By Jake La Placa

Once again, Cupid has cast his spell upon our already spellbound world. Valentine’s Day is here again and fret not, my friends because Lane County has plenty of cheap (and free) thrills for you and your special someone. We will take you on a journey throughout Lane County’s most romantic places and experiences. With our county stretching from the jarring landscape of the Oregon Coast to the toes of the Cascade Mountain range, there is much to be explored in between and even better to be experienced with your partner. Even just one of these activities is sure to make your Heart Day a memorable one.

Start your day with a peaceful drive westbound on Highway 126. Winding in and out of our states finest glimmering sun rays as our towering ponderosa pines and Douglas firs engulf you. As the luscious terrain releases you on to the coastline, make your way north to one of our region’s best hidden gems: Heceta Head Lighthouse. A former functioning lighthouse for nightly sailors and now a newly converted bed and breakfast, Heceta Head Lighthouse will blow you out of the water. Here, you’ll be able to find serenity in all this place to offer. Take a morning stroll to the Light Tower or marvel over the delectable seven-course breakfast offered for takeout and quite possibly a picnic on the sandy beach.

If the mountains and thoughts of forever lasting snow is more your speed, head over to Belknap Hot Springs or Westfir Lodge in the shadows of the Cascades. At Belknap, there are plenty of options for an overnight stay or a day trip. Immerse yourself in the natural springs of the gorgeous Mckenzie River and while you’re at it, take in the starry night sky and all its splendor. Westfir Lodge, located right off the banks of the North Fork River, lies among a breathtaking, snow-blanketed scenery which offers the perfect fireplace rooms for you to cozy up with your valentine next to the fire as well as access to the Willamette and Deschutes forests at your doorstep. As you take these adventures into account, be aware to consider reservation precautions!

After a wistful day in our winter wonderland, fresh off of a classic Oregon snowstorm, nestle back into our bright and shining city at the continuously booming 5th Street Market District with its new and improved renovations and additions. Better yet, stay in town for a staycation and be one of the very first couples to spend a night at the brand-new “art-centric” Gordon Hotel and experience cuisines from award-winning downtown restaurants including the Valentine’s Day dining package from top notch eatery, The Excelsior Inn.

Follow up your special date with a selection of fine wines and mouth-watering desserts from The Gordon Hotel, Excelsior, or any of Eugene’s many other fabulous establishments. And speaking of desserts, if you and your valentine are hankering for some ice cream, Handel’s Ice Cream is celebrating its grand opening this week and boasts a menu of flavors, all made in-house!

As you plan out your celebration to make that important someone feel the love that they deserve, please remember that it is perfectly okay to stretch out the special date if reservations and circumstances don’t allow. So, signify your love with reservations for a later date, a gift card from your favorite spot, or even just flowers from Lane County Famers Market! Cheers!