8 special, romantic date ideas for every budget in metro Atlanta

For special date nights, we often default to dinner and a movie. Neither is a bad choice, but sometimes we want to mix things up.

Here’s a guide to trying something a little different with your significant other for Valentine’s Day, but not only for this romantic holiday. Dance salsa, take a scenic stroll, go on a wine-tasting tour, and listen to music in an intimate venue are among the ideas for connecting with your loved one now and all year long.

Salsa dancing at Loca Luna

Learn how to dance salsa (for free) every Wednesday evening and then dance the night away at Loca Luna, where a tropical atmosphere transports you to a vibrant beach club. There is also live music on the weekends, and no cover charge. Sip on Pisco sours, mojitos or skinny margaritas and nibble on tapas like the “gambas fritas” (lightly fried shrimp balls) or the “empanada de pollo” (chicken empanada). Check out their calendar of live music and dancing at www.loca-luna.com/events.

Loca Luna. 5-10 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 5 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 3-10 p.m. Sundays. 550-C Amsterdam Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-875-4494, www.loca-luna.com.

Live music at Eddie’s Attic

Eddie’s Attic is a cozy, intimate live music venue for aspiring and accomplished performing songwriters. Located in Decatur, a “listening room” with a superior sound system and acoustics gives music lovers superb quality sound. Order a beer or cocktail, nibble on good food, and enjoy a special evening out that won’t break the bank. Most shows range in price from $10 to $40. With a capacity of only 165, there’s no bad seat in the house. You can also reserve a table for four in advance. Upcoming shows include Atlanta Rhythm Section on Feb. 10-11, Chinua Hawk on Feb. 14 and Hiss Golden Messenger (which performed at Music Midtown last year) on March 7.

Eddie’s Attic, 515 N. McDonough St. Decatur. 404-377-4976, eddiesattic.com.

A romantic picnic at Fort Mountain State Park

Just two hours north of Atlanta, Fort Mountain State Park may be best known for its mysterious rock wall, but keep an eye out for a special heart-shaped stone set into the lookout tower.

Here’s the sweet backstory: During the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps was tasked with building a 38-foot fire tower atop Fort Mountain. A young stone mason named Arnold Bailey carved a heart-shaped stone, centering it above a window. His romantic gesture must have won Margaret Reece’s heart. They were married 59 years until his death in 1994. Fort Mountain State Park. $5 parking. 181 Fort Mountain State Park Road, Chatsworth. 706-422-1932, gastateparks.org/FortMountain.

Another gorgeous park to consider is George L. Smith State Park, closer to three hours from Atlanta, and where you and your loved one can enjoy a picnic near the covered bridge with Spanish moss in trees above. $5 parking. 371 George L. Smith State Park Road, Twin City. 478-763-2759, gastateparks.org/GeorgeLSmith.

If you can get away for Valentine’s Day, most of the cabins, yurts and campsites are discounted 50 percent. There’s a two-night minimum. Stay Feb. 12-14 or Feb. 12-15 for steep discounts. Nearly all cabins have fireplaces. Yurts and campsites have campfire rings. Before discount, camping rates range from $23-$49; yurts range from $75-$100; and cottages range from $75-$250. Note: Some parks will take a one-night reservation at last minute if available. For more on specials, go to gastateparks.org/Specials.

MORE: 15 can't-miss events in Atlanta in February

Vine and dine in Dahlonega

In the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Dahlonega is home to wine country. Located just 65 miles north of Atlanta, it’s a quick getaway for couples who are looking for an extraordinary date idea.

From Italianate hillside mansions to Appalachian-style lodges, visitors can tour six distinctive wineries and several tasting rooms to learn firsthand from the vineyards what it takes to coax award-winning wines from ground to grape to glass. At each, you can stop and savor the colors and flavors of the area from decks and patios surrounded by rolling hills and mountains.

Three to consider:

Kaya Vineyard and Winery completely renovated and revitalized the Blackstock Vineyards, which closed in 2012. Kaya offers spectacular panoramic mountain and vineyard vistas. The tasting room features 12-foot windows, Edison light bulbs, reclaimed wood, and a 2,000-square-foot covered deck. Taste up to five wines for $14 with a Classic Tasting. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays and 12:30-5 p.m Sundays. For a special Valentine’s treat, Kaya is offering a chocolate and wine tasting experience from Feb. 10-18. Reservations are required. 5400 Town Creek Road, Dahlonega. 706-219-3514, kayavineyards.com.

Frogtown Cellars’ sprawling 57-acre vineyard features a stunning cypress and timber-frame wine-tasting and event facility with porches and decks offering views of the property’s lake and surrounding mountains. Noon-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays and 12:30-5 p.m. Sundays. The winery is offering a Valentine’s Winemaker Brunch Feb. 11 and 18 and a Valentine’s Day Winemaker Dinner Feb. 10 and 17. 700 Ridge Point Drive, Dahlonega. 706-865-0687, frogtown.us.

The Winery at Wolf Mountain. Situated atop a mountain ridge and surrounded by vineyards, the Winery at Wolf Mountain commands a spectacular view of the rolling foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The 1,500 square feet of tasting space features a large four-sided stone and cedar bar with the ambiance of an adjacent cask room, wine cellar and veranda overlooking the vineyards with a tasting flight for $20. Winter hours are 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and 12:30-5 p.m. Sundays. In February, they are offering a Valentine Gourmet Brunch Sunday (Feb. 11, 18 and 25), and Valentine Gourmet Dinners Saturday (Feb. 10 and 17). Note: Not open on Valentine’s Day. 180 Wolf Mountain Trail, Dahlonega. 706-867-9862, wolfmountainvineyards.com.

MORE: Your guide to the Atlanta Beltline

Fernbank After Dark: Adult Science Nights

Fernbank After Dark, launched about a year ago, features different, interactive science experiments every month, such as making Alka-Seltzer rockets or producing dry ice bubbles. The evening series will also feature live music, and films in the new giant screen theater. Small bites and a rotating menu of craft cocktails and beers will also be served.

It’s held the second Friday of each month from 7 to 11 p.m. Activities and demonstrations will be held from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Go to the website for a detailed schedule of the activities.

On Feb. 9, Fernbank After Dark will host a special Valentine’s Day-themed event called “Love on the Brain,” where you can learn how biology influences relationships. The next Fernbank After Dark, on March 9, is called “Microbes and Microbrews,” where you can discover the weird ways your body works to keep you healthy. Tickets: $10-$20. Members get a discount. Food and beverages sold a la carte and not included in admission price. Tickets to Fernbank After Dark can be purchased online in advance at fernbankmuseum.org or at the box office. Must be at least 21 to attend Fernbank After Dark. Fernbank Museum of Natural History, 767 Clifton Road, Atlanta. 404-929-6300, www.fernbankmuseum.org.

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