Valentine's gifts, from sleaze to cheese

By Susan Thurston, tbt* Staff Writer
Published February 8, 2008

Whether you're married, dating or on the prowl, Valentine's Day can pose gift challenges for anyone. Do you go with flowers and dinner again? Or do you spice it up? Here are some ideas, by category.


Deluxe Lovopoly game ($74.95) Go directly to therapy. Earn $200 toward your future as you pass the bedroom. Pay in Lovopoly hearts. Surely, this game will end up high on a closet shelf. But, first, score some brownie points by putting your face and declarations of love on a personalized Monopoly board. Fill Boardwalk with your favorite places. Land on the Family Jewels. You get the idea. www.lovopoly.com

Whitman's Sampler with plush toy ($3.99 and up) Nothing says, "I almost forgot Valentine's Day, but here's something I grabbed on the way home from work" than a made-in-China box of chocolates and a teddy bear. You can buy them at any drugstore. But beware. When it comes to the one day of the year you're supposed to show reckless adoration, the thought doesn't always count.


Target holiday aisle $2.99 and up Cross Valentine's off your shopping list fast and painlessly while picking up life's real essentials: laundry detergent and toilet paper. Ideal for the multitasker, Target has several aisles devoted to red and pink. Win over his heart, via stomach, with heart-shaped muffin pans, cookie cutters and sprinkles. Or get lucky with a chocolate horseshoe or fondue for two. And for the recently jilted: a pink and black Love Stinks voodoo doll.

Singing Valentine ($50) It's as simple as ordering roses, and it will probably turn your sweetheart just as red. The Academy Chorus, a nonprofit men's barbershop vocal ensemble in Tampa, offers singing valentines. A quartet will surprise your sweetheart at work, school, home or wherever with a two-song serenade on Valentine's Day. They'll present a rose and a personalized card. Call (813) 624-2600 or order online. www.theacademychorus.com


Vibrating panties ($90) Give your mate a zap she won't forget with these vibrating thong panties. The leopard-print undies come with a handheld remote that activates a dinky vibrator in the crotch. Just push a button - from up to 20 feet away - and the panties go to work. "Romance enhancement specialist" Diana Jerome of Trinity sells these and other pleasure products online and at home slumber parties, i.e. Tupperware parties for the bedroom. www.slumberpartiesbydianajerome.com

Below-the-belt dye kits ($22) Decorate your hair down there with at-home dye and stencil kits guaranteed, according to the makers, to "get your betty ready." Available from Pia Esthetics Day Spa and Body Shop, the Betty Beauty kits come in red, pink and other colors. Not a do-it-yourselfer? The South Tampa spa does heart-shaped Brazilian waxes and more, PG-13 chocolate cake massages and body scrubs. www.bypia.com


Hot-air balloon ride ($170 per person and up) Declare your love to the heavens above and world below while riding in a balloon. Various companies offer bird's-eye views of northern Hillsborough and southern Pasco counties. Meet in the city, then head to the launch spots. Book a spot on Valentine's Day or buy a gift certificate for a future ride. Some companies offer Sweetheart Flights for two (plus a pilot, of course). Check out www.celebrationaviation.com , www.bigredballoon.com and tranquilityballoonrides.com .

Dolphin packages ($74.95 to $299.95 plus admission to Discovery Cove) Prove to your mate you have the listening skills of a dolphin by getting a Valentine's Day package at Discovery Cove in Orlando. Swim with dolphins, snorkel with rays, then watch as Flipper delivers your honey a love note. Premier packages include a private cabana, bottle of champagne, a dozen roses and a DVD of your experience. www.discoverycove.com


Swing-dancing ball. ($12 per person) This may or may not fit the category, depending on how you and your partner move on the dance floor. Pros and beginners are welcome at Swing Centro's Valentine's Ball with prizes, chocolate and full bar at Centro Asturiano, 1913 N Nebraska Ave. in Tampa. Swing-dance lessons are from 7 to 8 p.m. Ten O'Clock Big Band performs from 8 to midnight. Call (813) 274-4950 or visit www.swingtime.info

Comedy shows ($25 to $37 per person) Find out if a potential mate has a sense of humor with tickets to a comedy club. Side Splitters Comedy Club in North Tampa has a $50 Valentine's Day package for two, which includes admission, a bottle of champagne, roses, strawberries and a teddy bear. Diane Ford from HBO's Women of the Night takes the mike. In Ybor City, Bobcat Goldthwait of Police Academy fame appears at the Tampa Improv. Tickets are $37 per person and include dinner, a champagne toast and rose for the ladies. www.sidesplitterscomedy.com , www.tampaimprov.com