If you’ve ever been to a restaurant on Valentine’s Day, you know they can get chaotic and overwhelming. Reservations are almost always required unless you want to wait or eat at an extremely inconvenient time. And, this year, COVID safety protocols mean eating in a super crowded restaurant might not be the safest option.

So this year, consider doing something different on February 14. Whether you’re celebrating with your long-term partner, on a first date, or with a friend, plan to do something unexpected and add a new kind of date night to your repertoire. Here are six Valentine’s Day date ideas that don’t involve restaurant reservations — but you can still eat, of course!

Scope out your local community calendar (or check out some online classes) and seize the opportunity to learn something new together. If you and your date are the artsy type, enjoy a pottery or stained glass class so that you can have a tangible memento of your time together. Another option is to get active and take a dance or fitness class. The upside is that learning something together can strengthen a relationship, and it’s also a good option for a first date to give you something to bond over. Plus, you may make a few new friends with similar interests or pick up a new hobby while you’re there.

Cooking together lends itself to romance, so find a few new recipes to make tailored to your skill level. “Nothing is more romantic than cooking together in the kitchen,” says Chris Pleines, a dating expert at DatingScout.com. “Bonus points if both you and your partner are just average cooks — see if you can make a great meal together.” 

If you don’t have confidence in your skills, take a class through a site like The Table Less Traveled, which features live online cooking classes with chefs around the globe. Not only can you learn how to make French or Peruvian cuisine, but you and your partner can shop together beforehand for an added element to your date night.

Clinical sexologist Rachel Sommer, Ph.D., suggests choosing a central theme and planning a day or night around it. “Whether it’s your partner’s favorite movie, country, or a specific restaurant you’re fond of — pick one and go all out.” The key is in the details, although you don’t have to spend a lot of money. End the night by challenging each other to a trivia contest about the theme to finally settle who’s the ultimate fan.

A twist on this idea is to match your movie to your meal. Order takeout and select a dish and film that blend well. “Fan of Bollywood? Cook up or order some butter chicken,” says Bonny Albo, a dating expert at Get Dating Help. “Love sushi? Try watching ‘East Side Sushi’ or ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi.’” For a bit of extra romance, Albo recommends watching ‘Chocolat’ or ‘Like Water for Chocolate’ and serving chocolate fondue or having edible body paint on hand.

What you can find at a thrift store can be a major score or incredibly unique — which could help create memories. You can put a twist on this Valentine’s Day idea by choose outfits for each other. Decide beforehand if you’re trying to look nice or want to find something outlandish — and plan to wear the clothing out on your next outing. Another option is to see who can find the gaudiest decor item in a specific price range. The loser has to purchase it and display it as a reminder of a quirky date.

Whether you have a few hours or an entire day, spend February 14 exploring. “Road trips never run out of fashion,” Sommer says. “Pack your snacks and update your playlist before hitting the road.” She also suggests creating a custom playlist filled with songs that remind you of your relationship. Or, if you’re on a first date, make a mix of music that you both enjoy. Then, either plan an itinerary or leave the time open to explore and wander at your own pace. If you can’t take a road trip now, sit down and plan one for the future by determining your route and the stops along the way. 

Take a personality test together.

Although taking a test doesn’t sound very romantic, the results can be! Plus, examining your personalities can help you better know and understand each other, especially if you’re in a relationship you’d like to deepen. Jessica Alderson, co-founder of the dating app So Syncd, recommends talking through each of the questions as you go. “It’s a great way to learn about your date, and you’ll end up talking about topics that don’t come up in everyday conversation.”