As Valentine’s Day nears (or looms, depending on your relationship status), the pressure is on to plan the perfect romantic night out. Whether you are an established couple, stuck in a dinner-and-a-movie rut, or a single guy struggling to plan a memorable first date, there are many local opportunities to spice up your next date night.
Try one of these suggestions for the most romantic date spots in North Florida. If you are looking to splurge for a special occasion, check out our five-star suggestions. On a budget? Try one or two stars for a romantic (but cheap) date.
River Cruise – $$$
The First Coast is surrounded by water, so enjoy this beautiful region on a river cruise. Amelia River Cruises offers romantic sunset cruises that leave from the Fernandina Harbor Marina. Sunset cruises are “no-kids-allowed,” and it’s BYOB. Bring a picnic basket with snacks, cups, a bottle of wine and your camera. Cruise across the Georgia-Florida state line and perhaps even spot wild horses on the shore as you near Cumberland Island. As the sun sets, the boat returns to Amelia Island and the music enhances the party-like atmosphere as the moon rises and the lights of Fernandina Beach and Center Street twinkle in the distance. For a schedule and more information, visit www.ameliarivercruises.com.
Carriage Ride – $$$$
Take a stroll down the bayfront in Saint Augustine and you’ll see carriages lined up, waiting to sweep you away down historic, cobblestone streets. Prices vary depending on the length of the tour as well as the privacy level. Since you are aiming for romance, you want to make certain that you won’t be taking a ride with loud tourists or toddlers. You can reserve a private ride for $80-$100. Some companies offer extra touches like flowers waiting for you in the carriage if you make advanced arrangements. Communicate with your tour company about whether you desire an informative or entertaining tour versus a quiet, romantic ride. As an added romantic touch on chilly nights (by Florida standards), your carriage will have a blanket to snuggle under. St. Augustine Horse and Carriage and Southern Buggy (www.staugustinehorseandcarriage.com, www.southernbuggy.com) are two of the providers. Historic Centre Street on Amelia Island is another perfect place to take a carriage ride. Contact Amelia Island Carriages (904-556-2662) or Olde Town Carriage (904-277-1555).
Artful Date – $
Local museums offer extended hours on select evenings, providing a perfect opportunity for an artful date night. The Cummer Museum in Riverside is open until 9 p.m. each Tuesday night and admission is free after 4 p.m. The museum houses a permanent collection of over 5,000 pieces, as well as traveling exhibits from around the world. The gardens behind the museum feature a beautiful view of the river as well as many romantic nooks.
If modern art is more your speed, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is open until 8 p.m. on Thursday nights. Evenings at the MOCA often feature special film presentations or lectures. Café NOLA is open for dinner, and features upscale dining in a unique setting.
Wine and Jazz – $$
Atop one of the few tall buildings in St. Augustine, you will find The Cellar Upstairs. This wine, jazz and blues bar tops off the San Sebastián Winery on King Street. You can order light appetizers, San Sebastián wine (of course) as well beer. Live music plays as you watch the sun set over the marsh. The winery opens at 4:30 p.m. on Fridays, and is open for lunch on weekends. Complimentary wine tastings and winery tours are from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. every day and 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Sunday.
Concerts Al Fresco – $
Take advantage of North Florida’s mild weather by enjoying one of the many free outdoor concerts offered throughout the year. Make this date really special by packing a fabulous picnic. Bring a bottle of wine, appetizers and dessert or plan a meal of finger food with disposable plates and silverware. Check before you go, though. At some events coolers and chairs are allowed while at others they are not. Often, food and drinks are available for purchase.
At the beach, the Seawalk Pavillion is the most common venue for events. Check www.jacksonvillebeach.org for a calendar of events. During the summer, one Sunday night of every month well-known jazz musicians perform as part of the Summer Jazz Concert Series. Downtown free concerts are often held at Metropolitan Park, The Jacksonville Landing or Treaty Oak Park. In St. Augustine, free outdoor concerts are held at the Plaza de la Constitución. For an upscale, free event, don’t miss the Jacksonville Symphony’s Memorial Day weekend concert at the Sawgrass Players Club in Ponte Vedra. You will definitely see a lot of very elaborate picnics at this annual event, so be sure to plan an equally impressive spread.
Couples Massage – $$$$$
If you’re going to experience ecstasy, it’s better if you’re not alone. Get a massage with your loved one or learn to give a massage and share the love.
Spa Laterra in St. Augustine is a full-service, 9,000 square-foot destination day spa in the World Golf Village where you can rekindle the romance with a side-by-side, full-body massage. Floating outdoor massage cabanas are available for some services. The couples massage concludes with alone time in a candlelit couples retreat. After your customized massage, they serve you chocolate-covered strawberries to top off this romantic, rejuvenating experience. The couples massage starts at $150 for 30 minutes. See www.spalaterra.com to schedule treatments online, or call 904-940-7800.
At Natural Body Spa, a couples massage is an investment in your future, because in addition to receiving a massage, you will learn how to massage each other. Your massage therapist will teach both of you techniques for duplicating at home the healthy benefits of massage in a private room for two. Guests receive complimentary take-home massage oil and instructions and prices start at $160 for 60 minutes.