According to the experts, people are more positive during dates that involve some physical activity. And research suggests that when people do something together that really gets the adrenaline going—rock-climbing, say, or even a hike with exhilarating views—their chemistry becomes much stronger.
So, for a Valentine’s Day outing almost guaranteed to be much more memorable than an overpriced prix-fixe meal, why not make some memories enjoying Alabama’s abundant outdoor activities? Whether it’s embarking on stunning sunset hike or relaxing at a mountain cabin, there’s plenty to choose from.
To help you plan your Valentine’s adventure, here’s a list of inspiring ideas. And keep in mind they’re great options all year-round.
1. Explore the treetops.
For an an aerial experience sure to make memories, check out Blue Heron Adventures, a canopy ropes course and zipline. While it’s technically located in Columbus, Georgia, the tour guide’s dual zip line connects two states and reaches speeds up to 40 mph. Once you’re done zipping, the Blue Heron Aerial Course, a treetop ropes experience, and its 10 obstacles are next to conquer in Phenix City, Alabama.
Elsewhere, the zip lines at Birmingham’s Red Mountain Park make for an entertaining date that blends outdoor adventure and amusement park thrills. On the one-hour Vulcan Materials Zip tour, you zoom 40 feet above the ground, traveling from one tree house to another, with a bird’s-eye view of historic mining sites and surrounding valleys.
For something a bit more adrenaline-pumping, take a treetop challenge course in the park’s Hugh Kaul Beanstalk Forest. Over about an hour, you’ll face 20 aerial rope and cable obstacles, including swaying bridges, tight ropes, and a zip line.
2. Get cozy in a mountain cabin.
When it’s raw, gray, and cold outside, cozy up with your date in front of a warm fire in a rustic mountain cabin. Built in the 1930s, the stone cabins at Monte Sano State Park, DeSoto State Park, and Chewacla State Park have handcrafted fireplaces, plus plenty of conveniences, like TVs, kitchen appliances and showers. If you want to mix in some outdoor fun, the cabins allow quick access to state park trails for hiking, biking, and trail running.
3. Explore a farm on horseback.
With green fields, rustic barns, and hallways of historic oaks, the Oak Hollow Farm in Fairhope lends Southern charm to your Valentine’s date. During a guided horseback ride, you’ll roam wooded trails and rolling pastures to visit ponds and creek banks in the countryside. This one-hour outing is an ideal length for a date, allowing enough time to explore the grounds without making you saddle sore. To make it an overnight outing, book a rustic room in the Oak Hollow lodge.
4. Escape to the beach.
Few things are more romantic than a walk on the beach. If you venture to the Gulf Coast this winter, you can still enjoy pleasant weather with highs in the 60s and even 70s. Plus, in the offseason you’ll spend far less on a hotel or condo, and you’ll savor a much more peaceful setting on the mostly secluded beaches. At the end of February there’s a bit more action, as Gulf Shores and Orange Beach host Mardi Gras parades.
5. Rappel down an 85-foot cliff.
As you’re bounding down an 85-foot cliff, you’ll certainly get a rush of adrenaline. Whether you’ve been rappelling before, or you’ve never tried it, you’ll have a great time doing a half-day outing with True Adventure Sports. In a rugged, but easily accessible section of Little River Canyon, True Adventure’s skilled guides will provide excellent instruction and emphasize safety. Plus, the cliff has a rock outcrop where you can get excellent photos of your date rappelling, so you’ll have a cool keepsake.
6. Savor a beautiful sunset.
Valentine’s Day is a great time to catch a magnificent sunset, as the dry, clear air in winter allows us to see a full spectrum of brilliant colors. So, pack a warm drink, bundle up, and hike to a west-facing perch, like McDill Point near Cheaha State Park. Or, settle down on the shore of a lake where you have a good view of the sunset. If you head for the hills or another remote spot, remember to pack your headlamp for the trek back to the car.
7. Go bouldering.
The beauty of bouldering is that it requires little equipment, and you just need climbing shoes and maybe a crash pad. Plus, when you’re bouldering, you don’t climb to great heights, so couples can stick close together to socialize and collaborate as they work on "problems" (climbing slang for a sequence of holds). From Horse Pens 40 to Moss Rock Preserve, Alabama offers several excellent places for bouldering.
8. Picnic with a mountaintop view.
On the high ridges of Oak Mountain State Park, you can have a picnic with stellar scenery. Beginning at the North Trailhead, take the Blue Trail and start your ascent, traveling about two miles to the top of a ridge. From the King’s Chair rock outcropping, you’ll enjoy a panoramic view of the forested valley below. If this popular vantage point gets crowded, backtrack and you’ll find other quiet spots with good views along the ridge. After your picnic, retrace your steps or complete a loop via the Orange and White trails.
9. Ride the Chief Ladiga Trail.
Enjoy an easy ride on the Chief Ladiga Trail, a 32.5-mile paved path that stretches from Anniston to the eastern border of Alabama. Because the path is flat, you and your date can ride near each other and relax and enjoy yourselves. Plus, most people have to travel a good ways to reach this place, so it’s not typically crowded. If you begin at Woodland Park, you can pedal 7.2 miles to Jacksonville State University and have a nice picnic under one of great oak trees on campus.
10. Try stand-up paddleboarding.
Stand-up paddleboarding is great for a date, because it doesn’t require a great deal of skill (almost anybody can do it), and you and your date can easily chat as you explore and get some exercise. From Lake Guntersville to Gulf Shores, you’ll find plenty of lakes and streams to paddleboard, and several outfitters can supply rental boards. Just keep an eye on the weather beforehand, since paddleboarding is difficult when it’s windy—especially for newbies.
Written by Marcus Woolf for RootsRated in partnership with BCBS of AL.