Out & About: Love, locally

In case you haven’t noticed the store displays of heart-shaped boxes and snuggly teddy bears, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Looking for ideas for the big day of romance? Here’s a selective roundup of romantic spots in University City (and one in Chestnut Hill) and some activities and treats to share with that special someone.

Valentine on ice

While you won’t be skating in the crisp night air at the Class of 1923 Ice Rink (3130 Walnut St.), be sure to bundle up anyway—and grab your partner’s gloved hand to take a skate around the ice. Public sessions are offered every day of the week, though times vary, so call ahead or check the website (http://hstrial-rrobertson1.homestead.com/HOME.html) for details. On Saturday nights, you and your loved one can strap on skates and take a spin around the ice between 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. or, for night-owls, occasionally from midnight to 2 a.m. On Sundays, open skating runs from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Admission is $6.50 and skate rental is an additional $2.50. PennCard holders receive a dollar off each session. In the vicinity, you’ll find several options for warm drinks after your foray around the ice—from Peet’s coffee at Intermezzo (3131 Walnut St.) right across the street to a glass of house red at Ecco Qui (3200 Chestnut St.).

Natural living

If you’re looking to take a stroll outside (weather permitting), there are few places more fitting than Penn’s Morris Arboretum (100 Northwestern Ave., Chestnut Hill). This beautiful outdoor garden comes alive in the spring and summer, but now is the time to visit if it’s a peaceful walk you’re after. Winter hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day and admission is free with a PennCard. Otherwise, adult admission is $8. While you’re there, be sure to stop by the terrace of the Mercury Temple and take in one of the Arboretum’s best views, seek out some of the rare historic trees (perfect to kiss under) or snuggle up on one of the benches placed throughout the Cottage and Herb gardens.

For a nature walk closer to campus, the James G. Kaskey Memorial Garden provides a nice respite from the construction and traffic on nearby 38th Street. Granted, from its other name—the BioPond—you’d hardly think it would be a romantic setting, but don’t let that fool you, it’s a lovely bit of nature tucked away behind the buildings. Benches and small tables, dotted throughout the grounds, are perfect for quiet, romantic conversations.

Be a kid again

Feeling nostalgic about your childhood? Then take a stroll up Spruce Street to the corner of 40th and duck into University Pinball (4006 Spruce St.). It’s loud, but it is a blast, and perfect for couples longing to get back in touch with their inner child. There are games galore, including air hockey at a dollar a pop, video games (price varies) and, of course, that age-old kids’ game of pinball. At 50 cents a game it’s enough of a bargain to spend the whole afternoon or evening rooting your partner on—or trying to outmaneuver him or her. Either way, you’ll walk out of there feeling at least 10 years younger.

Walking back from the arcade, be sure to stop in front of Robert Indiana’s “LOVE” sculpture, in Blanche Levy Park at 36th Street and Locust Walk. There’s hardly a more appropriate place to stop on campus on Valentine’s Day. Bring your camera along and ask a passerby to snap a picture of you and your partner in front of the sculpture.

Escape from it all

For those looking to really get away from it all, call around to see if rooms still remain at one of University City’s many bed-and breakfasts or at one of the two hotels. The Inn at Penn (3600 Sansom St.) and the Sheraton University City (3549 Chestnut St.) both offer romantic packages—but expect to pay handsomely. The Inn at Penn charges about $215 for a package that includes deluxe accommodations, sparkling wine and a full breakfast the next day, while the Sheraton package runs about $219 for a chilled bottle of wine, cheese plate and breakfast. The hotel will throw in champagne and chocolates too if you purchase a dinner at La Terrasse on nearby Sansom St. For a full listing of places to stay in University City, go to University City District’s web site at http://ucityphila.org.

Originally published on February 10, 2005