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You don’t have to sacrifice romance to stay on a budget.

Ellie Storck
February 03, 2017

With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, it’s time to start planning that special date to celebrate your relationship. And while that sometimes means booking a table at a Michelin-starred restaurant with a stellar view, catching a hot Broadway show, or jetting off for a romantic getaway, not everyone has the budget to shell out on February 14.

That’s why we’ve compiled a list of fun and free ideas that will show your special person that you care—without having to empty your bank account. Plus, all that money you save can go toward planning your next big trip together.

From taking advantage of local art scenes to escaping the city and hitting a trail on nearby mountains, there are plenty of ways to celebrate love without spending money.

Budget-conscious romantics, rejoice—and consider your Valentine’s Day officially planned.

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Go for a hike

We know Valentine’s Day is in February, and in much of the country, that means it’s cold. But bundling up and hitting a nearby trail is a great way to spend time doing something fun, active, and (for city dwellers) maybe out of the ordinary.

We’ve got plenty ideas about the best hikes near cities all over the world. For example, rural areas around New York City offer great hikes, like Bear Mountain, with its sweeping views of the Hudson River. And on the West Coast, there’s no shortage of local hikes near big cities, like Twin Peaks in San Francisco, Runyon Canyon in Los Angeles, and the Forest Park area in Portland.

Make a special dinner together

While booking a table for a candlelit dinner at one of your favorite restaurants or a top-rated local venue is very romantic, the prices can soar, especially with prix fixe holiday menus. Instead, pick a global-inspired meal that is a little more involved than what you both usually cook, and spend the evening preparing a romantic diner together. Set the mood with lots of candles, whip out a tablecloth, and pretend you’re on a vacation somewhere far away and exotic.

Have a laugh

It’s pretty hard to find something more enjoyable than laughing with a loved one. Finding a free comedy show is an especially good idea for newer couples or first dates, because it makes a great icebreaker. While stand-up comedy and improv shows often cost money, it’s not impossible to find a free performance. Call around to your favorite bars to see when they offer comedy, and chances are you’ll find something fun and free of charge. In New York City, there are quite a few options. We recommend checking out the open mic nights at Upright Citizens Brigade, and bars like Lucky Jack’s and the Knitting Factory.

Explore your local art scene

If you’re near a city, chances are there are a handful of art galleries that have shows throughout the week. Check local magazines and newspapers to see if there are any special openings with artists. Spend the evening moseying in and out of nearby galleries and discussing your favorite exhibits.

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Visit free museums, memorials, and zoos

Take advantage of your city, and make a point of visit a new institution at no cost. If you live near Washington, D.C., for example, there are a handful of amazing museums that you can visit, free of charge, like the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Gallery of Art, and the National Zoo. In New York City, on the other hand, the Cloisters, the Brooklyn Museum, and the American Folk Art Museum offer free admission.

Catch a free concert

While free concerts may be a little more common in the summertime, it’s still possible to find live music, free of charge, in February. The Chicago Cultural Center, for example, offers more than 200 free concerts every year. Or in Nashville, check out honkytonk bars like Rippy’s and Legend’s to get your fill of local live music.

Stay in and watch a movie

Going out to see a movie in the theater is always fun, but there’s no reason that recreating this experience at home can’t be just as—if not more—enjoyable. Don't just Netflix and chill: Make it special by preparing several types of popcorn, pulling out a few different movies (some new, some old favorites), lots of theater candy and soft drinks, and setting up the living room like a private theater. The one-on-one time is far more romantic than sharing the experience in a public theater.

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