If the thought of Valentine's Day makes the Jaws theme (duh-nuh, duh-nuh, duh-nuh) play in your head, you're probably stressing out. You love your partner, but planning the perfect Valentine's Day date? Yeah, not so much.
The flowers, the chocolates, the dinner for two—you just don't get what other couples see in traditional Valentine's Day dates. Or maybe you've gone the traditional route so many times, you've run out of ideas. Either way, going on an unconventional Valentine's Day date can help you "change things up just a bit" and even "create excitement and passion" in your relationship, says Terri Orbuch, PhD, professor at Oakland University and author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great. To do that, she recommends going on a date that includes a creative activity, a physical activity, and/or a new activity.
Sounds simple enough, right? Before you write off V Day entirely, try these Valentine's Day date ideas that won't make you cringe.
1. Take a cooking class.
Ditch the fancy (read: overpriced) pre-fixe dinner in favour of a fun night making a new dish. This activity-based date strengthens your bond as a couple, says Orbuch, because you get to work as a team making something. Opt for a chocolate-making class if you want to include a (literal) taste of Valentine’s Day.
2. Paint and pour.
Explore your creative side with your partner, and drink while you do it (win-freakin-win). Just like with the cooking class, you're making something special together—except this time, you'll have art to remind you of that one really awesome V Day for years to come.
3. Go on a scavenger hunt.
Forget that super-cheesy one you did at summer camp. This scavenger hunt will actually be fun because you get to make the rules. Pick 10 to 20 items that are either hard to get (like a flower from someone else's bouquet) or just entertaining (find a $1 gift in one minute). At the end of the night, you'll have a ton of cool stuff and even more memories.
4. Make your own beer.
Who died and made champagne the official drink of Valentine's Day? No one, that's who. If you and your partner like beer, then you're gonna love learning how to make it—and, more importantly, taking your own batch home.
5. Shop at a flea market.
You never know what you'll find at a flea market, and that's half the fun. Set a budget and hunt for gifts with your SO. You might learn something new about your loved one in the process.
6. Go rock climbing.
Orbuch recommends planning a date that involves physical activity or exercise because it’ll increase your adrenaline—and arousal. "This creates excitement and can reignite the passion in your relationship," she says. So if you’ve been together long enough to have a Valentine’s Day tradition (especially one that revolves around sitting down), now’s the time to break it.
7. Take a salsa dance lesson.
Even if you have two left feet (or your partner does), a beginners' class can help you channel a sexy alter-ego. This will pay off long after February 14th, says Orbuch, because the arousal created from this activity can transfer to your partner and relationship.
8. Hit up an axe-throwing club.
Okay, so this might sound too unromantic for Valentine's Day... but it's just so crazy, it just might will totally work. Axe-throwing clubs have become a popular date night spot, according to Orbuch. Plus, this kind of date offers tons of benefits: "excitement, passion, fun together," she says.
9. Take a yoga class.
You might've been too busy in downward dog to notice, but yoga studios offer major romantic ambience—dim lighting, incense, candles—without being over the top. So put on your cutest leggings and top for a sultry workout. After the class, you'll be feeling extra flexible for another Valentine's Day activity...
10. Go on a hike.
Even if you're chillin' in a colder climate (literally), you can still bundle up for an awesome hike—and cuddle up near a fire afterwards.
11. Rent a cabin.
Find a cabin on AirBnb to remove yourself from the day-to-day grind. Once you get settled, spend the night stargazing together—which, yeah, is kinda corny, but totally worth it.
12. Play shuffleboard or bocce ball.
Your grandparents know what's up. Shuffleboard and bocce ball are both super fun games that can spark some healthy competition between you and your SO. Depending on where you live, you might find indoor shuffleboard and bocce ball courts on their own or as part of a bar.
13. See a new show.
Orbuch encourages people to plan a date that both involves a new experience and "shows your partner that you notice and care about them." For example, if you and your SO have never gone to a concert together, and their favourite band is in town around Valentine's Day (or whenever), surprise them with tickets. "New and novel activities with your partner also increase passion and excitement," she explains. While a concert is always a solid choice, the new experience really depends on you and your partner's interests.
14. Watch a basketball or hockey game.
Heads up: February is prime basketball and hockey season. So if your Valentine is a huge sports fan, but you've never been to a game together, now's the time to change that. Besides, cheering for the same team can boost your bond, and cheering for opposite teams makes it easy to flirt. Score.
15. Go bowling.
You don't need to make any big or dramatic changes with your partner to do something new on V Day, says Orbuch. So while a bowling date might seem ordinary, chances are you haven't been on one in a few years (at least). Wanna make it even more interesting? Loser pays for your next date.
16. Drive around your neighbourhood until you find something new.
Whether it's a restaurant, bar, or artisanal plant shop (totally a thing), don't stop until you find it. Every couple falls into a relationship rut, says Orbuch, so take a different route around your neighbourhood and see what you find together. Even if the new place is a total bust, well, at least you can laugh about it.
17. Book a staycation.
You don't need to "do something outlandish," like whisking your Valentine off to some tropical locale, says Orbuch. Instead, make a quick trip to the next town over and explore the neighbourhood there. You'll be surprised how different the world can be just a few miles away. You can even make your hometown feel new again by playing tourist and staying in a hotel.
This article originally appeared on Women's Health US.