Top ten Valentine’s date spots in Iowa City

West Side Story has compiled the top ten best of the best date spots around town.
Pink is the signature color of Valentines Day.
Pink is the signature color of Valentine’s Day.
Eleanor Weitz

Are you having trouble coming up with a Valentine’s date idea? Sick of going to the same old places again and again? Luckily we’ve compiled a list of ten date ideas to do around Iowa City and Coralville that range from arts and crafts to a dressy dinner. There’s something for every couple!


1. A Classic Dinner Out

While at first, the dinner date might seem cliché and boring, it’s actually an easy, fun date that can be a little more dressed up for the Valentine’s holiday. If you’re looking for something that involves good food, an outfit you want to show off and a memory that’ll last forever, this is perfect for you. 

Depending on your budget, we’ve put together three restaurants with different price ranges to choose from. 

The Vue ($75 per person) 

A rooftop restaurant that’ll make you feel fancy and sophisticated, this is the highest-priced place on this list. With no fixed menu and a staple for homecoming and prom dinner, The Vue is a nice indulgence worth your money. For Valentine’s Day, they’re having a special menu that requires a reservation in advance.

St. Burch Tavern ($45 per person) 

If a steakhouse isn’t exactly your vibe but you’re still wanting a hearty meal, St. Burch Tavern has a delicious steak menu with a selection of sides and appetizers that’ll round out your dinner nicely. Available for reservations, if you want to treat your date to something special that won’t drain your bank account, St. Burch Tavern has got you covered. 

Saigon’s Corner ($25 per person) 

Finally, on the more casual side, Saigon’s Corner offers hot bowls of delicious Vietnamese cuisine that’ll leave you feeling cozy and satisfyingly full by the end of the night. Serving a wide variety of Vietnamese dishes, their Pho is some of the best in Iowa City. If you and your date are looking for a comfortable place to relax with good food, go to Saigon’s Corner.

2. Frozen Yogurt Downtown

Sometimes all you need in life is a sweet treat with your sweetheart. Aspen Leaf in the downtown Ped Mall is a self-serve frozen yogurt bar with dozens of toppings and flavors to choose from. They also have a variety of other snacks, including truffles, chocolate dipped pretzels, caramel apples and even special gift chocolate boxes – a perfect surprise gift! If you or your date have a sweet tooth, pay heed to the chilly weather and get yourself some munchies.

3. Bookstores & Coffee shops

Are you and your partner big readers, or do you just lean toward a more calm, artsy atmosphere? Consider heading out to a book café for a hot drink and some light reading in the company of your favorite person. 

Prairie Lights Books and Cafe 

An Iowa City community staple, Prairie Lights is a tucked-away gem in the downtown area that attracts readers, coffee lovers and authors alike, seeking refuge in the winding bookstore inside and the adorable cafe located in the upstairs area. With a wide selection of books from poetry collections to fantasy, you can easily settle down at the cafe tables or window seats overlooking the street with your date for a peaceful Valentine’s day. 

Sidekick Coffee & Books 

Aimed more toward a family-friendly atmosphere, if you’re looking for a nostalgia-inducing date, Sidekick is the place for you. The childlike wonder of discovering reading for the first time was what helped build up Sidekick and they now cater to all ages with a wide variety of books to choose from. Paired with a menu that includes pastries, ice cream and various caffeinated drinks, this is one of the cutest date spots in Iowa City. 

Barnes & Noble 

Located in the Coral Ridge Mall, Barnes & Noble is probably somewhere you’ve either been before or passed by on your way to other stores throughout the mall. If you want somewhere a bit livelier that also offers a selection of records, collectables like plushies and Sylvanian Families and more alongside books and coffee, Barnes & Noble might be just the place for you.

4.  Ice Skating 

Following up on the last date, if you’re less interested in books and more into trying out a new activity, ice skating at the Coral Ridge Mall is perfect for a winter date. It’s a great experience and– no pun intended– can help break the ice between you and your date. Dress up in a cute, warm outfit, lace up those skates and hold onto each other as you slide onto the ice for the first time! Don’t try and impress your date, instead embrace the slipping and falling and laugh together to get rid of any awkwardness. Plus it’s very affordable with admission being $7 and skate rental being just $3. 

5. Date & Bake

If you want a more relaxed night spent inside with maybe a movie on in the background and a blanket pulled over you on the couch, you might be interested in trying your hand at baking with your date. 

A great way to gauge how the two of you work together, baking is an easy enough task if you put effort and care into it. You can chat while you work together, watch something on TV while the cookies bake in the oven, then dig into your shared creation and enjoy the fruit of your own labor. A Pinterest-worthy date, this is the warmest and fuzziest date ever. Try this recipe from Lil Luna.

A simple and tasty recipe for fun Valentine’s cookies. (Eleanor Weitz)

6. Bowling/arcade

A classic childhood birthday location, dad congregation spot and peak midwestern culture, Colonial Lanes is the cutest vintage-feeling date in Iowa City. While a little out of the way, Colonial Lanes is worth the drive for the cheap bowling lanes, mini golf, food and arcade that it caters to Iowans. If you’re into a casual, energetic atmosphere and more on the competitive side (all in good nature, of course) Colonial Lanes is the perfect place to have fun with your date. Plus, if you’re into digital camera pictures, Colonial Lanes has the best vintage vibe to it that’ll be perfect for a photo album for your grand kids and an Instagram post for your friends.

7. Stargazing at Terry Trueblood

While picnics and walks at Terry Trueblood are good during the summer, a great winter date for the beloved park is stargazing. Together you and your date can cuddle up under a blanket with a thermos of some piping hot drink and watch the stars together. If you stopped by one of the book café’s from earlier on this list, you might’ve picked up a book on constellations and together you and your partner can point out the Big Dipper, your zodiac signs and more! 

8. Stanley Museum of Art

If you missed the grand re-opening a few years ago or haven’t gotten the chance to go since, the Stanley Museum of Art is a brilliant date destination. With an expansive collection of many different kinds of art from all over the world, both contemporary and historical, the Stanley Museum of Art is perfect for art lovers, museum connoisseurs and couples to disconnect from the rest of the world for a bit and enjoy some art. 

The museum also has a scavenger hunt for anyone interested. A great bonding activity for you and your date, together you can complete the scavenger hunt and win the prize at the end. The whole museum is completely free and open to the public, but be careful about what size bag you bring. 

9. Café Date

Looking for a cutesy, less expensive but no less perfect date option? Try perusing a local café! 

Crêpes de Luxe Cafe 

Open 11-2 p.m. for lunch and 5-9 p.m. for dinner Tuesday-Saturday and 10-4 p.m. on Sunday, this locally-owned business is the perfect place for a date. Boasting French-inspired crêpes prepared right in front of you with a diverse menu of both sweet and savory crêpes, alongside loose-leaf teas and other drinks, Crêpes de Luxe offers something for everyone. An extremely cosy setting, there’s nothing quite like this place in the rest of Iowa. 

Deluxe Cakes & Pastries 

With a special Valentines Day special menu full of delicious pastries like macarons, lemon tarts and chocolate cakes, Deluxe Cakes & Pastries is the sweetest café in Iowa City. With the unseasonably warm weather (thank you Groundhog Phil!) you and your partner can even sit outside on the patio and enjoy the fresh air. The inside also has the best seating and is fantastic for cute pictures with you and your loved one. 

Cortado Mediterranean Cafe

An excellent option if you or your date are vegan, the Cortado Mediterranean Cafe is a sleek cafe with a modern design interior and great service. Offering Mediterranean-inspired sandwiches, salads, soups and pastries, the range of food is a good way to explore a little outside of your comfort zone and discover something new with your date. Located in the heart of downtown, there’s also lots to do in the area to continue the date if you’re feeling adventurous!

10. Renées Ceramic Café 

Wanting something more artsy, maybe a little crafty, even? Renée’s Ceramic Café is an artist studio open to walk-ins where you and your date can paint pottery together. With hundreds of items to select from to let loose your creativity on, this makes a perfect casual date for anyone wanting something more engaging and whimsical. Plus, the date comes with a built-in keepsake that will remind you of the person you got to share this experience with! 

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