It is again that time of the year to think about honoring the love of the special person in your life. Valentine’s Day can be an etiquette minefield, a consumerist trap and a reminder to celebrate your romance all wrapped in one. No matter how or if you celebrate, here are some ideas to make your Valentine’s Day a memorable one.
There are a couple different ways to make the most of Valentine’s Day without giving in to the overpriced sap that usually permeates gifts that are specific to this holiday. Start by avoiding anything Valentine’s Day themed and consider one of these:
- Share an experience
- Get away for the weekend (or plan one for the future)
- Exchange gifts or choose a mutual one together
The Experience is What Counts
It’s no longer about single gifts guys. Sure, we’ve listed some below, but the real way to impress your partner is by giving them an experience that they’ll never forget.
Book a Chef’s Table
Just getting a simple table at a restaurant on Valentine’s Day can be challenging, and even then your efforts are rarely rewarded. It’s crowded, servers need to turn tables quickly and the menu is limited. In other words, don’t bother! There are better nights and circumstances to enjoy a dinner out, and if you want to make it a special one, consider booking a chef’s table for a truly unique experience. There is no shortage of dining options out there, and many chefs and restaurants offer a chef’s table or a 10-course menu as a way of showcasing the food they are most proud of. The chef’s table usually has limited seating and will most likely include some direct viewing of the food preparation or even explanations of the menu directly from the chef. It will probably cost you anywhere to 2-3 times the cost of a regular visit to the restaurant, but it will be a memorable experience with your partner that you won’t be likely to forget soon!
Take a Guided Tour…In Your Own City
For city dwellers, you may be surrounded by hundreds of years of history that you have no idea is even there, simply because it’s easy to take things that you pass every day for granted. If you and your sweetheart are history buffs, book an outing on Valentine’s Day to explore and learn about your own city. Tours can cost as little as $10, you won’t have to travel far, and you’ll finally understand where your city’s nickname came from. Furthermore, tours are unlikely to be crowded and they get you out and moving during a time of year usually dominated by couch dwelling. They will be the most fun if you book a walking or bike tour with a guide rather than a bus or trolley tour that
Private Dance Lessons
There’s really nothing more romantic than sharing the floor with your favorite person. Take it from me that private lessons are far more sensual than group lessons so shell out the extra few bucks for one-on-one floor time. Whether it’s traditional ballroom or a hot and steamy tango, it’s the perfect form of foreplay that’s sure to get her, and keep her in the mood for romance. One tip: Dress the part. Leave the jeans at home and get dressed up. Put on your finest suit or tuxedo and tell her to wear a dress she feels sexy in. Just make sure you keep the actual experience a surprise.
Want to have dinner at the top of the world? One of the newest food experiences is paving its way around the world, opening up a pop-up restaurant suspended high in the sky by a strong and sturdy crane. Nestled snugly under a white canopy, the dinner in the sky experience offers inspired cuisine prepared by some of the world’s most award winning chefs. Just remember, this isn’t offered everywhere so you might have to travel to get there.
Dinner and a movie no longer cuts it. Unless it happens to be in your own backyard. Cozy up under a blanket under the stars by renting one of these outdoor movie screens and play her favorite classic film for the two of you to enjoy. Be sure to pair it with a bottle of champagne and some incredible fare, which brings us to our next experience…
Private Chef for a Night
Restaurants are for the masses, unless you’ve managed to secure a chef’s table. But, have you ever thought of bringing a professional chef into your home? Hiring a private chef is usually only a few hundred dollars and includes everything from menu selection to clean up. Most major cities offer these services and it’s a great way to ensure an exquisite meal that works perfectly with the movie in your backyard.
American Museum of Natural History VIP Tour – $600
The doors are closed, the public isn’t around and you and your loved one have the entire museum to yourself with a private tour guide to show you around. If history is something you’re passionate about this offers one of the most uniquely educational and romantic opportunities in the world. If you don’t happen to live nearby, contact your local museum and ask for an after-hours tour. Chances are they’ll accommodate you for the right price.
This is for the true aristocrat (or the lottery winner). Available exclusively through the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest, you receive a private dinner at one of the most beautiful and acoustically impeccable theatres in the world. Taking your seat center stage, the curtain will rise and the lights will dim as the orchestra begins your private concert. Captivating cuisine is presented to your table where you’ll spend one of the most unforgettable evenings of your life across the table from a woman who knows how much she means to you.
Warner Bros. Studio Lot VIP Tour – $54 per person
The 45-minute tour is for everyone else. For the true film buff, the VIP studio tour is a 2-hour private tour that will show you where and how some of the most memorable moments in film and television history were created. Complete with inside access to areas normally off limits, this tour of the most historic studio in Hollywood will take you back to classic cinema and into new shows like The Big Bang Theory, Conan, The Ellen Degeneres Show, The Mentalist, Two and a Half Men, Pretty Little Liars, Mike & Molly and more.
Okay, this one might be more for the men. But, I know many women who enjoy sports just as much as their boyfriends and husbands. Thuzio is one company that offers the ultimate sports fan experience. Whether it’s golfing with a PGA Tour player or playing catch with an NFL All-star, you get your pick of a handful of some of professional sports most well known athletes. Prices and locations vary but we’re sure you’ll find the player that causes your jaw to drop.
For the true adrenaline junkie, nothing gets the blood flowing faster than going into space; and for most people, this is as close as it gets. This is real-life astronaut training where you’ll perform hands-on space exploration activities from operating a full-scale shuttle simulator to taking over the controls at mission control – all designed for you by a team of veteran NASA astronauts. Forget flying lessons in a Cessna – it doesn’t get any cooler than this.
Getting away for the weekend is another way to share an experience together as a couple. You both can benefit from a little R & R without the distractions and obligations of home. Here are three destination ideas that might spark your interest:
Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada
You may think, Canada in winter? But Canada knows how to do winter well, and Lake Louise is both spectacularly scenic and romantic. After a quick flight from the US, you’ll be basking in the crisp mountain air overlooking mountain vistas in beautiful Banff National Park. Stay at the famous Fairmount Chateau Lake Louise for the quintessential luxury Lake Louise experience, or book a rustic log cabin for a more secluded one. Book a spa treatment, head to the local ski resort or go dog sledding; virtually every outdoor winter activity is available to enjoy.
Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
Santa Fe is a truly unique destination in the American Southwest. Known for its pueblo-style architecture, creative arts scene, and small-town feel, Santa Fe is perfect for a quick cultural getaway with your partner. The city center is small enough to explore on foot, so you can skip the hassle of renting a car. Stay in the 5-star Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi for a luxury experience with an impeccable southwestern decor in the heart of downtown, or considering renting one of the many affordable traditional adobe cottages that dot the city. Stroll the central plaza, visit one of the many art galleries or museums, and enjoy the flavors of the local cuisine. For foodies, cooking classes, great restaurants, and breweries abound.
Portugal is not always on the top European travel destinations list, but it should be! Porto is the home of port wine, a temperate climate, and a beautiful historic center. The city that is easy to manage on foot, as long as you don’t mind a few hills. Stay at the Yeatman Hotel for a restful, luxurious stay with spectacular views over the city and several therapeutic baths. Porto caters beautifully to all price ranges, and the city’s continued redevelopment has created a pool of sleek, modern apartments for rent as well. Make sure to visit the port houses and learn about how Porto’s native wine is made. Don’t forget to buy a few bottles to take home from Garrafeira do Carmo, a tiny but incredibly well-stocked port store with a helpful staff.
Experiences can be hard to come by. Often you either need to book early or spend a revolting amount of money. If you can’t book your dream experience for Valentine’s Day, consider a sentimental gift that will woo her until you’re able to take on the experience of a lifetime. Here’s a few suggestions for both you and her.
Who says you have to surprise each other with gifts each year? Traditions can be good and bad, but the best traditions are often the ones you create together. This year, consider a “mutual” gift, in which you choose to do or buy something meaningful to you as a couple.
- Create a photo wall, and add a photo of you as a couple to it every year on Valentine’s Day. This is a great way to get your photos off your hard drive and up somewhere that you can see them. Pick a favorite shot from the prior year and admire how life changes over time.
- Pool your resources to get something you both will use and enjoy. It may be that fancy blender you’ve been wanting for years, a piece of art for your living room wall, or a club chair you’ve been admiring together.
- Start saving for something big. Want to remodel your kitchen or explore Australia for a month? Setting a mutual goal and saving money that would otherwise be spent on gifts is a great way to make progress on your goal together.
- Write each other a love letter. It’s old fashioned and romantic. It may cost a mere $2 for each of you to buy a card, but it can be a great way to honor the occasion, do something meaningful for each other, and not fall into the consumerist trap. You can limit your V-Day plans to that or use the money you save on one of the above or below ideas.
Hair Tie Bracelet
Does the lady in your life never leave home without a hair tie on her wrist? If you don’t know, take a look or ask her. If this describes her, then consider getting her a hair tie bracelet. It’s not a typical piece of jewelry, but it is a piece that will make something she wears daily look more like a cute accessory than a utilitarian hair band. This gift says, “wow, you paid attention.”
Elegant Silk Robe
As you’ve probably heard by now, lingerie isn’t a gift for your significant other, it’s a gift for you. So unless you know it’s something she loves, it’s best to avoid a potential faux pas on what is supposed to be a romantic day. If you get her a gift, make sure it really is for her. This silk bathrobe is a perfect example. While it still falls into the category of loungewear, the material is flowy and sexy without taking the same risks as you would with lingerie. It’s also great for ladies who travel a lot and like something attractive and lightweight.
Tiny Heart Necklace
It’s hard to deny the appeal (for the giver and the receiver) of giving a well-chosen piece of jewelry. This delicate, diamond pave necklace may be heart-shaped, but it is far from a cliche. Delicate jewelry is very popular at the moment and given its small size it would make for an understated, romantic gift. Real gold and diamonds mean that this piece can be kept and worn for years to come.
Jewelry from Tiffany & Co
What Victoria’s Secret has done for lingerie, Tiffany has done for jewelry. Choose from their vast selection of Valentine’s inspired lockets, necklaces and bracelets that are sure to take her breath away. I know my wife never complains when gold and diamonds are presented.
Bottle of Fine Champagne
Champagne is the wine choice for lovers and selecting the perfect bottle of champagne can result in rekindled romance and a night you’ll never forget. Pair it with some extraordinary foods such as oysters, caviar, strawberries or even chocolate. If you’re on a tighter budget, consider a bottle of Prosecco. Remember, this should just be a part of your Valentine’s Day. Don’t count on it to carry you through.
Jordon Rothstein is probably one of the best known songwriters in New York. He’s composed for feature-length films, he’s written for national ad campaigns and he’s been in studio with some of the world’s best known recording artists. For $5600, he’ll create a completely original love song that’s designed to support your vocal range. Then, you’ll step in studio with a production team that’s worked with the likes of Chuck Berry to record your perfect song. If singing isn’t your strong suit, we’re sure they can hook you up with an artist to help finish it off. If you’re on a tighter budget, check out a website called Fiverr where you can hire musicians starting at just $5.
Create a Signature Scent
Scenterprises has worked with some of the biggest brands from Chanel to Saks Fifth Avenue to create the fragrances you see on the shelves around the world. What I bet you didn’t know, is that they also offer the ability to craft bespoke fragrances. Working alongside one of the world’s top fragrance creators, you’ll create a completely custom perfume that will forever remind your Valentine of the day that you got her the perfect gift.
Pelikan Classic 200 Café Crème Fountain Pen
Dreamy and inspirational, this espresso inspired fountain pen is perfect for the woman that treasures the finer things in life. I myself am a huge fan of Pelikan fountain pens and this is a truly incredible pen at a very reasonable price. She can use to constantly write you love notes or practice writing her married name like she once did as a little girl.
This is where you hand the laptop or tablet to her and say “hint, hint”. Here’s are some great gift choices that just about any man would be thrilled to have.
For Him: We Are Dandy Coffee Table Book
A few years ago, we published our list of 100 Fashion Books that men interested in style would enjoy. While any of the books on that list would make an excellent gift, there is a newly released contender to add for your consideration. Natty Adams and Rose Callahan (the photographer behind the Dandy Portraits website) have produced a follow-up book to their hit coffee table book, I am Dandy, called We Are Dandy. In this book, they travel as far as Toyko and Johannesburg to seek out even more dandyish men. Rose’s photography is rich and detailed, and every style-conscious man will enjoy reading about the exploits, wardrobes, and occupations of some of the style world’s boldest men. If you are interested in the first book, check out our review here.
For Him: Cufflinks
Most men don’t wear much jewelry, and it can be difficult to find quality pieces at reasonable prices. Look no further than a classic pair of cufflinks. If he enjoys looking good, a pair of knotted or semi-precious stone cufflinks in gold or silver will be a stylish keepsake that he can wear for years to come.
For Him: An Old-Fashioned Hot Shave
Spa treatments and massages aren’t necessarily considered “masculine” gifts, even if your partner truly enjoys them. However, for men who shave regularly, getting an old-fashioned hot shave at a barber shop may be an indulgence he’s overlooked. Get him a gift certificate or simply book him an appointment at your local hot shave specialist and let him relax in an environment that caters to men’s needs in particular. This is also a great gift for the man who has everything!
It’s been said that every gentleman should carry a pocket knife. However, a bright red, plastic Swiss Army knife isn’t what the most discerning gentleman wants in his pocket. Thankfully, there are companies like Laguiole. These exquisite and traditional Occitan pocket knives from France come in a variety of finishes that are beautifully decorated and overtly masculine. They really are spectacular and equally useful.
Many of our readers are interested in photography and my editor Sven Raphael Schneider loves JpegMini pro, a photography program that has saved him 70GB by downsizing his jpegs in a beautifully working manner, and it will reduce your jpeg images by up to 80% too, without losing quality. Every photography aficionado will appreciate a program like this. Plus, it lets you take even more romantic pictures to create lifelong memories with your loved one.
When Zegna came out with their first cologne it was all about Italian elegance. The second was intended for a more youthful audience, but the third – Intenso – was entirely about seduction.
Of my collection of colognes, this is my wife’s favorite. It’s sensually masculine and has the ability to attract women from across the room. I can’t count the number of compliments I’ve received from strangers in public asking where I possibly found such an enchanting scent. If you’re looking for a new cologne that is worthy of your attention, this is it my friend.
Gifts on an average day are something that need to be special. However, on Valentine’s Day it’s your one day a year to show your partner just how much they mean to you. Simply taking her out for a steak dinner doesn’t do that. It says “I like you as much as Bob from accounting who I went for drinks with last week”. But bringing the steak home and serving it under candlelight in the backyard as you watch Gone with the Wind and drink champagne says “I love you”. It’s that extra special touch that takes your gift from good to great.
Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours – From all of us at Gentleman’s Gazette.
How do you get creative on Valentine’s Day?