This article is presented in partnership with Visit Columbia.

February is the month of love and of taking care of your heart and health. With experiences, exercise opportunities and healthy and romantic dining options, you can give your valentine a thoughtful gift filled with a little love for both of you.

Grab a cuppa Joe and pet a new feline friend in the cat playroom at Papa’s Cat Cafe, 14 S. 2nd St. Studies have shown cat ownership might help reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease in high-risk individuals, and that’s good news for both heart health and the cats at Papa’s. The cafe is home to about 20 cats on average, including Corde and Pedro, two resident cats who are always available for petting. The rest of the cats, provided by Boone County Animal Care, are ready for their forever home through adoption at the cafe. In addition to coffee, the cafe also serves wine and local beer along with freshly baked cookies, biscuits and muffins among other specialty baked goods. Space is limited, so reservations are appreciated but not necessary.

In an effort to help diners seeking healthy food, the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services sponsors a Live Well Restaurant (LWR) program. The program helps identify healthy menu options at area restaurants. If an eatery has at least two options that meet the LWR criteria, it is recognized as a Live Well Restaurant. Nourish Cafe and Market, 1201 E. Broadway, Ste. B, is one of 15 restaurants currently on the list. At Nourish, the menu accommodates all healthy diet choices—vegetarian, keto and paleo, among others—honoring bio-individual diet preferences, but everything on the menu begins with plant-based options. From bowls and salads to cold-pressed juices and superfood smoothies, fruits and vegetables are the stars. The cafe’s concept is to make nutrient-rich food taste delicious by using whole ingredients free of gluten, soy, corn, refined sugar and preservatives. Even the almond milk they use in smoothies is house-made.

Photo courtesy Nourish Cafe & Market.

The American Heart Association recommends adults get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity. In Columbia, it is easy to find resources and destinations to fit the recommendations. The MKT Trail offers 8.9 miles of trail suitable for running, walking or biking your way to better health, and it connects to the greater 237-mile Katy Trail State Park. Several shops throughout the city can outfit you for the MKT. Located a couple of blocks north of the trailhead, Cyclex, 203 N. Providence Road, Ste. 103, offers bicycle rentals and support to cyclists who own a bike. Walt’s Bike Shop, 1217 Rogers St., also offers bike sales and support services along with year-round hiking and camping gear, from clothing to backpacks, tents and accessories.

Lastly, a romantic dinner tops the list for some to celebrate the month of love. At Cherry Street Cellar, 505 Cherry St., dishes from the French-inspired menu paired with a perfect vintage sets the scene for your special someone. Start the meal with a cheese course. Broad regional cheese varieties offer different subtle flavors only a well-made cheese can provide. Then, settle in with your choice of oysters—freshly shucked, Rockefeller style and grilled are always available. To accompany the courses, the wine list includes vintages from regions around the world peppered with recognizable favorites and surprising newer varieties. And just like the wine list, the craft cocktail repertoire is broad and balanced, from aperitifs to after dinner drinks. Finish off with a dessert featuring red wine poached pears or poached cranberries in an atmosphere where everything seems tailored for romance.