It's really easy to be generic on Valentine's Day. But the truth is, human beings have personalities, tastes, pulses. They have interests that reach beyond a Whitman's sampler and a plate of lasagna. To indulge Tampa Bay's wide variety of lovers, we've customized our Valentine's Day date guide for a weekend of love. Since Valentine's Day is on Monday (who goes out on Monday?), we give you permission to celebrate starting Friday. Maybe you like booze and reckless behavior. Maybe you like soft lighting and $85 martinis. Maybe you like crying into your soy latte. Whatever your wheelhouse, there is an event for you. So get your groove on, sweetcheeks — but just stay true to yourself.
if your love is … ooey, gooey, schmooey
Nothing's more pwecious than a night on the town with your cuddly-wuddly widdle schnookums, is it? If your mind is swimming in a sea of big red hearts and tiny naked babies shooting arrows through the air, book a swan boat to one of these sugary-sweet activities.
Clay Aiken may be gay, and his biggest fans may be middle-aged women, but you can still count on an evening of lush, old-school woo when he performs at Sarasota's Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall on Saturday. He'll sing songs from his latest album, including torchy covers of romantic standards like Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You, Misty and Unchained Melody. 8 p.m. Saturday at Van Wezel, 777 N Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. $30-$60. 1-800-826-9303.
tantric awareness retreat for couples
If you're one of those couples who believes there's no such thing as TMI, head to the Renaissance Vinoy Resort for a Valentine's Day Tantric Awareness Retreat for Couples. The seminar, organized by the Lotus Room yoga studio, promises instruction in tantric partner yoga, "awareness and connectivity" and "lessons in erotic massage." Ooh la la! It's Saturday and Sunday at the Vinoy; prices are $190 for Saturday, $225 for Saturday and Sunday (room not included). Get details by calling (813) 961-3160 or visiting yogalotusroom.com. Just try not to go on and on about it at work on Monday, okay?
total eclipse of the heart
Dinner under the stars . . . a moonlit night in Paris, Venice or Niagara Falls . . . all while surrounded by bugs. Okay, try to take your mind off the upcoming insect exhibit at Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry and instead focus on Total Eclipse of the Heart, a Valentine's Day dinner inside MOSI's planetarium, which will show sky views of some of the world's most romantic locations. Instead of Pink Floyd or Rush, this planetarium will blast "the world's most passionate love songs." It's $50 per couple ($40 for members) from 6 to 10 p.m. Monday at MOSI, 4801 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. (813) 987-6000.
Jay Cridlin, Times staff writer
if your love … kick-starts your heart
Love doesn't always mean roses, chocolates and poetry. Sometimes it means shots, safe words and a whole lotta sin. If that's your thing . . .
wild at heart
Ever seen a koala bear and wondered: How do those things do the nasty? Then Lowry Park Zoo's Wild at Heart is for you. This wildly popular 21-and-up event features a progressive dinner with stories about the partnering and mating habits of the zoo's residents. If you're lucky, you might even spot a little sub-Saharan babymaking in process. And trust us, there's no aphrodisiac like hearing all about how manatees get it on. Saturday is sold out, but tickets may be available for 5, 6 or 7 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $55 ($50 for members). For reservations, call (813) 935-8552.
krewe of sant'yago knight parade
"Love" is not a word typically associated with the Krewe of Sant'Yago Knight Parade. "Nudity," "drunkenness" and "reckless abandon" are more like it. The annual bacchanal known as the Knight Parade rumbles through Ybor City with more than 100 illuminated floats, marching bands and more. You never know what you'll see, but you can bet things'll get more than a little PG-13. Perfect for the couple who likes to spice things up with costumes. It starts at 7 p.m. Saturday and travels down Seventh Avenue in Ybor City. For details see knightparade.com.
mme. jiji's valentine's caburlesque
This Valentine's Day, give the gift of half-naked dancing girls. Mme. JiJi's Valentine's CaBurlesque features an adults-only comedy, singing and striptease show that blends cabaret and burlesque in a couples-friendly way. Not convinced? It's also a fundraiser for the Arts Campaign Inc., which encourages artistic outreach programs. Doors open at 7 p.m. Sunday at Whiskey Willy's, 1624 Dale Mabry Highway, Lutz. Tickets are $5. (813) 949-6330.
Jay Cridlin, Times staff writer
if your love is … new
Ah, the throes of new love. It's when you still feel emboldened to be silly, romantic and impetuous. The goofy dates and gestures now could be the time you'll look back and say, "Yeah, right there is when I clinched the deal." To help make some memories in the flush of new love, we have some ideas:
You've got a corgi. She's got a cute little Yorkie. Could it be puppy love? Give your relationship a stroll at Woofstock, with pet-related vendors, a police K-9 demo, dog contests and music. Heavy petting allowed. 10 a.m. Saturday at Largo Central Park, 101 Central Park Drive. Free. (727) 518-3016.
corndogs and country
What's more gallant than winning a stuffed animal by shooting at a milk bottle? The Florida State Fair is having a Corndogs and Country day on Friday. So after a delicious meal of food on a stick, head over to the 1-800-ASK-GARY Amphitheatre in Tampa for a concert at 6 p.m. by Craig Morgan, Joe Nichols, Colt Ford, Sunny Sweeney and Brett Eldridge. The $20 concert ticket includes fair admission, and it's also Pepsi Armband Day. Bring a Pepsi can and take $5 off an armband — because screaming fair rides are a great excuse to hold her close. For more on the fair, see Page 25.
hockey and edwin mccain
A bunch of hockey players clocking each other may not seem like a good way to set the mood, but after the Lightning game is an Edwin McCain concert. That's more like it. I'll Be is a staple for the lonely guy's romantic mixtapes. So let the South Carolina singer-songwriter take you to the home stretch Saturday after the 7:30 p.m. game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Included with your game ticket at the St. Pete Times Forum, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. (813) 301-2500.
Busch Gardens has a special treat beyond the roller coasters: Date-worthy country hitmakers Montgomery Gentry (If You Ever Stop Loving Me, Something to Be Proud Of) will perform in the park's Bands, Brew and BBQ series on Sunday. The duo of Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry play at 5 p.m. as the park rolls out 50 craft brews and barbecue from local pit bosses. Included with park admission. Toll-free 1-888-800-5447.
Take the pressure off making your date laugh by heading to a comedy club. The Improv in Centro Ybor is open for a rare Monday night show on Valentine's Day with one of David Letterman's favorite comics, Jake Johannsen. He performs today through Monday, but for Monday they are throwing in flowers and dinner. The bar opens at 5:15 p.m. and seating beings at 5:30 for first come, first served. It's $35 for dinner and the show, or $20 for the show only at 1600 E Eighth Ave., Tampa.
Sharon Kennedy Wynne and Kelly Smith, Times staff writers
if your love is … deep, sensitive indie
It's so hard being in love. The oil paintings and emotional torture. The runny mascara and Pete Yorn songs. The hot tea and skinny jeans. But it's Valentine's Day, so pull yourself together, grab your forlorn indie lover and check out some events sure to tug at even the most fragile and artistic of heartstrings.
broken social scene
Broken Social Scene plays Friday at the Ritz Ybor. You'll be swaying together in depressed harmony to lyrics like "Used to be one of the rotten ones and I liked you for that. Now you're all gone, got your makeup on and you're not coming back. Can't you come back?" The show starts at 7 p.m. at the club at 1503 E Seventh Ave., Tampa. Tickets are $25. (813) 247-2555.
If you want to get real esoteric, check out a very special acoustic set with Matisyahu on Sunday at the Tampa Theatre. He's an American Hasidic Jewish reggae rapper, so not only can you and your hipster date discuss organized religion and spirituality, you can fight over the all-time greatest MCs. Get crunchy at 7:30 p.m. at 711 Franklin St., Tampa. Tickets are $34.50 and $58.50 from the theater, and $65.45 from Ticketmaster. So, uh, use your noggin, mathletes. (813) 274-8286.
art on the house
Why not take your sweetie to stare at art and guess what it really means? You'll probably be wrong, but you'll sound all intellectual trying. Check out Art on the House at the Tampa Museum of Art, where admission is free from 4-8 p.m. Friday courtesy of Hill Ward Henderson law firm. The museum is at 120 Gasparilla Plaza. (813) 274-8130.
muse art and body art
Enough heady criticism. It's time to get sexy! Nekkid people will be covered in body paint at ARTpool Gallery & Boutique's third annual Muse Art and Body Art showcase Saturday. The show will feature living canvases in addition to ARTpool's usual mix of cool, funky art and fashion. It's 18 and older for this event at the gallery, 919 First Ave. N, St. Petersburg. Tickets are $15. (727) 324-3878.
Stephanie Hayes, Times staff writer
if your love is … oh so classy
She already knows you can play cornhole with a beer in your hand. Now prove that you own shoes besides flip-flops. Or if you're a couple of a certain age, here are some ideas to show you can still spspend a night on the town in style.
Doesn't matter if you're 25 or 75, one glance into the eyes of your sweetie while a Broadway star sings The Way You Look Tonight accompanied by the Florida Orchestra and you'll feel all squishy inside. It's an evening of standards from songwriters such as George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Richard Rodgers and Irving Berlin when the orchestra presents "The Great American Songbook." Expect Over the Rainbow, Some Enchanted Evening and It Was Just One of Those Things, with vocalists Teri Dale Hansen and Norm Lewis and conductor Andrew Lane. It'll be S'Wonderful. Shows are 8 p.m. Friday at the Straz Center in Tampa and 8 p.m. Saturday at the Mahaffey in St. Petersburg. $30-$67. (727) 892-3337. For a profile of orchestra member Kurt Grissom, see Page 16.
There's nothing more passionate than opera, and Sarasota Opera offers two options this weekend. At 8 p.m. Saturday is Mozart's Don Giovanni, a mix of bawdy comedy and chilling suspense. At 1:30 p.m. Sunday is La Boheme (above), a heartbreaking story of young love in Paris with Puccini's beautiful score. Both are sung in Italian with English supertitles at the Sarasota Opera House, 61 N Pineapple Ave. $19-$120. (941) 366-8450; sarasotaopera.org.
Kelly Smith, Times staff writer