By Jene Luciani. I was thrilled to be able to contribute to this article! (Originally appeared on Shape.com, February 10, 2013.)
Valentine’s Day can be a great time to reconnect with your spouse or show your new special someone how much you care, but that ubiquitous candlelight dinner can get old real fast. This year, truly make it a night to remember with one of these unexpected activities.
Target His Sweet Spot
Skip dinner and go straight for dessert. “Pinpoint a few of your neighborhood chocolate shops or bakeries, and pick a special item at each spot,” says Samantha Daniels, dating expert and president of Samantha's Table Matchmaking. You can even create a scavenger hunt of out it and have him have to guess which place is next.
Head for the (Snow) Hills
With snow expected to blanket the Northeast just days before Valentine’s, it’s a great time to hit a local ice-skating rink or simply relive your youth by making snow angels in the backyard or going sledding. Come inside after and warm up together with a romantic fire and a mug of hot cocoa, suggests relationship coach, speaker, and author Ana Loiselle. Those in warmer climates can simply grab a soft blanket, a bottle of wine, and a picnic dinner, and lie in the grass and check out the stars—the prettiest and cheapest show in town.
Be His Latin Lover
No dance is sexier than the salsa, so find a salsa club or take a private lesson. “Whether you know how to dance or not, the ultimate benefit is you’ll be really close and touching your partner 95 percent of the time, making it easy to build the sexual tension,” says Thomas Edwards, a.k.a. The Professional Wingman. A heart-pumping activity that allows you to tease your man? We’re in!
Make Him Sweat
Couples that workout together typically have better sex lives, says Andrea Metcalf, bestselling author of Naked Fitness. That may be just the info he needs to be convinced to join you for Bikram yoga. “Studies have shown that sweating it out through exercise has a positive effect on a man’s libido,” Metcalf says. Bonus that a lot of people will be out to dinner, so you’re likely to have a less-crowded class. And once you’re done sweating, it’s time to clean up together in the shower or bath.
Drink and Draw
Wine and painting classes are popping up all over the place and let you get creative with your cutie, says Susan Trombetti, matchmaker and relationship expert. “It's a fun time for both men and women, and you don't have to be Picasso to come out with a quality piece of art.” Try Google for a class near you, or check out one of the 70-plus locations of Painting with a Twist. Hang your finished product above your couch, and you’ll always be reminded of Valentine’s Day 2013.
Give a Little Bit of Your Love
Choose a cause you both care about, roll up your sleeves, and donate two or three hours to a non-profit organization, suggests Mike Domitrz, founder and executive director of the Date Safe Project, a Wisconsin-based organization that deals with helping teens make smart choices when it comes to dating and intimacy. “Nothing feels better than giving back, and it’s even better when you can share this moment,” he says. Then, when you get home, discuss how you'd like to give to each other.
Get Close-Up and Personal
Pick a scenic location near you and surprise him with a couple’s photo shoot, says Brian Borgia, founder of Romantic Room Designs. “Hire a photographer who can meet you there and take a special portrait so you’ll always remember this day.” If you prefer DIY, buy a Polaroid and snap pictures together and of each other, says Ben Patton, star of the upcoming NBC series Ready for Love. “Collect everything in a photo book so you can look back on of all the amazing experiences from that day together,” he adds.
See the Future
Always wanted to go to Paris or buy a bigger home? Create a “vision board” together and plan your future goals, hopes, and dreams. “Spend two hours making a collage of pictures or magazine tear-outs that reflect precious memories and wishes you have as a couple for the future,” says New Jersey-based psychologist Sam Von Reiche, Psy.D. “Post pictures of your future dream house, your honeymoon—anything that reminds you how truly grateful you are for each other or inspires you about your futures together.”
Turn Up the Heat
It doesn’t take a genius to think of cooking a homemade meal, but you can turn this into a unique experience. “Sign up for a class at a local culinary institute, hire a private chef for a few hours in your home, or create a menu, play hooky from work, and spend the day shopping for gourmet goodies,” suggests Brenda Della Casa, author of Cinderella Was a Liar. At home, uncork a bottle of wine, turn on a playlist of your favorite songs, and leave the dishes for tomorrow!
If you want to let someone make dinner for you but can’t stand the noisy, unintimate atmosphere of restaurants, book a room at a nearby hotel and order a romantic room service dinner for two. Some places will even arrange special requests, such as your guy’s favorite meal or your favorite wine, says Grace Pamer, founder of Romance Never Dies. (Never hurts to ask!) Bring some candles and flowers for ambiance, but pack light—chances are you won’t be dressed for long.