So you want to do something special for Valentine’s Day? Rest assured, there plenty of options to make this year’s fun and memorable. Here, from the brains of the Tampa Bay Times entertainment and lifestyle experts, are some original and romantic Tampa Bay date ideas.
When it comes to special occasions, few date night activities are as fun as a live concert. Problem is, you can’t always count on your favorite band or singer coming to town on a weekend, much less a special occasion. That said, there are some good, solid musical date nights almost every weekend on either side of the bay.
In St. Petersburg, walk south along the waterfront, and you’ll reach the Mahaffey Theater. End your night with a cocktail at one of St. Pete’s many premiere bars. To keep things musical, check out the Ale and the Witch, which has about 30 craft beers on tap and features live music in its outdoor courtyard nearly every night. Or head to Ruby’s Elixir, which every week brings in some of the area’s best jazz, soul and blues artists.
Ybor City isn’t everyone’s idea of a romantic destination but amid all the nightclub noise, you can find several fun date night options. And while Ybor City has several prime music venues such as the Ritz Ybor, New World Brewery, and the Orpheum keep an eye on Crowbar for weekly fun.
The historic Tampa Theatre, nearly 90 years young and a backdrop for countless love stories, is a one of the area’s best movie experiences. There are plenty of drink-and-dine options nearby. Tampa’s Riverwalk and Museum of Art are easy strolls west, but The Hub’s divine dive-iness on the corner is closer. Across the bay, St. Petersburg’s Sundial 19 isn’t as intoxicating, yet the nearby Beach Drive nightlife is a fun chaser.
Some Tampa Bay theaters are one-stop Tinder traps, offering upscale dinner, drinks and a movie at once. Cinebistro in Tampa’s Hyde Park Village or Wesley Chapel’s Grove 16 are stylish pleasures. Secure in your relationship, not trying so hard? There are midrange options at Villagio Cinemas in Tampa, Sunset Point Cinema Bar and Grill in Clearwater and Tampa Pitcher Show in Tampa.
There are more than 160 state parks in Florida, but only one for lovers: Lovers Key. In the early 1900s, this barrier island near Fort Myers was accessible only by boat. Out of the way and hard to access, only sweethearts looking to get away were willing to make the trip. The 2-mile beach, accessible by boardwalk or tram, is ideal for long, romantic walks. You’ll also find Lovers Key great for shelling, picnicking and paddle boarding. Stay for sunset and keep an eye out for the ghost of Black Augustus, a pirate who spent the his days hiding on Black Island. The state park also offers monthly concerts at a great acoustic gazebo, right on the beach. Go to floridastateparks.org.
River otters are playful critters and always fun to watch as they frolic along the rocks of the Rapids Trail at Hillsborough River State Park. Just a half hour north of downtown Tampa, this is a great place for a before-dinner stroll. But if you really want to see some wildlife, get there first thing in the morning. The trail is wild, but not too secluded. The state park, one of Florida’s first, has three other trails from 1.1 to 3.4 miles long, but the River Rapids Nature Trail, which will take you down to the Hillsborough’s Class II rapids, is the best.
If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, book a spot on one of the local dolphin tours. These playful marine mammals love to jump boat wakes and surf waves. The protected waters of the Gulf of Mexico with its myriad sheltered bays and lagoons provides ideal dolphin habitat. Curious by nature, most dolphins will usually swim over to a boat just to have a look. The state’s best tour operators those that have earned a “dolphin smart” label know how to safely keep their distance. Check out the Florida Aquarium Wild Dolphin Ecotour in Tampa or the Shell Key Shuttle on St. Pete Beach.
Create a memorable night by diving into the wayback machine and reliving some of the greatest hits of your childhood. Who says laser tag and games are just for kids? Build a bond by working as a team to show those smart-mouthed tweens how a serious game of laser tagis played. The Terrace Sports battle station in Temple Terrace has strobes, sirens and a fog machine that create an adrenaline-pumping atmosphere at 5311 E Busch Blvd. Q-Zar LaserTag, 7807 N Dale Mabry Highway, is primed for date night with hours until midnight Fridays and Saturdays and a fun pack for under $40 with two games each, a pizza and a pitcher of soda to whet your warrior whistle. Xtreme Fun Center has an arcade to play around in between games at 13211 93rd St N, Largo.
Source: Tampa Bay Times, Great Tampa Bay date ideas for Valentine’s Day or all year long: www.tampabay.com