“Valentine’s Day is a huge opportunity to show the special woman in your life that she is in fact special to you,” says DeAnna Lorraine, a San Diego-based dating and relationship coach for men. “Like it or not, women measure the level of effort and thoughtfulness you put into this day.”
Yes, Valentine’s Day is cheesy and blown out of proportion, and your love should be expressed every day of the year—but if you don’t plan a proper date on February 14th, you will most certainly be in the doghouse (no matter how much she says it’s not a big deal). So get over how ridiculous the day is and listen up: Any guy can make a reservation at a nice restaurant. V-Day is not just about love, but about your specific love (or like, if you’re not quite there with your S.O.). That means you need to tailor the date to what is right for your relationship—both the unique experiences you’ve had together as well as how committed you are to one another (there is most certainly a difference between “I like you but we just met” dates and “I will love you forever” dates).
Sweating bullets yet? Chill—we’ve polled an arsenal of dating and relationship experts to give you over two dozen creative date ideas. Whether she is more a grand gesture gal or low-key love, there’s something to turn even the most clueless of guys into Don Juan this Valentine’s Day.
Hot, sweaty, and full of feel-good endorphins—this may be as close to sex as a date as you can get away with. “Hot yoga is primal. The poses are sensual and it not only aids in flexibility but the added heat also promotes blood flow, which can lead to better orgasms,” says Tristan Weedmark, Global Passion Ambassador for erotic toy company We-Vibe. Plus, if yoga is one of your partner's past times, she’ll appreciate your taking an interest in her hobby. To turn up the heat even more, book a private session for just the two of you, she suggests. “Sweating it out together in an intimate setting serves as the perfect build-up for a steamy night ahead.”
Who says your V-Day date needs to take place at night? “Sex hormones are highest for both men and women in the morning, plus we tend to feel fresher in the a.m., so wake up 20 minutes early and really surprise her,” suggests licensed marriage and sex therapist Kat Van Kirk, Ph.D., resident sex expert for online adult toy retailer, AdamandEve.com. Try this: Sneak out of bed early and sprinkle a path of rose petals from the bedroom to the kitchen. Start whipping up breakfast and then call her so she can wake up surprised by the romance of it all. Have her present sitting on her plate so she has something to unwrap while you finish cooking. Then, after breakfast, lead her back the bedroom to give her another kind of gift.
Take the pressure off of an intense dinner date with an interview-style conversation by opting for something interactive and intoxicating. Wine and paint or drink and draw classes allow you to be playful and embrace your creativity, offers Boston-based dating and confidence coach Nick Notas. If that idea makes you nervous, don’t worry—she doesn’t expect you to be Picasso. “You can get silly and poke fun of each other’s work—it’s supposed to be fun,” he adds.
Take Netflix and Chill to the next level—building a blanket fort in your grown-up living room is both nostalgic and a little bit sexy, says Weedmark. “Creating a space where your relationship can take a break from the outside world will bring you closer together, fuel conversation, and let you laugh like kids again,” she explains. Build the fortress of blankets, pillows, and lights with a window to watch movies all night from—or build it over the bed for a different kind of all-night marathon. And aim for more of a sensual castle than a “boys only” fortress. Need inspiration? Head to where she’d go to create this: Pinterest.
V-day falls right before President’s Day, so take advantage of the three-day weekend and book a romantic getaway, suggests Donna Barnes, New York-based relationship coach and author of Giving Up Junk-Food Relationships: Recipes for Healthy Choices. Opt for the full experience—skiing upstate, a couple’s spa retreat—or AirBnB a cabin and plan an entire weekend of romantic events. “Take a hike, draw a candlelit bath, make love in front of a fireplace—quality time together is always appreciated,” she adds.
You may not be Patrick Swayze, but attempting to move like Dirty Dancing will certainly make her swoon. Take her on a date to a private dance lesson like Tango, Ballroom, Salsa, or Bachata, suggests Lorraine. “This shows her you’re romantic and willing to go outside your comfort zone for her. Plus, dancing brings your bodies close together and can be great sensual foreplay,” she adds.
Want to kick it up a notch? Book the dance class for Saturday and pretend like that is your big V-Day present. Come Sunday, whisk her off to a salsa or tango club, Lorraine suggests. You'll probably both still be beginners after just one lesson, but it's a way to show you can plan ahead and that you really thought about making the day special. (Plus you can capitalize on that sensual foreplay two days in a row.)
Take advantage of the season and plan the ultimate active winter date: Take her skiing or snowboarding. “There is something romantic about mountains at night: you, your girl, a quiet chairlift, and thermos of spiked hot chocolate,” Weedmark says. Then, skip the crowded restaurants and snuggle up in the chalet by the fire après-ski instead. If downhill sports aren’t your thing, try cross country skiing or even build a snowman, she adds—anything that lets you have fun in the snow (and gives you an excuse to cozy up afterward).
Channel your inner Renaissance Man. “Surprise her by cooking a romantic dinner at home, but make something you wouldn’t normally cook, such as lobster or fondue,” suggests Lorraine. Create the whole romantic restaurant atmosphere: Light candles, play music, and have a specialty drink or cocktail. “Women really love when a man puts thoughtfulness and effort into something for her. This idea shows that you are trying to do something a little more creative than just taking her to a restaurant and, because of the private setting, it allows you to be more intimate with each other throughout the night.”
It may be a decidedly girly holiday, but nothing says you need to shower her in pink and frills. Surprise her with a more primal date—that also happens to be a great opportunity to flex your brawn, which evolutionary science suggests women are attracted to, points out Weedmark. Plus, healthy competition can reignite the spark in your relationship. Make up your own rules as the night goes on, she suggests: Whoever gets the bullseye first gets to choose the evening's main event.
Valentine’s Day can be a lot of pressure—for both of you. And it’s okay to keep it casual. Going to a bar with an activity like karaoke or trivia sets a laidback vibe so you both aren’t taking things too seriously, but you still get to be physically close, says Notas. If you’re karaoke veterans, upgrade the date by secretly requesting a romantic duet or “your song.” It’ll showcase that you remember today is supposed to be special without making too big of a deal of it.
If a romantic dinner isn’t her thing, sign up for an escape experience (like Escape the Room). Working together to solve clues and find keys to make it out of the room will bring you closer and foster trust and dependability, Weedmark points out. Plus, since these usually involve a pretty tense backstory, this follows the same logic as taking a girl to a scary movie: You both have an excuse to hold the other tight for comfort.
“Whether on the ice where you’ll need to bundle up or indoors at a roller rink, there’s something fun and flirty about skating around a rink,” says online dating expert Julie Spira, founder of Cyber-Dating Expert. Make sure to catch her when she falls and you’ll get to watch her swoon, she adds.
Everyone wants to solve a mystery—especially when it involves romance, says Spira. Start the day off with a text message that says “Happy Valentine’s Day. Please wear red” and include your first clue. When she arrives at the first destination, send her a second clue requesting a Skype or FaceTime chat so you can wish each other a Happy Valentine’s Day again, and give her the second clue. “Include fun things like sending her to get a mani/pedi to get ready for the big night, or splurge for a relaxing massage,” she suggests. End the scavenger hunt at a restaurant, where you greet her with one long-stemmed red rose. Cue romantic music.
“Take her up to the most beautiful scenic lookout of your town,” suggests Sarah Jones, founder of Introverted Alpha and dating coach for men. This is super easy too, guys—just Google, "[Your City] Best Scenic Lookouts." “Pack a picnic and, since it’s winter, also a thermos of warm, mulled wine, blankets, and extra gloves and scarves,” she adds. “It’s so easy, so romantic, and shows how thoughtful you are.” Plus, it gives you an excuse to snuggle (can you sense a theme yet?).
If your culinary skills aren’t quite up to snuff but you want a night in, opt for a romantic indoor picnic, suggests dating coach and author David Wygant. Pick up easy-to-eat foods like gourmet cheeses, artisan bread, cured meats, and make a spread to share over a blanket on the floor. “It's fun. It's cute. It's simple—and it's easy,” he adds.
Upgrade your usual bar date by taking her straight to the source, like a brewery, distillery, or wine bar. Sign up for a tasting which will allow you to experience new tastes together and discuss what you enjoyed about them, suggests Notas. For the ultimate romantic points, at the end, compare notes and make sure to buy her a bottle of her favorite wine or craft beer as a Valentine’s gift, adds Spira.
This is the ultimate date: “You get to spend time together during a very intimate experience, and by the time you get home, you'll both be covered in massage oil and feeling very relaxed,” points out dateologist Tracey Steinberg, author of Flirt For Fun & Meet THE ONE. Strapped for cash (or waited too long and now all the spas are booked?). Create the experience at home, suggests Wygant. “Have candles lit all over the house, rose petals all over the floor, massage oils in hand—give her the full in-home spa experience,” he explains. Bonus to this one: You’re fostering the aphrodisiac of touch and relaxation while already in your own bed.
There’s definitely an art to your choreography between the sheets—and now you can record it. “Buy a Love is Art kit or your own canvas and body-safe paint. That’s everything you need to create a truly unique painting while being intimate,” offers Weedmark. That’s right—you lather your body in paint and hit your best moves on top of a canvas. “You’ll have a fun bonding experience and at the end you’re left with a beautiful abstract piece of art that perfectly captures your love.”
Valentine’s Day isn’t typically a holiday we associate with giving to the less fortunate, but who could use more love on Valentine’s Day than those in need, points out Notas. Volunteer at the local homeless shelter. “Showing compassion not only changes lives but also feels amazing for both of you and creates a shared meaningful experience,” he explains. Plus, a recent study in Evolutionary Psychology revealed that women find compassion and altruism the most attractive feature in a long-term partner, so suggesting you forgo your five-star dinner to head to the soup kitchen will earn you points in her book, too.
“If she is adventurous in the bedroom and enjoys sexual play, why not create a basket of new items for your play together?” says San Diego-based sex therapist Jenn Gunsaullus, Ph.D. Think: massage candles, new lubricant, a small vibrator, bondage gear—whatever is exciting for you two.
This is bound to be every guy’s favorite date option—but consider your gal first. “You don’t want to put pressure on her or make the night about meeting your fantasies, but for a couple who still has sex pretty often or women who are always ready for some sexual play, it can be fun to make the date about sexual exploration,” says Gunsaullus.
If it sounds like a fit for your relationship, try Gunsaullus’ master plan: Go out for a light dinner (so neither of you feels bloated or tired from the meal) and every 20 minutes or so, reveal a small gift from the basket or tell her about it. “This is a great form of foreplay to build anticipation and tease with what you want to do to and with each other. Then, by the time you get home, you already have fun ideas circulating in your head to move into sexual play,” she adds.
The only way you can get away with the boring old V-day dinner reservation? Arriving in style. Pick her up a gorgeous classic car, or even a motorcycle depending on what kind of girl she is. “Every girl wants to feel like Cinderella for a night,” says Lorraine. “Plus, renting a cool mode of transportation for the evening brings an element of major fun and adventurousness for both of you that is sure to rev up the heat and create some bonding moments.”
Forget the romance of watching the sun set—wake her up with roses, pull her out of bed, and drive somewhere nearby where you can watch the sunrise with a champagne toast. This one’s especially great for couples who have been around the block: Since you’ve probably spent a few of these holidays together, the change in routine from previous years will certainly surprise her, offers Lorraine. And, if you have kids, it takes the babysitter out of the equation—wake up before the little ones and, instead of driving somewhere, simply lead her outside. Wake up a little earlier yourself and have blankets, chocolate, and champagne waiting for the two of you.
Upgrade your romantic dinner to a more hands on experience. “It's adventurous to try something new, and with a class, you get the bonus of a new skill to make your relationship even more delicious later,” says Jones. And you can adapt the class to the stage of your relationship, Weedmark adds. Haven’t been dating that long? Opt for something light and fun like pizza making. Or kick things up a notch and look for a class that focuses on aphrodisiac cooking.
“We almost always feel amazing and accomplished after getting physical, especially considering how the endorphins can help boost your mood,” Notas points out. Outdoor sports can be tough in the winter—especially if you don’t live near mountains or have enough snow to ski on. Rock climbing inside is a physical activity without the weather hazards and, as you take turns belaying one another, it helps foster trust in your relationship.
Blanking on a creative date? Repurposing the old is underrated. “Recreate your first date or your first Valentine's Day together and tell her you'd like to start this as a tradition,” suggests Steinberg. “This shows her that you are thinking about having a future with her.”
Want to do something more intricate? Think about all the great places you’ve been on dates to or talked about checking out, suggests Gunsaullus—tasty meals and treats, beautiful scenery, cultural environments, sporty or outdoor activities. Then, create an adventure day with clues that she has to follow that guides the two of you all over the city together. It’s the ultimate swoon-worthy combination of sentimentality and novelty.