The classic, time-honoured ritual of the Valentine’s Day date goes a little like this: dressing up to the nines for dinner at an upmarket restaurant that’s specially jacked up their prices for the occasion; presenting your significant other with a romantic (though likely rather impractical) token of your affection; and ending off the night with a movie, a couple of drinks or a meandering stroll. And while the tried-and-tested method certainly has its appeal, it also runs the risk of getting a little stale.
This year, why not switch things up with a few unconventional date ideas that range from perusing independent bookstores and scampering through hiking trails to embarking on a budget foodie adventure and trying your hand at distilling your very own gin. You’ll get to support small local businesses, indulge in a new activity and make new memories with your special someone. Read on to find out more.
1. Get an endorphin rush together
Who ever said Valentine’s Day dates needed to happen at night? If you’re a couple that digs waking up early and getting those endorphins going with a bout of exercise, opt to embark on a morning walk or jog at one of Singapore‘s verdant nature parks. Coney Island is great to get away from the hubbub of the city; Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, with its steep ascent to the summit, will let you work on those gams; and MacRitchie Nature Trail & Reservoir Park is ideal if you’re looking for a centrally located spot. Alternatively, for an indoor activity that’ll get your heart pumping just the same, you can try your hand at bouldering: Boulder World in Paya Lebar and Boulder Movement in the CBD are all solid gyms with climbing walls that cater to various skill levels. Finally, for something water-based and a little unusual, try your hand at kayak fishing with tour company Fever.
2. Explore various record stores and cafés
Although 2020 marked the shuttering of White Label Records – a beloved record store and bar at Ann Siang Hill – there are still many options for audiophiles looking to nab some new vinyls or chill out with some old-school tunes. Start at The Analog Vault at Esplanade Mall, which houses a treasure trove of new and used vinyl records spanning genres including jazz, electronic, hip hop and experimental sounds. And just because it’s Valentine’s Day, you can make a game out of it by picking out a record to gift to your partner. Once you’re done browsing the shelves, continue your analogue adventure at Choice Cuts Goods + Coffee along Joo Chiat Road. Peruse the collection of records, pick up some band merchandise and kick back with a cup of specialty coffee or craft beer while zoning out to some sweet tunes.
3. Go on a budget foodie tour of Singapore
Sure, treating your loved one to dinner at a five-star restaurant is a perfectly fine way to mark the occasion. But for something a little more fun and wallet-friendly, you can embark on a day-long eating escapade across the city-state. The catch? You have to agree on a budget beforehand, and aim to try as many dishes as possible without breaking the bank. This is the perfect chance to sup on some of Singapore’s finest hawker fare, or venture to off-the-beaten-track eateries in different neighbourhoods. Popular hawker centres such as Chinatown Complex Food Centre, Maxwell Food Centre and Old Airport Road Food Centre should definitely factor into your tour, though those who want to venture further afield can consider heading to neighbourhoods like Joo Chiat, Geylang, Hougang, Jurong East and Jalan Besar, which house a high concentration of scrumptious hawker delights.
4. Check out independent booksellers
Fancy yourself a pair of literary lovers? Stock up on some fresh reads at Singapore’s local independent booksellers. First on the list is Basheer Graphic Books at Bras Basah Complex, which specialises in art and design books as well as independent lifestyle magazines from the likes of Denmark, Germany and the United States. Next, traipse over to Littered With Books along Duxton Road. The quaint bookstore, which is located in a conserved shophouse, is where you’ll find contemporary bestsellers, fiction tomes and classic novels. And if you’re looking for titles by Singaporean authors, you’re likely to find them at the colourful Huggs-Epigram Coffee Bookshop. Once you’re done with your shopping spree, head home with your stash, brew a pot of tea or coffee and curl up with a good book – and each other – for the rest of the day.
5. Treat yourself to a relaxing spa day
For a date that’s all relaxation, rejuvenation and romance, consider booking a couple’s spa day. Most of Singapore’s top spas offer special packages for couples, or will allow you to customise a wellness programme that suits your taste. If you’re in the mood for a zen-like experience, there’s the Japanese-themed Ikeda Spa in Bukit Timah, which specialises in Japanese therapies such as facials using a range of natural ingredients including azuki red beans and massages administered on a Ganbanyoku hot stone bed. And for the total luxury experience, book yourself into the St. Gregory Spa at PARKROYAL COLLECTION Pickering. The Couple’s Retreat package for two includes a body exfoliation treatment with a fragrant lime and ginger cleansing scrub; as well as either a deep-tissue or aromatic body massage.
6. Take part in a fun activity
There are certain couples who just can’t sit still, or who prefer to engage in activity-based dates. If you’re looking for a crafty option, head to a painting studio for an art jam (check out Arteastiq, Art Jam Studio or Artefakts) or try your hand at ceramics at a pottery school (we recommend Clay Cove or Mud Rock Ceramics). Alternatively, take a swing at indoor mini golf at Holey Moley at Clarke Quay, where you can navigate your way through various themed holes, including a Game of Thrones course (complete with an Iron Throne) and one that resembles a chess board. If you prefer to flex your brain muscles and put your puzzle-solving skills to the test, you can opt for an evening at an escape room. And for couples who need to release their angst in a safe space, there’s The Fragment Room – where you don protective clothing and break and smash various items (including television sets, plates and vases) to your heart’s desire. Much cheaper than couples therapy!
7. Explore the thriving local gin scene
Instead of celebrating this special day at a run-of-the-mill pub, you can play bartender by crafting your very own gin at one of Singapore’s homegrown distilleries. Brass Lion Distillery runs an on-site Gin School, where participants can make their own bottle of gin under the tutelage of expert instructors (advanced bookings are essential and can be made via their website). First, you’ll get to learn more about distinct botanicals and pick which ones you want to use in your custom gin. You’ll then be given a mini copper pot still to carry out the distillation process, after which your creation will be bottled for you to take home. Once you’re done, you can cap off your day at Native, a cocktail bar along Amoy Street that makes inventive local gins. The matcha gin and kampot pepper gin are particular standouts, and are best enjoyed on the rocks or with a splash of tonic water.
Some of these images were taken before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours as well as booking and seating requirements before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.