Valentine's Day weekend doesn't have to be ruined by overcrowded restaurants and unmet expectations. Get your mind off the holiday's cliched rituals by venturing out to one or more of the refreshingly distinctive events happening on both sides of the bay Feb. 11-14. From a retro bike ride to a new yoga-and-beer gathering to a show that puts a whole new spin on "going postal," Valentine's Day falls on a red-letter weekend. Plus, the pleasant pre-spring Florida weather (ahem, so far) demands you get off the couch and away from your weekly binge-a-thons. So, show yourself some love by enjoying performances and activities that nourish your mind and soul, and maybe even make you laugh away the blues — and possibly provide the opportunity to meet next year's valentine. Here are a handful of events worth swooning over:
Rabbit Hole Escape Games
5120 N Florida Ave., Tampa
Singles Night, Feb. 11
20 percent discounts for couples on Feb. 14
Go ask Alice about Tampa's new puzzle-game attraction, which keeps your mind busy and might even hook you up. Match wits with teammates to complete tasks, solve a series of puzzles and decipher clues to make it out first and win. The mission is to escape before time runs out. On Feb. 11, singles ages 30-35 can play in game slots to team up with other local singles at 8 p.m., or 9:45 p.m. for ages 25-29. On Feb. 14, couples can join other couples in teams for a 20 percent discount. The room's current theme is Bermuda Triangle — a no man's land of lost socks and youthful ideals. Slots are limited and you must call to reserve. Other restrictions apply; call (813) 236-9202. $20 admission. rabbitholeescapegames.com.
The Love Show — Improv by The Box Tampa
The Space at 2106
2106 W Main St., Tampa
Feb. 12 and 13
If your love life's been a joke — whose hasn't? — The Box's critically acclaimed resident improv ensemble, Dear Aunt Gertrude, will administer comic relief with on-the-spot scenes about the joys, awkwardness, hilarity and triumphs of finding and losing love. Says director and improv master Crystal Haralambou: "Whether single and searching, happily solo or head-over-heels in love, this improv show may just be the crash course you need to survive the madness of modern dating. The show is filled with quirky characters, awkward situations and didn't-see-that-one-coming reactions. Warning: You'd better hope you don't pee your pants laughing." Shows begin at 10 p.m. Tickets are $10 (plus service fee if ordered online) and available at theloveshow.brownpapertickets.com. Find out more about the new West Tampa venue at thespaceat2106.com. (The troupe will be back at their Ybor City home stage at the Box for March Gladness on Fridays in March.)
Valentine's Twilight Market and Rooftop Party
Station House St. Pete
260 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg
Heal your heart with retail therapy and support local merchants at a festive indie shopping bash. Hosted by St. Pete Indie Market on the rooftop terrace of Station House St. Pete, the marketplace will feature vendors selling jewelry, food, clothing and more, a pop-up bar and a DJ set by members of popular local band Jensen Serf Company. Merchants include Oma Darlin' Press, O'Berry's Succulents, Miskatonic Bitters, the Hole Donuts, Pinellas Chocolate Company, Carnage Leathers and more. Plus, customers at the market will receive a discount coupon for the Station House restaurant. Admission is free, 5-9 p.m., stpeteindiemarket.com.
Broken String Fling 9
Sertoma Youth Ranch
85 Myers Road, Brooksville
Feel the love under the stars with earthy tunes by Fresh Franks, Sunset Bridge, Hudson Creek, Crackerbilly Band, Hannah's Whirl, Pat & Friends, Beth McKee, the Sara Rose Band and Dean Johanesen. Camping available or visit for the day. No reservations required. Camping fees are $23 for water and electric hookup, $13 for primitive, tax included. Dog friendly. sertomayouthranch.org.
Tweed Ride 2016
St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club
559 Mirror Lake Drive, St. Petersburg
Get out your finest vintage threads, hop on your bicycle and party like it's 1909. Hosted by St. Pete Shuffle, Tweed Ride has been described as "the most fashionable event on two wheels." The easygoing ride begins at 4 p.m. and winds through the streets of downtown St. Pete. First, attend a preparty with tea and scones catered by Eat This, plus oh-so-proper games of croquet and the accordion stylings of Nick Boutwell. As per tradition, a lively after-party follows with live tunes by living jazz legend Buster Cooper (known for his work with Duke Ellington and weekend nights at the now-defunct Garden). Cycle Brewing brings the beer, and food trucks will roll in to feed hungry riders and revelers. Registration begins and doors open at 2 p.m. Tickets are $16.82 for St. Pete Shuffle members, $22.09 for everyone else in advance, or $27.37 day of show, available at eventbrite.com.
PostSecret: The Show
David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts
1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa
"Secrets can take many forms — they can be shocking or silly or soulful; they can connect us with our deepest humanity," says Frank Warren, who handed out 3,000 self-addressed postcards to strangers and asked them to mail confessions to him. He later photographed the poignant, artfully rendered missives and compiled them into bestselling books. The PostSecret project has since inspired numerous media projects and speaking engagements, and now a live multimedia showcase. Warren has enlisted three actors and a guitarist to dramatize some of the most memorable stories behind the secrets. The actors have also been known to invite audience members to write their secrets on postcards, and some of those will be read by the actors to the audience. Show starts at 7:30 p.m. in the Straz's Ferguson Hall. Tickets are $25-$45. strazcenter.org.
937 Douglas Ave., Dunedin
Say namaste to a new Dunedin tradition on Valentine's Day. Brewãsana, now scheduled for the second Sunday of every month, invites beginners to advanced yogis for a morning yoga session followed by a beer and lunch social. Participants must bring their own mats. It's not free, but the ticket price goes to a worthy cause; for every yogi in attendance, Conscious Coconut will give a child a meal through Feeding Tampa Bay. Conscious Coconut also will provide the first five attendees with a free tube of its coconut oil. Session begins 10 a.m. Admission is $12 cash (class only) or $15 cash (class plus pint). dunedinbrewery.com
The Love Doctors Present: "Give Me a V! Give Me a D!"
New World Brewery
1313 E Eighth Ave., Ybor City
End the weekend with a ridiculous bang at an open mic for the lovelorn hosted by Charlie Doan and David Waterman, a.k.a. the Love Doctors. The intrepid duo provides a therapeutic night of entertainment to help you deal with Valentine's "bleak day of desperate and pointless clingings." Expect rants, puppets, music and plenty of surprises. If you haven't been to a Love Doctors event, you may know Doan as the longtime bartender of Fuma Bella in Ybor and host of the district's ghost tours, and David Waterman as a local artist and overseer at the USF Contemporary Art Museum. Performers are asked to keep their acts under 10 minutes. Walk-ups are welcome if space is available, but the Love Doctors prefer if you sign up beforehand on their Facebook page for a slot. Sponsored by Fruli Strawberry Wheat. Admission is free, 8 p.m. facebook.com/LoveDoctorsPresent.