Hi there, love birds. Valentine’s Day is upon us, bringing with it the pressure to find a swoon-worthy date idea. Flip through the pages that follow for 50 dates to sweep your partner off their feet. Some are fun and adventurous, others are relaxing or romantic – there’s a little something for everyone. If you don’t have a Valentine this year, no worries! Take advantage of these outings for a little ‘me time.’ Hold onto this issue long after those tiny candy hearts leave store shelves for neat activities to try year-round. We can’t wait to hear about your adventures. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Silver Moon Drive-In has been an under-the-stars silver screen date night destination for over seventy years. Grab a Coke, candy, and some popcorn and settle in the front seat for your flick. I write it every time I mention Silver Moon, and you can’t stop me now… “Sandy, you just can’t walk out of a drive-in!”
For a date idea that’s sure to make a splash, take a paddleboard adventure on The Chain of Lakes! Paddleboard Winter Haven has certified instructors to get you comfortable on the water, no matter your skill level. They offer beginner tours, private paddleboard parties, corporate “board” meetings, yoga on the water, and Paddlefit workouts.
SLOW ROLL & SKI SHOW
Bring your babe or your buds to The Bike Shop of Winter Haven for the quarterly Slow Roll & Ski Show. This “slow roll” begins at The Bike Shop and rolls through downtown Winter Haven with other cyclists. The group takes a go-with-the-flow pace through town, stopping at Lake Silver to watch the Cypress Gardens Water Ski Team. They finish with a peddle over to Grove Roots Brewing Co. for a fresh pint.
There is always something cool going on around the community. You’ll have a good time sipping and socializing your way through First Friday in Lakeland and the many Main Street and Chamber of Commerce events in each city. Enjoy crave-worthy food and drinks, and shop for gifts by a curated lineup of local makers at the Grove Roots Moonlight Market, Lake Wales Third Thursday Market, The Punk Rock Flea, Bandit Market, or Buena Market. Check out their social media pages for information on the time and place of the next event so you can mark your calendar!
BOK TOWER GARDENS
Explore the blooming flowers and foliage at Bok Tower Gardens. Pack a picnic or grab lunch at the Blue Palmetto Cafe. Visit their website to plan your visit and learn more about Bok Tower, the surrounding gardens, Pinewood Estate, Hammock Hollow, and the natural trails. They even offer itinerary ideas depending on how much time you plan to spend in the gardens. March marks the beginning of Bok Tower Gardens co-production with the Lake Wales Arts Council with a series called Concerts Under the Stars. Four concerts will take place on the Oval Lawn adjacent to the Visitor Center. Attend one or purchase a series pass. Don’t forget to visit the gift shop for a memento before you leave!
Lakeland’s Polk Theatre is ‘Where historic meets cutting edge.’ Visit their website for a list of events, including Virtual Cinema. Later this month, catch the immersive, multi-media laser and light show featuring the Original Master Recordings of Pink Floyd, Pink Floyd Laser Spectacular.
AN AX-CITING DATE
Want to look sharp for your partner? Take them for ales and ax-throwing at AX-Caliber Axe Venue & Coffee House in Lakeland. AX-Caliber is Polk County’s first ax venue and coffee house, boasting food, beer & wine, locally-roasted Caliber Coffee, 14 lanes for ax throwing, pool tables, games, and big-screen TVs. Connect over coffee and give boring dates the ax!
An affordable way to admire the arts, Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College offers free admission to its many rich and engaging exhibitions. After you’ve taken in the sights, snap a picture to commemorate your date in front of the Polk Museum of Art’s Living Wall in the outdoor sculpture courtyard. If you really want to flex and support the arts, purchase a membership to the museum.
Stop and smell the roses (and many other flowers) at Hollis Garden, located in the historic Lake Mirror Park. This Lakeland landmark is a 1.2-acre formal botanical garden with over 10,000 flowers, ornamental shrubs, and native trees. A stroll through the garden’s Neoclassical architecture, public art, fountains, and patterned flower beds is sure to provide a dreamy backdrop for your date. Pack a picnic!
Well, hopefully not so much record-breaking as record-collecting. Flip through the vinyls together at Jesse Carl Vinyl or The Wax & The Needle. You can learn a lot about someone by their taste (or lack thereof) in music. Who knows, maybe you’ll make sweet music together.
PLAYING THE FIELD
February marks the start of 2022 Spring Training for the Detroit Tigers. Catch the Tigers play the Nationals, Braves, Pirates, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Phillies, Rays, Yankees, Orioles, and Twins. Purchase tickets in advance, packages available. All games played at the Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland.
Polk County is home to some unBEERlievable craft breweries and taprooms. Drink in the comfy community feel at Grove Roots Brewing Co., take in the lake views and live music at Swan Brewing, the industrial vibe at The Florida Brewery’s Beer Garden, the newspaper turned tasting room at Front Page Brewing Co. in Bartow, and Lakeland’s newest addition of ‘outspoken ales,’ Dissent Craft Brewing. If you’re on your date thinking, “I’d tap that,” check out what’s on tap at Craft + Kitchen and Brew Hub. Most of these establishments regularly host food trucks, have food offerings, or are within walking distance of some tasty dining destinations. Whatever you do, don’t drink and drive because that is NOT sexy.
Here’s an active date that you’ll enjoy berry much. U-pick farms abound in this agricultural area of the state. Whitehead’s Blueberry Farm is a fan-fave, voted Best U-Pick Farm in the 2021 Best of Haven Awards. The blueberry season typically runs from the first Wednesday of April through mid-May. The family farm has over 30,000 blueberry plants across 15 acres. Winning the same category in the 2021 Best of LKLD Awards is Shady Oak Farm, with their 26,000 blueberry plants from which to pick. The family-owned and operated farm, in business for over 16 years, boasts five varieties of blueberries. Don’t skip out on a trip to Ridge Island Groves and Lonesome Oak Blueberry Farms too!
LUV U A LATTE
Meet up for a cup of coffee at one of our many locally-owned coffee houses around the county. Black & Brew, Concord Coffee, Hillcrest Coffee, and Mitchell’s Coffee House are a few of our Lakeland favorites. A few east-side cafes that your date is sure to like a latte are Richard’s Fine Coffees, N+1 Coffee, Honeycomb, and Haven Coffee Roasters.
If you’re a pair of adrenaline junkies, load up your ATVs and take to the 15 trails ranging from novice to advanced twisting through this 200-acre tract of land owned and managed by Polk County. The Bone Valley ATV Park offers open play areas, practice areas, a hill climb for dirt bikes, four-wheelers, and side-by-sides. Bone Valley even has restrooms and picnic areas so that you can make a day of it!
A ‘RITZ’Y NIGHT
The historic Ritz Theatre has been Winter Haven’s “Downtown Stage” since 1925. A former silent movie and vaudeville venue, today The Ritz regularly hosts movie nights, Classics & Cocktails (classic films paired with craft cocktails), and a lineup of live shows.
If sports is a shared passion, snag some tickets for you and a date to one of the upcoming Lakeland Magic or Florida Tropics SC games at the RP Funding Center. The 2021-22 season is heating up! This month at the RP Funding Center the Lakeland Magic take on the Motor City Cruise, Wisconsin Herd, Greensboro Swarm, and Fort Wayne Mad Ants. On March 13 the Florida Tropics SC will go head to head with the Tacoma Stars, and they’ll take on the Baltimore Blast March 20. Visit their website for a full season schedule or to purchase tickets.
UNDER THE STARS
Have a moonlit meal at a local restaurant. Each eatery offers something different from a communal vibe and downtown sidewalk dining to a twinkly light-lined courtyard or upscale patio. A few Winter Haven favorites for outdoor dining (according to our 2021 Best of Haven voters) are Tempo 1930 and Nutwood. In Lakeland, make reservations for Patio850 or Red Door Lakeland.
Talk and take in the sights on a bike cruise down the Van Fleet Trail. The General James A. Van Fleet State Trail is a 29.2 mile, 8-foot wide path that will take you through pine flatwoods, cattle ranches, former citrus lands, swamps, and bottomland forest. A few more trails to hit include Circle B Bar Reserve and the TECO Auburndale Trail. Bonnet Springs Park is slated to open later this year, offering even more outdoor date options.
Be a kid again! Skate World in Lakeland offers all the neon, music, pizza, and roller skating good times you could ask for. For a chillier pastime, go for a public skate at the Lakeland Ice Arena. P.S. Falling on your butt is embarrassing, inevitable, and great for date sympathy points. If you have your own skates, try out one of the paved lake trails like Lake Hollingsworth in Lakeland or Lake Howard in Winter Haven (there’s even a skate park off Lake Silver if you’re feeling brave).
For a nostalgic sugar rush of citrus candies, jellies, jams, and marmalades, visit Davidson of Dundee, where you can watch them make the candy! Webb’s Candy Shop in Davenport is renowned for its citrus candy and goat’s milk fudge. Our favorite cosmic candy store is Confection in downtown Winter Haven – complete with a giant robot, imported candies, and craft chocolates. Rocket Fizz in Lakeland has an out-of-this-world sweets selection too.
MS. TO YOUR PAC-MAN
It’s all fun and games until someone beats you at air hockey. Have a few drinks and some friendly competition at Lakeland barcades Rec Room and Galaxy Bar. Playing Kung Fu Master is just better with a few Ferris Mule-er’s in you. Galaxy Bar is an 80’s & 90’s retro arcade bar with classic games and retro-themed cocktails. Rec Room also offers a mix of old, new, and activity games made better with adult beverages.
WHAT A POSER
To say this is a fun date idea isn’t a stretch. Strike a pose at Inside Out Yoga in Winter Haven or try some cat-cow action at The Balance Culture or Yoga Pointe in Lakeland. There are quite a few yoga studios around, so your options are flexible.
If you’re a pet owner, have a doggy date with your Valentine. Many local restaurants have outdoor areas where they allow pets. Or, you could go for a walk or to a dog park. Animals can sense evil, so you’ll know if you have a keeper or not. I’m only partially kidding.
THRIFT YOUR HEART OUT
Make a day of thrifting with your Valentine. Pick out a gift for each other or enjoy your time perusing the second-hand selection at a local thrift store. You never know what funky, fun, or functional items you’ll find! Stop in a local Goodwill, Salvation Army, or Habitat ReStore for some treasures. Also, check out Saint Matthews Thrift Shop, St. John’s Thrift Store for Missions in Winter Haven, Peace River Center Thrift Shoppe in Lakeland, and Top Buttons in Winter Haven, Lakeland, and Bartow.
Cheer on musicians who regularly perform at local coffee shops, breweries, bars, restaurants, and event venues (I’m looking at you, Dan Pepin). The Derry Down in Winter Haven and Union Hall in Lakeland host a lineup of talent from around the country and gifted local musicians.
TAKE A CHILL PILL
Relax and unwind with a couples massage (you don’t just deserve it, you knead it), skincare treatments, or mani-pedis. Voters in the 2021 Best of Haven awards raved about Spa Haven. This respite offers nail, facial, and skincare services for men and women. Bella Visage Medical & Aesthetic Rejuvenation took the top spa spot in the 2021 Best of LKLD awards. This Swan City spa offers services from health and wellness, body contouring, medical rejuvenation, and laser tattoo removal, to laser hair removal, feminine health, aesthetician services, and massage therapy.
GIVE ME BUTTERFLIES
The Auburndale Rotary Butterfly Garden features over 30 different types of Florida-Friendly plants (native and non-native). According to their website, “The plant selection has been designed to attract a wide range of Central Florida butterfly species to feed on the nectar of our flowering plants. There are also several species of flora that serve as host plants to particular butterflies. For example, Milkweed is the exclusive breeding ground for the popular Monarch Butterfly. Similarly, the Florida State Butterfly, the Zebra Longwing, uses Passion Flower to lay its eggs.”
MARKET MEET CUTE
The Winter Haven Farmers Market takes place every Saturday from 8 am to 11 am June through August, and 9 am to 1 pm September through May, rain or shine in the BB&T Bank lot across from Grove Roots. Bring the pups and make it a double date! This market has live music, unique, high-quality ‘ready to eat’ food, local farmers and producers, and tables to eat at and socialize. On the other side of the county check out the Lakeland Downtown Farmers Curb Market open 11 months out of the year and closed in August. The LDFCM hosts local artisans and growers, offering fresh produce, plants, and locally made handcrafted items.
HEAD IN THE CLOUDS
You know that ticklish butterflies-in-your-stomach feeling you get when you’re around someone you like? Skydiving is kind of like that but with an element of danger and a weight limit. Jump Florida Skydiving in Lake Wales offers jumps for newbies and experienced skydivers. Adrenaline junkies can make their first tandem jump from 11,000 feet up to 18,000 feet. Jump Florida Skydiving can even capture your dive on video and photos as you fall head over heels at 120 miles per hour.
Though we love all things local, it’s fun to get away from time to time. Polk County is central to some of the best vacation spots in the world. Rent a beach house for the weekend and work on your tan. Take a ghost or history tour in St. Augustine. Kayak through a natural spring in North Florida or pitch a tent for some primitive camping in the Everglades. Refer back to our “Florida’s Wacky, Strange, and Curious” list from August 2021 for some weirder trip ideas or “The Great One Tank Trip” from July 2020 for destinations you can get to on a tank of gas. Both of these articles can be found by searching them by name on our website, havenmagazines.com.
A SOLID FONDATION
What better way to build your love than with an architecture tour? Take the Leedy Lifetime Works tour, a self-guided tour best done by car, to admire Leedy’s work from downtown Winter Haven into the neighboring residential areas. Pick up a self-guided tour map from the Tourism and Education Center at Florida Southern College and wander amongst the marks that Frank Lloyd Wright left on the college.
ORANGE YOU GLAD
Ridge Island Groves, a family-owned and operated business, offers grove tours at their Haines City location. Breathe in the sweet citrus perfume of a blooming grove and pick an orange right from the tree. Take the experience home with some of Ridge Island Groves’ marmalades, honey, jelly, and freshly squeezed orange, tangerine, and grapefruit juices.
Clink your glasses and connect over cocktails at a local craft cocktail bar. Revival is a personal favorite with a private study/ speakeasy vibe and excellent cocktails to match. One of Revival’s tiki drinks, spritzes, classics, seasonal offerings, or old fashioned selection are sure to leave you in good ‘spirits.’ The Social Cocktail Lounge in Winter Haven shares a similar speakeasy, piano bar vibe, boasting classic and craft cocktails. Cheers dears!
A NEW CHAPTER
For a page-turning date, go book shopping! Many local thrift and vintage stores have a section for used books. You’ll also want to book it over to Friends of the Winter Haven Public Library, Inklings Book Shoppe, The Unbound Bookery, Bookends, The Book Shelter, and Pressed Books & Coffee. Be sure to follow Little Bus Books (@littlebusbooks) on Facebook to see where this mobile book shop will be parked next. If you’re a pair of comic book nerds, have no fear! You won’t have any ‘issues’ finding what you’re looking for at Coliseum of Comics Lakeland, Main Street Comics & Memorabilia in Bartow, Intergalactic Plastic, Doombrowski Games & Comics, or Johnny B’s Cards, Comics & Sports.
Try out the options at Lakeland’s modern food hall, The Joinery. Bite into a sushi burrito from Ato, a Neapolitan wood-fired pizza from Ava, or a Mediterranean-inspired bowl from Plenty. We know you’ll be raving about the ramen and Japanese street snacks from Sabu and the killer burgers from Super Duper Spot. Cheers with a craft beer or cocktail from The Bar. Collect your goodies and have a seat on the front patio overlooking Lake Mirror. Don’t forget to pick up a ‘funky, fresh bloom’ from Bloom Shakalaka on the way out!
See what volunteer opportunities are available at a local nonprofit or charity. Have a good time while helping out someone in need. Whether you’re passionate about helping animals, homeless folks, the food insecure, those struggling with mental or physical health, or the elderly – there is an organization in Polk County dedicated to that. The Humane Society, SPCA Florida, VISTE, American Cancer Society, kidsPACK, Heart for Winter Haven, Gospel Inc., Talbot House Ministries, and Women’s Resource Center are only a few of the fantastic organizations you and a loved one could dedicate time to.
Stunning murals, sculptures, fountains, and gardens abound in our community. Create a map with all the public pieces you’d like to see and set off for a day of art appreciation. A few ideas to start your list are Hollis Gardens, downtown Winter Haven, public art in Munn Park, the Lemon Street Promenade, S Florida Ave businesses in Dixieland, and the Gillian Fazio mural in Lake Wales (or her many other murals around the county).
If you’re looking for a fun, low-pressure date, putt around one of Polk County’s beautiful golf courses. Enjoy a bit of luxury at Streamsong Golf Resort, practice your drive at Dundee Road Golf Range, play a few holes (or fore) at Cypresswood Golf and Country Club or the Cleveland Heights Golf Course. Loser buys dinner!
If you share a passion for oddities, plan a trip to the Wonder House in Bartow. Though it is a private residence, the Wonder House is open for historical tours on a limited basis. The house’s magic comes from its builder, eccentric inventor Conrad Schuck, who built it without blueprints and sprinkled in many of his inventions (like air conditioning in the 1920s). The four-story house has two stories underground with other notable features like a moat with two bridges and a vast concrete pergola on the third floor. Inquire about historical tours to learn more about the Wonder House’s intriguing history and features.
FOOD IS LOVE
Attend a hands-on cooking class or Wine & Dine Demonstration at Publix Aprons Cooking School. They offer an entire series of classes dedicated to Couples Cooking. This month you and your sweetheart could learn French cuisine or get tips for a ‘Romantic Night In.’ Check out their website for a calendar of classes!
GET YOUR FEET WET
Rent a pontoon boat, jetski, or CraigCat at Winter Haven WaterSports and get access to the entire Chain of Lakes as your personal waterpark! Elite Cable Park in Auburndale also offers a wet and wild experience with its full-sized cable system. Elite is equipped for all skill levels to have a splashy time wakeboarding, waterskiing, wakeskating, or kneeboarding.
This is the perfect excuse to dress up and try on a British accent. Have a spot of tea and a tray of dainty treats at Amazing Grace Tea House, Lavender n' Lace Tearoom and Restaurant, or Sweet Magnolias Tea Bistro.
A BRUNCH BUZZ
Take your date (or yourself) for brunch and mimosas. How about a chorizo tostada and lemon ricotta pancakes from Nutwood? Cob & Pen has killer brunch options as well with dishes like shrimp and grits, jumbo french toast, and a BYO (build your own) Bloody Mary. Get to know one another while getting a little day drunk.
HAVE A LAKE DAY
Boat, swim, fish, take a seaplane ride, enjoy a water ski show – take advantage of the hundreds of freshwater lakes dotting the county. Take a leisurely walk around the 3-mile Lake Hollingsworth Trail or visit the swans at Lake Mirror. The Lake Howard Boat Dock is an ideal location to watch the sunset – or you could watch it set over Lake Shipp from your table at Harborside sharing a few beachy cocktails with dinner.
LAUGH A LITTLE
Catch a case of the giggles at Swan City Improv or Laugh Out Lounge. But be careful – it’s contagious! Laugh Out Lounge in Winter Haven hosts open mic nights, improv and specialty acts, and nationally touring comedians. You can get extra silly with a show or a class with Lakeland’s Swan City Improv. They perform all over Polk County.
TAKE A HIKE, BABE
Get some exercise while taking in the Florida sun and fresh air at Circle B Bar Reserve. A popular place for nature and wildlife photographers, Circle B has an array of plant and animal life to admire on your trek through this 1,267-acre reserve. Watch out for gators!
Set a gift budget along with a creative or funny rule. For example, it must be yellow, spin, or fit in the palm of your hand. Separate and take to the streets downtown (because shopping local is the only way to go, of course), and meet up to see what silly or thoughtful gift your partner came up with.
BE A TOURIST
Visit LEGOLAND, Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, or one of Central Florida’s water parks. The theme park capital of the world is right in our backyard, after all. Ride some roller coasters, eat some turkey legs, drive slow in the fast lane, wear a fanny pack, and apply a visible sheen of sunscreen – it’ll be a good time!
TAKE A PIC
Give your date a peck, put on your best duck lips, or smile for the camera to remember all the fun you had. Post it on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #kindachill or #lkldhaven and tell us which one of these dates you tried out. You might end up in the next issue of Haven or LKLD Magazine. Happy Valentine’s Day!