As much as we would like to believe love conquers all, Valentine’s Day is ultimately characterized by the food you eat, the gifts you give and receive, and the places you go. Let’s face it: As college students at a public university, not all of us can afford that classy restaurant with four dollar signs on Yelp. But whether you’re celebrating with a partner, friend or animal companion, there’s something in Santa Cruz for just about everyone at  prices even students can afford.

Illustration by Louise Leong.

Entertainment & Activities

Cheap getaways require some amount of creativity — you have to know exactly where to look and how to find it. OPERS offers weekend trips at reasonable prices, from backpacking to white-water rafting. For simpler getaways, the department also offers independent trips that you can organize entirely on your own. You can check out rental gear for quick and local camping trips, or snowshoes for longer weekend outings. Whatever it is that interests you, the recreation department offers a frugal opportunity to get away for the weekend with your friends or significant other.

Whether it be for a romantic getaway or relaxation with friends, the Santa Cruz harbor offers a pristine location for a quick voyage aboard one of UCSC’s sailboats. For $15, you can sail up to Pleasure Point in the Santa Cruz harbor and enjoy a three-hour journey as licensed guides take you through the bay. The fee includes lunch and guides — all you need to bring is yourself. Warm clothing is recommended for cooler marine temperatures that can drop below the mainland’s average. Trips fill up quickly and are reserved on a first come, first serve basis. Contact the recreation department at OPERS or recreational department director Matt Brower to reserve a spot or get more information.

This February, Santa Cruz will be hosting an event that seeks to answer one question: “What Is Erotic?” For just $20 on opening night, you can get a firsthand look at what it means to be erotic through various art and dance forms. The event’s proceeds go toward the 418 Project, which has dedicated itself to “moving community and inspiring transformation through performance and dance,” according to their website. Opening night begins Feb. 10 and the show closes on Feb. 19, culminating a six-show run at the 418 Project in Santa Cruz.

Illustration by Jamie Morton.


Rising International is having a sale from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Feb. 11. Have fun together and shop fair trade or buy a gift for someone special. The store aims to help impoverished women across the globe by selling their handmade crafts. Colorful accessories, kitchenware, apparel, toys and more are available for a discounted price. It is a great gift that helps spread love in a big way.

If you are in a creative mood, make your own chocolate-dipped strawberry bouquet. Hop over to a local grocery store, like Trader Joe’s, Safeway or New Leaf, to pick out strawberries and chocolate chips. Melt your chips and dip your strawberries. Get some bamboo kebab skewers at Safeway or, depending on your preference, go to Beverly’s Fabric and Crafts or the Dollar Tree, and get plastic flowers and cut off the heads. Then, head over to Ferrari Florist and Gifts to get some cheap flowers like baby’s-breath. Place your strawberries on the stems or skewers, add the flowers and wrap it with a bow. Voila!

Get a gift you both can enjoy at Petroglyph Ceramic Lounge. Select and customize a piece of white bisque pottery, which costs anywhere from $10-$15. Sit, talk, and get creative together. The $9.75 admittance fee covers supplies, support, glazing by trained staff, and kiln firing. If you are celebrating Valentine’s Day with a group, Petroglyph Ceramic Lounge offers a discount price of $5 per person for groups of seven or more. However, if you are in a group, it is best to make a reservation in advance.

Illustration by Christine Hipp.


Valentine’s Day isn’t all about candlelit dinners. There’s nothing like waking up early and going out for a banana-pancake breakfast with that special someone on Valentine’s Day morning. The Harbor Café, nestled in the Twin Lakes area of Santa Cruz, offers plate-sized banana pancakes for $1 each on Tuesday mornings. For a restaurant that’s already best known for its breakfasts, pancakes at $1 apiece just might be worth that early wake-up call, rain or shine. For those who’d like to bring along a canine companion, the Harbor Café features a “Doggie Menu” for your four-legged friends. Whether you arrive solo, with a partner, or with your dog, $1 banana pancakes will be sure to hit the spot — whether you’re a Jack Johnson fan or not.

From its green-and-yellow-painted exterior to its warm, inviting decor, Café Brasil is hard to miss. For a low-key, authentic Brazilian meal, Café Brasil, located on Mission Street, offers both breakfast and unique lunch entrées for the food-curious. Exploring dishes like Coxinha de Galinha (chicken), Bacalhoada (codfish) and Aipim Frito (yucca) with that special someone may serve as a fun addition to your Valentine’s Day festivities. Almost all of the entrees at Café Brasil are under $10. A visit to Café Brasil is an inexpensive way to experience foreign cuisine without the hefty price tag of a plane ticket, and what better excuse to do this than Valentine’s Day?

Home-cooked Meals 101 — Whether you’re a culinary connoisseur or the water-boiling, Ramen-making type, cooking a Valentine’s Day meal in the comfort of your own kitchen for or with your significant other is a fun and collaborative experience. From chicken cordon bleu to homemade pizzas, there are recipes for cooks of all skill levels. Easy fixes include pizzas, pastas, stir-fry and barbecue. Make a trip to the Santa Cruz Farmer’s Market, Staff of Life, or any local market to pick up produce and meats for a simple meal. For recipe ideas, offers access to free recipes from food magazines and professional chefs alike! Or check out City on a Hill Press’ food blog, The Starving Student, for easy, step-by-step instructions for a fancy and affordable meal.