Four stills from a Norman McLaren short film that aired on NBC on Valentine’s Day, 1940. Courtesy of the National Film Board.
Most holidays are commercial, but Valentine’s Day, shamelessly so. It’s not statutory. It’s not political. It’s not religious, unless love is your religion, in which case you probably live in a commune in middle Saskatchewan, and you refuse to go on the internet because it makes you nervous, and oh, my god, how are you reading this? Ahem. Where were we? Right. Valentine’s. It’s not even really a holiday. All the more reason to celebrate, we say: if ever the economic clime called for a Buy Sweet Nothings Day, it’s now. (“Stimulus package” has an erotic frisson to it, no?)
After the break, we’ve got Valentine’s plans for every budget. Estimate the length of your love and the depth of your overdraft limit, then spend your V-Day and money accordingly. S/he’s worth it.
Under $25Put on your gussiest polyester and take a ride on Toronto’s very own love boat: the Santa Cruz. Haven’t heard? You’re probably under 21. Thrown by aged hipsteress Tyler Clark Burke, the alt-singles party series goes down regularly on Captain John’s Seafood Ship (1 Queens Quay West) and attracts a rowdy crowd of old faithfuls in flannel. This very special VD edition (think kissing booths and cupcakes) is actually the night before Valentine’s, giving you one last chance to find—if you don’t already have—someone to be yours. Pre-ordered tickets are $10 each until Monday at midnight and will be real-mailed to you Tuesday morning. (Double dating? With a purchase of four or more tickets, get $5 off.) Sweeter still: the first three readers to email [email protected] with the subject line “Torontoist” will win a pair of tickets, because we heart you.
Okay, pop quiz! What’s the greatest Hollywood love story of all time? Ew, no. Not Heidi and Spencer. Casablanca. See the 1943 definition of a classic film in all its black-and-white glory at Bloor Cinema, where tickets are $9 each. Bogart and Bergman take the screen at 6:45 p.m. on V-Day; since the film is about sixteen hours long, we suggest you sneak in Dee’s takeout.
But really, if you’ve been very good lovers this year, you won’t even leave the house on Valentine’s Day. Order in your reward: with forty-eight hours notice, Babycake will deliver sweet, scrumptious, individually frosted Valentines to your door. A gift box of six cupcakes (perfect for sharing, and then some) is $24 plus tax, and can be ordered online or by calling 416-406-5910 during regular business hours.
Under $50If you like a date with class, sweep your s.o. off to the opera. (You know, that thing everyone went to on Gossip Girl two weeks ago.) With the Canadian Opera Company’s Opera for a New Age program, students and twenty-somethings can nab decent seats for just $20 each. (To compare, an AMC ticket to New in Town, a city-girl-meets-country-boy rom-com starring Renee Zellweger and Harry Connick Jr, is around $13. Just saying.) That’s $40 and tax for the pair of you to see a 4:30 p.m. Valentine’s Day performance of Antonín Dvořák’s Rusalka, a love story along the lines of the pre-Disney Little Mermaid, but sung entirely in Czech.
To paraphrase the Duke, it don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that bling… and if you ain’t got it, you can at least ogle it. Opening February 14, the ROM’s Nature of Diamonds exhibit has all the covetable sparkle of forever without the commission-hungry sales peeps. They’re even flaunting the Incomparable: an aptly named 407-karat stunner, straight outta the motherfucking Congo. Tickets to this ice festival are $22 each ($19 if you’re still in schoo, or pretending) which makes $44, pas de tax, for two.
Lunch at the lovely Gladstone Cafe shouldn’t cost a couple more than $30 with tax and tip, which leaves you a crisp green to spend at the annual Erotic Arts and Crafts Fair afterward (’til 8 p.m., on the second floor.) Admission is free and the goods are very, very bad indeed—wood-carved dildos by artist Bud Fujikawa, for example, or a “Coinilingus” change purse.
Under $100Forget wrangling Winterlicious reservations or lining up two-by-two for corner booths on this most competitive of dining nights. Instead, call Hidden Lounge (416-546-4556) to reserve a night of home-away-from-home cooking. This supper club of sorts is run by a young couple from the confines of their way-west-end loft, with prix fixe menus changing month to month. For Valentine’s, Hidden Lounge offers three courses for $30 each. Bring your own bottle, leave a nice tip, and you’re still spending less than $100 for the eve. You could do it all yourself, but you couldn’t do it better. (Book now; space is limited.)
Over $200Nothing says “I love you” like a T-shirt that says “I love you.” Right? At Popfuel, couples who sign up for a Valentine’s Day screenprinting workshop will save $50 off the combined price, trimming it from $300 to $250 for two. This doesn’t include tax, but does include six shirts with two different designs. Can’t commit to wearing your lover’s head over your heart? Try Obama’s instead. We hear those are going to be real popular.
And finally, there’s the ultimate smug-couple indulgence: a Valentine’s vacation. You don’t even have to leave the city! Lovers of tradition need only stay a night or two at Toronto’s grand dame of hotels, the Fairmont Royal York, to feel like tourists in the old world.
The Fairmont’s “Love in the City” package, starting at $195 a night, includes breakfast for two at the acclaimed EPIC Restaurant, the York Kitchen, or (best of all) bedside. Most recommended add-on? The “Bear Affair” treatment: two half-hour, full-body massages for $110. And if you’re feeling really flush, upgrade to the “Royal Romance” package, which comes with sparkling wine, chocolates, and a copy of Pablo Neruda’s Twenty Love Poems—perfect for partners who have better things to do for each other than shop. (Speaking of which, there’s a late checkout included, no questions asked.)
Happy day of love, Toronto, however you make it.