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Tampa Bay area Valentine's Day date options that won't leave you broke

Sunsets at Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach are always lovely, chock full of street performers and artists and people who twirl fire on the sand.

Times (2004)

Sunsets at Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach are always lovely, chock full of street performers and artists and people who twirl fire on the sand.

Picture it: You're nibbling foie gras and draped in silken finery, oozing intelligent witticisms. You have too many dollar bills to fit in your pockets. Your date is so utterly shocked by your awesomeness that she leans in and demands that you kiss her, you fool.

Then you wake up. And you're poor. And you have no skills.

You can still reach for a dreamlike celebration of love. To spare you the pain of rejection, we have some romantic ideas for the weekend that will woo your sweetie on the cheap.

Hippos and stuff

What's cuter than a bunch of baby animals? Start the day with a picnic brunch at Lowry Park, then head across to Lowry Park Zoo, where admission is just $5 from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Valentine's Day. If you really want to suck up, adopt a zoo animal for your paramour. Adoptions start at $35 and include a photograph, fact sheet, zoo folder and adoption certificate. An African crested porcupine is cooler than flowers any day.

Candy, of course

It has been said that candy consumption rises when the economy is bad. It's cheap, and it calls to mind a fabled time when 401(k)s were matched. Relive the simple days at your local candy shop, like Schakolad Chocolate Factory in downtown St. Petersburg or City Street Sweets in Hyde Park. The latter will host a free tasting from 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, with champagne, chocolate-dipped strawberries, chocolate jalapeño fudge, raspberry cinnamon crumb cake fudge, strawberry cheesecake fudge and truffles.

Art appreciation

Pretend you're sophisticated by squinting at art and nodding. The Dunedin Wine and Art Walk is from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday. Wristbands are $10 for food, live entertainment and, in case your date sees right through you, wine. Tampa Artist Emporium on Bay to Bay Boulevard will host To Haiti With Love on Friday, a free art mixer and fundraiser with wine, beer and appetizers. And starting Saturday night, Artloft artists at the Florida Craftsmen Gallery in downtown St. Petersburg will show works that feature the color red.

Hipster love

Remember that scene in (500) Days of Summer? The date to Ikea? Not a bad idea! Start with small talk in the living rooms, run around the kitchens, have Swedish meatballs and lingonberry jam in the cafe, then retire to the bedrooms to discuss hopes and dreams, the ways in which you'll decorate the big manse that exists in fantasy land, a.k.a., your brain. Competitive hipsters might also try free shuffleboard at Mirror Lake. Young people tend to flood the courts on Fridays from 7 to 11 p.m. You can pack a cooler with hummus and a drink, and snuggle in the stands.

The beach, duh

We in Florida are graced with the cheapest date option of them all — miles and miles of glorious oceanfront property. Sunsets at Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach are always lovely, chock full of street performers and artists and people who twirl fire on the sand. Or grab that box of chocolates and bottle of wine and head to Treasure Island, one of the last places where it's legal to drink on the beach. Venture to skinny sliver Sunset Beach, where the views live up to the name. And don't say we never did anything for you.

Times staff writer Sharon Kennedy Wynne contributed to this report. Stephanie Hayes can be reached at shayes@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8857.

By the numbers

• Year of first official Valentine's Day: 496 A.D., declared by Pope Gelasius.

• U.S. locations producing chocolate and cocoa products: 1,233.

• Average annual candy consumed by each American: 23.8 pounds.

• Value of domestically produced cut flowers: $403 million.

• Jewelry stores in the United States: 27,484.

• U.S. marriages in 2008: 2.16 million.

• Dating services as of 2002: 904.

• Median age for men and women at first marriage: 27.6 and 25.9.

• Average years of first marriages ending in divorce: 8.

Romantic places

• Rose City, Texas.

• Loveland, Colo.

• Romeo, Colo.

• Sacred Heart, Minn.

• Lovejoy, Ga.

• Heart Butte, Mont.

• Love County, Okla.

• Lovelady, Texas.

• Romeoville, Ill.

• Valentine, Texas

Sources: USDA, census, National Center for Health Statistics

Tampa Bay area Valentine's Day date options that won't leave you broke 02/07/10 [Last modified: Monday, February 8, 2010 11:20am]

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