Here are some ideas that just might help you to be a HERO for Valentine’s. First things, first. It does not all have to happen on February 14th. Broaden your horizons and just have some fun!

[This Photo features an authentic Italian restaurant in Dana Point. It has been there for many years and is worth the drive. Luciana’s Restaurant. One of the Owners had a cooking school in Italy!]

Valentine’s Dining-
So many restaurants are offering fabulous prix fixe menus for Valentine’s dinner. Consider stretching the calendar a bit, and select another evening when it will be quieter and perhaps even more romantic, as there will be less hustle and bustle.

Here are some of my favorite spots from north to south OC, however the options are endless!

-Seal Beach- Spaghettini’s (they have music some evenings and weekend days)

-Fountain Valley- Cambalache Grill (Argentine & Italian), Hue Oi and Brodard (both Vietnamese).

-Costa Mesa- Descanso (they have grill tables too) and at South Coast Plaza AnQi Bistro and Din Tai Fung and VACA.

-Newport Beach- 21 Oceanfront (music in the bar most evenings at killer views of the beach and ocean so arrive before sunset), Bayside (has music each evening at 6pm and Sunday brunch), The Bungalow (craftsman style and a local spot), Five Crowns (delicious prime rib and elegant English Tutor décor), Farmhouse (at Roger’s Garden with lovely patio), 608 Dahlia (delicious quiche, salads and seafood- set in the garden at Sherman Gardens and open for lunch Wednesday’s thru Sunday), Zov’s with a nice patio, Bar One by Il Barone, Modo Mio in Crystal Cove and Mastro’s Ocean Club also in Crystal Cove.

-Irvine- Bistango (with a great patio and music most evenings), North Italia, Del Frisco’s Grille and Angelina’s.

-Tustin- Prego (has an expansive bar and patio as well— offering authentic Italian cuisine) and Zov’s offering Mediterranean cuisine and a covered patio. Their bakery is not to be missed!

-Laguna Hills- Ironwood Restaurant is lovely and has a nice covered patio.

-Dana Point- Luciana’s Italian Restaurant- it has been there for so long and offers authentic cuisine. One of the owners runs a cooking school in Italy.

-San Juan Capistrano- Trevor’s at the Tracks (and they have music some evenings), Cedar Creek Inn and a new restaurant Bloom (only open for dinner).

-San Clemente- Brick Restaurant (amazing BBQ items), Vine Restaurant & Wine Bar and Nick’s.

Day Trips-
Here are a few outings that we really enjoy. They are easy to do and makes for a fun, carefree day.

-Temecula- Who doesn’t enjoy a little wine tasting? There are so many lovely wineries there. For lunch we love to stop at Bolero which offers Spanish inspired cuisine and is located at Europa Village. The Paella is amazing! And if you head in to the Old Town there are lots of shops and restaurants. A casual, fun bar with lots of history is 1909. Also the Temecula Olive Oil store has lots of things to take home for your pantry.

-Bowers Art Museum- Located in Santa Ana not far from the 5 Freeway. They have a restaurant there too and the gift shop is busting with finery. It opened in 1939 and currently on display is “Guo Pei: Art of Couture” and is there through May 14, 2023. Always great collections featured here.

-Carlsbad Flower Fields- Opens March 1st and runs thru mid-May. This is a fabulous spot to wander among the flowers and you can even do a tractor ride around the property with views of the ocean below. A perfect spot for taking pictures.
Also, here is a great Armstrong’s Nursery at the base of the entry and a fruit stand with delicious strawberries. Just steps away is an Outlet Mall with many of my favorite brands. They even have a cooking store there and Crate and Barrel. A few miles away is a New England style restaurant with a small museum attached with lots of early American history and artifacts. Their hamburger is worth the drive!

-Getty Museum- There are two. One is located in Pacific Palisades along Pacific Coast Highway. It is a gigantic Villa with palace-like gardens and a plethora of artwork. The other Getty is located in West Los Angeles (near Brentwood) and this features more modern architecture. There are numerous buildings and plan to spend hours wandering about. Both feature art from ancient to contemporary and have vast collections to explore and enjoy.

At One With Nature-For those who like to get out in nature, here are a few of our favorite things to do in Orange County.

-Parks in Irvine- Mason Park- They have a huge lake with a variety of birds, an expansive walking path and bridges and lots of trees and vegetation. Bonita Canyon- Has lots of hiking trails and views of Shady Canyon to enjoy.

-Duffy Boat Rental- On the Harbor we enjoy taking out a Duffy and gliding around the bay for a couple of hours. We bring a picnic and wine, of course. Some enjoy picking up to go orders from a host of restaurants that have docks for easy transfer to you. I suggest renting from Duffy Electric Boats on Coast Highway (parking is limited), or Vision Electric Boat Rentals in Lido Marina Village with a large parking lot for easy parking.

-Gondola Ride- For a really romantic outing on the water, Gondola Adventures, Inc. has capable Gondoliers that will take care of everything.

-Rent Electric Bikes- At Pedego in Corona del Mar, Dana Point and Balboa Peninsula offer rentals that are super fun to drive. I actually purchased a bike, I loved it so much.

-Guided Kayak Nature Tours- Led by the Newport Bay Conservancy on the weekends, these are educational too!

Treats and Delights-
My go-to is Chocolate Covered Strawberries, or hand made chocolates. Many folks like cupcakes or cookies. Wine, Champagne or Prosecco are always winners as are candles for the ladies.

Gift Cards-
Always popular are Gift Cards that can be used in the future. I tend to seek out something that the person would not normally get for themselves. This might include: Starbucks, Spa Treatment, Pedicure, Cooking Class or a Concert or Performance, such as at the Laguna Playhouse, Segerstrom Center for the Arts, or even The Irvine Improv.

I hope your February is filled with some fun, romance and joy!
Deirdre Michalski

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *