Love Is In The Air

Find out how some local couples celebrate Valentine’s Day, and get some new inspiration for planning for the big day with your sweetie.

Valentine’s Day will soon be here — a special time to tell those we love that we’re glad they’re in our lives. Valentine’s Day isn’t just for couples, though. . .I know fathers and daughters who celebrate the special day, as well as mothers and sons, and even best friends. For couples, though, it’s a 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 an annual tradition 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:

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. 

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. 

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. 

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.

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.

Peter Acker and Pearl DeBrular are celebrating their 2nd Valentine’s Day this year with dinner at their favorite restaurant, 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. 

Rachel and Bill Corrigan are celebrating their 17th Valentine’s Day and for the last few years have attended 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.

Still stumped? Here are more ideas:

For sweets or baked goods, try Banyan Tree Chocolate & Cafe, Dulcefina Chocolate and Sweets, Kilwin’s, The Chocolate Bark Company, Jim’s Small Batch Bakery, Five-O-Donut Co, Croissant & Co., or Glenn Family Bakery (I hear they’re taking orders for chocolate covered berries!).

For gifts and/or cards, try Elysian Fields, The Artful Giraffe, Architectural Salvage, Captain’s Landing, Clyde Butcher Photography, Write-On Sarasota, or Papyrus.

For flowers or plants, try Albritton Nursery, Tiger Lilly Flowers, Whole Foods Market (rumor has it they’ll have specials on roses at the new location on University), Troy’s Tropics, or Garden of Eden Florist (Venice).

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, rent a scooter at Practical Car & Scooter Rental, ride a bike at Sarasota Bike Tours, take in a Baltimore Orioles game, roam around lovely Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, laugh at McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre & Humor Institute, 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, Made, C’est La Vie!, Zota Beach Resort, Social Eatery & Bar, The Table Creekside, Libby’s Cafe & Bar, Mattison’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 or AAA American Luxury Car Service.


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