Sick of the same old same old? Want to shake up your Valentine’s Day? Little Village staff share their favorite oddball date ideas.
Start the day early together
When your partner knows everybody it can be difficult to find space for just the two of you. So I recommend finding the time, rather than the place, that allows you two to be together.
Wake up early and stumble sleepily down to the nearest park. Be glad when he remembered the blanket you never think about and sit facing east. Cuddle up next to him as he complains that you’re stealing all his heat and watch the sunrise. Sit and talk with each other about hopes, dreams and your lives. Take in a still moment as you enjoy the natural beauty.
Then sigh and roll your eyes internally as people start to walk by and he knows all of them — including that one guy, that is apparently his good friend, that you’re pretty sure you’ve never seen before (“You remember Aoiharglnks?!”). Give in to the fact that it’s 7 a.m. in a college town and your partner still found five people to talk to.
After you walk back home, make breakfast together. You make biscuits and gravy with the sausage you defrosted overnight and he makes the eggs because you can never get them “right” (they’re too wet, not spicy enough, you only put half a block of cheese in them). Sit down together and take this time at the beginning of the day to enjoy what you have made for each other. Forget all distractions that take you away from just enjoying one another’s company.
Celebrate on the weekend with brunch, bric-a-brac and Bloody Marys
I’m gonna advocate for day dates here. There are so many more options that open up when you don’t limit yourself dinner and a movie.
I’m a huge fan of breakfast, so anything centered around brunch is speaking my language. I like to hit up Leaf Kitchen for their stellar Moroccan Eggs and fresh squeezed gingery carrot juice.
After breakfast, Artifacts calls my name. It’s the perfect place to go with someone else and while away a bit of the afternoon combing through shelves packed with quirky and interesting vintage finds.
Before heading home, a cocktail is required; it’s afternoon, and it is the weekend after all. I go to the Deadwood if I’m feeling like a good Bloody Mary, or Pullman when I’m in the mood for something a bit more refined.
Unplug for a day of Iowa City classics
Turn off your phones and computers when you wake up.
Morning: Read the paper, rev up with bottomless coffee and crush some hash browns in the company of awkward politicians at Hamburg Inn.
Taxidermied giant sloths are a recipe for romance. The volume of weird shit at the Museum of Natural History will blow your minds.
Afternoon: By the time your feet start to hurt you can walk over to India Cafe and take a load off with chai and copious amounts of curry.
Jump in the car with to-go coffee to keep you warm and head out to Terry Trueblood Recreation Area. Walk off your gluttony or sit by the water and watch the birds.
When you start to shiver, get back in the car and go for a leisurely late-afternoon drive in the country south of town. Watch the light change and sing along with the radio.
Evening: When the clock strikes beer-thirty, head back towards town and knock down some pins and cheap lager at Colonial Lanes. Once you sober up, head on into town.
Stop by La Regia for tacos and pick up the amazing tool you never knew you needed from Paul’s, the greatest store on earth.
Head home, pour yourselves some whiskey and try out whatever you bought from Paul’s (disclaimer — not too much whiskey if it’s power tools.)
Put on your favorite record that your sweetheart hasn’t heard yet and snuggle into bed to listen.
Make something together to cherish/smash
Artistic genius I am not, but a cathartic evening spent painting with a loved one is sometimes just what the soul needs. Some ceramic painting locales will even let you bring in a bottle of wine and snacks to help get the creative juices flowing. You can hang on to your masterpieces to remind you of a fun memory, or, should you not have space in your kitchen cabinets for that mug you painted, they make excellent grandparent gifts. Alternatively, if the relationship doesn’t turn out as well as you once hoped, smashing the piece to tiny bits can be a great way to get over that erstwhile-romance.
Wine, pinball and comedy
The first moment of a truly romantic experience is when you drive away from whatever location you’ve left your children at. Goodbye, darlings!
Drop the car at home. It’s 65 degrees this Valentine’s Day. Our hearts are swollen like sea levels and we’re walking downtown. Aren’t we, dear?
Coming in from the North side, we’ll share plates at Devotay at a small table with a dark tablecloth and tiny pottery lining the windowsills. And there are candles –– very important. I’ll have the cheapest bubbles on the menu; he’ll have Bordeaux.
Pay the bill, stop at the loo and head to Forbidden Planet for pinball, Havana Sunrises and a couple of IPAs. Smoke together on the way.
Time to snuggle up; it’s getting cool outside. The temperature has dropped to nearly 20 degrees above average, but nothing brings a couple close like testing their endurance at a stand up open-mic. Get some beers, baby; we’re gonna get through this. Together.
Gumby’s and gaming
For gamers like my sweetie & me, there’s no greater date than an evening of challenging strategy — and there’s no better place to indulge than long-running Iowa City game store Critical Hit. Whether it’s a simple go-with-the-flow board game day or a competitive Magic: the Gathering draft night, there’s no better date than one that engages your mind and stretches your social comfort zone. With tables full of like-minded strangers, acquaintances and friends, you can bounce around from encounter to encounter, making it all the sweeter each time you and your partner cross paths.
To make a real night of it, add dinner to the mix, with that pinnacle of cheap, late-night fare: Gumby’s Pizza. Located right next door, you can walk over to order and they’ll walk your food right to you when it’s done. The Pokey stix are a crowd favorite (there’s always someone at the game store willing to help you avoid bringing leftovers home), and the pizza is perfect for munching on the go. It’s always preferable to eat between rounds, of course — but you won’t be leaving a trail of grease behind you.
Once the night is over, you can wind down by sharing war stories — your most challenging match-ups, your most impressive plays or the win that got away.
Townie bar crawl
You get to a point where the college bars bore you, which is why someone I was seeing once suggested a “townie” bar crawl. While we both appreciate high-end drinks, these bars allow you and your date to talk in a down-to-earth setting and stay out for a while without draining your wallet.
Starting on the north end of town at Hilltop Tavern, you travel down to the Foxhead for some tunes on their new jukebox and grab a cheeseburger at George’s. If you’re inclined to still head downtown, Deadwood and Dublin Underground are a townie must. End the night with a nightcap at Club Car.
This certainly isn’t the most fancy date but to me, Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be about the amount spent, so much as enjoying the fun, silly, genuine aspects of your date or relationship. If you’re a couple who would rather chat with each other, compete over a game of pool and see who the best TouchTunes DJ is while running into friends old and new, consider compiling your own two-person bar crawl this V-Day!
Valentine’s Day is bullshit.