5 Simple Outdoor Date Ideas for Valentine’s Day

Creative, frugal, and romantic: the ideal date descriptives we aspire for on Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately, many-a-couple will get sucked down the whirlpool of cliche, costly, and cheesy, made inevitable by checking off the flowers-chocolate-Hallmark card-and-dinner list. I can hear you sighing over your own predictability. But it’s not too late to bring some fresh air to your date plans–literally.

Check out these five outdoor adventure styled dates that will help you achieve that personal, romantic, and wallet-friendly Valentine’s Day you’ve been dreaming of (and, don’t worry, you don’t have to be an Eagle Scout or a Dawn Wall climber to enjoy any of these activities).

Stargazing

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Before you quip that this date idea is just as cliche as a candlelight dinner, let me explain: there’s the “really-easy-obvious” way to do stargazing, and then there’s the “super-awesome-sweet-and-snuggly” way to do stargazing. This method is still fairly simple, but involves some important prep-time to make this date unique.

This is your new Stargazing Gameplan:

  1. Find the ideal stargazing spot. If you live in the mountains, this may be in your backyard or a 20 minute drive away. But if you live in the city or a valley, you will need to determine the closest drive to the area with the least amount of smog and light pollution.
  2. Know the best time to go out–just because the sun went down doesn’t mean it’s primetime for stargazing yet. Find out at this site when the moon will rise on February 14th, and whether or not the phase will be outshining the stars.
  3. BLANKETS. BLANKETS BLANKETS. Is stargazing in February possible without at least one blanket?
  4. Take advantage of that quiet-back-porch or nighttime-windy-road ambience and max it out by making a soft, sweet playlist of you and your date’s favorite music to play in the background.
  5. Get a little nerdy; Google up some astronomy. So instead of saying, “Hm, I wonder if that’s a constellation,” you’ll actually know. Better yet, get an actual book on constellations so you can carry it along with you. There’s also a constellation app available for all you app people.
  6. Get a little more nerdy. Ever wonder why a constellation or a star has its name? Ancient cultures created mythologies for the celestial map, including the Babylonians, Egyptians, Chinese, and Greeks. Learn a few of these stories before your night out (check out Perseus & Andromeda, or Orion) and exchange them with your date. 
  7. Don’t forget to prepare some hot drinks!

Bonus style points: Stargazing from the bed of a pickup truck, on top of a water tower, or in a boat at the middle of a lake.

Build a Quinzhee

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For those of you living in a place with snow (the struggle is REAL in California this winter), you are in the ideal position to make that romantic snow fort–or Quinzhee–happen. A Quinzhee is basically like an Igloo, except much easier to make. Depending on where you live, this could take place near your house or during a weekend in the backcountry–and all you need are two snow shovels.

The simplified steps of building a Quinzhee:

  1. Shovel a ton of snow into a huge pile.
  2. Pack down the snow mountain as much as you can.
  3. Let the snow settle for a few hours, during which lunch and a snowball fight are recommended.
  4. Carve out a cave in the mound of settled snow.

This video will further explain how to properly make a Quinzhee.

Bonus style points: Prepare soup or chili beforehand to bring as a warm celebration meal to eat inside the Quinzhee. And hot drinks.

Hug a Tree

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Do you have a serious nature lover in your life? Better yet, are you BOTH serious nature lovers? Why not do some nature lovin’ for your Valentine’s date? Why worry about buying the right color of roses when you can’t go wrong with shrinking your carbon footprint?

Five ways to make your inner hippies happy:

  1. Instead of driving to the store to buy a Valentine’s Day card, make your own homemade note out of materials you already have at home.
  2. Pick up trash at a local park or beach, or volunteer your time to clean up a hiking trail.
  3. Plant a tree, or start a garden.
  4. Be doubly environmentally and socially conscious by not purchasing flower bouquets. Instead, cut from your own garden, buy a pot of organic flowers, or hike to a meadow (but remember to practice Leave No Trace by letting the wildflowers stay where they are!).
  5. Bike or walk to your date spot.

Bonus style points: Make that dinner date at a Vegan cafe or restaurant.

Like-a-Hipster-in-a-Museum Day Hike

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They slowly peruse the walls of art, with their trendy clothes and a camera slung about their neck–those hipsters. We might judge them a little for their show, but maybe we can learn a few style points from them…in this case, meshing their methods with a day hike to make it unique, different…and perhaps a little hipster?

How to day hike like a hipster in a museum:

Step 1: Choose a moderate hike with a comfortable length for you and your significant other. This hike isn’t going to be training you for Mt. Everest; it’s about spending time with your loved one more than conquering that mound of dirt or taking care of your calorie count.

Step 2: Keep the frame in mind that you’re treating this hike like you’re walking through a museum; take your time. If you or your partner sees something of interest on the trail–animal tracks, wildflowers, a hidden view, a funky lookin’ tree, etc.–stop and look at it, explore it (keeping LNT practices in mind), have an existential crisis about it–whatever it is. Take a picture or two.

Step 3: Bring a disposable camera and use all of the exposures–after the hike, get the film developed and see how your pics turned out. Other options include using a Polaroid camera, or just your phone, so long as the challenge is that you won’t look at the pictures until after the end of the hike.

Step 4: Pack a sack lunch or snack with a blanket to share at the top of the hike. You can be as thrifty or extravagant as you want with this one, but remember you get bonus hipster points for bringing an offbeat bottled drink.

Step 5: Don’t forget the Valentine’s notes–something homemade or handwritten, perhaps, or some of those Valentine’s you’d give to someone in third grade; whatever speaks to your hipster-at-heart best.

Adventure in the Concrete Jungle

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Clearly, you don’t need a week-long backpacking trip in the wilderness to plan a romantic outdoorsy excursion with your significant other. But what if you just can’t escape the city or suburbia? Here are a few ideas of how to adventure in that concrete jungle: 

  1. Pack a picnic lunch, some books, and/or a frisbee, and enjoy at the neighborhood park. Bonus style points for bringing a hammock.
  2. Plan a date at the climbing gym (maybe this one isn’t “outside,” per se, but it’s pretty darn adventurous for being indoors). Not sure about climbing? Gyms provide challenges for all levels of climbers, as well as technique classes you can sign up for with your date. Belaying also helps practice trust and communication with your partner. 
  3. Bike ride option A: ride together to a favorite cafe or dinner date spot.
  4. Bike ride option B: ride to a local department store for a spontaneous shopping spree, under an agreed dollar limit. Buy a LEGO set or puzzle to build/solve together after the ride back. Or pick out a random CD based on the cover art to listen to as you sit around a space heater. Or find a comic book to read together next to the fireplace. Or maybe buy some cheap t-shirts to draw all over and make each other wear for the rest of the day. So many options…
  5. Stoke up a bonfire in a fire pit on your patio. Complete the picture with a string of twinkle lights and fixings for s’mores.

Sense that inspiration smile creeping on your face? Now that you have all these fun ideas, you can throw out that old flowers-chocolate-Hallmark card-dinner checklist for a plan much more adventurous. And who says you need to be in a relationship to do any of these? Get together with a group of your single friends and have some fun–and make sure to exchange those corny-cute third-grade Valentine’s with them, too.

Achilles Superstar

He sat at the table writing on the back of her hand, nodding with chopsticks sticking out of his mouth. Achilles Superstar. Rice bowl lunch, clouds. Is that so? Is that–so. Hey, New Found Lost Cause, he sat at the table writing on the back of her hand, nodding nodding nodding. New found lost cause. The chopsticks, leftover from the rice bowl he ate for lunch. Achilles: Superstar. Clouds in the back of your mind, is that so? Glory glory glory, chopsticks drumsticks on the table, kleos. Drumsticks chopping up the back room back-of-the-room table. Drumsticks, chopsticks, blood nebula, wine shopping list. “You’re usage of Blood without saying Blood is perfection.” Ah kill eez superstar, wine shopping list, without You, You & Me, clouds in the back of your mind, kleos, kaleh. Pens drums chopsticks, pens to the dirt, kleos, kaleh Superstar Spin spinning. Out of control.

Oceanography

Never an oceanographer; most often a photographer.

Never a photographer; mostly an oceanographer.

But you lie; sometimes you are a photographer.

And sometimes photography is oceanography.

Our teeth like eyes reflect light when they show.

Do you always just jump in like this?

Well, do you always just snap the shutter open shut like this?

His eyes glowed green.

This is why people hold hands, isn’t it.

The blue blanket flipped and roared.

I sure hope so–

We ducked under the foaming sheets,

Looking out for the place the sun sleeps.

Topographical

I drive up the mountain smelling like suitcases and sandalwood
And lay my blankets on the bottom bunk in the middle bedroom.

He hands me a compass to map out the trail to Taft Point,
Unaware that I wish it could just point me to where I lost myself.

Feeling like myself, feeling like myself

In 30-degree weather.
Let’s tread the miles that surround us. 
The snow shimmering like diamonds under a triple-A battery beam.
The privilege to be wrapped in down feathers and cranberry fleece.
Dried strawberries with walnut halves,
A feast at the top of Dewey Point,
Where I saw something so massive

I began to remember my existence.