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How Locals do L-O-V-E in SRQ

We asked couples how they celebrate romance in Sarasota, inspiring some interesting date ideas for you and your loved one

Celebrating love is not exclusive to couples. I know fathers and daughters who celebrate Valentine's Day, as well as mothers and sons, and even best friends. For couples, though, a date or romantic getaway can be a perfect time to celebrate the amazing fact that they found each other! That celebration can be simple or elaborate, depending on budget and creativity — flowers, chocolates, dinner, balloons, heart-shaped cards, jewelry, and more — it’s all part of classic traditions to show LOVE.

In the Sarasota area, we have lots of options when it comes to finding just the right gift or venue. If you’re not yet sure what to do for your sweetie, here are some traditions from a few local lovebirds that might offer inspiration:

Romantic Meal

John and Suzi Seerey-Lester, renowned wildlife artists, recently celebrated their 18-year wedding anniversary. On Valentine’s Day for many of those years, they were exhibiting artwork in Charleston, SC but still took time to celebrate at a special restaurant, where John always gave Suzi chocolates, a red rose and a stuffed animal. When home in Osprey, they keep up that tradition by dining at their favorite romantic restaurant, Ophelia’s on the Bay. After all those years, they’ve collected many bears and bunnies, which they keep in a special spot at home, reminding them of how lucky they are to have found each other. 

Secrets and Sunsets

Chris and Pam Jones like to take a low-key approach to the big day by celebrating in meaningful ways. Pam says one of her favorite things is making cards with thoughtful questions on them - they each pick a card and answer it, revealing a little more about the other. They also like to pack a picnic basket and head to Lido Beach to watch the sunset — a time to not only celebrate being together, but also, the fact that they live in paradise. 

Live Show 

Karen Droz and Dave Webber celebrate with a fun show at one of the local theaters such as Van Wezel, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe or Florida Studio Theater, followed by a special dinner at one of their favorite restaurants, like Shore Diner. Dave, a big-hearted guy, always picks up flowers or a flowering plant for Karen at a place that never disappoints, Beneva Flowers.

Sweet Treats

Paulette and Gordon Callender like to make sweet treats, especially chocolate covered strawberries. Paulette has a great source for her culinary inspiration because she owns The Spice and Tea Exchange on St. Armand’s Circle which offers many tasty pairings for berries. One of her favorites is the decadent PG Fondue (dark, milk or white chocolate) which she dips the berries into, then she sprinkles them with organic sugars in flavors like espresso, habanero or ginger.

Favorite Food

Peter Acker and Pearl DeBrular start the celebration with dinner at a favorite restaurant like Indigenous. I bet Chef Steve Phelps will serve up something delicious on his locally-sourced menu, and I’m pretty sure one of the desserts will include something with butterscotch, Pearl’s favorite. 

Repeat "I Do" with a Beach View

Rachel and Bill Corrigan have celebrated Valentine’s Day for the last few years by attending the Vow Renewal Ceremony at Siesta Key Beach, where they and hundreds of other lovebirds renew their vows on the sand (Rachel even wears her wedding veil and Bill wears a bow tie) and there isn’t a dry eye as the Judge reads the special words. Then they head home to enjoy a special dinner using all the good china and silver. No store-bought cards in this house, though, because they make cards for each other. How sweet!

Note: The event is sponsored by Sarasota County Parks & Natural Resources. It’s $10 to register and includes certificate, flower and refreshments. Registration deadline is February 11, so check out the link for more information.

Who > Where

Brian and Trudy Wigglesworth, owners of Gidget’s Coastal Provisions on Siesta Key, have been Valentines for almost 40 years! These days, they’re so busy running their lovely shop and making amazing sand castles, that they relish the opportunity on that special night to have a quiet dinner at home with their beloved puppies, watch a good movie, and simply enjoy being together. 

More Ideas

For sweets or baked goods, try C'est la Vie!, Der Dutchman, Yoder's Restaurant and Amish Village, Lolita Tartine or La Mucca Ballerina.

For gifts and/or cards, try Captain’s Landing, Clyde Butcher Photography.

For outdoor fun or entertainment (note: some offerings may not coincide with the February 14 date), try miniature golf at Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf, see North American river otters at Mote, stroll Sarasota Farmers Market, do some paddling at Canoe Outpost-Peace River, take a cruise on LeBarge Tropical Cruises, schedule a fishing trip at CB’s Saltwater Outfitters, go sailing at Key Sailing, ride a bike at Sarasota Bike Tours, take in a Spring Training baseball game, roam around lovely Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, laugh at McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre, listen to lovely music at Venice Symphony, see ballet at The Sarasota Ballet, cool performances at Urbanite Theater or majestic art at The Ringling.

Enjoy dinner at Andrea’s, Zota Beach ResortMattison’s 41, Jack Dusty, Roessler’s Restaurant, Sophie’s at Saks Fifth Avenue, Bijou Cafe, or Cafe Barbosso.

To cook at home, pick up a special cut of meat at Geier’s Sausage Kitchen, or seafood at Lotsa Lobster or Walt’s Fish Market, or roam around Morton’s Gourmet Market for inspiration (the staff is very helpful).

And if you want to leave the driving to someone else, check out SRQ Services Limousine Transportation DMC.


Nicole Coudal is a writer and home-chef based in southwest Florida, where she fishes and cooks using local ingredients. When not on the water, she visits farms, farmer’s markets, and other food-related venues to highlight what’s in-season and to create tasty recipes. Read more at www.MyDeliciousBlog.com.