m + u

Happy Valentine’s Day, Polk County! Amidst the wining and dining, roses and cards, and those gross little candy hearts wouldn’t you like to give the gift of an experience this month to your significant other, new fling, or as a treat to yourself? In honor of this lovely holiday, we’ve compiled a list of 50 date ideas in Polk County. From the City of Swans to The Chain of Lakes there’s plenty to do whether you’re outdoorsy, creative, a sports fanatic, artsy, or anything in between. Some are perfect for making an impression on a first date and others are ideal for the couple who have been married for forty years – try one or try them all. Now go have fun, you crazy kids! 


1.go skydiving


Is there anything more romantic than jumping out of an airplane thousands of feet in the sky? Florida Skydiving Center in Lake Wales offers jumps for newbies and experienced jumpers. Adrenaline junkies can make their first tandem jump from 11,000 feet all the way up to 18,000 feet. Florida Skydiving Center even has a team of videographers so that you love birds can commemorate the occasion. 


2.shop a local record store


The kind of music a person likes can tell you a lot about them. Browse the aisles of a record store like Jesse Carl Vinyl or The Wax & The Needle in Lakeland, or Carlton Music or the selection at Central Avenue Antiques in Winter Haven. You may find some common favorites or introduce each other to new jams! 


3.fall in puppy love


Have a love for animals? Florida SPCA in Lakeland offers a weekly rent-a-dog program where you can sign up to take an adoptable pup on a doggy date. Who doesn’t love hanging out with dogs? (Psychopaths, that’s who.) You may fall in love with a new four-legged friend or you might just find them a new home while you’re out and about. Pro Tip: On your dog date, you can go to Benson’s Canine Cookies for a free dog treat!


4.go to a u-pick farm


Come together to hand pick tasty, fresh fruits and veggies at one of the too many to name u-pick farms in the county. Pick blueberries at C&W Farms of Central Florida or Crown Jewel Farms to try your hand at making homemade blueberry wine or whip up a farm-to-table cobbler together. 


5.moonlight market at grove roots 


Beer, local vendors, and food trucks, need I say more? An eclectic mix of local makers fills Grove Roots on the fourth Wednesday of every month from 6 - 9 pm to display their wares. There are plenty of unique finds from colorfully worded embroidery courtesy of Pin & Needle, vegan treats from Victor & Mika’s Bakery, rustic-industrial functional art pieces from Crows Nest Artisanal Wares, Illustrations by Bump Galletta, to fun dog collars, clothing, jams and jellies, catnip toy sushi, and more. Enjoy the brewery’s selection of tasty craft beers and grab dinner at that night’s food truck.


6.catch a show at polk theatre 


Surely that iconic flashing sign on Florida Avenue has caught your eye once or twice. Take a step back into old-Hollywood at this Lakeland landmark. One of the few remaining movie palaces left in the country, the theatre holds a live season of concerts and performances and movie buffs can catch classic and independent films there too. 


7.have a “staycation” at the terrace hotel 


Considered to be Lakeland’s first “grand” hotel, the historic 10-story Terrace Hotel is just the place for a romantic weekend retreat. Built in 1924, this glamorous hotel overlooking Lake Mirror has hosted famous guests including Frank Lloyd Wright, Henry Ford, and Frank Sinatra. After a dinner for two at The Terrace Grill, take a stroll around the lake or explore downtown Lakeland. 


8.take sally del castillo’s taco tour 


In our May 2018 issue, Sally chronicled her tour of some of the county’s best taco trucks. By following her tour, you’ll find some new favorite lunch spots and get a few taco pro tips along the way. After a little Googling or if you ask Sally nicely @winnerhaven on Instagram, maybe you’ll find out the real name of  “The Golden Plaza” mentioned in the story. If you can’t bond with someone over tacos, maybe that person is nacho soulmate and you should taco ‘bout seeing other people. 


9.take a class at art centric studio 


Tap into your creativity at an Art Centric adult evening class. The studio offers classes in brush-painted canvas, mixed media on canvas, flow painting on canvas, watercolor painting, and string art. Check out their website to see different options and classes! 


10.take a hike at circle b bar reserve


Take in the fresh Florida air during a walk through Circle B. You’re sure to spot a variety of plant and animal species and might catch a glimpse of a gator or two at Lake Hancock (maybe even a gigantic one, like the one that made the news). 


11.ride the trails at bone valley atv park 


Load up your his and hers ATV’s and take to the 15 trails twisting and winding through this sprawling 200 acre ATV park. 


12.have a picnic at bok tower gardens 


There might not be a more idyllic place in the county or time of year to put down a blanket and enjoy a meal amongst the blooming flowers and foliage. Sign up for a Spring Bloom Walking Festival Tour while you’re there!


13.park it for a movie at silver moon drive-in theatre 


Movies are great for date night, but movies at a  drive-in are even better! Grab a coke and some popcorn at the snack bar before settling in for a flick at this Lakeland cinema staple. I always think of the drive-in scene in Grease, “Sandy, you just can’t walk out of a drive-in!” 


14.snag tickets to the iso 


A cultural gem in Polk County, the Imperial Symphony Orchestra has been doing live orchestra performances for over 50 years. Support the local arts and get a one of a kind musical experience at one of their upcoming concerts.


15.catch a case of the giggles at swan city improv 


Lakeland’s premier troupe of talented improv players offer snort-inducing hilarity on the first Friday of every month at LKLD Live. Come for the 7:30 show, Top Swan where performers compete for applause and stay for the 9 pm Swan City Cinema in which audience suggestion and clever improvisation bring three movies to life on stage!


16.stop and smell the roses at hollis garden 


Over 10,000 flowers, ornamental shrubs, and native trees adorn Hollis Garden, a 1.2-acre botanical display garden within historic Lake Mirror in Lakeland. Take a stroll through the flowers, fountains, and neoclassical architecture on a clear Spring afternoon. 


17.attend an lkld creative makers meeting 


Mix and mingle with the creative community at one of LKLD Creative Makers monthly meetings. On the first Monday of the month, this bunch of artisans, makers, creators, and all around cool people meet to collab, network and listen to a featured speaker. 


18.slow roll & ski show


Bring your bikes to The Bike Shop of Winter Haven on the third Saturday of every month to begin this “slow roll” through downtown Winter Haven with other cyclists. The group takes a relaxing paced ride through town, stops in at Lake Silver to watch the Cypress Gardens Water Ski Team Show, and finishes with a cold one, or two at Grove Roots Brewing Co. 


19.paddle out at sunset


The pinks and oranges reflecting off The Chain of Lakes as the sun descends below the horizon are breathtaking. What better place to watch the sunset than on a paddleboard out on the lake? Paddleboard Winter Haven’s “The Sunset Tour” is a pure magic guided tour through the lakes and canals of Lake Shipp, Lake Roy and Lake Eloise.


20.have dinner under the stars 


There is an abundance of fantastic restaurants around the county to wine and dine your valentine, but some elevate the experience with a special outdoor space. The string lights above Nutwood’s charming outdoor dining area and the eclectic creative space at The Poor Porker are a few of our favorites! 


21.walk the lakeland downtown farmers curb market 


Every Saturday from 8 am to 2 pm local growers with their fresh produce, artisans with handcrafted wares, makers, bakers, and everything in between set up shop along Kentucky Avenue in downtown Lakeland. Quite a few local entrepreneurs have gotten their start at the market. So, grab some unique items, fresh veggies, and support local. 


22.buy some sweets for your sweet 


A sweet gesture would be stopping by Webb’s Candy Shop for their goat’s milk fudge, citrus candies, or gourmet chocolates. Davidson’s of Dundee will also satiate your sweet tooth with their assortment of citrus delicacies, chocolate, jellies, marmalades, and jams. You can even watch them make the candy!


23.take a trip to the barn antiques 


Find something old or something new at The Barn Antiques in Lake Alfred. The Barn opened in 1969 and is open seasonally from October through May. The Stable Gifts & Crafts, The Back Yard Garden Shop, and The Back Porch Tearoom are open year-round. Shop until you drop and then have lunch at The Back Porch.


24.ride the van fleet trail


Take your bikes down this 29.2 mile, 8-foot wide path. The General James A. Van Fleet State Trail will introduce you to a medley of landscapes to take in from pine flatwoods, cattle ranches, former citrus lands, swamps, and bottomland forest. 


25.see a theatre show  


Near...far...wherever you aaaaarrrrrreeeeee, buy tickets to the opening of Titanic The Musical on V-Day at award-winning Theatre Winter Haven. A must-see this month on the Lakeland Community Theatre mainstage is Annie Get Your Gun, Irving Berlin’s musical about Annie Oakley. 


26.check out the polk museum of art 


An affordable way to admire the arts, Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College offers free admission. A few exhibitions currently on view are Edgar Degas: The Private Impressionist, The Art of Will Barnet: Selections from the Permanent Collection, and ending later this month, Art of the Ancient Americas. 


27.take a yoga class 


Let’s get physical! Physical!... and mental and spiritual with a yoga class. Check out The Balance Culture or Yoga Pointe in Lakeland, or Inside Out Yoga in Winter Haven. 


28.take me out to the ballgame 


February marks the start of Spring Training for the Detroit Tigers. Catch a game at Joker Marchant Stadium this spring. 


29.fore! play a round of golf


Though I’m more of a putt-putt girl myself, Polk County has its fair share of beautiful golf courses. Enjoy a bit of luxury at Streamsong Golf Resort, practice your drive at Dundee Road Golf Range, or play a few holes at Cypresswood Golf Course and Country Club or the Cleveland Heights Golf Course. 


30.go thrifting!


You never know what gold you might find browsing the offerings of a thrift store – a great outfit, your new favorite book, a funky coffee table, or a kitschy knick-knack. Stop in a local Goodwill, Salvation Army, Habitat ReStore or check out Saint Matthews Thrift Shop, St. John’s Thrift Store for Missions in Winter Haven, Top Buttons or Peace River Center Thrift Shoppe in Lakeland. 


31.cheer on the talent at open mic night 


Every Tuesday from 6-9pm local musicians and performers bring their talents to a live audience at Swan Brewing. Grab a glass of The Bean or Straight Outta Lakeland and enjoy some live entertainment!


32.take a glamping trip at westgate river ranch 


With an oh-so-cute site of glamping tents and a village of luxury teepees at Westgate River Ranch, you and yours can camp or “glamp” rather, in comfort and style. Become one with nature and all that, but do it in air conditioning, with a mini fridge and a personal concierge.


33.have a coffee date


Get to know each other over a toasty drink on a chilly February morning. Black & Brew, Concord Coffee, Hillcrest Coffee, and Mitchell’s Coffee House are a few of our Lakeland faves. In Winter Haven, you can’t beat Richard’s Fine Coffees or a cup of Ethos Coffee at N + 1 at The Bike Shop of Winter Haven. 


34.attend a lakeland magic game or a florida tropics game 


The 2018-19 season is in full swing. Snag some tickets for you and a date to one of their upcoming games at the RP Funding Center.


35.take a cooking class  


Attend a hands-on or demonstration cooking class in Lakeland at Publix Aprons Cooking School. You can sign up online by viewing their calendar which details each available class. Learn sous vide, sushi 101, culinary basics, or attend their Wine and Dine Your Valentine class if it isn’t already full! 


36.have a glass or two 


Try a glass of True Blue Winery’s award-winning blueberry wine and some of their made from scratch cuisine. Buy a few bottles to go and check the calendar to see when you can come for a day of blueberry picking in their orchard! Scour the vast wine menu at Grape Expectations and see what events they have coming up. Check out Yappy Hour on the first Tuesday of the month for you and your pup.


37.explore an orange grove  


Ridge Island Groves offers grove tours at their Haines City location. Breath in the sweet citrus perfume of a blooming grove and pick an orange right from the tree.


38.check out what’s going on at the lwac 


There’s always an interesting exhibit on display in the Michael Crews Gallery at the Lake Wales Arts Center. If you make it before Feb. 7th, you can catch the N.E.H.S. Pop! exhibit which celebrates the pop-culture focussed art of Orlando-based artist N.E.H.S. Or, if music is more up your alley, check out their website for a schedule of this season’s concert series. 


39.everybody dance now! 


This could be such a fun (potentially embarrassing) way to make a first impression. Sign up for a couples classes at Just Dance Academy of Dance and Etiquette in Lakeland or try out the adult Tap, Jazz, and Ballet classes offered by The Ballet Conservatory Dance Centre in Winter Haven.


40.ride the chain to see the legoland pirate ski show 


Put your boat in the water and ride through The Chain on a lazy Saturday. Stop on Lake Eloise to watch the daily Legoland Pirate Ski Show and finish with a dazzling lake sunset. The Living Water Cruises has one and two-hour tours to watch the ski show too!


41.kids at heart


Goof off for a day! Beat your date in a game of air hockey or ski ball at the Lakeland Family Fun Center arcade and then head outside for a game of putt-putt. Continue the fun with paintball and laser tag at Action Paintball in Winter Haven. 


42.take your date to new heights 


If you and your Valentine share a love of flight, plan a visit to Aerospace Discovery at the Florida Air Museum to admire their vast selection of aircraft from across the eras, exhibits, and flight simulators. Or take a weekend trip to the world’s largest private collection of vintage aircraft at Fantasy of Flight. While you’re there, book a ride on a real biplane! 


43.make sweet music together 


Sign up for a music lesson. Carlton Music Center offers lessons and has locations in Winter Haven and Lakeland. Check out the selection of music and vocal classes at Lakeland School of Music and start jamming out man. 


44.take an airboat tour 


Head on down to Lake Wales to strap in for a nature, alligator, or birding tour with Alligator Cove Airboat Nature Tours. Bring your camera along for some prime photo ops on similar tours with Captain Fred’s Airboat Nature Tours in Lake Hamilton.




See what volunteer opportunities are available at any of the number of local nonprofits and charities. Have a good time while helping out someone in need. It doesn’t matter if you are passionate about helping animals, homeless folks, the food insecure, those struggling with health issues, or the elderly, there is an organization in Polk County dedicated to that. The Humane Society, SPCA Florida, VISTE, American Cancer Society, ElderPoint Ministries, Gospel Inc., Talbot House Ministries, and Women’s Resource Center are only some of the fantastic organizations that you and a significant other could dedicate time to help. 


46.join a book club 


Many of the county’s public libraries have book clubs you can attend. Books Sandwiched In is a book club at Lakeland Public Library held on the first Tuesday of the month. Winter Haven Public Library has Morning Book Club on the 2nd Wednesday of every month and Tuesday Book Club on the third Tuesday of the month. Reading the same book will give you something to talk about and might turn your novella into an ongoing love story.


47.take a self-guided architecture tour 


Frank Lloyd Wright and Gene Leedy both left a fingerprint on Polk County with their interesting and influential architecture. 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. 


48.silly shopping trip 


Set a gift budget for one another. Then, get creative and come up with a funny rule for the gift. For example, it must be yellow, or spin, or fit in the palm of your hand. Separate and take to the streets of downtown (because shopping local is the only way to go, of course),  and meet up to see what hilarious or thoughtful gift your partner has come up with. 


49.catch a show at the derry down


The Derry Down Project began in June 20, 2014, a Main Street Winter Haven, Inc. initiative to restore a teen club/music venue opened for Gram Parsons December 20, 1964.  The two-and-a-half-year restoration project was a community labor of love. Gram Parsons was born in Winter Haven and is widely recognized for founding the country rock and alt-country genres. He is also known as the father of “Cosmic American Music” – a hybrid genre of country, rhythm and blues, soul, folk and rock.  Jim Stafford, Elizabeth Cook, John McEuen, and the Band of Heathens have all played there recently.  Buy tickets early, this small venue sells out quickly.


50.pamper yourself


Treat yourself to a spa day!  Get a facial to refresh your winter skin, melt away your troubles with a massage, and top it off with a mani-pedi. Take a friend or go it alone, you deserve it.

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