Maybe it’s the sunshine, or the many love songs inspired by the Golden State, or perhaps the wild, wide open beaches; whatever the reason, a trip to California always inspires ideas of romance. No matter if it’s your first all-important mini break with the object of your affection, or you’re planning a few days’ escape from the kids, we’ve got some great ideas for romantic getaways in California. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, there’s no better time to bring a little love into your travel plans.
Indulge your foodie side with a weekend in Wine Country
An hour’s drive north of San Francisco, the Napa and Sonoma valleys have long attracted wine buffs who come to taste some of the USA’s best wines, dine at world class restaurants and enjoy the picturesque surroundings. For the foodie couple, it’s hard to find a better weekend away. Restaurants like Thomas Keller’s French Laundry can book up several weeks in advance, so try to plan ahead when it comes to dinner reservations. Wine tastings at any of the major producers can usually be booked just a day or two in advance—but there are many to choose from so it’s a good idea to do a little forward planning. Avoid potential arguments and organize for a driver for a day to take you around your chosen vineyards—nobody wants to be the designated driver on a wine tasting day out.
One of our favorite tasting rooms is Cakebread Cellars in Napa. The knowledgeable staff offers a whole host of different tastings depending on your preferences—from white wines only (Cakebread is famous for its Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc wines) to a food and wine pairing class, to a private preview of their current releases. There are also half and full-day cooking courses on site led by erstwhile chef Brian Streeter. He’s been cooking at Cakebread for nearly 30 years and has developed a fantastic kitchen garden in that time. Everything on the menu will be fresh and locally sourced (and served with the vineyard’s own wines), and you’ll have the chance to impress your beloved with your superior kitchen skills.
Day two of your trip may well call for some R&R to soothe aching heads—and there are few places better designed to care for your tired mind than the Kenwood Inn and Spa. Open to both guests and day visitors the spa has an outdoor heated pool set in a secluded courtyard, plus hot tub and vinotherapy body treatments using local grapes packed with antioxidants to refresh your skin. We love the Crushed Cabernet Scrub followed by a relaxing massage. You’ll be feeling like new again just in time for dinner.
Where to Stay
Lux on First, in downtown Sonoma, is a cute two-bedroom craftsman-inspired cottage that’s walking distance to all the great restaurants and tasting rooms in Sonoma Plaza. Swing by Basque Cafe for a takeout breakfast of sweet brioche and excellent coffee to enjoy on your sunny deck before you head out for the day. And when you get home, finish off your evening cuddled up beside the outdoor firepit with a glass of Cab Sauv.
The couple that trains together stays together in San Diego
If you’re the type of person that enters half marathons with your other half, a weekend focused on learning a new fitness skill is sure to bring you closer together. And why shouldn’t you get a good dose of California sunshine at the same time? Learning to surf is fun, challenging, great for your physique, and the ideal way to spend some quality time together. Just above the Mexican border, San Diego is a SoCal surf hotspot, where relaxed, expert instruction, manageable waves and a friendly vibe are sure to make your first surfing experience a positive one.
Pacific Surf School, right on Pacific Beach, has been teaching wannabe surfers for 20 years. Founder Emilio Abate has surfed all over the world and is a master instructor with the International Surfing Association, so you’ll be in safe hands. To get the most out of your day consider a private lesson, so the instructor can focus on your technique, helping you to progress more quickly. If you want to come away from your trip feeling confident enough to surf on your own, a course of 5 lessons will show you all the basics and get you ready for your new life on the waves.
Where to Stay
When it comes to San Diego, staying on the beach is a must, plus it will give you the chance to enjoy romantic sunset strolls along the sand before dinner. Villa on the Bay in La Jolla, a charming beach town just north of San Diego, is situated right on the sand. The house offers views of the Pacific Ocean from the bedroom (so you can keep an eye on those waves), and there’s a jetted tub to soothe tired muscles after your ocean workout.
Movie buffs make a beeline for Los Angeles
Do you constantly quote lines from famous movies at your loved one? Do you still have the ticket stub from the first movie you saw together? If the silver screen has accompanied your relationship since the beginning a weekend in L.A. will give you cinematic memories to last a lifetime.
Start your day at Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, where the Oscars are held every year (although you already know that of course). Check out the screenings and pick up a couple of tickets for your evening date before strolling along the Walk of Fame to find your favorite actor’s star. Zip up to West Hollywood for lunch (nobody walks in L.A.!) before embarking on a self-guided tour of La La Land’s filming locations ending up at the iconic Griffith Park Observatory just in time for sunset.
Day two is all about indulging your inner child with a visit to Disneyland or Universal Studios. It’s a tough choice to make—at Disney you have all your favorite cartoon characters, plus a host of Star Wars-themed rides and attractions. Universal has the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Jurassic Park ride, and their ever-popular studio tour which takes you around a real movie lot. There’s even a Walking Dead experience if you want to test your survival skills. Whichever you choose you’re guaranteed a day filled with fun and laughter.
Where to Stay
Movie buffs know that life in L.A. is all about the Hollywood, so treat yourselves to a star-worthy pad all of your own. Lilypool is a secluded modern home with canyon views, just off Mulholland Drive, and a short drive away from the Sunset Strip. The walls are lined with modern art and the private pool is the perfect place to cool off once your day is done.