This week was Valentine’s Day, adored by many but dreaded by most. Not only does is it a painful reminder for those of us who are single, but it’s also an expensive one for those in relationships. There’s the gift, the dinner, the outfit, and making sure you have a tank full of gas for the traffic you’re going to sit in with all the other couples driving to restaurants. Here are a few ideas for how to have a nice date with that special someone and not break the bank.

A lot of people seem to forget that Gainesville has a beautiful and extensive nature scene. Right on University of Florida campus alone, there are 31 conservation areas including Lake Alice, the Harmonic Woods, and the Bat House Forest. An evening at Lake Alice watching the sun set and then witnessing a million or so bats fly out of the bat houses is truly amazing and would be a wonderful thing to do with someone special. Even further out Gainesville is home to several natural springs. Ginnie Spring, Devil’s Den and   Blue Springs Park are beautiful spots for a picnic and even to go for a dip. Most of these parks have a small entrance fee, but if you’re willing to spend a little extra besides that then you can rent inner tubes, scuba gear, and paddle boards.

The Florida Natural History Museum and the Harn Museum of Art are two interesting and amazing attractions. The Harn is free to all visitors and the Natural History Museum is free to UF students and discounted to Santa Fe students. The Natural History Museum has an outdoor butterfly garden that is perfect to walk through with your sweetheart, and you may even have a butterfly or two lands on you. The Harn offers guided tours in which a docent helps you explore

butterfly garden
The butterfly garden in the Florida Museum of Natural History.

the different pieces and an outdoor Japanese garden that doubles as a romantic backdrop for a nice date. Both museums are right next door to each other so you could spend a whole day exploring both of them without even having to move your car.


I’m sure you’ve also seen tons of pictures of your friends and their significant others holding beautifully painted canvases that they created on their own date night. The good news is you can do that in Gainesville too! Heading over to Painting with a Twist or Corks and Colors will allow you to get your creative juices flowing. Corks and Colors has daily specials, and also allows you to paint ceramics. A trip to Corks and Colors doesn’t require an appointment, but they do offer painting classes you do have to sign up for. Painting with a Twist is appointment based, and a little more pricey. To save some money, both of these places offer specials on Groupon. It’s definitely a fun experience and a great opportunity to make something you can share with your significant other, or burn if you guys break up.

Gainesville has a great night life too. Downtown and Midtown have great clubs to go dance the night away at. Keep an eye out for numbers to call to be put on “The List,” that’ll get you free entry. Most clubs also offer free admission before a certain time or discounted specialty drinks. Making sure to check out different specials is great before deciding where to go, especially if you plan on making your way through multiple places throughout the night. Following your favorite places on Instagram and Twitter will let you find out the specials first thing and help you plan your night.

Dating doesn’t have to be expensive. Watching out for deals and specials, or even planning something special around a Groupon you found can make for an unforgettable time. I’m sure once your partner sees how much you put into deciding where to go and what to do, they’ll be touched. Having fun with your special someone without going broke is the best kind of fun to have.