Proposal at Toledo Museum of Art

Fun Loving: 12 Ohio Date-Night Ideas

These destinations promise to put a spark in your next evening out together.

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Art, Music & Games 

It’s always a good time to rock out on a classic Donkey Kong arcade console, and if you really want to impress your sweetie with your mad retro video game skills, 16-Bit Bar + Arcade is the place to do it. Each of 16-Bit’s three Ohio locations have more than 40 classic games, a lineup of ’80s and ’90s-themed cocktails and a laid-back vibe. “Bringing a date to 16-Bit [gives you] that one-on-one interaction,” says Cass Meltvedt, general manager at the Lakewood location. “You get that competitive level — it’s fun, flirty, and you get to talk with them.” Even better, all games are free as long as you have a drink in hand. Visit website for information on Columbus, Cincinnati and Lakewood locations.
The fine art of romance is on exhibit at the Toledo Museum of Art Thursday and Friday nights when couples pick up a copy of “My Guide: Date Night” and see the amorous works highlighted in the museum’s pamphlet. Feb. 15 through 17, the museum will add to the ambiance with “The Glorious Look of Love,” a docent-led flashlight tour starting at 9 p.m. The Cloister Gallery, filled with lights simulating a twilit sky, is a popular place to pop the question, says Scott Boberg, manager of programs. “During a recent tour, a docent worked with the prospective groom to select the right moment for the proposal,” he adds. “There were 18 people on the tour, so the pressure was on. She said, ‘Yes.’ ” 2445 Monroe St., Toledo 43620, 419/255-8000, 

The revelry of The Flats nightlife district along Cleveland’s riverfront has a softer side. You just have to know where to look. Music Box Supper Club along the west bank of the Cuyahoga River is a reminder of a time when dinner was the opening act to a musical performance. “We are a throwback concept, so to speak … to be able to come down and have a nice meal, see a great show,” says Mike Miller, Music Box’s managing partner. Concerts are held upstairs or down, and each space has a separate menu. The club will host a “Be My Valentine” dinner in its private dining room Feb. 9, which includes a five-course meal followed by music from Ed & The Blues Imperials. For a Valentine’s Day night out, “American Idol” alum and Ohio native Crystal Bowersox plays Feb. 14. 1148 Main Ave., Cleveland 44113, 216/242-1250,

Romantic Restaurants
Orchids at Palm Court
Winston Churchill, Eleanor Roosevelt and Elvis Presley are among the 20th-century elite who visited the Netherland Plaza Hotel. What once served as the lobby of the downtown Cincinnati landmark is now home to Orchids at Palm Court, a restaurant that is as elegant and romantic today as the historic property was in its past life. “It’s the ambiance — dimmer lighting, rosewood panels, beautiful candle centerpieces on the tables,” says Emir Dedic, director of food and beverage at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza. “You’ll have a piano player in the background, or, some nights, there’s a jazz quartet or quintet. Much of the space’s original 1931 French art deco splendor remains, including a half acre of rich Brazilian rosewood and ceiling murals depicting the theme of outdoor recreation. 35 W. Fifth St., Cincinnati 45202, 513/421-9100,

Seclusion and serenity are plentiful at Kindred Spirits at the Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls, making it easier than ever to spend some quality time with that special someone in your life. In fact, the restaurant’s remote location in the heart of Ohio’s Hocking Hills region is why people seek the place out. “You don’t have cell service, so you’re not going to be bothered,” offers Kindred Spirits’ executive chef Abby Cole. “You really have to be focused on the person you’re with, because you can’t just pick up your phone.” Couples may want to ask for one of the cozy window seats inside the original 1840s log cabin the restaurant calls home or opt for a more private experience in the quaint back dining room. 21190 St. Rte. 374, Logan 43138, 740/385-7489,

Nestled in a 1900s carriage house in Columbus’ Victorian Village neighborhood, Basi Italia is filled with Old World-inspired stone floors, a slate patio that’s heated in the winter and an open kitchen that lets guests look in on chef John Dornback at work. He opened the place with his wife, Trish Gentile, in 2003 to create what Dornback calls “a special moment in time” for a romantic evening out. Over the years, he and his wife have tucked rings between layers of tiramisu and dropped them in flutes of prosecco for future grooms-to-be. “Many of our guests return each year to celebrate their wedding anniversaries,” Dornback says. “They tell us this is the place where it all started.” 811 Highland St., Columbus 43215, 614/294-7383,

Whether he’s preparing butternut squash soup for a couple to enjoy in a cozy fireplace nook or creating a decadent dessert for a pair to share as they sit beside Gervasi Vineyard’s spring-fed lake, Rocco Moretta knows how to spark romance year-round. The chef de cuisine at The Bistro at Gervasi Vineyard in Canton serves a delectable seasonal menu, which ranges from Angus rib-eye paired with house-made gnocchi to a Valentine’s Day special share-a-plate dessert trio of chocolate-mousse-filled cannoli, white and dark chocolate-covered strawberries and a scoop of triple dark chocolate gelato that pairs easily with the vineyard’s wines. “We offer world-class hospitality here that makes everyone feel welcome,” Moretta says. “This is like Tuscany and California meet Canton, Ohio.” 1700 55th St. NE, Canton 44721, 330/497-1000,

Couples Classes

Think of it as a chance to canoodle over strudel — strudel that you’ve made yourself. During February, northeast Ohio’s Loretta Paganini School of Cooking ramps up its courses designed for couples with offerings like “Cooking Together: Love is in the Air” and “Love Bites,” while its popular “Cooking with a Partner” is offered all year. “For me, learning and working together is sexy,” says Stefanie Paganini, director of professional programs. “In our classes, couples create a memory together and also a meal they can make again at home. But here, they don’t have to do the dishes.” 8613 Mayfield Rd., Chesterland 44026, 440/729-1110,

Purists insist that swing music should be danced to tunes of the ’30s and ’40s, the period when the genre was most in vogue, but such fine points don’t prevail at the weekly classes offered at Swing Out Dayton. “If it’s got a good beat, we’ll dance to it,” says Gloria Scheibert, who’s taught the dance form for 10 years. The monthly class cycles alternate between the Lindy Hop, Charleston and East Coast Swing, and couples are encouraged to continuously rotate to new partners for better learning. If you’re a rote beginner, no worries, it won’t be long before you’re cutting a rug. 8967 Kingsridge Dr., Dayton 45458, 937/751-7581,

You’ll find plenty of passion for pottery at Clayspace/Gallery 831, where beginning and intermediate classes and workshops are offered in a fully equipped ceramics studio. Couples can choose from three eight-week courses, or they can opt for a private lesson for two. Owner Tami Knight is surprised how frequently couples make mention of the scene in the movie “Ghost” wherein Patrick Swayze engages with Demi Moore as she throws a piece of pottery on the wheel. “We’ll let them have their ‘Ghost’ moment,” she says. “But we’ll also make sure they learn some new skills while they’re at it.” 831 S. Front St., Columbus 43206, 614/449-8144, As of February 2021, Clayspace/Gallery 831 is permanently closed.
Columbus Idea Foundry
Taking on a woodworking, welding or blacksmithing project with your partner is an unorthodox night out. But the Columbus Idea Foundry allows couples to embrace working together in its Valentine’s Day Maker Date Nights on Feb. 14, 15 and 16. They’re among the 30 monthly classes at this self-described “community of makers” that provides a one-stop shop for those who want to unleash their passion to create things. “It’s a way to have a shared experience you’re not likely to have anywhere else,” says Casey McCarty, chief operating officer of the Columbus Idea Foundry. “Build something to take home, but build your relationship at the same time.” 421 W. State St., Columbus 43215, 614/653-8068,

Macarons are not macaroons! They’re light and luscious meringue-based confections filled with ganache or jam. They can be fiendishly difficult to make at home, but all the mysteries of preparation are revealed in classes held regularly at Cincinnati’s Macaron Bar. Also popular with couples is the Champagne and Macaron Pairing Night held monthly at the Cincinnati-based regional chain’s Over-the-Rhine location. Four sparkling wines from around the world are paired with a macaron, such as La Marca prosecco savored with lemon/lavender flavors. “Couples arrive happy,” remarks general manager Nicole Bates. “And after four wines, they’re even happier when they leave.” 1206 Main St., Cincinnati 45202,