Gainesville may be home to the University of Florida, but there’s more to the holidays in this college town than winter break. The season lends itself to all kinds of romantic date ideas including visiting a festive, candlelit historic home, seeing a Christmas play in a “new, old-fashioned way,” and checking out a special holiday art gallery. It’s also a great time to take advantage of the cool weather by picnicking at a botanical garden or enjoying the cozy warmth of a couple’s massage. Needless to say, there are plenty of romantic things to do during the holidays in Gainesville!
The Historic Haile Homestead at Kanapaha Plantation offers tours year-round, but you and your date can see the house in a whole new light during their annual Candlelight Visits. On December 8th from 6 - 9 p.m., the homestead will be completely decked out for the holidays and glowing with romantic candlelight as well as soft Christmas lights. Strolling through the 1856 plantation home, you’ll truly feel like you’re celebrating Christmas in a time that’s “gone with the wind” with the Victorian holiday decor and tour guides in period clothing. There will also be live music and refreshments to enjoy as well. Tickets are $10 each and $7 in advance.
Take a romantic stroll through Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, which is beautifully manicured and lush with flowers and other plant life. The gardens are quite impressive; in addition to 24 major collections, Kanapaha Botanical Gardens also has the state’s largest public display of bamboo and the largest herb garden in the Southeast. Admission is $8 per adult, and the gardens are open every day during the holiday season except for Christmas. However, make sure to check their Events page to make sure that a wedding or other social function is not scheduled during your planned visit (Kanapaha Botanical Gardens is a premier wedding venue in Gainesville). Make your date extra special by packing a picnic lunch as well as blankets to lounge on or bundle up.
Seeing the holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life at High Springs Playhouse with your date will do more than just get you two into the Christmas spirit. This unique production brings the story to life through a live 1940’s broadcast where celebrities perform all the characters, foley artists create the sounds, and extras interact with the audience. The radio program format will definitely invoke feelings of nostalgia and romance, making It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play one that you won’t want to miss this holiday season. This play runs from December 1st through the 17th, and regular adult tickets are $16 while student and senior tickets are $11.
Come tour The Artisans’ Guild Gallery during "Handmade for the Holidays" where you can see hundreds of handcrafted fine art and holiday decor from the region’s best artists. At Gainesville’s most comprehensive art gallery, there will be plenty of artwork to see and possibly a Christmas gift for a loved one. The gallery will be open daily this month from 10 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12 - 6 p.m. on Sunday. On Friday, December 29th from 7- 10 p.m., you can actually tour The Artisans’ Guild Gallery, other galleries, and local businesses as well as enjoy refreshments, listen to live music, and meet artists during the monthly “artwalk,” which would definitely make for a romantic date this time of year!
There’s something romantic about going behind-the-scenes, so take a tour of Gainesville’s own Swamp Head Brewery for an interesting date. Unlike other tours, you don’t have to wait til the end to sample the brewery’s offerings. Before the tour starts, you’ll get a limited-edition tour pint glass filled with one of their year-round beers to sip on as you walk around the brewery and learn about Swamp Head. Tours are for adults 21 and older, and tickets are $5 a person.
This holiday, treat yourself and your date to a romantic couple’s massage at the Floating Lotus Therapeutic Spa and Health Center. In their spacious sky loft, you two can unwind and enjoy a much-needed massage. The spa offers many kinds of massages including deep tissue, hot stone, cupping, sports therapy, and foot massages. You can also enhance your massage experience by opting for aromatherapy or paraffin infusions for the hands and feet. Hour-long couple’s massages range from $150 to $200 depending on the service chosen. Book a massage for you and your significant other!
If you and your date are vacationing in Gainesville, skip the basic, boring hotels and stay at a romantic bed and breakfast like Sweetwater Branch Inn. This charming B&B consists of two Victorian homes with 12 beautiful rooms between them and seven separate cottages. You can’t go wrong with Sweetwater Branch Inn because all of the rooms are quaintly decorated, and the breakfast is absolutely delicious. Hot breakfast offerings change every day, but one morning’s consisted of whole wheat pancakes with pear compote, creamy cheese grits, and fruit salad. They also have a consistent cold breakfast bar with homemade granola, French vanilla yogurt, whole milk, and fresh local fruit as well as English muffins and toast with preserves.
Make your holiday getaway all the more romantic by booking a room or cottage at Sweetwater Branch Inn. While you’re making your reservation, don’t forget to add on one of their many Romance Packages to make your first night’s stay even more special.
For more romantic things to do during the holidays in Gainesville, check out our holiday events page, and visit our Things to Do in Gainesville page for date ideas year-round. Also, register on 352area and connect to events, sports, and much more around Gainesville. It's free!
Cover photo from Facebook page of Historic Haile Homestead at Kanapaha Plantation