dR Daily 2/6: Have you made your Valentine's reservations yet?
If the answer to the above question is “Um, no,” then you may be out of luck when it comes to scheduling a special candlelit tête-à-tête with your significant other. We checked with our list of Tampa Bay’s most romantic restaurants, and they’re all booked for Feb. 14.
But if you want to go for something more substantial than a dinner date — like, say, a weekend at a nice hotel — you may be in luck. As of press time, there were still rooms available on or near Valentine’s Day at the following five establishments, all of which are perfect if you’re seeking a romantic getaway that’s not too far away. These experiences are all within driving distance of Tampa Bay — and all offer more than just a room with a view.
Alfond Inn at Rollins
The Alfond is totally booked for Valentine’s weekend. BUT they’ve got a great package available for the following weekend, so you could, if you’re the fiendish sort, make believe you forgot Valentine’s Day altogether, then surprise your amour with a surprise post-V-Day escape.
The Alfond would totally be worth the wait. One of the world’s leading hotels, according to Travel + Leisure rankings, it’s in Winter Park, a destination less than two hours away from Tampa renowned for chic boutiques, fine dining and museums. The 112-room boutique property boasts affiliations with Rollins College and the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, which means that profits are used to endow student scholarships and hotel halls are populated with contemporary art.
And the aforementioned package is the height of romance: It’s called From the Heart, and includes a two-night stay, a romantic dinner for 2, complimentary Champagne and chocolates and more for $382 a night. But last we checked there were only three rooms left, so call ’em now!
The Alfond Inn, 300 E. New England Ave., Winter Park, 407-326-0801, thealfondinn.com.
If you and your SO think there’s nothing more romantic than an old-fashioned inn rich in history, the newly renovated Belleview Inn is just the thing. A beloved landmark that played a pivotal role in establishing the local hospitality industry, the former Belleview Biltmore Hotel has shed some of its girth but maintains the same grandeur and elegance that earned it recognition as “The White Queen of the Gulf.”
The lavishly restored 35-room inn not only dazzles with its contemporary decor, but also offers guests sweeping views of the nearby waterfront, access to exceptional dining and spa treatments and private beach access on what is considered one of the country’s best, Clearwater Beach.
A staggering 820,000 square feet in its day, it’s more modest in size now but no less impressive, granting it membership in an elite group of America’s historic hotels.
And the good news: You can still find plenty of options for Valentine’s weekend, including a “Classic room” with king-sized bed overlooking the inn’s entrance, or for true romance, a spacious suite complete with a claw-footed bathtub for a sublime soak. Enjoy the convenience of morning doorstep deliveries of baskets filled with fruit, juices and baked goods. Evenings offer a celebration on the west-facing porch, saluting Florida’s signature sunsets that set the sky ablaze.
Belleview Inn, 25 Belleview Blvd., Belleview, 727-674-4127, thebelleviewinn.com
Casa Monica Resort & Spa
Enjoy a good time while enjoying the good life. The Casa Monica Resort & Spa creates quite the first impression with the Moorish flourishes and ornate architecture of its facade. Additional opulence awaits within the grand lobby, outfitted with gilded mirrors and ornate chandeliers, while the 138 guest rooms and suites are adorned with red velvet tufted headboards and richly colored tapestry rugs.
Contrast that lavish lifestyle with the charm of St. Augustine, America’s oldest continuously occupied city, characterized by cobblestone streets, historic sites and Atlantic Ocean beaches.
Revisit the Spanish roots of this city with stops at the Castillo de San Marcos and Fountain of Youth before prepping for a couple’s massage at the hotel’s Poseidon Spa. Admire the art and artists showcased in the Grand Bohemian Gallery, dress for dinner at the Costa Brava restaurant and finish the day enjoying live music in the Cobalt Lounge while savoring a signature raspberry sparkler martini.
Ideal package (and yes, it’s available Valentine’s weekend): Love St. Augustine Style, which includes breakfast for 2 guests daily at Costa Brava, 1 bottle of Champagne per stay, 1 Private Carriage Ride pass for 2 adults, fresh flowers in the room and more. You can book it for Saturday night Feb. 16 in the 1-bedroom bi-level Ponce de Leon Suite.
Casa Monica Resort & Spa, 95 Cordova St., St. Augustine, 904-827-1888, marriott.com. Call or reserve online to get current pricing.
This Hyde Park hideaway located in the heart of an historic Tampa neighborhood welcomes guests to enjoy an array of wining, dining and unwinding experiences. The 137-room hotel goes to extraordinary measures to provide guests with a variety of ways to celebrate, and participate in, great food and fine wines.
From the Lobby Bar to its rooftop counterpart, the Edge, discover an abundance of creative cocktails, craft beers and excellent wines to sip as well as menu items perfect for pairing. Élevage, the hotel’s signature restaurant, offers a more elevated menu with dishes like brioche-encrusted halibut or a hand-made pasta boasting a goat cheese mousse. Or venture across the street to visit the world-famous Bern’s Steak House that helped inspire the culinary concept behind the Epicurean.
For those between-meal moments, visit the selectively stocked lobby-level Bern’s Fine Wines & Spirits shop. Spa Evangeline features treatments incorporating plant-based oils, fresh herbs and Arabica bean extract. The Epicurean Theatre hosts cooking demonstrations, wine pairings and appearances by local, regional and national chefs that may be an appealing addition to any stay.
There are two ideal packages to suit the Valentine mood — both available Saturday night Feb. 16. “Awaken Appetites Unknown, A Foodie’s Dream Escape” includes overnight accommodations, a $50 gift card to Bern’s, a private tour of the Bern’s Wine Warehouse, and a copy of Bern’s Rare and Well Done signed by David Laxer, the owner of Bern’s Steak House. The “Epicurean Celebration Package” includes a classic king room with your own personal artisan pantry, a bottle of wine compliments of the house when you dine at Elevate, and a 50-minute massage at Spa Evangeline. Call or reserve online to check availability and rates.
Epicurean Hotel, 1207 S. Howard Ave., Tampa, 813-999-8700, epicureanhotel.com
Fishing for an offshore adventure that partners the convenience of a private cabin with the novelty of being on the water? Floating Cottage lets you stay high and dry while relaxing within a well-furnished, nicely designed cross between a tiny house and a houseboat.
The calming waters of the St. Johns River will lull guests to sleep whether they are tucked into the queen-size loft bed beneath a cathedral ceiling or snuggling on the first-floor, full-size sofa bed.
All of the creature comforts of home are here, along with creatures of the river like turtles and manatees. Make meals utilizing the kitchen’s five-burner gas stove, full-size refrigerator and ice dispenser, ideal for keeping champagne chilled.
Explore the waterfront aboard complimentary kayaks or head downtown to take in Sanford’s acclaimed restaurants, vibrant craft beer scene and charming businesses that include Wondermade, featuring handcrafted marshmallows boasting boozy flavors like bourbon and oh-so-rich toppings like 24 karat edible gold.
Sorry, this one’s not available Valentine’s weekend, but the cottage AirBnB page show open dates from Feb. 23-26.
Floating Cottage, St. Johns River, Sanford, airbnb.com/rooms/18295922