Yeah, yeah, love don’t cost a thing—but showing affection to your sweetheart come Valentine’s Day is going to involve shelling out some clams. And even though President Obama’s stimulus package unfortunately doesn’t include any government money for See’s Candies and roses, there are still many things you can do for Valentine’s Day that will keep you and your bank account from a Wall Street-style financial meltdown. At a time when unemployment, layoffs and an economy are in the express lane to the Great Depression Part Deux, it’s nice to know that a bit of romance can be had without having to ask for a bailout. Saying, “I love you” doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg—it just takes a small bit of imagination and a lot of heart.
Sweets for the Sweetie
Forget the fancy-pants candyshop and make your own chocolate-covered strawberries at home. The process is simple: melt chocolate chips in the microwave, dip the strawberries in the molten goo, then throw them in the fridge to for half an hour to harden.
Why It’s Romantic: You’ve seen 9 ½ Weeks, you know how sexy it is to feed one another.
Cost: $3.30, all ingredients can bought at Winco in MoVall.
Nothing says old-school romance more than a gentle cruise along a placid body of water. Try a cozy paddle boat ride at the lake at Fairmount Park, an intimate thing to do.
Why It’s Romantic: All the great love stories—Titanic, that rowboat scene in The Notebook—took place on a body of water.
Cost: $7 per half hour.
Stroll through flowering acacias, aloes, Iceland poppies, lavender and star magnolias at the UCR Botanical Gardens.
Why It’s Romantic: Flowers as a show of affection have gone hand-in-hand with romance ever since Adam hit on Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Cost: $1 suggested donation (plus parking).
Red, Red Wine
Grab a blanket and have a picnic surrounded by olive trees at Cougar Vineyard and Winery in Temecula. Sample some wines and enjoy live guitar music while you’re at it.
Why It’s Romantic: Wine isn’t liquid courage, it’s the nectar of the gods. Your sweetheart will (very likely) agree.
Cost: $20 for two tastings of seven wines each.
Fruit of the Bloom
Head over to Ontario Mills and stop by the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory to split a caramel apple with your honey. Then try some window shopping—it’s free.
Why It’s Romantic: Ever heard the expression, “Apple of my eye?”
Take a drive to the San Bernardino National Forest for a day of hiking with your sig-other in the Big Bear or Lake Arrowhead areas.
Why It’s Romantic: The breathtaking views will get your heart racing—and so will that kiss beneath the pine trees.
Cost: $5 (parking permit) plus cost of gas.
A cozy dinner for two at Best Thai Cuisine should score you points for this fine-kept-secret in Asian dining and keep your money belt safe with entrées ranging from $7–$10 each.
Why It’s Romantic: The mirrored wall, dark-wood décor and excellent service make this an intimate, classy place to share some curry.
Cost: $25-30 (two entrées, appetizer, drinks).
Some Enchanting Evening
Get away from the city lights and go stargazing amidst the sandstone and oases of Joshua Tree.
Why It’s Romantic: This private showcase of the heavens will have your lover wishing on a star.
Cost: $10 (for two permits) plus cost of gas.
Color Me Bad
Head to your local Color Me Mine for a personal painting party. Practice painting “I Love You” with a brush.
Why It’s Romantic: The candles will be lit, refreshments and chocolates will be provided, and they’re open late.
Wake Up and Smell the Love
Hit up a local coffee shop with your sweetie. Coffee Depot in downtown Riverside is hosting a poetry jam on V-Day.
Why It’s Romantic: Something about a warm latte, a shared biscotti and that comfy sofa that just lets the conversation roll.
Cost: $3-4 per latte.
–Roberto C. Hernandez