Klavon’s Ice Cream Parlor photo by erjkprunczyk on Flickr.
When the weather is like a constant stream of spilled piña colada, and the bank account is still hurting from Christmas, what can a hopeless (and cashless) romantic do to make a weeknight V-Day special? Think outside the box.
All you need is a car, the afternoon off and an adventurous attitude to enjoy these three dates. Leave work at lunchtime; go spring your sweetie, and take off for a romp through some of the simplest, most romantic places our region has to offer.
The Retro Date
Schenley Rink photo by JasonMV on Flickr.
If you pine for the innocence and optimism of a simpler time, celebrate the retro spirit of your love with simple pleasures at old-fashioned spots.
Lunch: Play footsie while chowing on a grilled cheese ($5.95) and cups of tomato soup ($2.95) at downtown’s Tic Toc Restaurant. Then, go to Klavon’s in the Strip District to share an old-fashioned banana split ($5.25), malt ($4.50) or a Float the Three Rivers ($2.90) and admire the ice cream parlor’s vintage splendor.
Afternoon: Visit the Sen. John Heinz History Center and contemplate what your lives would’ve been like in the ’Burgh 50 or 100 years ago ($20/pair). Or go spelunking in the Pittsburgh Photographic Library, located in the Pennsylvania Department, on the second floor of the main branch of Carnegie Library.
Dinner: Homemade Italian food is a pretty surefire aphrodisiac. Book your table a few days in advance—at minimum—at D’Amico’s Place in Bloomfield. Try the pasta roll ($17.95), handmade pasta stuffed with proscuitto, pine nuts, ricotta and spinach that has a kick of Sambuca; or the shrimp and scallops appetizer ($11), which comes with sautéed spinach and crisped polenta triangles flavored with cracked pepper.
Evening: Bundle up and hold gloved hands as you show off (or at least get some exercise, refreshments and romantic freebies if you show up early) at Schenley Ice Rink’s Valentine’s On Ice ($8/pair).
The Virtual Vacay to South America
Phipps Conservatory photo by keanalee on Flickr.
Most people can’t spare the time or money to tour South America this time of year—unless they do it right here in Pittsburgh. For that extra flourish of emoción, send a mysterious “half-day vacation invitation” the week before on the card accompanying the bouquet of some fabulous tropical flowers (ask for a few stems of tropical orchid, bird of paradise, torch ginger, calla lily or anthurium for an exotic look).
Lunch: Hit cozy La Feria in Shadyside for the three-empanada sampler ($9.95) and some authentic Peruvian sandwiches and specials ($7.95-$12.50).
Afternoon: Wander through the simulated Amazonian jungle at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens’ “Headwaters of the Amazon” exhibit ($24/pair).
Dinner: Head to Penn Hills for delicious Brazilian barbecue ($38) at Green Forest Churrascaria, the region’s only Brazilian Steakhouse.
Evening: Finish the night with an intimate conversation over steaming yerba mate lattes ($3.60 for a large) at The Beehive on the South Side, and use the caffeine buzz to talk your amor into taking a real vacation or signing up for tango classes with Pittsburgh Tangueros ($60-$75 for six weeks).
The Steel City Free-Style
Chinese Nationality Room photo by Ed Bujak on Flickr.
Really short on cash? Put together your V-Day a la carte with a few sweet gestures, a plan, and a good working knowledge of how to navigate the city’s free destinations.
Lunch: Pack a picnic and enjoy it in the enclosed courtyard of Pitt’s Frick Fine Arts building, while watching the snow drift by. If the building’s locked or security isn’t friendly, cross the street to the Carnegie Library’s café.
Afternoon: Make a list of Pittsburgh sights to take photos of together, like the views from the top of each of the city steps, or while crossing some of Downtown’s many bridges.
Find perfect places to kiss, like inside a local house of worship with beautiful stained glass windows, or pretend you’re teenagers again and visit the Nationality Rooms (admission $3 for adults, $1 under 18) or hit random elevator buttons at the Cathedral of Learning in Oakland (price of admission: your inhibitions). Watch the sun set from one of the upper floors, or from the Boulevard of the Allies.
Dinner: Take home prepared foods from the grocery store’s deli section, or grab some white wine and cook a simple dinner of Thyme Chicken: take one whole chicken cut up, 10 peeled garlic cloves, five stems of fresh thyme, a quarter-cup of olive oil, salt, and pepper, combine, cover with a lid and bake at 375 for one hour.
Evening: Play snow tag at Frick Park in Squirrel Hill, or take your sled (or disposable baking sheets from Giant Eagle) to the hill on King’s Estate in Highland Park. End the night with a timeless classic: Ride the Duquesne Incline ($2 each way, seniors ride free) to the top of Mount Washington. Looking at that view with the one you love proves it: The best things in life really are free.
If these dates don’t strike your fancy, or if you happen to have multiple significant others to impress, check out these creative dates from LivingPittsburgh.com:
An artsy, affordable date with a side of curry
A Germanburgh date that will have you saying, "Prost!"
An uber-cheap, super-fun date for the young and broke