Celebrate Your Love In February
by Roberta B. Turner

Even though Valentine’s Day this year falls on a Wednesday, we think you might want to think out-of-the-box when trying to decide what is on your agenda.

Valentine’s Day is a popular day to celebrate love and friendship throughout the United States. Did you know this holiday tradition started in the United Kingdom? Countries that celebrate Valentine’s Day besides the U.S. and U.K. include Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Scotland, Spain and Taiwan.

The holiday is named after a Christian martyr with the name Valentinus and dates back to the 5th century. History has many versions of the story about how this holiday was established with its traditions. One of the most popular is that Saint Valentine of Rome was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. According to legend, during his imprisonment Saint Valentine healed the daughter of his jailer and, before his execution, he wrote her a letter signed “Your Valentine” as a farewell.

Today Valentine’s Day is celebrated with Valentine Cards and gifts of flowers, candy and jewelry among other things. If you are someone who likes to break tradition and reach for the stars, you might want to do something different this year. One of the greatest ways to enjoy your loved one or ones is to take an unexpected trip. If it is just the two of you, consider a romantic weekend in St. Augustine. The city is full of romance and there are wonderful restaurants and things to do. St. Augustine is a city on the Northeast coast of Florida and about a four-hour drive from South Florida. It claims to be the oldest city in the U.S., and is known for its Spanish colonial architecture as well as Atlantic Ocean beaches, like sandy St. Augustine Beach and tranquil Crescent Beach. Enjoy horse-drawn carriage rides through historic downtown St. Augustine or arrange to have a horse-drawn carriage take you on a wine-tasting tour. There are numerous accommodations you can stay at including some charming and romantic bed and breakfast places. I prefer Casa Monica Hotel as it is full of charm and is centrally located. They have a wonderful lounge area, and its Cordova Restaurant offers an excellent menu for dinner. There are many romantic restaurants in the historic area as well. The Columbia restaurant offers authentic Cuban food that is delicious, and the restaurant is full of charm. If you want to enjoy the beautiful weather and the charm of lunching outside, you should consider Prohibition Kitchen and Old City House restaurants as both provide charming outdoor dining.

Another trip to consider for family fun, take the entire group to Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando, which is less than a three-hour drive from South Florida. You will experience a taste of Italy at this 5-star hotel nestled along the water just like the seaside town of Portofino, Italy. You will experience cobblestone streets, boat rides, Italian food, a pool and beach area, and special perks. Guests of the hotel receive exclusive theme park benefits that will make your time at Universal Orlando even sweeter. It starts with Universal Express’ unlimited ride access to skip the regular lines in both theme parks all day. The hotel also provides complimentary water taxis along picturesque waterways as well as a shuttle bus to the theme parks and Universal City Walk. Whatever your choice, the most important aspect of Valentine’s Day is to show your loved ones how much you care.