Valentine’s Day can sometimes feel like a cliche: flowers, chocolates, an expensive dinner. Instead, ditch the drab dates with one of these 10 alternative activities throughout Connecticut.
Some events call for a tux. The African penguins at Mystic Aquarium can help with that. Though it’s not exactly a black-tie affair, this extra-special, 30-minute encounter allows for a behind-the-scenes tour of Mystic’s Roger Tory Peterson Penguin Pavilion.
During the tour, guests will experience “the sights, sounds and smells behind the scenes, see the nesting room, gain a glimpse of daily care activities and more,” according to the aquarium.
If your date is more into mammals, try instead to sea-lion the deal with a 30-minute “Seal Lions Up Close” tour. $200, admission not included; advance purchase of timed aquarium entry required for COVID safety.
Forget buying a box of chocolates. Make one, instead. The chocolatier at Westport’s Le Rouge by Aarti is putting together a Zoom class for Valentine’s Day.
The 1.5-hour-long class is “a couple’s activity, playing with one of the favorite foods on Valentine’s,” said Aarti Khosla, the artisan chocolatier and owner of Le Rouge.
Khosla will send out all materials as well as a sleeve of “hot chocolate bombes” to enjoy while learning how to temper the chocolate and form it into heart-shaped bars. $150 per couple; sign up online.
Why eat out when you can cook in?
The Fig Cooking School in Milford has prepared a Valentine’s Day menu featuring champagne fondue, beef tenderloin with port wine sauce and chocolate pots de creme with strawberries and fresh whipped cream.
An ingredients list and recipes will be sent before the class; just sign in via Zoom, watch and learn from your own kitchen. Classes are $79.
Considering kids? Maybe try goats, first. Head to Southington for a half-hour “goat stroll” ($15) around a pasture with one of Bradley Mountain Farm’s 33 LaMancha, Mini LaMancha or Nigerian Dwarf goats.
“For a first date, it would make a great icebreaker,” said Farm Event Leader Terri Battaglia.
Those interested in a slightly more intimate look can book a “goat snuggle” ($15 for 30 minutes) with your date and a goat in the heated farm shop.
In for the ultimate experience? Join an hour-long “goat therapy” session, in which a group of six to 10 goats roam freely throughout the shop while you sit with your sweetie, enjoy visits by the animals and “see this cuddly side of them that most people don’t know goats have,” Battaglia said.
Maybe a new side of your date, too.
Popping the question or declaring your love? Event-planners at Rock Paper Scissors will adapt their existing scavenger hunts in New Canaan, Ridgefield or New Bedford, N.Y., for special occasions, or create a new one from scratch in time for a Feb. 13 or 14 drive.
“We have always wanted to do a quirky proposal,” said Rachel Lampen, the company’s co-founder. “These hunts are super fun and a great way for families or couples to spend time together.”
Existing routes are $10, with 50 percent going to a local charity; new routes or adaptations are extra.
Interact with your date — from a safe distance — and channel your inner cupid at a virtual reality arcade in Trumbull. Xperiment VR offers date night packages every Friday and Saturday.
“One of our most popular games for couples is Elven Assassin, an archery tower defense game where you defend your town against orcs and flying dragons,” business owner Igor Lotkin said.
Book in advance online ($60 plus tax) to receive two headsets and a ticket for an hour’s worth of exploration within the company’s 40-plus games, including “zombie shooting games, VR Laser Tag, VR Racing, as well as VR escape rooms with graphics that will amaze anyone,” Lotkin said.
The company uses disposable headset covers and UV-cleaning to comply with COVID-19 measures.
Like to move fast? Take your date to Stamford’s RPM Raceway for some heated competition in Italian-made go-karts. With speeds of up to 45 mph, this activity could get hearts racing.
Helmets, karts and touch points have been sanitized for COVID safety, and capacity has been limited to 50 percent, so be sure to reserve in advance. $30 per race, discount with membership.
Found a spark on Tinder? Take your sweetie for a Campfire Spiked S’mores milkshake ($31; $21 non-alcoholic) at Foxwoods’ Sugar Factory.
This “candy and dining emporium” inside the casino is known for its 36-ounce “smoking candy goblets” ($36), but also includes Instagrammable edibles like rainbow sliders ($25), date-friendly sundaes for two (from $15) and the aforementioned “insane milkshakes,” which feature chocolate-covered mugs, Foxwoods notes.
Branford-based Painted by the Shore has partnered with Watertown’s Hawk Ridge Winery and Brignole Vineyards in East Granby for Valentine-themed crafting and sipping.
At Brignole, assemble an 18-inch framed sign featuring a festive mason jar and hearts, while sipping from the included glass of wine.
At Hawk Ridge, adorn a pillow with the company’s signature red truck while enjoying a glass from the winery.
Not up for crafting in person? The company also offers a selection of Valentine’s Day-themed virtual art workshops. The company sends a kit with materials so participants can watch and follow along.
$49 East Granby, $43 Watertown, $33 and up for at-home events.
The Well at Mayflower Inn & Spa, Auberge Resorts Collection in Washington, is offering two packages for Valentine’s Day.
The first, “After Hours at The Well,” ($4,500 for a couple) is an indulgent four-hour retreat that melds traditional holiday trappings of roses, chocolates and a romantic dinner and massage with a private experience of the entire spa.
Here, follow a candlelit three-course dinner and champagne with a tarot card reading from a local expert, enjoy a lavender and honey treatment massage, and have the pool house to yourself for an “adult swim,” according to a release from the inn.
Or, choose from a menu of private experiences in a two-day package (beginning at $610 for two people), among them a 60-minute “lunary gong bath,” “intention-setting meditation,” “integrative energy work” and a “candlelit biophilic thermal pool” relaxation, with a complimentary bottle of champagne included.