re well on your way to a memorable night.
This date idea provides both privacy and intimacy while keeping things interesting as the stars light up the sky. Be prepared for deep conversations as you and your valentine contemplate the universe and how small it really is. You’re in for a reflective night.
House shop for future life
This date idea is obviously not for the faint of heart or recent relationships. This is for the couple who has been in it for the long haul. This is not their first rodeo. They have dreams and aspirations that intertwine. They’ve had the “five years from now” conversation.
My recommendation for this date is to take a ride through some of your favorite neighborhoods and pick out features of houses that you both like. Doing so will create the image of building a dream house together from little pieces of all your favorite memories.
A fun place to look at house décor, if that’s you and your partners thing, is Pottery Barn. Pricey as it may be, the creative window displays are really helpful in curating creativity around textures, materials and overall styles you two are interested in.
I know few people who don’t enjoy a good, hearty brunch. It’s most endearing feature is probably the fact that you get to stay in your pajamas until 11 a.m., but the mimosas and Belgian waffles don’t hurt either.
A few of my favorite places in the area are 30Boltwood at the Lord Jeffrey Inn in the center of Amherst if you’re looking for a higher end experience, Bread & Butter in North Amherst if you’re looking for Instagram-worthy lighting, Jake’s in Northampton if you’re looking for some traditional biscuits and gravy and the Green Bean in Northampton if you’re looking for a morning of creativity with their “make your own waffle” menu.
Make a mixtape or a playlist
This is probably the simplest idea of the bunch. How many times have you been either walking to class or driving around town when a song on your Spotify or iTunes or radio reminds you of that special someone in your life? Simply coming up with a theme of 10 or so songs that either explain your feelings for your valentine, you think will make them laugh or simply made you imagine their face will make the cut.
There’s probably nothing more romantic than expressing your feelings for someone through music, especially if you’re not someone who’s gifted with words. It can be a real win-win.
However your other half listens to music, make sure they hear your thoughtful tunes. Make them a playlist/mix CD or simply snag their phone or laptop when they’re not watching and make a playlist on their phone. You can then make a date out of if by listening to the music together. It’s the thought that counts with this one.
Classic dinner and movie at home
Last but not least, the ever-popular and satisfying dinner and a movie cliché. A fun way to make this experience your own is by setting up your apartment like a restaurant serving your valentine’s favorite cuisine.
A simple meal idea would be Italian food. With a little spaghetti, red roses and decadent chocolate, your date will be in heaven.
Gina Lopez can be reached at [email protected]