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Travel Talk – Valentine's Day offers many area option for good times (Feb. 11, 2015 issue)

I often identify with Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope on “Parks and Recreation,” and one thing Leslie Knope and I agree on is Valentine’s Day. Instead of focusing on her romantic life on February 14, Amy Poehler’s character celebrates “Galantines” day in order to celebrate her relationships with her female friends and relatives. On the show, Leslie Knope has breakfast and gives gifts to her mom and best friends. While we might not want to go to Pawnee, Ind., for Valentine’s Day, here are some ideas of things to do this weekend in our area with the ones you love, be it friends, family, or romantic partners.
I think concerts are a great idea for friend groups. This weekend, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors will perform in Knoxville at the Bijou Theater on both Friday and Saturday evenings. Holcomb leads the American folk and rock group, which is based in Nashville and also includes his wife. Their gentle, soulful music will lull you into a contemplative mood. Tickets are currently in the $20-$30 range but if you’re interested, I encourage you to purchase tickets in advance. The Bijou Theater is located in downtown Knoxville where you can find a number of restaurants, shops and bars.
If you’re looking for something to do during the day, my mom and I love wandering around downtown Asheville on Saturdays for a mother-daughter date. If you can’t find street parking, you can almost always find a spot in the Grove Park Arcade parking garage. Once there, we love to just walk around in search of the small, unusual gift stores or a unique and delicious restaurant or café. The Mast General Store always has a wide variety of clothes, hiking gear, and knick knacks. If you need some puppy love, an animal shelter often sets up in front of the store on Saturdays and brings puppies that are up for adoption. For lunch, the Laughing Seed Vegetarian Café is one of my favorites with a variety of unique vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free choices.
A night at the theater is always a good idea for a couple. Of course, if you’re not interested in seeing “50 Shades of Grey” and want to do something a little more special, Barter Theater in Abingdon, Va., will debut their performance of Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes” on Valentine’s Day. This classic romantic comedy also includes a delightful repertoire of music. Barter is also performing “The Road to Appomattox” which tells the parallel stories of a present-day couple following the steps of General Lee and the 1865 route of General Lee that led to the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. If you’re looking for a restaurant before the show, I highly recommend 128 Pecan which is near the theater and has a variety of excellent choices.
If you don’t want to splurge on a Barter performance or can’t enjoy February 14, I highly encourage you to come to the Unicoi County Courthouse on Sunday, Feb. 15, at 2 p.m., to support the high school’s Mock Trial Team. Every year, the team prepares a legal case complete with arguments, objections, and witnesses and spends an exhausting day competing against other schools in our area. There’s an opportunity for the public to enjoy the hard work of these students by coming to their Relay for Life fundraiser where you can join the audience in the courtroom for $5 or bid for a seat in the jury box. As an assistant coach for the team, I know that you will be amazed by these brilliant students and their hard-work. And I have no shame in advertising for them! Come early to purchase tickets.
Regardless of how you chose to spend this day dedicated to love, I hope that you will remember the ones you love even if you can’t spend a day with them. You can always just simply call your mom or the friend you haven’t talked to in a while. Give your spouse or children an extra hug or a box of chocolate. For that matter, if you haven’t shown yourself enough love recently, you can spend a day to, in the words of Park and Recreation,“treat yo self.”