Valentines Day is supposed to be about love and romance, but sometimes Cupids arrow is dipped in anxiety.
By JENEÉ OSTERHELDT
The Kansas City Star
Fancy restaurants book up a month ahead of time. The Black Friday vibe at bakeries and chocolatiers sucks the love out of the air. Hotels and getaways take careful planning. And if youre single, sometimes you just want to be distracted.
So here we are, one day before loves big day, and maybe youve yet to figure things out. Dont trip. Ive mastered last-minute plans for Valentines Day.
Its my thing. It started six years ago when everyone else was on dates except me and a friend. After one quick call, we decided on Dave & Busters arcade at The Legends. No candy, no flowers. We were careful to make it an anti-date. We even drove separate cars.
I had only one request. He had to help me win a prize. Youre not doing Dave & Busters right if you dont leave with a giant stuffed animal or something.
Skee-Ball, Pop-a-Shot and Jumping Jackpot (seriously, try this game, its virtual jump rope and fun to play, even funnier to watch) earned us enough tickets to snag a Care Bear.
Best Valentines Day ever, because there was no pressure. And these days I call that friend my husband.
Valentines Day is something we have fun with, often making plans the week of. And my Care Bear collection has grown. So hanging out at the arcade may not be traditionally lovey-dovey, but its a good time. DaveAndBusters.com
Other last-minute ideas:
Everyone on romantic autopilot has already filled up the fine-dining spots. If you forgot to make reservations, pizza is always an option. Did I mention Jay Z and Beyonce often go on pizza dates?
Im not talking about any old pizza joint. Kansas City has a ton of great places, like Spin!, Stone Canyon, the Dish and Coal Vines. Carry-out is an option, too. Just go for the Minskys heart-shaped pizza ($15.67 for a medium with two toppings) and a good movie: Try Love Jones. Minskys.com
But for me, the clear choice for a pizza valentine is Pizzabella, the wood-fired pizza with an artisan attitude. The toppings include leek, chorizo, arugula and prosciutto. The appetizers are a must, too. Everyone raves about the roasted Brussels sprouts, but I am about those wood-fired mussels and a cocktail the Special Lady Friend (a White Russian remix featuring Little Freshie root beer syrup) looks like a winner.
There are two locations: 1810 Baltimore downtown and the new restaurant at Mission Farms, 4000 Indian Creek Parkway in Overland Park. PizzaBellaKC.com
Dont let the bustling birthday parties and big gangs of kids at Build-A-Bear Workshop scare you. It can be romantic, too. Come on, guys, its a store where you make your own cuddle buddy. It has long been a Valentines Day standard to give bears and chocolate, but building one? That replaces the cliche with the cute and sentimental.
You can make a bear (or My Little Pony, SpongeBob, the choices are endless) together or make your own. I like seeing what each person comes up with.
Heres how it works for newbies: You pick out a stuffed animal and a heart. You can even give your bear a voice (not my thing, but it leaves room for a rom-com-worthy moment). And youre in charge of stuffing your new friend, too. Step on the gas for the stuffing machine and make your bear perfectly hugable. Next comes the fluffing and naming.
You even get to create a birth certificate for your masterpiece, making it that much more memorable. And yes, there are outfits. While I like the roller skates and cutesy bows, there are NBA, MLB and NFL uniforms to choose from, too. My pick is easy: Hello Kitty. An 18-inch plush kitty starts at $23, outfits start at $10.50.
And lucky for us, there are locations in Oak Park Mall, Zona Rosa and Independence Center. BuildABear.com
A funny valentine
Movies are a timeless idea, for dates and non-dates alike. Especially if you go to a theater that serves food and adult beverages. About Last Night, starring Kevin Hart and Regina Hall, is at the top of my list, because I prefer laughter to tear-inducing love stories, but if you like the latter, Winters Tale and Endless Love are out on Friday, too. (See the full list of Fridays new movies on Page 24.)
Or, if you havent seen it yet, go to The Lego Movie. Its not just for kids.
As for theaters, I would pick my seats and buy tickets at the Alamo Drafthouse downtown, because the burgers are great and the milkshakes are better. There are also V-Day showings of Casablanca and Pretty Woman. Drafthouse.com
But Screenland Armour in North Kansas City and its delicious fried green beans are always an option. It has two special screenings of its own: The Princess Bride and Bride of Frankenstein. Screenland.com
If youre wanting eye contact with your crush, at Standees in Prairie Village, you can have the traditional dinner date and flirt all you want in the restaurant, then head over to the in-house theater. The bar is sexy, and the drink menu is stacked. Hello, Ultimate Chocolate Martini ($6.50).
A $60 Valentines weekend package for two gets you dinner, a movie, dessert and popcorn. StandeesEatery.com
Strike it real good
Bowling may not seem like your fantasy Valentines Day date, but Z Strike in the Power & Light District puts a little sexy on the game.
You dont just get your own lanes, you get your own lounge. The couches and table upgrade the experience. The music, ranging from Michael Jacksons PYT to Kelly Clarksons Since Youve Been Gone, is dance-happy dirty pop. And the screen doesnt just keep score, it also tells you how fast your ball moves.
Dont rush it. Slow and steady wins the race. My 7 mph ball earned enough strikes for the win. Bowling is the kind of thing you can do with your friends or with a crush. I say play one round while you wait for your food (the chicken and waffles are a win), eat and play again.
Oh, dont forget the drinks. Ask for Crystal; shes a super waitress with the skinny on all the cocktails. Can you say 50 Shades of Grey Goose? Its a short glass of delicious: Grey Goose Cherry Noir, Cointreau, lime juice and cranberry. And it will get you where you want to be a lot faster than the trilogy. Just saying.
Z Strike, 1370 Grand Blvd., is open on Valentines Day from 11:30 a.m. to 3 a.m. Its $4.95 until 8 p.m., $5.95 after that, plus a $10 cover after 10 p.m. Shoe rental is $3.95. Z-Strike.com
Put a rink on it
You dont need reservations to get a pair of skates and circle around with your crush. Ice or wheels the choice is yours, really. The fun thing about skating is it takes the pressure off of trying to be overly romantic.
When youre trying to make sure you dont fall, no one is concerned with heavy conversation or grand gestures. Its about having fun and not taking yourself too seriously. Its a great idea for a new crush or a group date.
On ice, you have the added experience of being outdoors and bundled up. The likelihood of some hand holding is increased. You can go traditional and head over to the Crown Center Ice Terrace or you can go to the Ice at Park Place in Leawood. Either way, were talking about photo ops galore. And dont let the cold weather ruin your kiss. Bring your ChapStick.
On wheels, theres always Winwood Skate Center, 4426 N.E. Winn Road. The rink hosts a weekly TGIF party from 7:30 to 11 p.m., and youre bound to see some professional skaters, too. $8 cover. WinnwoodSK8.com
For something a little more adventurous, Skate City (locations in Merriam, Overland Park and KCK) is having a Valentines Day party, Stop Light Skate, from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday. $15 to get in, $2 for skates. Wear green if you are single, wear red if you are taken and yellow if you arent sure. Dear single and looking, skate away from the yellows. Its complicated. SkateCityKansas.com