Cheap things to do in Columbus and central Ohio

Time spent with someone you love is priceless — except when it’s not.

The flowers, the chocolates and everything else can add up when trying to make this Valentine’s Day and the days leading up to it special. Luckily, penny pinchers in Columbus can find many inexpensive and romantic spots to share with their valentine.

Culture lovers might want to check out the Columbus Museum of Art this weekend while its #HeartsforArt campaign will be in full swing. The stars and trees are always free, and more adventurous couples can find some romance in nature at the area’s Metro Parks and stargazing spots.

Couples who want to focus on food have affordable options, too. That could include a special home-cooked meal or simply taking home a special promotional meal from White Castle known as the “Love Cube.”

Here are eight Valentine’s Day weekend suggestions we hope you love!

Check out the Columbus Museum of Art

Art and romance go hand in hand, and the Columbus Museum of Art offers a fine selection of exhibitions and artwork. For those trying to steer clear of a date during the work week, the museum offers free admission on Sunday. The museum will be celebrating Valentine’s Day throughout the weekend with its #HeartsforArt campaign, and visitors can place hearts around their favorite artwork. Walk the museum and try finding your favorite piece with your date.

Bundle up for a walk in the park …

Greater Columbus’ selection of Metro Parks and outdoor spaces provide a beautiful and serene break from busy life in the city (or the suburbs). Plan a stroll in one of the 20 area Metro Parks or along the Scioto Mile in Columbus.

Sharon Woods Metro Park in Westerville is helping to up the romance with a short, lantern-lit walk through the woods Saturday night at 6 pm Or if you’re looking for an adventurous girls night out, Highbanks Metro Park in Lewis Center is hosting a “Galentine’s Day” hike this Sunday at 3 pm

… or a hike in Hocking Hills

If you’re up for a drive, check out the free “Sweetheart Hike” to Hocking Hills’ Ash Cave on Saturday at 5 pm The hike starts at the Ash Cave parking area and will end will refreshments and a place by the fire to keep you and your date warm in the woods. A trip out into the woods will definitely be chilly this weekend, so be sure to bring some extra layers.

Venture onto Ohio State’s campus

If you don’t mind a younger crowd, Ohio State University’s campus offers some free options for a night out. Open from dawn until dusk, the Chadwick Arboretum offers 62 acres of greenery on campus.

Even closer to the heart of campus, couples might take part in a Buckeye tradition on the North Oval. Legend says that if a couple can make “the long walk” hand-in-hand down the center of the oval from one end to the other without anyone crossing their path, they are destined to be together forever. Bonus points if Orton Tower’s bells are ringing and the couple locks in their destiny with a kiss on the university seal. End the night at Mirror Lake under its scenic holiday lights.

Break out the skates

Embrace the winter weather this Valentine’s Day weekend by ice skating. Outdoor ice skating is available at Dublin’s Riverside Crossing Park ice rink for $10 including skate rental on weekends. Obetz’s outdoor ice rink is also open for $5, though skates are not included. Be sure to check operating hours for public skating this weekend and Monday.

Free outdoor synthetic ice skating will be held at Easton Town Center 3-7 pm this weekend and on Valentine’s Day. Couples on Monday can catch a horse-drawn carriage from 5-9 pm, too.

Look up at the stars

What do romance classics “A Walk to Remember,” “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” have in common? Stargazing.

While a backyard and some blankets will usually do for a look at the stars, the John Glenn Astronomy Park in Hocking Hills is open 24/7 for free and has some of the best views of the sky in Ohio. Telescopes help if you have one, but eyes often work well enough.

Get a ‘Love Cube’ from White Castle

For the uninitiated, White Castle has become known for its Valentine’s Day experience in the past, but the burger chain is keeping safety and social distancing in mind with this year’s $15 “Love Cube” for two. Order a pink Love Cube on Monday for carry-out or delivery with eight cheese sliders, two small soft drinks and two shareable sides. White Castle also offers free delivery Valentine’s Day for orders of $15 or more.

Stay in

Trade in the stuffy and expensive gourmet dinners for a homecooked meal. While it may take more work than shelling out $100 at restaurant, making a meal for your valentine is a great way to show how much you care. A couple of well-placed candles and a clean living space can go a long way, but dinner can be enhanced even more with cocktails or a home cooked dessert, like this blondie cookie from The Pearl’s executive chef or some holiday favorites from local bakers.

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