Budget romance: Cheap-ass Valentine's ideas that are actually pretty sweet

Fashion sweet woman having fun with lollipop over white background

Fashion sweet woman having fun with lollipop over white background Getty Images/iStockphoto

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Making a reservation through OpenTable or the Eater Heatmap is fine, but it doesn’t make your V-Day plan particularly innovative. Meanwhile, a horse-drawn carriage ride could be either met with a swoon or an eyeroll.

Regardless, neither option comes cheap.

So if you’re looking to do something thoughtful and quirky for your sweetheart, but you’re on a tight budget, here are some romantic ideas sure to impress.



Ballet Tuesday at the Landmark Center
Do you only have lunch hour to celebrate? You can sample the Saint Paul Ballet at the Landmark Center for free. Pack lunch for two and preview excerpts from their upcoming performances of Billy and Suite for Strings. Bonus: the Saint Paul Ballet hosts this free event every second Tuesday of the month. If you have more than the hour, take the afternoon to linger through the free galleries and museum exhibits the Landmark Center offers, which includes the Gallery of Wood Art and the Schubert Club Museum. Noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday, February 14. Landmark Center, 75 Fifth St. W., St. Paul.



Free orchestra and theatre tickets via SmARTpass
If you have a library card and can wait until the weekend to celebrate, you can score a pair of free tickets to the opening night of a play or to see a live orchestra. The MELSA (Metropolitan Library Service Agency) network offers smARTpass, giving library card holders access to free or discounted show tickets, museum admission, dance classes, and more. Around Valentine’s Day, theater fans can reserve tickets to the Classical Actors Ensemble’s performance of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy As You Like It, and classical music listeners can reserve tickets to the Chamber Music Series: Mendelssohn’s Octet for Strings, performed by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

Learn more about smARTpass on their website,

As You Like It is at 7:30 p.m. Friday, February 17 at Crane Theater (2303 Kennedy St. NE, Minneapolis).
Chamber Music Series: Mendelssohn’s Octet for Strings is 8 p.m. Friday, February 17 at Center for the Performing Arts at St. Paul Academy and Summit School.


Casablanca and snowshoeing
The parks and rec system also provides opportunities for romance. The Loring Community Arts Center is celebrating Valentine’s Day with crafts, bingo, and other games in the afternoon, and screening Casablanca in the evening -- all for free. Picture this: Hit up a nearby happy hour (Lake and Legends has one from 3 to 6 p.m.), followed by a stroll through Loring Park, and then get cozy at a free screening of a classic romantic drama.

Games run from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., and the movies screens at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, February 14. Loring Community Arts Center (1382 Willow St., Minneapolis).

If your partner prefers snowshoeing to a leisurely stroll, both North Mississippi Regional Park and Theodore Wirth Regional Park offer two timeslots for a guided snowshoeing hike culminating with hot chocolate by a fire. North Mississippi even has s’mores! Snowshoe rental is included in the registration fee, which is $5 at North Mississippi and $14 at Theodore Wirth. 5 to 6:30 p.m. or 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, February 14 at North Mississippi Regional Park (4900 Mississippi Ct., Minneapolis). 
6 to 7:30 p.m. or 8 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, February 14 at Theodore Wirth Regional Park (1339 Theodore Wirth Pkwy., Minneapolis).


MNHS Victorian Poetry Slam and WordSprout SlamMN! Erotica Tournament
Looking to partake in something less outdoorsy and more literary? The James J. Hill House is hosting a Victorian poetry slam complete with costumed performers reading selected works of Dickinson, Poe, Longfellow, and Browning. There’s a chance for audience participation, if you are bold enough to bring a Victorian poem to read aloud to your beloved.

$12. 7 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, February 14 at James J. Hill House (240 Summit Ave., St. Paul).

For something steamier, head to the 23rd annual Erotica Slam. The event has transformed into a three-day tournament, this year’s starts on Valentine’s Day. The first two nights feature different poets, and the top five from each compete in the finals on February 16. Bonus: This happening is at a bar, so there will be beer and booze.

$10. 8:30 p.m. February 14-16. Kieran's Irish Pub (601 First Ave. N., Minneapolis).

(Elektra Cute)

Minneapolis Burlesque Festival’s Love Fest
Looking to heat things up even more? Celebrate Valentine’s Day early at Hell’s Kitchen with a night of burlesque. Ten bucks ($15 at the door) gets you into the aptly named Love Fest, hosted by Foxy Tann, with performances by Elektra Cute, Nadi A'marena, Mona Montague, Sassy von Straddler, Sweetpea, and others. Spend your Sunday night charmed by the art of the strip tease. This Valentine’s Day-themed evening benefits the annual Minneapolis Burlesque Festival, which hosts classes, workshops, and performances showcasing both local and national talent. 7 p.m. doors; 8 p.m. show. Hell’s Kitchen, 80 S. Ninth St., Minneapolis.