Love sick on St. Valentine’s

Photo illustrations by Maria Ratinova

SN&R’s alternative guide to Cupid’s holiday will get your sweetheart swooning

Valentine’s Day. An annual holiday bathed in red and pink and studded with gigantic stuffed bears that will eventually end up in the attic. A time when heart-shaped boxes full of chocolates say “I love you” and dinner for two out on the town is a chaotic nightmare.

For couples looking to do something a little different to celebrate their love, SN&R created a list of alternative sweetheart activities. Learn how to swing dance to a rockabilly version of Patsy Cline’s “Stupid Cupid,” get hands-on with your sweetie during a culinary class or see a musical starring a murderous barber, because who says Valentine’s Day needs to be all hearts and rainbows? Whether you’re in a longtime committed relationship, or were just struck by Cupid’s arrow, open your heart to these playful ideas that will create lasting memories without the Hallmark card.

Love potion No. 9

For those into smudging, herbal remedies and creating useful products from natural ingredients, tap into your inner healer at Empress Ready (2251 Florin Road, Suite 155). On Friday, Feb. 14, join London Meeks, owner of this holistic healing boutique, for sage love bundle-making, mini love vision boards and an introduction to love manifestation. Small bites and wine will be available to get the creativity flowing, and both couples and singles are encouraged to participate. The class runs from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., and is $25 with materials such as sage, roses, lavender and rose quartz crystals all provided. Purchase tickets at

The adventurers

Hiking is a free activity that gets the heart pumping while enjoying the natural beauty of the great outdoors. For couples who enjoy being active, or for those who seek to try a new activity at a leisurely pace, the Cosumnes River Preserve (13501 Franklin Blvd.) is a walkable nature trip with plenty of opportunities to spot birds, fish, snakes and marsh-like creatures. Twenty miles south of Sacramento, it spans 46,000 acres. Plus, it’s fairly flat so it’s also ideal for kids if you want to include the whole family. If a day trip sounds like the perfect romantic outing, drive up to Auburn’s Lake Clementine for a picturesque mountainous hike with slight inclines. Enjoy the tall trees, fresh air and snap a selfie in front of the historic Lake Clementine Dam with views of the Foresthill Bridge. Visit and for park hours.

Song birds

For music lovers, here are three ways to get to know your partner through song and dance:

Valentine’s Day Swing Dance Party

Join Dyana and the Cherry Kings and Ruby Cocktails at Old Ironsides (1901 10th St.) and bop to upbeat rockabilly tunes. The show starts at 8 p.m., $10 gets you in and Dyana O’Brien, lead vocalist for the Cherry Kings, says an instructor from Sactown Swings will show the audience three basic steps to get them twirling on the dance floor.

“Bring your partner and swing. All you really need to know is three steps, and you can dance to anything as far as this type of music is concerned,” O’Brien says. “It’s a great vibe. It’s a great energy. It’s fun. And we have a lot of sweet Valentine type of songs that we’ve been working on.”

One of those songs is the late Pasty Cline’s “Stupid Cupid,” which O’Brien and many relate to being young and in love.

“I’ve been that little girl who had a crush on somebody and it was like, ’Can’t I just get over this?’ And the guys really like it too and it’s a good upbeat song and fun to dance to.”

Sweeney Todd at the Tower Theatre

Christopher Cook, founding artistic director of the Green Valley Theatre Company, promises a high-energy production with beautiful singing voices in an intimate theater setting at the historic Tower Theatre in Roseville (417 Vernon St.). Sweeney Todd is the story set in Victorian-era London of a murderous barber who seeks revenge against those who’ve wronged him. There’s more to the story, of course, but no spoilers here.

“We end up very jaded about the sacred holidays where there is this forced sweetness,” Cook says. “I think that people are looking for something like a show such as Sweeney Todd, that at its heart, is about love. It really is, but it’s twisted. It’s about vengeance. It’s tragic—and it’s horrifying—and it’s fun.”

Valentine’s Day is its opening night, but there are performances scheduled until the first week of March. Visit for tickets and show times.

Engagement in the Russ Room

Not the type of engagement where one hears wedding bells, but the kind of engagement between love and community. On V-Day starting at 8 p.m., listen to the soulful sounds of The Philharmonik and the funky slap-bass lines of La Tour Soul and get groovy with Devon I. Evans, a founding member of reggae pioneers The Wailers. This is a fundraiser organized by Zero Forbidden Goals for the local nonprofit E.N.G.A.G.E Inc., which helps unhoused with survival necessities year-round. It all takes place in the retro-fitted Russ Room located upstairs at Solomon’s Delicatessen (730 K St.).

The hands-on couple

Cooking for someone you love is the ultimate form of adoration. Cooking together, even better. Here are two chances to get hands-on with your boo this Valentine’s Day and beyond: Paulette Bruce of Good Eats Cooking Classes leads as many as 30 participants inside the East Bay Restaurant Supply commercial kitchen (522 North 12th St.), where couples demonstrate a variety of dishes in teams before enjoying the fruits of their labor. Wine and beer are welcome, but people are also encouraged to keep it classy. Sign up for future date night cooking opportunities by visiting

“It’s always fun to meet new people and it’s nice to have an activity to do together and to really take care of one another in the kitchen—and help each other,” Bruce says of her 30-plus years as a culinary instructor. “It’s so much fun to see people that say, ’Oh, I’ve never done that. I can’t do that.’ Then, they’re cooking. It’s very rewarding.”

If you want a four-course meal in the company of others that you had a hand in creating, visit Napoli Culinary Academy (1401 Fulton Ave., Suite B). Chef Hassi Sadri has taught at this local nonprofit for the past 25 years, giving couples and singles alike confidence in the kitchen. Tickets are $130 per couple (about as much as you’d spend dining out) with an international-inspired menu that includes Italian chicken piccata, French champignon fettuccini alfredo, fresh strawberry flambé with chocolate mocha ice cream and more.

“It’s team building in a way. You’re going to meet other couples who are on your team and you become friends,” Sadri says. “It’s better than a boring dinner sitting there looking at each other. At the same time, you roll up your sleeves and you accomplish something together like you do camping or traveling, but you have others with you.”

The lovers

For budding relationships so awestruck in love, or longtime partners ready to say “I do,” the Sacramento County Clerk-Recorder’s downtown office (600 8th St.) will stay open until 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 14 for those looking to tie the knot on St. Valentine’s Day.

“It’s a day of love and people want to remember the day they got married,” says County Clerk-Recorder Donna Allred. “Valentine’s Day is our busiest day of the year for marriage licenses and ceremonies. We’re almost completely booked and we have about 50 ceremonies coming in that day.”

A few tips to know before going to the downtown chapel: Book an appointment either in-person or online at The ceremony is $36 and a county-provided witness is $29 (or bring your own). Be sure to get your marriage license first; public licenses range from $84 to $90 and confidential licenses are $95 to $100.

Once your special appointment is booked, Allred says the facility can accommodate as many as 30 people. There’s a cute arch with flowers and a deputy commissioner of civil marriage will perform the ceremony, which occurs every 20 minutes.

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