Forget dinner and a movie. This year, plan an outdoor outing that is perfect for celebrating that special someone or enjoying a day out with the whole family.
Now, more than ever, we could all use a little more love in our lives, and Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to spend time with those who are near and dear to our hearts. Because Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, it is easy to devote the whole day to that special someone – whether that is a spouse, significant other, close friend or the whole family. Below we offer a few fun ideas for making the most of the day. All of these options make it easy to get out and about while maintaining a safe social distance from others. We’ve included the websites for each location, so that you can check updated Covid protocols before heading out.
1. Explore Sparkman Wharf. If you haven’t been to Channelside lately, now is the perfect time to visit. The area has undergone a complete transformation in the last few years with the addition of Sparkman Wharf, a park-like space that that features a bevy of converted shipping containers selling culinary delights ranging from gourmet popsicles to mouthwatering Southern barbecue. An outdoor biergarten and faux lawn offer plenty of space to spread out and enjoy an open-air meal with views of the river. sparkmanwharf.com
2. Discover the new St. Pete Pier. The recently renovated Pier in downtown St. Petersburg was well worth the wait. It spans 26 acres that seamlessly blend green spaces, a beach area, concrete walkways, outdoor dining options, an open air market, art installations and a fishing pier, making this the perfect place to enjoy St. Pete’s gorgeous waterfront. Visit stpetepier.org.
3. Stroll the Riverwalk. The Tampa Riverwalk offers a continuous 2.6-mile waterfront walkway along the banks of the Hillsborough River with gorgeous views of the city. You can also take in a number of art installations along the route, stop for a bite at Armature Works, grab and adult beverage from the drink stand outside the Straz and enjoy the wide-open spaces of Curtis Hixon Park. Visit thetampariverwalk.com.
4. Go for a bike ride. Coast Bike Share offers an easy way to explore Downtown Tampa and the surrounding area without having to lug your own bike around. Simply download the Coast Bike Share app and register. The app will let you know where to find available bikes and then simply scan the QR code on the handlebar, unlock and go. When you are done, simply dock your bike and lock the wheel to end your ride. Rates are available on an hourly basis or sign up for a monthly or annual plan to enjoy regular rides. The bike share program is a great way to explore the Riverwalk by bicycle and then branch off to the surrounding Tampa Heights area. There is also a Coast Bike Share program in downtown St. Pete. Visit gohopr.com.
5. Hop aboard the Pirate Water Taxi. Another great way to explore Downtown Tampa is by water. The Pirate Water Taxi offers a leisurely boat ride with 15 stops along the Hillsborough River, including stops that offer convenient access to downtown’s numerous attractions, museums and restaurants. Purchase your ticket at the home dock (Stop#7 – Convention Center) or when boarding at any of the stops located throughout Downtown Tampa. Once purchased you will receive a Pirate Water Taxi wristband, which allows you to hop back on the taxi at any time for unlimited trips all day. These wristbands also give you discounts with a number of venues located on the route. All-day access is just $20 per person, with discounts for seniors, active military, kids and rides after 6 p.m. Visit piratewatertaxi.com.
6. Rent a boat for two from Riverwalk Boating Company. Grab your loved one and hop in a mini-boat for a self-guided (and super fun!) tour of Tampa’s waterways. The boats travel between 10-14 m.p.h. and no previous boating experience is needed. Visit riverwalkboating.com.
7. Go retro at the drive-in. The drive-in movie experience is alive and well at Fun Lan Drive-In on East Hillsborough Avenue. What could be better than snuggling up with your special someone and enjoying first-run favorites from the comfort of your own car? Visit floridaswapshop.com/tampa.
8. Take in the St. Pete mural scene. Downtown St. Petersburg is home to a growing number of captivating murals. The best way to view them all is to take the official St. Pete Walking Mural tour, the result of a collaboration between StPeteMuralTour.com and Florida CraftArt. Visit stpetemuraltour.com for an interactive map of 129 murals with a thumbnail of each work of art and a map that leads you to each.
9. Kayak to Caladesi. Caladesi Island State Park is a beach paradise perfect for spending the day with that special someone. Skip the crowds on the ferry and enjoy a leisurely kayak ride to the island. Sail Honeymoon on the Dunedin Causeway rents one and two-person kayaks perfect for exploring the shallow, protected waters that lead to Caladesi. Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy before making the return journey. Visit www.sailhoneymoon.com.
10. Play tourist in Tarpon Springs. The Sponge Docks aren’t just a great place to get authentic Greek food; they are also the perfect spot to play tourist. Browse the gift shops that line Dodecanese Boulevard, take a spin through the Spongeorama Museum and then set sail on a romantic boat ride down the Anclote River. www.spongedocks.net
11. Go head-to-head in miniature golf. Feel like a kid again while putting your way through giant waterfalls, mysterious caves and tropical rainforests at Congo River Golf in Clearwater. Evening hours offer just the right ambiance for a little friendly competition. Remember, it is only fun if you keep score! Visit www.congoriver.com.
12. Step back in time at the Sunken Gardens. This hidden gem, located in the heart of St. Petersburg, is one of the last remaining Florida roadside attractions. As St. Petersburg’s oldest living museum, this 100-year-old garden is home to some of the oldest tropical plants in the region. It’s the perfect place to relax while strolling paths that meander past cascading waterfalls, beautiful demonstration gardens and more than 50,000 tropical plants. Visit www.stpete.org/attractions.
13. Pack a picnic and head to the Gizella Kopsick Arboretum. This unique arboretum located along North Shore Drive in St. Petersburg features two acres of zen-like waterfront property that is home to more than 500 palms and cycads representing some 150 species from around the world. The serene setting with red brick walkways and wide-open green spaces is the perfect setting for enjoying a picnic for two or more! Visit www.stpeteparksrec.org/gizellakopsick.
14. Saddle up and go horseback riding. Even the most inexperienced rider is welcome to take part in a relaxing, guided trail ride at In the Breeze Ranch. The trails lead riders through Florida’s natural habitat, winding past a creek, with ample opportunity for wildlife viewing. Visit www.inthebreezeranch.com.
15. Watch the sunset while kayaking at Shell Key. Get Up and Go Kayaking offers sunset excursions that lead kayakers through the mangroves at Shell Key Preserve in Tierra Verde. After the sun sets, LED lights are used under the clear kayaks for a glowing nighttime ride. If kayaking alongside manatees is more your speed, head to the Tarpon Springs location through the end of March for a clear kayak ride with these gentle sea cows. Visit getupandgokayaking.com.
16. Enjoy brunch with a view at Oystercatchers. This spot that overlooks Tampa Bay has taken top prize for brunch in the city numerous times for their unique twist on brunch staples like Smoked Salmon & Avocado Toast and Nutella Stuffed Pancakes. Outdoor seating is available, but may fill up quickly. This is also a great spot to catch a sunset if you prefer to head there for dinner. Reservations are available for dinner hours. Visit www.oystercatchersrestaurant.com.
17. Experience the serenity of Bok Tower. Centrally located between Tampa and Orlando among rolling hills (yes, hills) of citrus, Bok Tower is a must see! The grounds span nearly 50 acres, including gorgeous themed gardens, a 20-room Mediterranean-style mansion and the 205-foot art deco and neo-Gothic Singing Tower carillon. The tower sits atop a hill, one of the highest elevations in Florida, offering lovely views of the citrus grove below. Spread out and enjoy a picnic lunch while enjoying Singing Tower carillon concerts at 1 and 3 p.m. daily. Visit boktowergardens.org.
18. Get an adrenaline rush on a zipline. Located in Bradenton, TreeUmph! spans the distance of 10 football fields and houses five progressive zipline courses. There is also a dedicated course for the kids if you’re bringing the whole family along. All courses have a variety of different elements including suspension bridges, nets, barrels and seesaws. Whether you prefer a leisurely experience or an intense workout 60 feet in the air, there is something for everyone. Visit treeumph.com.
From a delicious brunch with a view to an action-packed zipline excursion, we are fortunate to have so many outdoor options from which to choose during our mild Florida winters. Whatever option you choose, we hope all of our readers enjoy spending time with their loved ones this Valentine’s Day.
By Karen Ring