Valentine’s Day has its share of haters. From people who disapprove of the consumeristic obligation of purchasing cheesy cards and candy, to true romantics who don’t want an excuse to go out on a date, the holiday has its critics. But just because Valentine’s Day traditions have their flaws doesn’t mean it still can’t make for a pretty great date.
Here are 12 ways to elevate Valentine’s Day (that don’t involve purchasing ginormous teddy bears.)
Buy Ethical Chocolate
Boxes of chocolate are a Valentine’s Day staple, but the cocoa industry can be an infamously shady operation. Instead of purchasing from brands that allow child labor, unfair trade practices and terrible working conditions in their supply chains, check out this guide to buying ethical candy.
Take a 3-Hour Road Trip
Three hours is a completely manageable day trip and, for most couples, it’s far enough to get you off the beaten path and on to some adventures. Find a roadside diner. Explore a nearby town. Hike a trail. You can go exploring and be back by midnight, easily.
Participate in a bluegrass jam. Take an architecture tour. Check out a nearby museum. Support local arts culture. Do something that will open your mind a little.
Skip the Hallmark Card
Even if you don’t believe that celebrating Valentine’s Day is a conspiracy to get you to buy greeting cards (though it would make sense), $4 is a lot to pay for a piece of cardboard. This year, instead of paying some Hallmark scribe to write a cornball joke for you, pen your own romantic note to tell your loved one how much you care.
Remember the Mix-Tape
Pick a selection of classic love tunes, the songs that meant a lot during your relationship or just a few of your favorite romantic jams, channel your inner Lloyd Dobler and create your own Valentine’s Day soundtrack.
Do yourself—and your date—a favor on Valentine’s Day: Put your phone on airplane mode during your night out. You’ll enjoy not being distracted, and your date will enjoy not having to share your attention with your Facebook feed.
Dance Like Nobody’s Watching
Almost any town is sure to have some kind of dancing you can handle. Square dancing, ballroom dancing, breakdancing or just throwing down at the club—it’s all available and it’s a great date. It’s pretty fun to go dancing when you know what’s going on, but it’s definitely more fun when you don’t.
Watch a Classic
Before the days of sappy rom-coms, there was a time when Hollywood actually knew how to tell an amazing love story. Fire up Casablanca, Singin’ in the Rain, It’s a Wonderful Life or Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and watch a romantic movie that’s actually great.
Fortunately, most towns still have some sort of video arcade somewhere in them. Get a roll of quarters, head down there and face off in that place where childhood bonds are formed and champions are proved.
Want to do something truly loving on Valentine’s Day? Find a cause you both feel passionate about, and spend an hour or two volunteering together.
Visit a farmers’ market during the afternoon, find the ingredients for custom feast and head home for your very own, tag-team Iron Chef experience. However, if you do decide to make dinner reservations instead, make sure to …
Support Local Restaurants
Skip the big chains and franchise restaurants in favor of local fare. Not only are you supporting a small business, you’ll also likely end up with a better meal.
Jesse Carey is a mainstay on the weekly RELEVANT Podcast and member of RELEVANT's executive board. He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and two kids.