Love it or hate it, here’s your guide to Valentine’s Day

Whether you love or loathe Valentine’s Day, there’s no escaping it this time of year. Restaurants, bars and even museums go out of their way to create special events for the holiday: Some are rom-com-perfect date nights for the coupled-up, others are anti-Valentine’s Day celebrations for singles who loathe hearts and flowers.

All events take place on Feb. 14 unless noted.


Malort and Stiegel Radler at Bar Pilar's Anti-Valentine's Day party? Pucker up. (Photo courtesy of Bar Pilar)

For couples

Signed, Sealed Delivered (Feb. 13)
The notion of a love letter seems quaint and especially romantic in this age of e-mail and abbreviated text messages, which makes this party at the National Postal Museum the perfect place to take your special someone.  The Story League will share funny, true tales about romance, inspired by Missed Connections postings on Craigslist. Guests can create Mad Libs-esque versions of famous love letters, or use a combination of vintage stamps, ink, stationery and other craft supplies to create valentines. Because this is 2014, there will be a photo booth so you can e-mail your greetings. DJ Trayze will spin dance music. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door;

Amel Larrieux: Come Be Our Valentine
A gifted neo-soul singer with a multi- octave range, Amel Larrieux can do it all: gorgeously lush jazz standards, sultry ballads about heartbreak and energetic R&B tunes with grooves built for the dance floor. That makes her two shows at the Howard Theatre an essential stop on Valentine’s Day, whether you’re flying solo or out on the town with your main squeeze.

Woodrow Wilson House Speakeasy Bash (Feb. 13)
The Woodrow Wilson House’s annual Speakeasy Bash really has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day. (History buffs know Prohibition began during Wilson’s term, though he opposed it and vetoed the Volstead Act.) But this party at Wilson’s post-White House home has everything you need for the perfect date night: It’s a chance to dress up, sip Prohibition-era cocktails, dance to jazz by the Laissez Foure quartet, learn about the Lindy Hop and tour the Kalorama museum. Hint, hint: Admission for a couple is cheaper than two solo tickets.

The Love Fest
Romance is in the air at the Fridge, and we're not just talking about the indie-folk love and/or breakup songs performed by the engaging local duo Sweater Set. The Love Fest party includes readings by poet Doritt Carroll, a sampling of cupcakes and chocolate-dipped strawberries, and a make-your-own-valentine station with stickers and stamps. The $18 cover charge includes the sweets.

Cocktails at Fiola
Fiola's classy bar is high on our list of date spots that are sure to impress, and they've invented two new drinks for Valentine's weekend. The Love Cocktail gets its color and fresh flavor from sloe gin, raspberry puree, egg whites and a dusting of cocoa powder, while the sharper First Kiss is made with Willett rye whiskey, bitter Cocci Rosa, blood orange liqueur and chocolate bitters. Both cost $16.

#WeMetAtMarvin
If you think of Marvin as a hotspot for singles, you're not alone. The restaurant is putting a twist on its reputation as a pickup spot by running a contest called "We Met at Marvin." Post a story about how you and your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse met cute at Marvin on its Facebook page with the hashtag #WeMetAtMarvin and the submission with the most Likes will win a date that includes dinner, Studio Theatre tickets and Uber transportation.

For singles

Anti-Valentine's Day at Black Jack
Watching “Thelma and Louise” while eating pizza and drinking sparkling wine sounds like the ideal antidote to Valentine’s Day, and thanks to Black Jack, you can hate on the holiday in public instead of your living room. Happy hour, which runs from 5 to 8 p.m., includes half-price pizza and mussels, two-for-one oysters, half-price draft beer and $5 red, white and sparkling wines. Breakup songs will play over the loudspeakers and “The Break-Up” and other anti-rom-coms will be shown on the projection screen. Feeling creative? Use construction paper and art supplies to make your own anti-Valentine’s Day card and you could win a $100 gift certificate from the restaurant.

Anti-Valentine's Day at Bar Pilar
When you’re eating disgustingly messy food, there’s “no need to look cute,” so dress as comfortably as you like for Bar Pilar’s party. The menu features sloppy Joes and a beef heart tartare with Sriracha and chilis, while bartenders will be mixing a selection of bitter drinks, including a Malort Bomb. That’s the bitter, wormwood-based liqueur Malort mixed with the grapefruit-based Stiegl-Radler beer. Pucker up.

Wine, Comedy and ‘The Princess Bride’
A screening of “The Princess Bride” preceded by a wine tasting and “relationship-themed” stand-up comedy? The Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse is billing this as the “Best Date Night Ever,” but come on — this seems more suited to an anti-Valentine’s Day girls’ night out. (No offense, guys who like endlessly quoting Miracle Max or Fezzik.) There are two screenings on Feb. 14; note that while both feature comedians before the movie, only the 7 p.m. show includes the optional wine tasting.

Cupid is Stupid
"Cupid is Stupid" tells you everything you need to know about the Town Tavern's Anti-Valentine's Day party, which wants to help you deal with the holiday by getting drunk as cheaply and as early as possible. Selected beers, wines and mixed drinks are $2 from 8 to 9 p.m., then $3 until 10 p.m. and $4 until 11. Drinking to forget? The "It's Not Me, It's You" open bar offers unlimited drinks from 10 to 11 for $10. And there will be Grand Marnier specials after 10 p.m.

Heartbreak at P.J. Clarke's
Honestly, not sure it's smart to promote a Feb. 14 event as "Anti-Valentine's Day gorging," but what the heck: the menu at P.J. Clarke's includes a "wedge" of chocolate cake for $15 and the $45 "Heartbreak Hors d'Oeuvres" platter of mini burgers, tater tots, short-rib spring rolls and crab dip. More interesting: $5 oyster shooters, and an offer to tweet a short breakup story to @pjclarkes with the hashtag #PJsLovesMe for a free cocktail on Valentine's Day.

For everyone

Cupid's Bar Crawl (Feb. 8)
Most people probably don’t go to Rumors or the Sign of the Whale looking for the person with whom they want to spend the rest of their life. But if you go on Cupid’s Bar Crawl, which hits those bars and a dozen others around Dupont Circle, you might meet someone who’ll join you for a drink next Friday. Valentine’s-themed costumes are suggested for this day of debauchery, so use your imagination; you never know who you’ll wind up sipping $2 Yuenglings and $3 Finlandia cocktails next to at the Front Page. Admission is $15 when you register at cupidsbarcrawl.com, or $20 at the door.

Chad America’s Rock and Roll Dance Party
Now in its 15th year, the Black Cat’s annual Valentine’s Day celebration has become a Washington institution. It’s this simple: Head to the club’s back stage to dance to early rock-and-roll, jump blues and smokin’ ’50s R&B while bearded bartender Chad America slings beers and shots. And it’s free.

Burlesque-a-Pades: Ain't Misbehavin'
Burlesque star Angela Pontani (of the World Famous Pontani Sisters) and her husband Brian Newman star in the Burlesque-a-Pades revue Ain't Misbehavin', which stops at the State Theatre on Valentine's Night. In addition to the mix of elegant and comedic bump-and-grind performance by Pontani, Cheri Sweetbottom and Kitten Larue, there are dance numbers -- including a chorus line -- and Newman crooning songs by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett.

Wine, Twine and Valentine (Feb. 12)
After an after-hours tour of the National Museum of Women in the Arts' exhibit of historic quilts, you're invited to try your hand at making "textile-inspired crafts," taste wines and dance to music spun by DJ India. There will also be themed tours of the museum's permanent collection: Couples can head off on "Love is a Many Splendored Thing," while singles can find solace in one called "Love Hurts." The $20 tickets include two drinks and craft materials.

Rock Yer Heart Out
The Red Derby's Rock Yer Heart Out is flexible enough for both couples and singles. There's rock music pumping on the stereo, $4 glasses of "champagne" and free chocolate all night long. (Personally, for $10, I'll let the bartenders surprise me with a special beer-and-a-shot combo.) The laidback atmosphere should take the pressure out of the night.

Fritz Hahn has covered bars, drinks and nightlife for the Washington Post Weekend Section since 2003, but he also writes about everything from Civil War battlefields to sailing classes. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram.
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