Sweet nothings (and almost nothing) for Valentine’s

A curation of some free and relatively affordable date-night options for Valentine’s week.

Home » Arts & Entertainment
Posted February 9, 2023 | By Julie Garisto

Editor’s Note: Because we’re all feeling the pinch of inflation, the Gazette has begun “More for Less,” a recurring list of budget-friendly things to experience and buy to help stretch your dollar a little further during these trying times.

It’s hard to imagine forking over half a week’s pay for a fancy dinner on Valentine’s Day, or on any occasion, amid today’s inflation.

Options abound, however, to help you celebrate your enduring love. 

“Ocala’s historic downtown square provides an opportunity to walk along brick-lined streets, or to grab a seat on a park bench near the gazebo and listen to music being piped in through the outdoor sound system,” said Ashley Dobbs, marketing and communications manager with the city of Ocala. “While live music only happens on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, people can stretch out the week dedicated to love and enjoy free live music later in the week.”

If you’d like to find a spot that is well-lighted for a nighttime picnic, Citizens’ Circle, behind City Hall, has picnic tables near the splash pad, Dobbs added.  

“Large lawn chairs located in the grassy area provide a great sitting area for those looking to spend a few quiet moments with their special someone,” she said. 

For inexpensive but quality picnic basket fare, Aldi sells imported cheeses and charcuterie boards for surprisingly low prices. Vegans and vegetarians can pack items such as curried chickpea wraps and lovers of all food tastes could enjoy an assortment of nuts and fruits, store-bought dips, mixed raw veggies, crackers or bread for the dips, and mixed olives and antipasti like artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes — all cheaper at Aldi, too.

Here are some events to consider:

Latin Food & Artisan Market — Valentine’s Edition 

Whether you’re celebrating the love of a special someone or the love of your children and spouse, the Latin Food & Artisan Market offers a festive twilight fiesta for fun lovers of all ages. The free downtown event features bounce houses by Central Florida Bounce, music by DJ Matt Gray, face painting by MamaSquatch, eight food trucks and celebratory vibes from Tu Fiesta Latina Radio. It takes place 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, at 403 SE Osceola Ave, Ocala. Admission is free. Visit facebook.com/OcalaDowntownMarket for updates. 

The Villages Philharmonic Orchestra – American Music: Celebration of Love Concerts can cost upwards of hundreds of dollars, but you can get gussied up with your sweetie and enjoy the jazzy and cinematic overtures of George Gershwin and John Williams on Valentine’s evening for $25 and up. The concert begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 14, at the Sharon Performing Arts Center, 1051 Main St., The Villages. Visit thevillagesphilharmonic.org for more information.

Darell and Suzanne Morgan [Courtesy of Morgan’s Music Junction]

Valentine’s Sweetheart Dance 

When was the last time you went out dancing? It’s been a while for many of us. Don’t worry if you have two left feet, because a couple’s dance requires little to no effort. Just rock back and forth with your sweetie at Morgan’s Music Junction in Summerfield. The decorated hall features around a 100-person capacity and has a dance floor. The house band, led by owners and married couple Darell and Suzanne Morgan, will serenade the crowd with romantic ballads throughout the evening. Doors open at 6 p.m.; show begins at 7 p.m.; Tuesday, Feb. 14, at 6981 SE 147th St. Tickets are $15 each on EventBrite.com in advance and $20 at the door. Call (352) 693-4233 or visit morgansmusicjunction.com for more information.

Tuesday Trivia Night at the Lodge 

Let’s say you’ve met someone new who has you all atingle. You want to see that person on Valentine’s, but you don’t want the holiday’s romantic hoo-ha to make things awkward as you get to know each other. Opt for a fun and casual outing like the weekly trivia night at the Lodge in downtown Ocala. All You Can Eat Wings (bold choice for a first date!) are available for $21. Starts at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 14, at 36 SE Magnolia Ave., Ocala. Visit thelodgeocala.com for more upcoming events and specials.

Grandview World Nights 

Nothing says love in Ocala quite like the city’s devotion to equines. Get your nay on with Clydesdales, Belgians and Percherons (oh, my!), which will be taking over World Equestrian Center Arena 5 on Feb. 9-11. Weighing an average of 1,400 to 2,000 pounds, they are sure to amaze. Tickets start at $35. WEC is located at 1750 W. 80th Ave., Ocala. Visit worldequestriancenter.com for more information.

File photo

Thursday Night Salsa Lessons at Marion Oaks 

There isn’t much that’s sexier and more romantic than salsa dancing. Learn the basic moves with Tony Duarte from Step ’n Dance Salsabor Tropical at the Marion Oaks Recreation & Fitness Center every Thursday. Membership is not required to take this class, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. every Thursday (unless otherwise noted) at 294 Marion Oaks Lane, Ocala. The lesson costs $10; half off for first timers. Call 352-438-2830 for more information.

Superstar: The Carpenters Reimagined 

The Carpenters’ harmonies were as sweet as honey, but, sadly, the world lost the angelic voice of Karen Carpenter in 1983. Local fans and romantics can rekindle the magic for one night with the help of a talented touring band at the Orange Blossom Opry in Weirsdale. Superstar frontwoman Helen Welch is a critically acclaimed vocal artist and West End/Broadway performer. The group will perform 20-plus tunes by one of pop music’s most beloved sibling duos. Shows are at 2:30 and 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 14, at 16439 SE 138th Terrace. Tickets are $32-$47. Visit obopry.com for more information.

Art Outside the Lines Brunch 

If you couldn’t take your other half out on V Day, opt for an atmospheric brunch that helps out enterprising artists. The Magnolia Art Xchange invites Ocala residents to enjoy a morning with guest speakers, music by Tasha Robinson of the Ocala Symphony Orchestra, food, and “boozy coffee drinks” on the scenic platform of the Ocala Union Station. Brunch costs $30 online and $35 at door, and a brunch/guided tour is $35 online and $40 at door. $5 of every ticket sold is donated to the artist-in-residency program at MAX. It takes place 9 a.m. to noon Feb. 18 at 531 NE First Ave., Ocala. Visit ocalafl.org/artpark for more information.

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