Great Date Ideas for Valentine’s Day

February 12, 2016, 12:00 PM UTC

Valentine’s Day means a lot of things to a lot of people. A quintessentially romantic celebration of the ones you love most; an overhyped but negligible holiday; the perfect opportunity to eat chocolate and stare at exquisite floral arrangements; a time for reflecting on why you don’t need a dinner date just because the rest of the city seems to have one.

No matter where you fall on the spectrum, the fact is, when it comes to the holiday and travel, there really is something out there for everyone. And since we believe the most transportive travel experiences can happen both when you’re traveling solo and when you share them, we celebrate the full range available at this time of year.

What’s essential, it seems, is variety, and we’ve got plenty of it for you here. We hit the pavement looking at 14 cities that are popular Valentine’s Day destinations, and pulled together the best of what you can do if you plan to spend the holiday there. From creative parties and unique hotel programs to classic eateries and romantic cruises, this list has a mix of cultural, culinary, musical, and offbeat.

So forget any of the loaded expectations that often mark this weekend, and look at it the way we do here: as another opportunity to work through that travel bucket list (chocolates and flowers optional).


Miami is made an even richer place when experiencing it with a partner, so Valentine’s Day make the ideal time for a getaway here. Start with a visit to Villa Vizcaya, a circa-1916 Mediterranean Revival mansion and the city’s most romantic attraction. For more glamorous nostalgia, swing by the YoungArts building, known for its eye-popping tile murals and public exhibits in the main lobby. Last-minute gift purchases can be had in the Design District, which is rich in luxe boutiques, or go for an art stroll in Wynwood Walls followed by a stop at the Perez Art Museum Miami. Finally, HistoryMiami is offering boat tours of the boating shack community known as Stiltsville, and this unique glimpse of Biscayne Bay is sure to cement the mood. —Tom Austin

Want to know more? Read the full story here.

San Francisco

In San Francisco, even romance is about innovation, and the city has plenty of unconventional things to do this year for the holiday. Sign up for a meal at “Inter-courses,” a new pop-up that enhances your bites and cocktails by playing with colors, textures, and the surrounding space. Make your way to Cupid’s Span, a green space on the Embarcadero, for a picnic and to watch the Bay Lights Show. Or convince yourself you’ve escaped to Europe by strolling along Claude Lane, spotted with great Spanish and French restaurants and plenty of old-time curb appeal. Top of the Mark, the high-altitude bar in the InterContinental Mark Hopkins hotel, has unbeatable cocktails and views. Single, stood up, or just looking to release a little playful aggression? Join the crowds at Justin Herman Plaza for the annual Valentine’s Day pillow fight. Arrive at dusk, and don’t forget a kitschy Valentine’s Day-themed costume. —Jenna Scatena

Want to know more? Read the full story here.

New York City

Come February 14, there's something for every kind of romantic in the Big Apple. Perched on a cliff overlooking the Hudson, Wave Hill is a beautiful Bronx estate that’s hosting a classic chocolate and wine tasting event on Valentine’s Day. Local museums are offering everything from star-gazing shows (Hayden Planetarium), insect shadowbox workshops (Morbid Anatomy Museum), and the chance to name a roach after your beloved (Bronx Zoo). With the city’s best restaurants and bars offering a wealth of special menus, and area theaters staging themed shows, you’re spoiled for choice—and set up to spoil your significant other, too. —Molly McArdle

Want to know more? Read the full story here.


Valentine's Day doesn't have to be all roses and candlelit dinners—in Australia's southern capital, there is many a way to celebrate the most passionate day of the year. Take a hot air balloon ride over the city with Global Ballooning, and get sweeping views of the city’s parks and cricket ground. Or, join the locals for Cupid’s Undie Run, a one-mile charity dash. You can rent a hand-built rowing skiff from the Fairfield Boathouse and ride along the Yarra River, or take in a special picnic for two in one of the many intimate nooks at Rippon Lea Estate. High Tea at the Langham’s Aria Lounge is a perennial favorite, or take in the Midnight Cinema in the Royal Botanic Gardens. —Carrie Hutchinson

Want to know more? Read the full story here.


London’s got plenty of fail-safe options for impressive your significant other. Check into the somewhat child-free Artist Residence late Sunday afternoon and kick back with a couple of cocktails downstairs in The Clarendon Cocktail Cellar. Move on to dinner in the hotel's restaurant, Cambridge Street Cafe (the soft shell crab burger is a hit) before retiring to your room. For flowers, head to the Columbia Road Flower Market, which offers some more exotic buds than its competitors. Sexy Fish, one of London’s most of-the-moment restaurants, and perfect for the holiday with its mood lighting, fine food, and opulent décor. Feeling more adventuresome? Sea Life London Aquarium will let you snorkel with sharks, and the London Helicopter will fly you over the capital on special tours. —Alice Tate

Want to know more? Read the full story here.

Washington, D.C.

Fortunately, there are some standout options for any type of celebration you desire this year in our nation’s capital. On Feb. 13, the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra—which happens to be in-house at the National Museum of American History—will perform big band arrangements of classic love songs. Story District returns with its annual Valentine’s Day storytelling performance Sucker for Love, in which a rotating cast takes the stage to regale you with true stories of romance and heartbreak. Popular H Street NE eatery Vendetta is creating a menu inspired by Lady and the Tramp, while fine dining restaurant Masseria is hosting its own Carnivale party. You can attend a Viennese ball at the Austrian Embassy, or take a “sexpionage” scavenger hunt at the International Spy Museum. —Amy McKeever

Want to know more? Read the full story here.


In Georgia's capital, you can peruse works of art, watch a jaw-dropping dance company, or take a scenic drive to wine country—far more memorable than chocolate, hearts, and roses. Now an annual city tradition, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater returns to perform a series of shows at the Fox Theater beginning on Feb. 10. The Center for Puppetry Arts hosts a date night on Feb. 13 featuring puppet couples throughout their museum exhibits. The historic Oakland Cemetery is holding special tours with 25 stops, during which guides recount historic romantic tales of famed residents. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performs a free Valentine’s Day concert at 3 p.m.; the Atlanta Botanical Garden is running “Valentines in the Garden,” a show that offers the chance to see an exhibition that features the world’s largest orchid. Or, get out of town and escape to the scenic wine region of the North Georgia mountains, and enjoy a weekend of tours and tastings. —Nneka M. Okona

Want to know more? Read the full story here.


In the City of Light, there's more to romance than chocolates, lingerie, and flowers. At the five-mile Love Run, partners are tied together at the wrist and up against whimsical challenges along the way. There’s a special on boudoir sessions with photographer Krystal Kenney, and the chance to take a class with La Cuisine Paris making chocolates and macarons. Social club The Chamber is hosting Sex & Booze: Erotic Book Club for Couples, but if you want a bigger performance, Crazy Horse is offering a sultry multi-act performance with champagne and souvenir photo for guests. And when it’s time to hit the hay, hotels like Mama Shelter and Maison Souquet have special packages that kick up the heat. —Sara Lieberman

Want to know more? Read the full story here.


Chicago makes it easy for couples to step outside the norm, whether it's getting dancing, learning how to make truffles, or seeing the city from new heights in a helicopter tour. Hand-roll your own truffles during the Valentine's Day Truffle-Making Party at Katherine Anne Confections in Logan Square on February 12, or learn how to toss a pizza like a pro by James Beard Award-winning chef Tony Mantuano at Bar Toma on Chicago's Gold Coast. Duet Dance Studio in Wicker Park is offering one-hour salsa lessons, and the holiday is coinciding with Chicago Theater Week, the perfect time to snatch deals on the city’s best productions. But the real show-stopper this year comes courtesy Chicago Helicopter Experience, that will take you on a special tour that lifts of from a heliport downtown, and gives you new perspective on the area’s architecture, history, and culture. —Megy Karydes

Want to know more? Read the full story here.


You can't go wrong with Valentine’s Day in Denver this year—the city’s hopping dining scene, nightlife, and cultural activities make any one of these plans ideal. Outdoorsy couples can skate at Skyline Park, then pedi-cab to Sushi-Rama, a Kaiten sushi joint, and finish the evening with a nightcap at Bar Fausto. For more traditional romance, head to French bistro Z Cuisine, walk the Speer Boulevard Bridge, and grab a drink at Williams and Graham. Big spenders can splurge on the tasting menu at Frank Bonnano’s Mizuna before heading to the Denver Arts Center to see a Murder for Two, and newer couples may want to hear live music at Jazz at Jack’s and taste the city’s best chocolate cake at Uptown’s D-Bar.—Megan Barber

Want to know more? Read the full story here.

Portland, Ore.

Portland has plenty of memorable ways to celebrate the holiday, from quirky daytime outings to traditional romantic dinners. Andina is known for innovative Peruvian cuisine, and is offering a special menu, as if the vegetarian-friendly Blossoming Lotus. Nationally syndicated advice columnist Dan Savage will take the stage at Revolution Hall for a live recording of his Savage Lovecast. The Portland Spirit riverboat is offering special romantic cruises this weekend; but for a quintessentially local event, check out the Worst Day of the Year Ride, a costumed bike ride around town. —Margot Bigg

Want to know more? Read the full story here.


Houston may not be top of mind when it comes to romantic cities, but there's a lot to do with your significant other—or on your own—if you're here for the holiday. Book a ride on the Spirit of the Bayou for their Cupid's cruise, or head to Hermann Park for the "Valentine's Day Dinner and a Cruise." The Houston Museum of Natural Science will let you name a roach after anyone you want, and the Museum of Fine Arts is screening the classic film Beauty and the Beast. Notable eateries like Underbelly, Hugo’s, and Holley’s Seafood have menus and atmosphere you can’t beat, but for a blockbuster event, the Houston Museum of Natural Science is holding a special lecture and dinner in the exhibition halls complete with wine pairings. —Kimberly Wilson

Want to know more? Read the full story here.


With its numerous canals and bridges and stately lost-in-time architecture, Amsterdam gives Venice a run for its money as a Valentine’s Day location. Adding to the ambience is the chance to tour the canals at night in a vintage vessel via Private Boat Tours. Book a ‘loge package’ at the Tuschinski, a beautifully preserved Art Deco cinema, which includes a plush loveseat for two, plus a drink and snack. Pick up specialty chocolates from local favorites Puccini Bomboni or Huize van Wely. Don’t miss the city’s many cozy spots for drinks, or luxe water-wise eateries like &Samhoud Places for dinner. —Jane Szita

Want to know more? Read the full story here.


Planning a romantic getaway in Toronto for Valentine's Day weekend? There’s plenty of things for you to do. Jump on a great food tour, like Foodies on Foot’s aphrodisiac-themed “I Got Love in my Tummy,” or A Taste of the World’s special tour celebrating Chinese New Year. Though plenty of restaurants will have special menus, Barsa Taberna has a nine-course tasting of tapas paired with Spanish cava, and Café Boulud is plenty indulgent with items like beef tartare, oysters, and braised short rib. The Gladstone Hotel hosts plenty of themed programming like Heartbreak Karaoke and Rom Com Trivia, and the Drake Hotel offers a pillow fight package. —Mary Luz Mejia

Want to know more? Read the full story here.

This article was previously published on Travel + Leisure.