It’s time to give Valentine’s Day a makeover. Why should this international day of love be exclusive to only those in a relationship? I think it should be enjoyed by all, the single and the attached. Let’s make it a happy day, instead of a “sit at home with a box of chocolates listening to sad love songs” kind of day. I say make it a celebration of friendship! To help you do that, I offer you my ideas to Celebrate Valentines with Friends. I hope these inspire you to get out there and celebrate with your besties.
I must warn you that there is a common factor in all the events I select, and that is FOOD. If you’re reading this, chances are pretty good that you love food too. I believe every great celebration must include great food and drinks as well as the most important ingredient, your friends of course! So get the gang together, get out there and have some fun in honor of Valentine’s Day. It’s a good excuse as any to have a celebration!
Top 9 ideas to Celebrate Valentines with Friends:
1. For the Love of the Outdoors: A Picnic in the Park
This is a great way to enjoy food, wine & friends. For us in Florida, we are lucky to have outdoor events taking place this time of year, so take advantage of it. Search the web for “movies in the park” or “concerts in the park” events in your area. For those of you in cold climates right now, save this idea for later. Trust me, it’s a lot of fun to get your friends together and enjoy the outdoors with some great food and wine. Here’s a tip: Double-check that you can bring your own food and, more importantly, your wine to the venue as some may not allow it if they have items for purchase or due to local laws.
In Orlando, perfect picnic opportunities abound. Check out Leu Garden’s including their fantastic Movie in the Park events. Central Park in The City of Winter Park is a lovely place to enjoy a picnic after strolling Park Avenue shops. And, the new socially distanced “Down The Rabbit Hole” dazzling show at Mead Botanical Gardens in Winter Park is one you don’t want to miss. Alice in Wonderland is your guide for a magical evening of lights and whimsy as Creative City Project dazzles with a bit of arts, dance, music and theater from February 6 through March 14.
2. For the Love of Learning: Back To School – The Delicious Way
If you and your friends are always talking about food and you love to eat and learn, why not take a cooking or pairing class together? The studying will be fun and the test will be even better. Local chefs, restaurants and gourmet food stores host classes throughout the year. Search in your local paper or events calendars. Classes can range from basic cooking skills, pairing techniques to elaborate multi-course menus. This is one class that you won’t want to skip.
3. For the Love of Food: Taste Local
What’s not to love about great food and wine when you share it with your friends? Events where you get to sample different foods and wines are the best to celebrate Valentines with Friends. This is so indulgent, plus it is a great way to discover new wines and new flavors you may not have otherwise tried.
Several restaurants are offering special menus in honor of Valentines, however, these may be best suited for that special romantic dinner for two. If that’s what you’re looking for then be sure to do a search on the web, there are plenty of great choices. A Land Remembered at Rosen Shingle Creek Resort is a favorite.
4.For the Love of Art: Get Artsy
If you and your friends love the arts, you’re in luck. This time of year your area museums and organizations will host fun events that will be perfect for you to share your passion for the arts and celebrate Valentines with friends. Search for the local museum calendars online as well as art galleries and stores around town.
In Orlando, you will find popular events that combine art and food such as Orlando Museum of Art which is hosting their 1st Thursday’s event where you get to watch beautiful art in the making.
5. For the Love of Booze: The Art of the Cocktail
Well, this is pretty much self-explanatory. If you and your friends love a good cocktail, there is no shortage of options. From happy hours to late night bar specials, you can bet most bars will be offering some form of Valentine’s special to help you either celebrate Valentine’s with friends or drown your romantic sorrows. Check out fun Happy Hours at Reel Fish Coastal Kitchen + Bar in Winter Park, Tapa Toro in Icon Park, and Soco in Thornton Park.
6. For the Love of Film: Food, Film & Friends
Love and Film have always gone together. But you wouldn’t think of movie theaters as a place to celebrate food and wine with your friends, unless of course you have a movie theater as we do in Orlando. Enzian Theater is a full-time alternative cinema café where you can experience the perfect fusion of food and film. If you have theater houses in your area that serve food and drinks that are a step above the concession stand then you know what I’m talking about. They offer a great opportunity for friends to share two favorite pastimes, watching a movie and enjoying some good food while you’re there. The seating in these theaters is also more conducive for groups to gather and dine with couches and tables.
In honor of Valentine’s, Enzian Theater in Orlando is hosting their Valentine’s Brunch & Film event.
Or you can host your own Movie Night at Home with a Parisian theme! Here’s a fun guide for a French Movie Night. Pick up your choux pastries, macarons and entremets from Choulala Fine Pastries in Winter Park.
7. For the Love of Shopping: Retail Therapy
Girlfriends and shopping have gone together like bread and butter since the beginning of time it seems. When you find events that combine friends and shopping with food and drinks, you have reached the shopping experience nirvana. If “shopaholic” is a word used to describe you then look at your local mall’s calendar of events for fun happenings like fashion shows and store openings which you could enjoy with your friends. Vintage and independent local vendors may also be hosting fun events to promote their wares.
In Orlando, these two events combine shopping with food and drinks, which should be a lot of fun for a girlfriend’s outing. Vintage Valentine at Audubon Park Garden District and Redlight Red Light Galentine’s. What can be better than retail therapy and supporting local businesses?
8. For the Love of Fitness: The Fun Run
Friends that sweat together, stay together? I think so! If your idea of fun is to run a couple of miles with your friends, then there are plenty of fun runs being held in most major cities around the world this time of year. It seems new ones are added all the time. You can do a mud run, a color run, a chocolate run, a polar run, you name it! The choices are endless. These runs are a great opportunity to get together with your friends, get some exercise in and then celebrate afterwards. There is always food and drink to various delicious degrees at the finish line.
In Orlando, there are three races that would provide a fun run experience for you and your friends. The Cupid’s Undie Run is perfect for the exhibitionist and at least here there is no snow and freezing temperatures to contend with which would make for a more enjoyable experience. If you want to remain fully clothed and enjoy beautiful scenery The Run 4 Love is a good choice.
9. For the Love of Relaxation: Spa Day with Friends
After all of the above indulgences, a day of relaxation is in order. A day at the spa can be very romantic with your partner but they can also be a lot of fun with a group of friends. There is no better way to celebrate friendships than with a relaxing spa day, getting pampered, chatting and sipping champagne. Although you may think this is only for the ladies, I know plenty of guys that don’t mind being pampered at the spa. Search for spa deals on your local deal sites as there are many of them, but here’s a tip: if you are going with a group of friends call ahead to make sure the spa you select has a relaxation lounge or area where you can gather before and after your spa treatments and check if the areas are unisex as you don’t want to go with a group of guys and girls and find that you can’t hang out together. Also ask what food offerings they have and if they serve wine or you are able to bring your own. No spa day is complete without champagne, lunch and snacks. If they have a pool area, steam room and hot tub even better to get the full effects of a day of relaxation and pampering.
In Orlando, we are very fortunate to have many beautiful resorts with world-class spas. A few of my favorites, which offer great facilities and spa services you and your friends are sure to enjoy, are Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grand Lakes, Mandara Spa at Swan & Dolphin and Mandara Spa at Loews Portofino Bay. However, there is one spa, in particular, I am recommending for this month and that is The Spa at the luxurious AAA Four-Diamond Shingle Creek Resort. The reason is simple: CHOCOLATE. Here you will be pampered, buffed and polished to your heart’s content and, for the entire month of February, their spa services are infused with chocolate. Nothing says Valentine’s better than chocolate!
I hope I have given you enough ideas to get out there and celebrate Valentines with your friends. Although the events are Valentine’s themed, you can use these ideas as inspiration for fun gatherings with your friends throughout the year. Make “someday” happen. Celebrate your friendships today.
Why a Top 9 list instead of a Top 10? Because I don’t know everything and I’m open to your recommendations. You may have a great idea for me to add to my list. If you do, please share it in the comments below.