10 great ways to celebrate Valentine's Day
Feed romance in the forest, at an ice castle and, of course, in chocolate shops.
Valentine's Day is on a Tuesday this year, so on the weekend before, you ought to be ready to treat your swain or sweetheart to something fun.
It doesn't have to be an expensive dinner by candlelight with a fancy box of artisan chocolates . . . it could also be a hike by lantern or candlelight, with s'mores made over a fire.
Romance isn't what you buy; it's what you bring with you.
Here are some great and not particularly expensive ways to celebrate Valentine's Day in 2024.
Researchers have found that eating chocolate is almost as good as being in love . . . or something like that.
East-central Wisconsin is known as the " Wisconsin Candy Delta." The New York Times has mapped out a tour of chocolate shops in Appleton, Oshkosh, Green Bay, De Pere and Manitowoc, near or on Lake Michigan.
That's a lot of driving. For a shorter trip, take a self-guided tour of the chocolateries of Madison.
Nothing is more romantic than a stroll or glide through a forest by the light of luminaries. There's always a bonfire or fire pit, so score extra points by bringing a baggie of s'more ingredients.
There will be several places to do that over Valentine's Day weekend. On Feb. 17, ski or snowshoe one of the best candlelit loops at Gooseberry Falls State Park on the North Shore.
Shop by the light of ice lantern
There's also a cupcake/cookie/hot chocolate bar as well as an ice bar for stronger treats.
Visit an ice playground
Professional ice artists have created the Winter Realms ice playground in Lake Geneva in southern Wisconsin, with a snow cavern, ice tunnels, igloos, sleigh rides, tubing, ice slides and an ice volcano.
In the Minneapolis suburb of Maple Grove, on the northwest edge of the Twin Cities, you'll find an LED-lit ice castle of stacked icicles, sculptures, tunnels, slides and even a spouting fountain. Tickets are cheapest when bought online.
There's another ice palace half an hour west of Minneapolis in Delano, with sleigh rides, sledding and fire shows.
Elsewhere, visit one of our favorite and free ice playgrounds, including the spectacular Eben Ice Caves in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Scale a frozen waterfall
At nearby Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, some of the nation's best ice climbers will be scaling spectacular frozen waterfalls during Michigan Ice Fest, Feb. 7-11. There are workshops for beginners, too.
Remember how much fun sledding was when you were a kid? You can still do that, except you'll have even more fun shooting down today's professionally groomed and graded tubing chutes.
You don't even have to trudge back up the hill; there are conveyor lifts and magic carpets for that.
Tickets are good for two hours, and nearly everyone can find a tubing hill nearby.
Tour fireplaces and go on a sleigh ride
In the far northeast corner of Minnesota, see some of the coziest and most unique fireplaces in Cook County and warm up with a hot chocolate or mulled wine, too.
The tour is the whole month of February and part of the Feb. 3-14 Hygge Festival in Grand Marais, which includes romantic sleigh rides and guided hikes to frozen waterfalls. There's also a new Sauna Series with free community sauna sessions.
Book a cozy cabin
This is a classic idea, because there's nothing more romantic than canoodling in front of a crackling fireplace.
The problem is, it may be hard to find a place at the last minute. You can always look for cancellations, but another option is reserving a cabin for next year, when Valentine's falls on a Wednesday.
You can reserve them a year in advance in Michigan and Iowa and 120 days in advance in Minnesota.
And for instruction in the Scandinavian concept of "cozy," head for Grand Marais, at the northeast tip of Minnesota. It's holding a Hygge Festival Feb. 4-14, with sleigh rides, guided waterfall hikes and a tour of fireplaces.
See a show
In the Minneapolis theater district, enjoy the musical "Mamma Mia!'' Feb. 6-11 or the comedy "Love and Other Things That Ruined My Life,'' starting Feb. 15.
Or splurge on a Broadway traveling show in Chicago's Loop theater district, where you can see the comedy "Golden Girls'' Feb. 6-25 or the Bob Dylan musical "Girl From the North Country'' Feb. 13-25.
Something to look forward to
If you wanted to buy a gift but didn't have time, just print out some tickets at home — perhaps to a food tour or a cooking class. After all, the way to the heart is through the stomach.
This could really pay off: Your sweetie could come home knowing how to make truffles, sushi or a killer tiramisu.
Or you can make a pig of yourself at Baconfest MKE in Milwaukee on Feb. 25.