Fifty Shades of Family: What a Real Valentine’s Day Experience Looks Like

It never fails. About mid-January, just as we’re all emerging from our holiday-season food comas, we discover we’re on the verge of being struck once again by the frilly pink arrow of the world’s most precocious flying baby.

That’s right: Cupid is back, scattering heart-shaped candies through every supermarket in the nation. He’s packing the TV lineup with heartwarming boy-meets-girl stories and commercials for diamonds. He’s making sure the latest star-packed romances hit the big screen just in time. This year: Hugh Grant and Marisa Tomei in The Rewrite and, of course, the much-anticipated Fifty Shades of Grey.

Here at Goldstar (where, incidentally, our company was born on Valentine’s Day 2002), we get an annual landslide of love-themed events – from singles nights to romantic comedies to dinner cruises, and tons more. And though we sell lots of tickets to these events every year, we also sell a good number of tickets to our “non-romantic” events on February 14. Which begs the question: What events do people like most on Valentine’s Day? Is candlelit romance really what they’re after, or is that more of a chocolate-covered myth?

Using our data from last year’s sales in cities across the country, we set out to discover the real Valentine’s Day experience. The results might surprise you.

1. Valentine’s Day means family. Though we know kids love Valentine’s Day (just look at all the classroom walls plastered in pink construction paper hearts), what we didn’t fully expect was just how many people were planning Valentine’s Day outings with their kids. Eleven of our Top 25 sellers for Valentine’s Day 2014 were family events, with three different Disney on Ice performances making the list, including the No. 1 spot. Other Top-25 faves were The Wizard of Oz, Circus Vargas, Lady and the Tramp and a Frozen sing-along. With nearly half our February 14 tickets going to family events, it’s clear that children play a huge role in Valentine’s Day celebrations, despite what the TV commercials and movies might lead you to believe.

2. Romance means doing your favorite things. Family events aside, our most popular sellers last Valentine’s Day still don’t skew overly romantic. Instead, they leaned toward year-round favorites — plays and musicals like Guys and Dolls, The Producers, Hairspray and Young Frankenstein. Most of these, and the other Top 25 events as well, are popular shows any time of year, and have no special Valentine’s tie-in. In fact, only two of the Top 25 events specifically targeted adults at all, and they definitely didn’t do it Fifty Shades of Grey-style. For example, one of those two events — an after-hours dance party that nearly 400 of our members attended – took place at a strikingly wholesome location: the Walt Disney Family Museum. Bottom line: Valentine’s Day just means fun (pearls and champagne optional).

With that in mind, we’ve made sure our new Make It a Date category is filled with sure-fire year-round hits like Broadway shows (On the Town, You Can’t Take It With You, Wicked) in addition to the more classic Valentine’s Day fare (Valentine’s Day Chocolate Walking Tour, Champagne & Aphrodisiac Cruise).

3. Everyone wants to go out, and they’re willing to pay for it. Singles, couples and families all want to go out on Valentine’s Day. We sold nearly twice as many tickets for Valentine’s Day 2014, which landed on a Friday, as we did for the previous or following Friday nights. Single-ticket sales remained roughly as strong as on a typical night (despite what you might expect for the biggest date night of the year), and ticket-pair sales skyrocketed. And statistics show most people probably combined their show with dinner out – 42% planned to do so, according to a 2014 Zagat poll. All told, the National Retail Federation says the average Valentine’s Day celebrator spends between $125-$150 on festivities – and 37% are going out.

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