Sweeten Up Your Sweetheart with a Delightfully Romantic (Driving) Date

Couple watching the sunset in their car

We know celebrating Valentine’s Day isn’t always the coolest game in town, but we argue that any day with chocolate, gifts, and an extra moment to show appreciate for those you love is worth losing a little cred. We’d also like to point out for the skeptics that Valentine’s Day isn’t purely a “Hallmark holiday,” it actually has its roots in an ancient Roman celebration, Lupercalia, a fertility celebration that was recast in the 5th century as the Christian feast of St. Valentine’s and has evolved over the centuries into the candies and hearts we recognize today.

But even if you can get on board with celebrating this February, we understand the pull to do things a little differently — perhaps a little cooler — than the traditional candle-lit dinner. If you’re struggling to come up with alternatives, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with these 7 excellent Valentine’s Day celebration ideas (that just happen to involve your car — go figure!):

Drive-In Theater

Results will vary by region, of course, but if your climate is already warm (first of all, those of us up North are jealous) and  you’re looking to impress your valentine, you can’t go wrong with a little retro fun. Really, what beats cuddling under the stars watching a couple of movies with easy access to snacks?

The Drive-In theater hit its peak in the 1950’s, writes The Travel Channel, and there were more than 4,000 screens across the U.S. Though the popularity of Drive-Ins has waned since then, the alternative to movie theaters still has many aficionados.

A few famous Drive-Ins around the country that are open for Valentine’s Day:

An added bonus for Valentine’s couples with kids in tow: the first movie at the Drive-In is usually kid-friendly. And, for everyone still snow-bound, remember this date idea when warmer weather rolls around.

winter picnic on the snow

Picnic Under the Stars

Again, those of us up north might begrudge those of you in warmer climates your Valentine’s Day date under the stars, but really, you should do it anyway. Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays in which the thought put into planning the date matters almost as much as the actual plans. And with a picnic, there’s no doubt your sweetheart will see and appreciate all the hard work you put into those little crustless cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches and petit-fours. Here’s where everyone with a pick-up, hatchback, or otherwise convertible vehicle can really shine by turning the back of the car into the main event.

A few tips for first-timers:

  • Don’t forget the blanket(s).
  • Simple is best when it comes to the menu. And even though it’ll be nighttime, stay away from mayonnaise of any sort. There’s just too much mood-killing potential.
  • If you’re planning a picnic in a public park, check the hours of operation before the big day — no one wants to go on a date that’s over before it even begins.


For the sporty and adventurous valentine couple, camping (in a campground with amenities or in the wilderness without) is a fantastic alternative to more staid celebrations. And, if you plan to utilize your vehicle, a lot of the fussier planning aspects are already taken care of. As we’ve written: “One part built-in sleeping quarters, one part animal-safe storage, and one part entertainment system, your car is an easy (and cheap!) way to instantly up your camping game.”

We have some great ideas for where to camp, what gear to pack, and even what types of vehicles work best for the endeavor: put your planning shoes on and check out more!

Surprise Mini-Vacation

You’ll have to plan ahead for this one, but the benefits are sure to be numerous. We love the idea of surprising your valentine with a weekend get-away, like a romantic road trip to an adorable bed & breakfast. Be sure to take care of all the details ahead: If you have little ones, arrange child care, pack your valentine’s bags, and sort out any other logistics so that your sweetheart and you can truly relax, recharge, and connect.

Driving Scavenger Hunt

We love a good scavenger hunt as much as the next person, and this Valentine’s Day you can up your fun and romance with a love-themed adventure. We suggest focusing on fun (read: easy) clues rather than sending your valentine on a complicated and arduous journey. A few ideas:

  • Craft a few clues (3-5, say) leading your valentine to hidden flowers, chocolate, or gifts.
  • For the clue-blocked among us: Try making the answers to each clue the missing words of a song or poem loved by your beloved.
  • Make the final clue an invitation to dinner (or hotel!) reservations or a homemade meal (with the mood set by candle light).

For instance (and bear with us here), William Carlos Williams’ famous poem, “This is Just to Say”:

  • Clue 1: “I have eaten the ____” (Answer: “plums,” hiding spot, the fruit section of your local grocery store)
  • Clue 2: “that were in the ____” (Answer: “icebox,” hiding place, an antique store, a skating rink, or even your own home refrigerator)
  • Clue 3: “and which you were probably saving for ____” (Answer: “breakfast,” hiding place, the kitchen/dining room table where, voila, you’ve set up a romantic dinner).

You could even, if you were so inclined, recite the final lines of your chosen poem or song yourself, “Forgive me, they were delicious, so sweet and so cold.”

We suggest escorting your valentine on their hunt and helping with clues when necessary. If nothing else, you’ll score some major points for effort.

Car with balloons

Go Big with Decorations

By working with your sweetheart’s car. A candy box and a bouquet of flowers are lovely, but don’t you want to supersize your affection? (Hint: you do.) Some of our favorite ideas:

  • Filling your valentine’s car with pink and red balloons
  • Covering the outside of your love’s car with valentines (stick to glass surfaces only)
  • Repurpose the giant red holiday bow and gift your valentine a car

Add a Shine to Your Valentine’s Car

If you can’t swing a brand new car for your love (what, are you not Scrooge McDuck?), you might consider showing the vehicle your love already drives a little TLC this valentine season. There’s nothing like having someone else wash, wax, vacuum, and tidy up your car to get you into the spirit of romance (and relaxation). You might even consider a small gift or two, like a new dock for your loved one’s phone or even swing a little old school and make a mix CD (or playlist).

And if you aren’t romantically attached this Valentine’s Day? Most of our suggestions can be easily repurposed for friends and family members — the love in these relationships are worth celebrating, too!

No matter what celebration you and your valentine plan, we wish you a day of love and peace.