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!

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Romantic Date Ideas for Couples in Gainesville During Holidays

Candlelight Visits at the Historic Haile Homestead

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. From Dec 3rd to Dec 31, 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 Victorian holiday decor and tour guides in period clothing. This year’s theme is Angels, and you learn more about the enslaved people who lived and labored there, as well as the Haile family. Tickets are $5 each, and if you have kids under 12, no charge for them. The timings are 10 AM to 2 PM on Saturdays and 12 PM to 4 PM on Sundays.

​Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

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 $10 per adult, and the gardens are open every day during the holiday season except for Christmas. However, check their Events page to ensure 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.

A Christmas Story: A Play at High Springs Playhouse

Seeing the holiday classic A Christmas Story at High Springs Playhouse with your date will do more than just get you two into the Christmas spirit. This unique production brings the memoir of Humorist Jean Shepherd to life. It follows a story of a 9-year-old Ralphie Parker growing up in the midwest in the 1940s. He is on his quest to get a genuine Red Ryder BB gun under the tree for Christmas, which his mother, teacher, and even Santa Claus disapproves of. If you wish to enjoy all the elements from the beloved motion picture, you’ll love this theatrical holiday perennial. It runs from December 2nd through the 18th on Friday and Saturday at 8 pm and Sunday at 2 pm. The regular adult tickets are $16, while student and senior tickets are $11.

Holiday Art Market at Artisans' Guild Gallery

Come tour The Artisans’ Guild Gallery during "Holiday Art Market" 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. This year, the market is on Dec 11th, from 11 AM to 5 PM. You can tour The Artisans’ Guild Gallery, other galleries, and local businesses, as well as, enjoy refreshments, listen to live music, and meet artists, which would make for a romantic date this time of year! A bonus point - there’s homemade Italian food and Twisted Tikka on the menu!

Swamp Head Brewery

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 till 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.

Floating Lotus Therapeutic Spa and Health Center

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!

Sweetwater Branch Inn

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 the rooms are quaintly decorated, and the breakfast is delicious. Hot breakfast offerings change every day, but one morning 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 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 the Facebook page of Historic Haile Homestead at Kanapaha Plantation