Novel recipes for unconventional Valentine’s Day
Frank Boyden, owner of Knowles Flower Shop in Amherst, makes an arrangement Tuesday. JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »
EASTHAMPTON — Back in my single days, I once hosted an Anti-Valentine’s Day party. I bought a red velvet outfit, donned a pink feather boa and wished I had a date.
That dichotomy sums up Valentine’s Day: it’s a holiday we both love to hate and love to celebrate. Feb. 14 planning usually includes some eye-rolling, followed by an obligatory (and expensive) evening out. So this year, instead of a red foil box of chocolates and a table for two, check out these suggestions for alternative Valentine’s Day activities — most of which will cost you far less than that night on the town.
• Have you ever wished you could run off and join the circus? Well, you actually can ... at least for an evening. Show Circus Studio in Easthampton offers private lessons for two in all types of circus arts, including juggling, unicycle, contortion, partner acrobatics, and yes, the wonderfully romantic flying trapeze. Imagine the thrill of soaring through the air with your loved one (and, um, your well-qualified circus instructor). Visit the Show Circus Studio website at www.showcircusstudio.com for more information, or call 527-6901 to book a session, which costs $60 for two. Bookings must be made 72 hours in advance.
• Ice skating under the stars is a classic romantic scene, but until recently, consistently groomed outdoor skating spots were scarce. Holyoke’s Community Field rink has made this a reality. Its new, refrigerated skating loop is regularly maintained, and will stay frozen even when the air temp rises to 50 degrees. Community Field will be open for skating on Valentine’s Day night from 4 to 9 p.m. The track is well-lit, has music and offers hot chocolate and light snacks for sale.
There’s even a warming hut on the premises. Admission is $3 and skate rental $2. In case of questionable weather that day, check the Community Field Facebook page for updated operating information.
• Did you meet your sweetheart when you were a teenager — or wish you had? You can take your skating moves indoors and all the way back to high school at the Roller Retro Party on Valentine’s Night at Interskate 91 in Hadley. The DJ will be playing all requests from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, so pick your favorite hits from your decade. Regular entry is $9.50 with skate rental, or $6 without, and if you wear retro wear you’ll score 2-for-1 admission. The snack bar has all those favorite high school foods, too. Make sure you wear jeans so you and your Valentine can skate around with your hands in each other’s back pockets.
• One of my favorite things about the Valley is all the opportunity for sport and recreation, so if you and your sweetheart love the outdoors as much as I do, consider a day or night hike. The Pioneer Valley Hiking Club will lead a 5-mile hike to Eagles Nest in Huntington on Valentine’s morning; departing from the Huntington Country Store on Route 112 at 9:30 a.m. This hike is rated “moderate.”
Or, try a nighttime trek: pack in a blanket and a thermos of cocoa, and enjoy some cozy stargazing together on a mountaintop. Michaela Twarog, a program leader with the Easthampton-based company All Out Adventures, is an experienced night hiker and she offers these tips: first, always advance your hike by daylight, to check for trail safety and any unexpected hazards. On the actual hike, each person should carry his or her own light — headlamps are best — and if the ground is snowy or icy, consider lightweight traction devices that slip over regular shoes.
Also, tell a friend your planned route before you head out, and bring water and a cell phone — and perhaps a red rose for a romantic presentation at the top. You can splurge on flowers, because the hike, after all, is free. Twarog recommends Mount Tom as a good, local destination.
• Finally, a little farther away, consider a trip to Howe Caverns in Howe’s Cave, N.Y., for its romantic lantern tour. Tickets are $35 per person, and for this a guide will lead you 156 feet into the earth, and about 150 years back in time, to see the caves just as early explorers did — by candlelit lantern.
You’ll see amazing rock formations and even take a boat ride on the underground Lake of Venus. If you wish to spend the night, the Howe Caverns Motel offers a “Sweetheart Package,” which includes lantern tour tickets, motel room, champagne, flowers and chocolates, starting at $125. Note: the tour is not offered on Valentine’s Night, but will be offered both Friday and Saturday at 5:30 p.m. Call ahead for reservations for either the lantern tour or the overnight package, (518) 296-8900, or visit www.howecaverns.com for more information.
Whatever you end up doing, enjoy each other’s company most of all. Perhaps it shouldn’t take a holiday to remind us to slow down and appreciate our loved ones, but with busy schedules and hectic lives, that’s often what happens.