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8 Women On the Best Valentine’s Day Gifts and Dates They’ve Ever Had

A guide to making February 14th one for the ages.

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Yes, you really should get your partner flowers this Valentine’s Day.

Apart from that no-brainer, this is one holiday that’s set up to fail.

Read: the bland prix fixe menus, the minefield of romantic clichés, the fact that you used up all your good gift ideas in December.

To help you plan an inspired Valentine’s date, we asked eight of the most creative women we know (writers, business owners, farm wranglers) to recount their most memorable February 14ths.

And about those gifts? They recommended those, too.

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Vicki Fulop of Brooklinen.

Vicki Fulop is Co-Founder and CCO of Brooklinen, a company she and her husband started four years ago on a mission to make the best sheets ever.

1. The Fresh x Brooklinen Beauty Box: “These are our Luxe pillowcases embroidered with some cheeky phrases paired with Fresh’s must-have new night cream, a bedtime treat no-brainer, especially because I love a self-care gift and a little something to zhuzh up the bedroom. Plus, it hits the perfect balance of romantic and just-for-you vibes.”

2. Gift certificate to Heyday: “In a similar vein, I’d love a pamper-yourself gift, like a gift certificate to Heyday for a facial, or couples spa-day outing with some massages. It’s not something I tend to get for myself, but love to get. Totally indulgent and relaxing.”

3. A couples cooking class: “I’ve gotten it for Rich before (we learned how to make pizza), and I think it’s a lot more fun and interactive than the standard going out to dinner. Plus, we got to eat our pizza at the end, which made it all the more delicious. I’d love to learn how to make my own pasta, so that would be the cooking class at the top of my list.”

Her best Valentine’s Day ever: “My husband surprised me with cooking a three-course dinner with some serious undertaking behind it. I think he made bacon-wrapped shrimp, butternut squash soup, a really great steak and creamed spinach, and got my favorite dessert. We’re both pretty busy and neither of us is making soups and cooking three-course meals regularly, so the effort and time commitment (and the great results) to slow down and make a nice home-cooked meal with some flourish was the perfect gift. Sometimes the simplest things (i.e., staying in and cooking) for a date can also be the best things.”

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Pamela Schein Murphy of The Select 7.

Pamela Schein Murphy is the Founder + Creative Director of The Select 7, a curated lifestyle website that unlocks the worlds of today’s top tastemakers by inviting you into one person’s world for seven days. She has worked at women’s magazines such as Fitness, Mirabella, Elle and Glamour.

1. Jennifer Fisher Heart Pendant“Valentine’s Day is always a tough one because there’s this pressure to be uber-romantic, and it feels a little forced. That being said, jewelry is always a great gift. And if my husband happens to be reading this, I wouldn’t be upset with anything from Jennifer Fisher. If you want specifics, I’d be pretty happy if I came home to this.”

2. Donation to the Joyful Heart Foundation“But what I’d really love this year (and what I think would be an amazing way for all men to recognize Valentine’s Day, frankly), would be a donation to an organization that’s near and dear to my heart, the Joyful Heart Foundation. It was founded by Mariska Hargitay in 2004 to help survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse heal and reclaim their lives. Donating to a cause that’s near to a loved one’s heart is such a meaningful way to show someone how much you care, and it’s a win-win for everyone.”

Her best Valentine’s Day ever: “My husband and I are always running in 11 different directions, so we tend to use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to choose a restaurant we love that isn’t in our neighborhood and doesn’t offer a set V-Day menu (we hate those) and have dinner just the two of us. We’ve been doing it since we got married, and it’s a ritual I love.”

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Ophira Eisenberg of NPR.

Ophira Eisenberg is a standup comic, the host of NPR’s Ask Me Another and storyteller who frequently appears on The Moth Radio Hour. Her memoir “Screw Everyone: Sleeping My Way to Monogamy” was optioned for a feature film.

1. Message In a Box (Lil’ MIB)“I’m so pragmatic to begin with, my favorite gifts are things like iPhone battery chargers or emergency roadside assistance kits. But I still fall for a bit of romantic whimsy every once in a while. We can all agree that the joy and fun of communication has been ripped from our email and voicemail, but I found that it still exists in analog form with this Message In a Box. Basically, it’s a voice recorder hidden inside this cute handmade wooden box that’s dedicated to honeyed words from your admirer. So yes, it requires personalization — but just 30 seconds of your sweet nothings. For Valentine’s Day, if you’re not feeling creative, a simple recording of “I love you.” If you’re not there yet, “I adore you” would do just fine. I’m smitten by the little mailbox flag that you lift to indicate a new love message awaits. And it’s sweet that you can keep the spirit of this gift going for, well, as long as your relationship keeps going … or until you decide not to replace the batteries.”

Her best Valentine’s Day ever: “As soon as you tell me that the expectation on Valentine’s Day is to buy some roses and go out for a fancy dinner, I instantly want to rebel against it. Don’t get me wrong, I love a long, lingering dinner out with someone I adore, but trying to make that happen on Valentine’s can be a nightmare. I’ve often thought, ‘Why can’t we just get dressed up and go out tomorrow?’ And you know what? That’s what we do now. My then-boyfriend-now-husband and I have officially made Feb 15th our Valentine’s eve for going out. Not to say we pretend February 14th doesn’t exist. It becomes a day of giving each other an expression of love that has, let’s just say, no monetary value. It makes it all the more meaningful.”

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Courtney Klosterman of Life House. Second photo via Stephanie Cook on Unsplash.

Courtney Klosterman heads up communications and brand strategy at Life House, a collection of immersive and affordable boutique hotels that connects travelers with each other and with locally rooted experiences, now accepting reservations in Miami in Little Havana, the city’s vibrant Cuban heart, and South Beach.

1. Book an experience: “Today, experiences top material goods. While a roundtrip ticket to a tropical destination can oftentimes be the mecca of Valentine’s gifts, booking something as simple as an evening at your neighborhood rock climbing gym can have considerable return. Find something that allows you and your partner to take on a challenge that you can achieve together. This (almost) always leads to a happy ending.”

2. Chocolate cake: “And if that doesn’t work, end your date with a big piece of chocolate cake, the true way to a woman’s heart.”

Her best Valentine’s Day ever: “I’m a sucker for spontaneity. A few years ago the guy I was dating and I decided to drive eight hours from NYC to The Greenbrier, also known as ‘America’s Resort.’ It felt like we had gone back in time several decades from the dated dress code to the Victorian décor of the guest rooms to the activities offered at the resort. We played croquet, went on a horse carriage ride and even shot shotguns in a safe and playful round of skeet shooting. Embracing new connections and experiences can you bring you closer to one another (something that’s foundational to our approach at Life House).”

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Laura Bingham.

Laura Bingham is a British adventurer, explorer, expedition leader and motherbest known for her cross-continent cycle of South America which she completed with no money, as well as her recent World First expedition to kayak 630 miles down the longest river in Guyana, the Essequibo. Follow her adventures:  @LauraBingham93.

1. A card you wrote yourself: “A well written card that says why I mean so much to that person. It’s always nice to get a compliment.”

2. A custom puzzle: “But as a present idea, I think a puzzle of a memorable place or photo (you can have them custom made) is very sweet! I love puzzles!”

Her best Valentine’s Day ever: “To spend it with the person that I adore the most, my husband. Time is worth more than possessions. This year will be the first Valentine’s Day we have ever spent together, our lives are so extreme that one of us always seems to be away on this romantic day … So stay tuned, as they say!”

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Wen-Jay Ying of Local Roots NYC.

Wen-Jay Ying is the Founder of Local Roots NYC, a customizable farmers market brought right to New Yorkers with pick up points at bars and cafes. She is a spokeswoman on local food, food transparency, cooking and farms, and will be featured on Viceland’s new show Hustle

1. A local farm share“If your partner loves food and cares where their food comes from, I would shamelessly say a subscription of Local Roots veggies because cooking together and trying new recipes would continue the gift into weekly experiences as a couple. I’d even personally send you a video talking about the farmers that grow the food if you email me (seriously).”

2. Sustainable tropical fruit: “I would love if my special someone found a small family farm that grows mangos or oranges sustainably and had them sent to me. Maybe at a future date we could go visit the farm and meet the growers. I’m a die-hard local food lover so tropical produce can feel like an extra treat since I don’t indulge in it frequently.”

Her best Valentine’s Day ever: “Last year I spent Valentine’s Day single in Mexico City. I started the day by writing in my gratitude journal then got some churros, took a guided tour to Frida Kahlo’s house and then drifted down the canals that are lined with floating farms. For dinner, I treated myself to a taco omakase at Pujol (somehow got into the restaurant as a walk-in even though reservations are usually made months in advance) and the staff brought me into the kitchen for a behind the scenes look. I got to do almost everything I love in one day in a beautiful city (good food, farms, nature); I loved knowing what makes me happy and having the power to make my own happiness.”

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Ariel Scotti of RealClearLife.

Ariel Scotti is an editor and reporter at RealClearLife, a news and lifestyle site that partners with InsideHook, where she covers everything from politics and the environment to books and health. She’s currently working on a series of interviews with debut authors called Chapter One. She also writes for Martha Stewart Living and is formerly of the New York Daily News.

1. Birdies Slippers: “One gift I’d love to receive for Valentine’s Day is another pair of Birdies to add to my little collection. They’re super comfortable slippers that are designed to double as luxe flats you can wear to work or wherever. I have a pair in red velvet and another in green suede, but I’ve got my eye on a black pair called The Heron, because I somehow don’t have them in the only color I wear.”

Her best Valentine’s Day ever: “I came home from work at the apartment I share with my boyfriend to a giant bouquet of flowers, a bunch of lit candles and him cooking away in the kitchen. I think V-Day fell on a Tuesday or something boring that year, and I wasn’t super hyped to get dressed up and go out to dinner in the middle of the week, so the original plan was to order in. Clearly, he had something else in mind. It was so nice (and relaxing) to be surprised with something so thoughtful that was definitely a lot of hard work for him, especially since I’m the resident chef in our household. I loved sipping wine at home with him — and the raspberry tart he picked up from my favorite bakery for dessert didn’t hurt either.”

valentines day
Susan Portnoy of The Insatiable Traveler. Second image via @BorrowLenses.

Susan Portnoy is a freelance travel writer, award-winning photographer and the creator of The Insatiable Traveler which celebrates the wonder of world travel. Her work has been featured in USA Today, Adventure.com, US News & World Report, Travel Weekly, Wendy Perrin, Globe & Mail, among others.

1. Support for their passion: “It’s not a gift that most people would consider ‘romantic’ but I would swoon over a gift certificate from Borrowlenses.com, a photo and video gear rental company. Anyone who understands my passion for photography would know that having access to equipment I don’t own for trips and assignments is a dream come true. I can rent specialty lenses or a second body, or try out new gear I may want to invest in in the future. It’s a smart way for keeping photography affordable, and it’s for everyone, not just professionals.”

Her best Valentine’s Day ever: “Valentine’s Day is also my birthday, which is a bit of a nightmare when your boyfriend feels the pressure of getting you a great birthday gift as well as something romantic. However, one year my boyfriend surprised me with a lovely dinner he’d prepared. When I arrived home, the stairs were lit by candlelight as was the dining room. He had my favorite music playing and it was a quiet, lovely, dreamy night, just the two of us.”

Happy Valentine’s from us to you. Here’s a bonus recommendation …

valentines day
Photojuice Photography; Toa Heftiba on Unsplash.

Anna Roisman is a comedian, writer, creator, producer and host in NYC. She is the host of HQ Words (a live word puzzle game show from the creators of HQ Trivia), creator and host of The Unemployed Show, co-creator of the series “There’s No Place Like Home” on Elite Daily, and co-producer and host of Quickie Fest: The One Minute Movie Festival, among other things. You can catch her singing at Joe’s Pub with The Losers Lounge (next shows Feb. 21st-23rd) and The Unemployed Show Awards Live at Littlefield on Feb 27th.

1. A spa day: “I think one of the best Valentine’s Day gifts is a spa treatment. I wanna get pampered! It’s something I never think to buy myself, and whenever I do get a massage or a facial, I always think, ‘Wait, why don’t I do this more often?!’ Probably because they’re expensive. Maybe it’s not overlooked for some people, but it’s not something I’ve received! It’s a gift that gets you to relax, let go of your stress for an hour (come on, throw in the 90-minute one) and feel good about yourself. Plus it makes you eight years younger, and that to me is the best gift of all. I understand facials, right?”

Her best Valentine’s Day ever: “Valentine’s Day has always been a holiday I’m not too fond of. I used to work in restaurants and we literally played bingo on Valentine’s Day. The board was made up of cliches we were used to: who wore red, who requested a corner table, who gave us a little too much PDA, who got in a fight, etc! I think my best Valentine’s Day date was probably last year with my boyfriend, because we celebrated it on like … February 17th! Maybe even later. I told him that going out on that night always reminded me of my bingo days, and I was doing a comedy show on actual V-Day. He was totally chill with going on a different night and it could be, like, our secret. We went to Roberta’s in BK, my favorite pizza, and had an awesome dinner. He got me a really cool ring from this store I love (no not a ring ring, I’m not married). It was a very understated Valentine’s Day, and it was perfect! I wasn’t working, so it was already better than all the rest, and neither of us wore red (thank god).”

Answers may be condensed for length and clarity. Nota bene: If you buy through these links, InsideHook may earn a small share of the profits on some items. If you enjoyed this article from InsideHook, they also have an excellent daily email with similar articles that spans the wide world of men’s lifestyle. You can sign up here.

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