Despite countless jewelry commercials, heart-covered everything and plenty of dudes and dudettes selling plastic-wrapped roses — you forgot Valentine’s Day. (It’s always Feb. 14. Always.) Scoring reservations at your sweetheart’s favorite local bistro on this high holy day of romance is an unlikely option, but don’t panic. Your prayers to St. Valentine have been answered by way of Austin360’s list of last-minute Valentine’s Day date ideas, complete with expert advice. (And you can check our list of Valentine specials at restaurants at austin360.com; some might have last-minute spots open or community seating.)
"While retailers consider the holiday worthy of diamonds, many (people) take the stance that it’s no big deal," said professional matchmaker Julia McCurley, who plans hundreds of dates a year for her clients. "Don’t fall for any of it. Valentine’s Day is when a (couple’s) affection, compatibility and commitment are put to the test."
Peruse this list of ideas culled from McCurley’s pro toolbox, as well as tried-and-true Austin date staples and a few local events that might work in a pinch. Mix and match for fun and fiery activities that will have him or her answering the age-old question, "Will you be mine?" with a resounding "Yes!"
A pro’s mojo makers
Flex your muscles: Most people might not realize that the "gift of service" is just as romantic as a dozen roses. Visit Breed & Co., a treasure chest of romantic gifts and potential projects you can do together. How about surprising your sweetie with a hammock? You can set it up together then pop some bubbly and toast under the skies. Extra points if you can show off some of your star-gazing knowledge. Breed & Co., 718 W. 29th St., 474-6679 and 3663 Bee Cave Road, 512-328-3960, www.shop.breedandco.com.
Create movie magic: The Blue Starlite Drive-In theater is a gem hidden in the middle of the city, with 45 car slots available at each showing and no reservations required. You can’t get much more romantic than snuggling up in the front seat of the car, drinking your Champagne and nibbling chocolate-covered strawberries. Remember, it’s BYOB. Making out is optional, but encouraged. Blue Starlite, 1901 E. 51st, 850-6127, www.bluestarlitedrivein.com. (Valentine’s Day showings: "Princess Bride" and Charlie Brown’s Valentine special pre-show at 6 p.m.; Charlie Brown pre-show and "Breakfast at Tiffany’s" at 9:45 p.m.; and "Midnight in Paris" at 12:15 a.m.)
Get your skate on: Go old school and take your date roller-skating. Bust out those tube socks, short shorts and spangly shirts — the roller rink makes for a super-fun Valentine’s Day setting. You can hang out in the arcade, buy your date a candy necklace and get cozy for a couple’s skate. Austin Roller Rink, 11600 Manchaca Road, 512-292-7528, www.austinrollerrink.com. (Playland Skate Center, 8822 McCann Drive, is closed for private parties on Thursdays, but an option for a non-Thursday date. 452-1901, www.playlandskatecenter.net.)
Put on your Twinkle-Toes. This idea is semi-cheating because this event happens weekly. Take advantage of the Austin Swing Syndicate’s weekly Thursday dance at the Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs. This is a fun activity regardless of whether you are single or coupled up. And even better news, there are free intro classes starting at 8:15 p.m. Austin Swing Syndicate Thursday Night at the Fed, 2312 San Gabriel St., 8 p.m. to midnight, $2 members, $5 non-members, www.austinswingsyndicate.org.
Get board: When is the last time you played spin the bottle? Sexy board games are usually a hit, and relatively easy to find at large toy stores at the last minute. Or create your own truth or dare style game with a package of index cards from the Dollar Store, a red felt marker and a handful of naughty questions. Suggested games are Scruples, Truth or Dare and Sexy Stack (which is like Jenga for adults), and available at Tabu Lingerie, 4006 S Lamar Blvd., 512-443-7779; 1323 S. Congress Ave. 512-443-7779; and 9070 Research Blvd., 452-8228, www.tabulingerieaustin.com.
Ask Craig: McCurley says she recently discovered that Craigslist is the go-to place for last-minute tickets to shows and concerts. "This may seem like a ‘duh’ to many of you," said McCurley. "But I personally got F1 tickets the day before the race at 50 percent off the face value." Check out the website for tickets to any sold-out shows on Valentine’s Day or any date night. Craigslist, www.craigslist.com.
Dive in to a dive bar: Austinites love their dive bars, so why not pick one with a great jukebox and your favorite beers and wells? Load your favorite love songs and dance grooves, get your fortune told by Zoltar or get playful with a game of Big Buck Hunter at G&S Lounge, 2420 S. First St., 707-8702, gandslounge.com.
Be picture-perfect: If you’ve been meaning to snap that perfect pic of you and your sweetheart, visit hot spots around town for just that sort of thing. Austin has no shortage of picture-perfect places. Try the "I love you so much," graffiti wall at Jo’s Coffee on South Congress Avenue; the Willie statue downtown on West Second Street; the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue on the hike-and-bike trail along Auditorium Shores; the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge off South Lamar Boulevard (that one comes with the Austin skyline as your backdrop); and the overlook at Mount Bonnell.
Pack up a picnic: Speaking of Mount Bonnell, pack up a picnic basket of your favorite treats and a bottle of bubbly and canoodle at the overlook. Keep it simple with cheeses, salami and chocolates or go all out with a fried chicken feast. If Mount Bonnell is too crowded, pop over to Auditorium Shores, Zilker Park or any of Austin’s fun and fabulous green spaces.
Red hot local events
Linger over coffee and s’mores: Hip hangout Halcyon is mixin’ up coffee, cocktails and tableside s’mores for Valentine’s Day. Gaze into one another’s eyes while feeding each other ooey, gooey chocolate and marshmallows, then people-watch to your heart’s content as the throngs make their way to Warehouse District bars for boozin’ and booty-shakin’. Halcyon, 218 W. Fourth St., 472-9637, www.halcyonaustin.com.
Jazz it up: Cuddle in the corner while listening to the smooth stylings of jazz trumpeter Jeff Lofton. Cocktails, dinner and dancing are all on the menu, just bring your romantic side. For Valentine’s Day, Jeff Lofton’s Jazz Supper Club at Shoal Crossing is from 8 to 11:30 p.m. (doors at 7 p.m.) and features vocalist Suzi Stern. Tickets are $80 a person and include appetizers, two courses, dessert bar and open bar with wine, beer, Champagne and specialty cocktails. Shoal Crossing Event Center, 8611 N. Mopac Blvd., 372-3918, www.shoalcrossing.com.