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Four only-in-New Orleans date night ideas

From City Park sailing to cocktail classes

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With Mardi Gras falling this year on Feb. 13, even New Orleans' most dedicated romantics would be hard-pressed to celebrate Valentine's Day with the usual fanfare. Rather than let an opportunity to celebrate love fall by the wayside, think outside the box and the allotted square on the calendar when it comes to date night. These thoughtful ideas will be appreciated just as much (if not more) on Feb. 21 as on Feb. 14.

PHOTO BY ROBERT DULA
  • Photo by Robert Dula

Venice, via City Park
Time for a quick review: Venetian-style gondola rides are romantic. Statistics ... not so much. But it's hard to ignore the numbers when NOLA Gondola operator Robert Dula mentions that he's witnessed 484 marriage proposals (and counting) over his 16 years ferrying lovebirds through City Park.

"City Park is a magical wonderland that lends itself to romance and relaxation," he says. "We glide through the moss-draped lagoons of the park, (and) under many bridges where it's tradition to kiss."

Add a bottle of perfectly chilled Champagne (Dula provides the ice bucket and glasses) and a chic cheese spread to the equation, and the odds are good for a truly memorable evening. (See, math can be sexy.)

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Secret lover
Chris Champagne literally wrote the book on little-known locales in New Orleans, so he knows a thing or two about intimate corners of the city. The Secret New Orleans author favors quiet spots for unconventional date ideas.

"The Port of New Orleans office on the river behind the (Ernest N. Morial) Convention Center is a really secret place, if you wanted to be alone with your significant other on the river itself," he says. "They have benches that are swings where you could sit — just take a bottle of wine up there and be within 10 feet of the river."

For the couple with a literary streak, Champagne suggests a sonnet-filled excursion to Maple Leaf Bar's poetry series — the longest running in North America — which takes place every Sunday at 3 p.m. But his best advice is to keep it personal.

"Think about places in your own life that you might want to share," he suggests, or revisit spots that have significance to the couple. Better yet? Pick up a copy of Secret New Orleans and spend a day exploring together.

PHOTO BY SCOT MATTOX
  • Photo by Scot Mattox

Not another cocktail date
Crescent City Cocktology's (CCC) team of award-winning bartenders offers a crash course in craft cocktails that's perfect for a night out. For a flat fee, couples can learn mixology skills from the masters and try their hands at three signature cocktails fitting the class theme. Choose from historic New Orleans classics, bourbon-based drinks or special Valentine's Day picks, to name a few. In addition to having the makings of a fun night out, a class with CCC truly is the gift that keeps on giving.

"The classes give [couples] the skills and recipes they need to entertain together at home, whether that is for a group or just a romantic night in making cocktails," says cofounder Heather Brown. If it turns out that sweetie makes a mean Sazerac? There's no better aphrodisiac than that.

PHOTO COURTESY ZACK SMITH PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Photo courtesy Zack Smith Photography

Picture us together
Cute as they may be, posting smartphone pics on Instagram does not a photographer make. Luckily, local pro Zack Smith (now suited up with a new Magazine Street studio space) has the chops to turn aspiring artsy couples into full-blown photographers. In addition to his studio workshops, Smith offers intensive roving workshops around the city.

In the French Quarter Fest workshop, Smith gives participants "an 'insider' look at how to photograph the festival as the festival's official photographer," he says. "We have a class session, and then we walk the grounds and visit stages and learn about how to get from area to area," so couples can capture their own moments later. For something a bit more intimate, couples can opt for an evening portraiture workshop to learn how to show off their sweeties in the best light (pun intended). We'd call that love, #nofilter.

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