How to Celebrate Valentine’s Day on a College Budget


Megan Zendek/Fourth Estate

Hunter Samuelson/Staff Writer

On Valentine’s Day, love can be an expensive business. Fortunately, there are some ways you can spend a romantic day with your significant other while sticking to a college budget. Don’t worry ladies — none of them involve “Netflix and chill.”

D.C. is your playground

Download the Ride Systems app and take advantage of being a Metro ride away from our nation’s capital. The Mason shuttle is free, and the Metro is only $4.60 ($3.60 if you have a SmarTrip card), so why not go? Because you don’t want to spend a ton of money on your date once you get there?

Believe it or not, there are hundreds of free things to do in D.C. that are romantic and memorable. For example, you and your date could stroll around the breathtaking Tidal Basin, the reservoir between the Potomac River and the Washington Channel. There, you can enjoy gorgeous views of the monuments adjacent to the Tidal Basin while sitting on the adorable park bench under the cherry blossom tree. It’s also a great opportunity for an Insta-worthy photo.

Speaking of Insta-worthy, according to the weather forecast, the sun is supposed to set around 5:43 p.m. in D.C. on Sunday. What better place to watch it than on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial? Looking out at the sunset over the Tidal Basin while cuddling with your date (especially during cherry blossom season) is a simple way to spend your Valentine’s Day.

Another great place to sit down and relax with your date is on the lawn of the National Mall. Be creative and surprise your date with a picnic dinner. Fill the picnic basket with snacks, goodies, love notes and drinks. Not only are picnics cheaper than dining out, they also show how much thought you put into celebrating you relationship. Sure, it might be easier to just go to a restaurant, but where is the fun and sentimentality in that?

Make sure you bring a cozy blanket with you because February can be a bit chilly. Fortunately, it gives you an excuse to cuddle.

According to the National Gallery of Art’s website, ice-skating season isn’t over until March 13th, and it only costs $8.50 (or $7.50 with your Mason ID) to ice skate on the frozen fountain in the middle of the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. Surrounded by the majestic architecture of national museums, monuments and large-scale sculptures, this ice rink is the perfect place for a magical date.

After you’re done skating, go to the Sculpture Garden Pavilion Café for some hot cocoa and cupcakes. If you’re really hungry, go for the four cheese pizza. Nothing says I love you like pizza.

In addition to ice-skating, you and your date can walk through the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden and take a photo by the Spanish-language version of Robert Indiana’s iconic “LOVE” sculpture. It’s a perfect photo for the occasion.

Hit the trails

Outdoorsy couples are the happiest couples. In fact, a research team from the University of Minnesota found that being in the nature impacts our well-being by reducing anger, fear and stress. Maybe you’re anxious about how your date will go. Maybe you’re depressed because you have nobody to share the day with. Either way, a hike with a date or by yourself is a great way to have a successful Valentine’s Day.

Northern Virginia is known for its abundant hiking trails, and there’s something special about sharing a kiss in the wilderness, so get away from the norms — the flowers, the chocolates, the dinners, the Netflixing — and go for an adventure. Also, think about all the annoying distractions you’ll be avoiding. You will literally be alone together in a beautiful secluded spot, so nothing will be competing for your attention.

The outdoors is also a great setting for deep, long talks and truly getting to know your partner. Located along the Potomac River, Great Falls has 10 scenic trails to choose from (The Billy Goat Trail being the most popular), which all lead to a spectacular view of rushing white water flowing over steep, jagged rocks.

Shenandoah National Park is another beautiful excursion that consists of 200,000 acres of forest, trails and waterfalls. Encompassing the Blue Ridge Mountains, trails like Hogwallow Flats, Little Devils Stairs and Dark Hollow Falls are just as fascinating as their names. Shenandoah’s trails are perfect to sit back and gaze at the enchanting Blue Ridge Mountains with the one you love.

Innovation is tradition

Indeed, memories are way more important than material things, but you’ve got to admit that material things are pretty great — especially on Valentine’s Day.

As Mason students, we live by the motto “innovation is tradition,” so when it comes to getting gifts for someone on Valentine’s Day, be creative. Don’t just automatically go for the flowers and chocolate. Download Pinterest and get to work. This day only comes once a year, so you might as well go all out. Make a giant Oreo skillet cookie for your partner. Create a huge playlist filled with all the songs that remind you of them.

Spoil each other. Spoil your friends! You don’t have to be in a relationship to do fun DIY projects on Valentine’s Day. This is not a day solely about romantic relationships. It’s also about showing how much we value all of our relationships with our friends and our family. It is about showing affection for all the people who make a positive impact on our lives. Romantic love is terrific, but there are other kinds of love that are often ignored. Remember to appreciate those relationships on Valentine’s Day — and every day, for that matter.