My frugal Valentine: last minute VDay advice from Frugal Fun Ottawa

"Love Canal" was taken by photographer Robin Kelsey (

Josée is an Ottawa engineer and mother of two who loves to find free and frugal activities and events happening in Ottawa. She puts her research to good use over at Frugal Fun Ottawa.

It’s Valentine’s Day! If you’ve left the planning to the last minute, you may be wondering if it’s too late to wow your sweetie. But I have some frugal, yet romantic, suggestions that will keep you out of the doghouse and out of the poorhouse.

My first suggestion is very old-fashioned, but that’s precisely why your sweetheart will love it. I suggest that you both take some time to write hand-written letters to each other. My husband and I have been doing this for years, since we decided that Valentine’s Day was just becoming too commercial. I love this tradition for many reasons: the process of writing the letters forces us to put into words how much we love and appreciate each other; it’s wonderful to have the letters to re-read and remember major events in our lives; and the whole family is included – when our children were born we started writing them Valentine’s Day letters too. If writing a letter isn’t your style, you can write little notes on heart-shaped paper and hide them around the house or your sweetheart to find. Hide some in hard-to-find places so that Valentine’s Day lasts longer than just one day!

If writing letters seems like too much work for a Monday, take your partner to the movies – but not just any movie! Only a romantic comedy will do on Valentine’s Day, and if it happens to be a French romantic comedy, well, nothing can top that. Amélie is exaclty what Cupid would recommend, and it just happens to be playing at the Bytowne Cinema tonight at 6:30. Tickets are $10 for non-members (members pay $7.00). My husband and I went to see it when it first came out, and he describes it as “a decent story that is well-written, that just happens to be a romantic comedy.” Pretty much the highest rating a romantic comedy will get from him. And don’t worry if French isn’t your forte, the Bytowne is showing it with English subtitles.

Today’s forecast is calling for mild temperatures and light snow, so don’t be afraid to ditch the traditional restaurant supper and box of chocolates and opt for some outdoor fun instead. How about taking your sweetheart for a romantic evening skate on the Rideau Canal? (Don’t forget to share a BeaverTail!)

If he or she is the adventurous type, visit and purchase their Original Quest package: tor $19.99 (plus tax) they will provide you with clues that lead you around Parliament Hill and other downtown locations. It’s a fun way to explore the city to see downtown Ottawa in a whole new light.


Happy Valentine's Day from Local Tourist Ottawa!

If your date is more historically-minded, take in the city by following one of the three downtown walking tours in the NCC’s Discover the Heart of the Capital brochure. It includes interesting facts about various Ottawa landmarks and points out interesting sights along the route. Be sure to bring your camera – the view from the Portage and Alexandra Bridges is particularly beautiful at this time of year.

After your quest or walking tour, warm up and get a romantic view of the snow-covered city by going up the Peace Tower at Parliament Hill. (If my husband planned this one for me he would earn himself a whole lot of brownie points!) The Peace Tower is open today from 9:00 a.m. to 2:50 p.m.; visits are self-guided. Keep in mind that you will have to go through security so there may be a line-up.

You really don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a romantic Valentine’s Day. All it takes is little imagination, and being lucky enough to live in a wonderful city like Ottawa!

Thanks for the ideas Josée!

Single or coupled up, how are you spending your Valentine’s Day?