A couple on the beach at dusk
A couple on the beach at dusk

Love is in the air in Sarasota County

Ten ways to spend Valentine's Day in Sarasota County

Depending on your perspective, Valentine's Day can be the most romantic or depressing day of the year. You might love it, or love to hate it. In Sarasota County, there are all kinds of options to mark the day, from good food and joyful gatherings to alternatives to all the hearts and flowers.

Here are 10 ways to celebrate Valentine's Day, whether you want to embrace the holiday or pretend it isn't happening.

1. Recommit to love.

In what's become an annual tradition in these parts, married couples head to the beach on February 14 to renew their wedding vows as part of Sarasota County Parks, Recreation, and Natural Resources' Say "I Do" Again event (941-861-5000). This year's celebration takes place at 6 p.m. at Siesta Beach in Sarasota and Caspersen Beach in Venice. Arrive early to snag a parking space and enjoy the musical entertainment beginning at 5 p.m. The cost is $10 per couple (preregistration required by February 11) and includes a certificate, flower, and light refreshments.

2. Stroll with your sweetie.

Siesta Village
Siesta Village

Grab your partner's hand and amble on over for the Siesta Key Village Association Valentine Stroll (941-685-2274), which takes place from 5 to 8 p.m. on February 14. Participating merchants (look for the red and pink balloons outside their businesses) will be handing out candy kisses, and attendees can enjoy live music as they make their way around the barrier island village.

3. Pick up some presents.

Find the perfect piece of jewelry or artwork for your honey at the 27th Annual Downtown Sarasota Festival of the Arts. The free event takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on February 14 and 15 on Main Street in downtown Sarasota. Booths feature paintings, sculptures, photographs, and other items created by artists from around the country.

4. Set sail for romance.

Climb aboard the Marina Jack II for a special Valentine's Day dinner cruise (941-365-4232). Offered at 5 and 7:45 p.m. on February 14, the romantic trips ($69.95 per person, reservations recommended) feature live music by Dan Crawford and a buffet menu including beef tenderloin, herb-crusted grouper, and dessert selections like chocolate mousse cake and cheesecake. Take in the sunset and waterfront views of the area while you enjoy a holiday meal.

5. Dine à deux.

Lots of local restaurants roll out special menus and extras for Valentine's Day diners. Head to Mattison's Forty-One in Sarasota (941-921-3400) for live music and menu items like a Valentine's Day Duet of filet mignon and Maine lobster tail, châteaubriand for two, and dark chocolate Grand Mariner fondue for two. Downtown Mattison's City Grille has similar offerings too.

Mattisons City Grille
Mattisons City Grille


Downtown Sarasota's MoZaic (941-951-6272) hosts a lunchtime Epicurean Tour de Romance ($49 per person) with a three-course food and wine pairing menu and champagne reception. Duval's in downtown Sarasota (941-312-4001) offers its Feast of St. Valentine ($49.95 per person) from February 12 through 15; the four-course menu includes options like prosciutto-wrapped grouper and Cornish game hen.

6. Spin your partner.

Marietta Museum of Art & Whimsy
Marietta Museum of Art & Whimsy

Couples who like to cut a rug can head to Sarasota's Marietta Museum of Art & Whimsy (941-364-3399) for its Valentine's Day Dance ($5 suggested donation). From 1:30 to 3 p.m. on February 14, instructors from Dynasty Dance Clubs will be on hand to offer pointers and demonstrate professional routines. Cookies and punch will be served on the patio for attendees.

7. Learn about sea-life love.

Opening appropriately on February 14, Mote Aquarium's new temporary exhibit "Oh Baby! Life Cycles of the Sea" (941-388-4441) delves into the world of ocean "romance" and reproduction. The family-friendly display includes a look at marine animal courtship behaviors; species of seahorses, pipefish, garden eels, and jellyfish that have never been displayed at Mote before; and a baby shark touch pool with nine- to 12-inch sharks of the Pacific Ocean.

8. Show your heart.

Let the kids get in on the lovey-dovey fun at Children's World (941-955-6999), which holds a free Valentine's Heart Playday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on February 14. Families can drop in to the Sarasota uniform and toy retailer to color, cut out, and bake Shrinky Dink hearts to take home in honor of the holiday. What's not to love about some free family fun?

9. Run away from things.

Oscar Scherer State Park
Oscar Scherer State Park

Whether you want to burn some calories in anticipation of an indulgent meal or take out your frustrations over the state of your romantic life, lace up your sneakers for the annual Scrub-Jay 5K and 10K at Oscar Scherer State Park in Osprey (941-483-5956). The 5K portion of the race starts at 8 a.m. on February 14, with the 10K race starting at 8:15 a.m. Participants run amidst the park's scrubby flatwoods and on the Legacy Trail, and proceeds from registration fees help to protect the event's namesake Florida bird that calls the park home.

10. Ignore it all.

Teens suffering from an unrequited crush or bad breakup can make their way to Englewood's Elsie Quirk Library for its Anti-Valentine's Day Party (941-861-1207). The event takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. on February 14, and there will be no hearts, flowers, or other symbols of romance in sight. Instead, adolescent attendees can enjoy food, games, and movies and make like it's any other day of the year. Love--who needs it?