Local date ideas abound for Valentine’s Day and beyond.
By Sharael Kolberg
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, couples are likely wondering what they can do to impress their loved one with a romantic night out or thoughtful gift. Luckily, Laguna Beach has plenty of options for ways to spend time together while making lasting memories. The numerous restaurants, scenic coastline and local merchants make it easy to plan a fun outing to celebrate your love in our charming town—day or night—on that special February holiday or any time of the year.
Fine Art and Tea
With its history as an artists colony, there’s no shortage of art-related activities to do in Laguna—from visiting the many galleries to taking an art class. Consider a date starting at Laguna Art Museum to peruse the exhibitions and spark meaningful conversation. With beginnings tracing back to 1918, the museum highlights California art. Throughout the month of February, get a preview of pieces that will be displayed and sold as part of the 42nd annual California Cool Art Auction during this museum fundraising event March 2 (and online through March 4).
“Viewing the California Cool Art Auction artworks together will help you learn about your date’s personality type,” says Laguna Art Museum Executive Director Julie Perlin Lee. “Featuring a stunning breadth of genres from notable California artists, this auction exhibition is the perfect opportunity to get to know your date. Do they like abstract art or impressionist? Landscapes or portraits? You can even place bids on your favorite artworks beginning Feb. 19.”
For a post-Valentine’s Day visit—including belated celebrations the weekend after the holiday—Laguna Art Museum’s first decorative arts exhibition, “Modern Alchemy,” opens Feb. 17 and continues through July 29 with a display of unique pieces by award-winning local jeweler Adam Neeley, who uses artistry to create stunning wearable masterpieces.
End your date with a sweet treat across the street at Urth Caffé, housed in a historic building that dates back to 1917. With nearly 30 decadent desserts to choose from, such as flourless chocolate cake, Oreo cheesecake, matcha tiramisu or Granny Smith apple pie, it will be hard to choose. Urth Caffé is also known for its large inventory of hand-selected fine teas. Warm up with a cup of African rooibos or tea lattes like the Green Rose, Moroccan Mint or Divine Spice Chai.
Dinner and a Show
For a traditional date with a Laguna Beach twist, grab dinner at the Lumberyard Restaurant, with a building that looks like it was plucked from a fairy tale and the warm glow of a fireplace inside. Located downtown, the site was once part of an actual lumberyard.
“Low lighting, comfortable booths, live music, great food and warm service round out the experience and atmosphere,” says co-owner Cary Redfearn. “Our mezze platter and tinned fish platters are meant to be shared and are a fun and healthy way to begin a meal. Continuing with that theme, share a crab cake salad or roasted beet salad followed by our delightful sea bass over risotto. Finish with bread pudding for dessert. A bottle of Pepe Luis albarino from Spain would complement the meal well.”
After a romantic dinner, walk over to Laguna Playhouse for the 22nd annual Laguna Beach Music Festival with shows Feb. 16-18. This year, the festival—a collaboration between Laguna Beach Live and the Philharmonic Society of Orange County—highlights the talent of world-class violinist Anne Akiko Meyers as well as other featured performers.
Sunset Picnic in the Park
Take your main squeeze for a stroll along the landscaped pathway at Heisler Park for expansive, breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. Watch surfers catching waves or sea lions coming up for air, admire the public art and enjoy postcard-perfect views of Main Beach. Go in the late afternoon or early evening for a romantic sunset date.
Before you head out, make a stop at nearby Mercado Laguna to pick up items for the perfect picnic. Known for its seasonal produce, local provisions and ready-to-eat meals, you’re sure to find just what you need for a tasty alfresco dinner or snacks.
“We have everything you could imagine for putting together a great picnic,” says owner Summer Tarango, “from ingredients for a charcuterie spread to already prepared meals. We even have a picnic kit in a bag that includes enamel plates, napkins and utensils, including a cheese knife. And we sell great blankets. My tips for a great picnic basket are to know what your partner loves, then keep it simple, so you can enjoy your time together.”
Pancakes and Paddling
For a day date, you can’t beat breakfast at local favorite Heidelberg Cafe. The casual environment and ocean views are a great way to kick off your morning. Choose from freshly made pastries, egg dishes, classic breakfast combos, pancakes and more—always served with a smile from the friendly staff. Add a latte or cold brew to make your meal complete.
Once you’re fueled up, catch the free Laguna Beach trolley to Fisherman’s Cove in north Laguna for a day out on the water. La Vida Laguna offers an hour-and-a-half guided kayak tour for those age 3 and older who know how to swim. It’s the perfect way to explore the offshore Laguna Beach State Marine Reserve, where you’ll likely see swaying kelp forests, sunbathing sea lions and the California state fish, the orange Garibaldi.
Golf and S’mores by the Sea
Whisk your Valentine away for a friendly round of golf, surrounded by the scenic canyon environment at The Ranch at Laguna Beach. The nine-hole course—GEO-certified for social and environmental sustainability—offers a private, serene setting that’s perfect for spending time with the one you love. Follow your golf game with lunch or dinner at the resort’s elegant Harvest restaurant: The menu even includes some items made with ingredients grown in the half-acre, on-site garden.
“While our rooms, spa and restaurant are phenomenal, the setting is what truly inspires romance,” says Kurt Bjorkman, chief operating officer. “Sitting at a fire pit looking out over our canyon, close to the one you love—or want to love—is a romantically inspirational environment.”
Bjorkman suggests ordering oysters on the half shell as an appetizer with the pan-seared scallops for a main dish paired with Ruinart Blanc de Blanc wine. For a night cap, enjoy a cocktail around the fire pits at The Porch, nearby on the property. Or, for a creative and cozy dessert idea, head across the street to Aliso Beach, where you can rent a fire pit through Lost Pier Cafe. S’mores packages including skewers are available for purchase as well. As the evening starts to get chilly, roast your marshmallows while snuggling up together for a romantic end to the evening.
Token of Affection
Show your love for that special someone with these perfect gifts from local shops.
Offering lingerie and loungewear in Laguna Beach since 1980, I.C. London carries everything from comfortable undergarments and sexy sets to cute, cozy pajamas at every price point. For higher-end pieces, consider a luxurious LACE NIGHTGOWN by Arianne, $119, paired with cover-ups like this SILK ROBE by Ginia, $298, at I.C. London. (949-497-4254; instagram.com/iclondonlagunabeach)
La Rue du Chocolat has been serving fine homemade chocolates and candy creations on historic Peppertree Lane since the 1950s. Here, find some sweets for your sweetie, like this HEART-SHAPED BOX that’s made of chocolate and comes filled with chocolate-covered salted caramels, $24.50, at La Rue du Chocolat. (949-494-2372; larueduchocolat.com)
At French Buckets, you’ll find fresh flower arrangements that feature local blooms whenever possible. Choose a floral gift with elegant, feminine and artistic flair, like this PASTEL ROSE GARDEN BOUQUET, from $115, at French Buckets. (949-759-0404; frenchbuckets.com)
Exquisitely designed, these sweet and subtle POESY BRACELETS by Monica Rich Kosann are made of 18-karat yellow or rose gold, featuring a chain and a bar set with gems ranging from sapphires to diamonds, rubies or emeralds and inscriptions from “happiness” to “strength” or “carpe diem” on the back—one without gems is engraved with “I love you more”—from $995, at Fredric H. Rubel Jewelers. (949-494-3513; rubeljewelers.com)