romantic staycation

by erin thursby
Instead of going to some tropical isle and spending a bundle on airfare, you can have a romantic staycation with your honey at home. Here are a few of our suggestions if you’d like to stick to the area for your couple’s staycation.

romantic meals for your staycation
Fix or bring a catered meal home. Add a few candles and the right music for a little romance. It helps also to have the kids be whisked away by grandparents.
Bottega di Bella Sera (919 King St., 387-8483) can help with a gourmet stay-at-home meal. Pick it up and heat it up in the oven.
Theme your meal if you can. Do a tropical island theme or set the table with a red checkered table cloth, some spaghetti and a little vino for an Italian romance. Download some romantic tunes for slow dancing.
One of the most romantic things you can do is to have everything arranged. Tell your spouse that there will be a romantic evening, have them go out for the day and come back at the appointed time. There isn’t any romance in decorating your own house with your own hands for your own romantic evening. But if you do the decorating, you’ll get to revel in the reaction of the spouse who didn’t do all the work, and that’s damn romantic. Plus, it gets you brownie points.
Pick a country for your theme and go online. You find lots of suggestions for alcoholic beverages from the nation of your choice as well as dishes and decorations. Most of the these suggestions will apply to parties, you’ll just be having a party for two.
You can also get all gussied up and go on a real date. Spend the cash on a really swank place you might not otherwise go. Naturally, we suggest Matthews (2107 Hendricks Ave., 396-9922), Orsay (3630 Park St., 381-0909), Primi Piatti (2722 Park St., 389-5545) or anywhere else you’ve been dying to try.

local b&bs and hotels
You can relax at a local B&B or high end hotel for at least part of your staycation. Because you haven’t spent any cash on travel costs, you might be able to stay somewhere local that would normally be out if your price range. It will also get you to look at your city in a new way–you can be the tourist.
Jacksonville’s Inn at Oak Street (2362 Gilmore St., 388-4044) in the Riverside district can be a marvelous place for a staycation getaway in our city. The Romance Packages on their website,, offer some great suggestions for local romance. You can add them on as part of your stay. They can prepare a romantic picnic, private dining, even a horse drawn carriage or a private wedding ceremony. Do make sure you book the services in advance though.
One Ocean (One Ocean Blvd., 249-7402) is located in Atlantic Beach, on the edge of the Beaches Town Center. It used to be the Sea Turtle Inn, but it’s been extensively renovated. If you’re on budget, make sure you ask about the various charges that are added on (including gratuity in some cases). It’s an expensive hotel for our area, but it’s in a terrific location, is gorgeous and apparently has an excellent spa. Try their top-notch Azurea restaurant on the bottom floor or just take a walk and enjoy one of the many places in the Beaches Town Center.
St. Augustine is a popular weekend getaway spot for Jacksonville couples, so the St. George Inn (4 St. George St. 101 St. Augustine, 888-827-5740) made our list as a place to stay. It’s a Euro-style hotel right in the heart of things in the historic district. While there are only 25 rooms, most of them afford a view of the old city gate, the Intracoastal or some interesting part of the historic district. They offer tourist packages for historic or ghostly tours.
Remember, you can have a romantic staycation anytime. Whether it’s one day on a weekend or several over a week, you can add a little romance to your relaxation.

everybody should have fun
You can use your staycation to go on a string of different types of dates. Most of the stuff that’s consigned as “romantic” is more enjoyed by women than guys. That means that you should make sure that you choose activities that you’ll either both enjoy or spend an evening (or day) on a date one or the other would like most. He can take her fly fishing at an ungodly hour and she can drag him out dancing until an ungodly hour. FYI, it helps if these two are not done in the same 24-hour period.
You can also have compromise dates– if you’re both happy going to a carnival for example, that might be an excellent compromise date because it’s something you’ll both enjoy. A movie night where he picks out one rental and she picks out another is a good example.
Here’s a list of just some of the local activities you can share: picnic, visit local parks, fishing, golf on one of the areas many courses, dancing, Apron’s cooking classes, going to the Cummer, MOCA and more, checking out the FLUX gallery, walking the Riverwalk, be kids again at Adventure Landing, go on a Budweiser tour, go to the Jacksonville Zoo, hear the Jacksonville Symphony, see a play at the Alhambra, visit Kingsley Plantation or just go to the beach.
The important thing is that you should open yourself up to the experience. When you have a new boyfriend or girlfriend you’re often willing to try new things with an open mind and a cheerful heart. That attitude will go a long way towards making your romantic staycation a good one.