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Every Restaurant Booked for Valentine’s Day? Here’s What to Do!

A man holding a coffee cup and saucer, and a woman sipping an iced coffee through a straw in a restaurant.
nd3000/Shutterstock

Uh-oh! Did you forget to make Valentine’s Day reservations? Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. You can still have a special and lovely date with your significant other. We’ve got some alternate suggestions!

Keep in mind the whole point of Valentine’s Day is to spend time together. So, no worries if you can’t get into that fancy restaurant. It’s totally okay to do something simple, like chowing down on Chipotle burritos while snuggling under a blanket.

Early or Late Reservations

A lot of restaurants will be totally booked for Valentine’s Day pretty early on. But if your heart’s really set on a fancy dinner out, then go ahead and call—they might be able to squeeze you in as early as 4:30 p.m. or as late as 9:30 p.m.

If you’re flexible with your plans, it’s definitely worth reaching out to your favorite restaurants to see if it’s possible. You can also ask to be put on a waitlist if there are any last-minute cancellations.

A Lunch Date

Restaurants are often quite chaotic on Valentine’s Day (okay, very chaotic). Even if you do manage to get dinner reservations, you’ll probably have to wait a while to get your food. Plus, there’ll be extra background noise distracting from your romantic date.

This is why you might want to consider a lunch date instead. If your favorite restaurant charges a higher fee or only offers a special (aka expensive!) dinner for Valentine’s Day, going out for lunch will save you some money, too. Go ahead and use that extra cash to buy your loved one a sweet treat afterward.

So, if you’re able to duck away from work in the middle of the day, this is a great option to explore! It’s especially perfect for parents with kids in school—no need to splurge for a nighttime babysitter.

A Picnic Dinner

Packing a picnic basket might seem too rustic for Valentine’s Day, but trust us, it’s really sweet.

If it’s too cold to take the picnic outside, throw a blanket on the living room floor, light some candles, crank up the fireplace, scatter some rose petals, and settle in for an enjoyable dinner.

You can fill your basket with specialty cheeses, crackers, dips, fancy olives, gourmet cookies, heart-shaped chocolates, you name it. Don’t forget to chill a nice bottle of wine!

If you can venture outside, check out this picnic backpack with a wine bottle holder, a blanket, and everything you need for a romantic picnic for two.

Order Take-Out

A heart-shaped pepperoni pizza on a wooden table next to a bouquet of roses.
Evgeny Karandaev/Shutterstock

You don’t have to sit down to dinner in your favorite restaurant—order it to go instead! After you pick up your dinner, find a nice place to share it, like the park or by a picturesque lake. If it’s too cold to be outside, take the food home, turning on some romantic music, and dim the lights or light some candles.

You can also take advantage of places that offer fun V-Day themed foods, like Chick-fil-A’s heart-shaped containers. If there’s a California Pizza Kitchen or Papa Murphy’s nearby, you can even get a heart-shaped Valentine’s pizza for no extra charge. These little touches might seem corny, but they’re all part of the fun.

Besides, who doesn’t like a night off from cooking and doing dishes? For busy, tired parents, this is a true luxury. Just make sure you save room for dessert!

The Grocery Store Hot Bar

This might seem like a last-ditch effort to save Valentine’s Day, but honestly you can make anything into a special adventure. Places like Whole Foods have a variety of foods, including salads, soups, curries, high-quality meats, and more. Plus, you can finish off your meal by sharing a tub of ice cream or some fresh baked goods.

Make a night of it if you want, and get dressed up or take some flameless candles to set up. Who cares if you stand out? We’re sure other couples will appreciate the romantic ambiance you create.

Cook Something Different

The idea of cooking on Valentine’s Day might seem like a total disappointment. (What? We’re not going out?) But if you cook something you’ve never made before—either together or to surprise your date—it can be fun and exciting.

Here are a few options to consider this Valentine’s Day:

Alternatively, you can make a quick, easy dinner, and make dessert the new adventure. Go all out with this heart-shaped chocolate cake.

Add some candles, wine, and background music, and you’ve got yourself quite the date night! Make sure you both switch off your phones, so you can thoroughly enjoy your special night together.


Don’t panic if you forgot to make Valentine’s Day reservations. You can still have an amazing time together. You might even enjoy the evening more without having to push your way through a crowded restaurant or wait for ages on your food.

Embrace spontaneity, and see where the adventure takes you!

Jill Chafin Jill Chafin
Jill Chafin is a freelance writer, aerialist, dancer, food enthusiast, outdoor adventurer, and mama, based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Read Full Bio »

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