In recent years, Valentine’s Day has become about more than a box of chocolates or a romantic dinner. Grab your sweetie (or BFF) and check out these heartwarming — and heart-racing — experiences.
Victorian Poetry Slam
The historic James J. Hill House’s elegant drawing room serves as an all-too-appropriate setting for this long-running Valentine’s event. It features a trio of actors dressed in 1890s evening wear performing a wide range of funny, romantic and stirring Victorian-era poems by the likes of Dickinson, Poe, Longfellow and Browning — plus a few about lumber baron, James J. Hill, himself.
When: Wednesday, Feb. 14, 7 p.m.–8 p.m
Where: James J. Hill House, 240 Summit Ave., St. Paul
Cost: $12 (discounts available)
“Couple Fight: Best of”
The best-selling show of the 2017 Minnesota Fringe Festival is bringing a compilation of their best bickerings to the Bryant-Lake Bowl stage. Watch real couples and pairs of friends and family reenact their dumbest fights — because nothing is more romantic than making up after a spat. Pro tip: Mondays are Cheap Date Night at the Bowl, when $28 a couple gets you two entrees, a bottle of wine or two tap beers and a round of bowling from 6 p.m. to midnight.
When: Monday, Feb. 12 and Wednesday, Feb. 14, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Bryant-Lake Bowl, 810 W. Lake St.
‘The Love Show’
Minnesota author, playwright and storyteller Kevin Kling is known for his heartfelt, witty tales on NPR’s “All Things Considered.” His annual Valentine’s show blends musical performance, songs and storytelling for romantics and cynics alike, inspired by ’80s camp-classic TV show, “The Love Boat.”
When: Wednesday, Feb. 14 at 7 p.m.
Where: The O’Shaughnessy, 2004 Randolph Ave., St. Paul
‘Cabarave: Love Languages’
“Cabarave” is a blend of burlesque, aerial arts, live music and dancing, broken into five sets that each represent a different love language. It stars Minneapolis burlesque starlets Elektra Cute and Nadine DuBois along with the sassy and sweet aerialist duet, Kitson Sass and Pistol Prudence.
When: Feb. 14–17 at 8 p.m.
Where: The Lab Theater, 700 N. 1st. St.
Valentine’s Hot Metal Pour
Heat up your Valentine’s Day with this unconventional Valentine’s event. Each winter, the Franconia Sculpture Park hosts an outdoor hot metal pour featuring local metal artists. Join in the fun and create your own cast iron sculpture at a series of workshops leading up to the event (Feb. 10 and 11, $30–$75 registration).
When: Saturday, Feb. 17, noon–5 p.m.
Where: Franconia Sculpture Park, 29836 St. Croix Trail, Shafer
‘Carolyn Swiszcz: New Suburban Mysteries’
In the late ’90s, Carolyn Swiszcz spent three winters in Miami Beach on a fellowship from the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts. Her time there spent among the city’s faded apartment buildings inspired the Minneapolis-based artist to take an interest in buildings and public spaces. Since then, Swiszcz’s work has regularly transformed mundane suburban scenery and neglected urban structures into sunny-hued, iconic landmarks. In “New Suburban Mysteries,” the artist turns her lens on her home of West St. Paul and the surrounding suburbs, elevating several pizzerias, an Irish bar and a Hmong deli in St. Paul, a suburban water park and a Lutheran Church in Mankato into charming, idyllic works of art. The collection of one-of-a-kind watercolor monoprints are made with a hand-printing technique that, unlike other methods of printing, can only produce one copy of an image that looks printed but is completely unique.
When: Feb. 9–March 24; opening reception Friday, Feb. 9, 6:30 p.m.–9 p.m.
Where: Highpoint Center for Printmaking, 912 W. Lake St.
‘Pao Houa Her: My grandfather turned into a tiger’
Pao Houa Her is known for her striking, highly personal photographs of the Hmong, the indigenous people of Laos who immigrated to the U.S. after the Vietnam War. Her’s images draw upon the traditionally Western photography styles of portraiture and still life to offer a visual narrative of her experience of being born in Laos in 1980 and fleeing the country for St. Paul as a young child. In her new exhibition, “My grandfather turned into a tiger,” she draws upon her family history as well as her recent travels to Laos and her life in Minnesota to touch on themes of mythology and illusion. Presented in an installation of about 35 black-and-white, color and lenticular photographs — many of which are wheat-pasted to the walls of the gallery — the collection of images are both frank and emotionally revealing.
When: Feb. 10–April 7; opening reception Saturday, Feb. 10, 6 p.m.–8 p.m.
Where: Midway Contemporary Art, 527 2nd Ave. SE
‘Dancing with Giants’
Politics and sports spar while truth and propaganda duke it out in “Dancing with Giants,” a drama that is making its world premiere in Minneapolis on the Illusion Theater stage this month. A cautionary tale inspired by real events, the play tells the story of an unconventional friendship that survives in against all odds. Just before World War II, three very different men — New York boxing manager Joe “Yussel the Muscle” Jacobs, German boxing champion Max Schmeling and American boxing great Joe Louis — formed a unique bond despite the manipulations of Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of public enlightenment and propaganda. The play has local roots: It was written by New York playwright David Feldshuh, who cut his teeth on the Guthrie Theater stage first as an actor and later as associate director. The play stars David’s sister, Tovah Feldshuh (“The Walking Dead,” “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”), another Guthrie regular, who plays a female version of “Yussel.” At a time when racism and anti-Semitism are once again subjects of public discussion, the debut of “Dancing with Giants” could not be timelier.
When: Feb. 8–24 (preview performance Feb. 7)
Where: Illusion Theater, 529 Hennepin Ave.
Cost: $25–$48 (discounts available)
Little Box Sauna
When Nordic immigrants first came to Minnesota, they brought their sauna culture with them. For decades, it wasn’t unusual have Twin Cities homes to have a sauna in the basement, but in recent years, the sauna has all but disappeared from the area. Fortunately, a small group of sauna enthusiasts are bringing the Scandinavian pastime back to the forefront. One of the leaders of this movement is Little Box Sauna, a mobile public sauna that was built in 2015 with funds from a creative placemaking grant in partnership with Radisson Blu, Mall of America and Ikea. The state-of-the-art structure is now popping up for a month-long residency at the Walker Art Center outside of the Esker Grove patio with an outdoor winter patio lounge as part of its Winter #AtTheWalker series. You can reserve a spot for a 90-minute session, book the entire sauna for two-hour private group rentals, or try it for free during Winter #AtTheWalker’s Target Free Thursday Nights, with other events including art-making activities, moonlight snowshoe tours, storytelling and DJs.
When: Feb. 8–11, Feb. 15–18, Feb. 22–25 and March 1–4
Where: Walker Art Center, 725 Vineland Place
Cost: $20 for individuals, $300 for groups. Free Thursdays (Feb. 8, 15 and 22), 5 p.m.–9 p.m., and Saturday, Feb. 10, 10 a.m.–3 p.m.
Rock the Cradle
The Current’s annual family music fest is one show hip parents won’t have to call the sitter for. Held throughout the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the next-door Children’s Theatre, it offers a free, full day of music-related fun — and plenty of activities to keep the little ones occupied. Take in story time with the Current DJs and local children’s book author Nancy Carlson, an interactive St. Paul Saints exhibit, hands-on musical play activities and that perennial favorite, the Kids’ Disco. Kids of all ages should enjoy live music from Bato Bato!, Brian Just, DJ Keezy, and Andy Cook and friends, plus a pop-up performance from Twin Cities–based woodwind quintet, Chione.
When: Sunday, Feb. 11, 10:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
Where: Minneapolis Institute of Art and Children’s Theatre Company, 2400 3rd Ave. S.