My husband and I don’t get a chance to go on many traditional “dates,” i.e. evening dates. What works best for us is a “date day,” preferably done while our son is in school. We don’t have the worry and expense of a babysitter, yet we’re still able to enjoy some all important couple time. In honor of Valentine’s Day, here is a list of Date Day Ideas, many of which are free (or require minimal expense).
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The Getty Center
N. Sepulveda Blvd. and Getty Center Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90049
When you go on a date to The Getty Center, there’s as much to see inside as there is outside. The permanent collection includes European and American art, from Medieval Times to the present. Outside, take time to stroll through the Getty’s famous Central Garden. You’re also in for some spectacular views of the city! Stroll hand-in-hand, while you marvel at the architecture (both of our city and the museum). Admission is free; parking is $15. (The Getty is closed on Mondays, but opens every other day at 10:00 am).
The Getty Villa
17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
While a trip to Europe might be beyond your budget, you may feel as if you’ve traveled there as you wander through the collection at The Getty Villa. The Getty Villa is a re-creation of an ancient Roman country house. The art on display represents 7,000 years of ancient art — from the end of the Stone Age to the fall of the Roman Empire. You’ll also be enchanted by the Villa’s four gardens featuring fountains, ponds, and arbors. (Check the website before visiting; some galleries will be closed due to reinstallation of the collection). Admission is free, though an advance, timed-entry ticket is required. Parking is $15. The Getty Villa is closed on Tuesdays and opens at 10:00 am every other day.
380 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Bring out your inner kid with a date-day at Pacific Park. Buy a wrist band and have some fun on the Pacific Wheel, Inkie’s Pirate Ship, West Coaster, and more. Don’t forget to try your luck and/or skill at one of the games, go for a spin on the historic Carousel, and play in the Arcade. You’ll also find a variety of restaurants and concession stands at the Pier. Check the website before visiting to confirm hours; most days it opens at 11:00 am or 12:00 pm. And on a weekday, you’re not likely to find many long lines.
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
1151 Oxford Rd., San Marino, CA 91108
You and your partner have 207 acres of land to explore at The Huntington. Stroll hand-in-hand as you see first editions of literary works, great works of art, beautiful gardens, and wildlife (including several types of birds, squirrels, and koi fish in the ponds). In the Library, you’ll find early editions of Shakespeare’s works, Henry David Thoreau’s manuscript of Walden, a Gutenberg Bible, and much more. The Art Collection includes 440 sculptures and 650 paintings with European art from the 15th to early 20th century and American art from the late 17th century to mid-20th century. Popular pieces include Thomas Gainsborough’s Blue Boy and Pinkie by Sir Thomas Lawrence. The Huntington is also home to 12 gardens with 15,000 different varieties of plants including a rose garden, a California garden, a jungle garden, and more. A variety of dining options are available as well including the casual 1919 Cafe or the more elegant Rose Garden Tea Room (which requires advance reservations). The Huntington opens at 10:00 am each day (with weekdays offering slightly less expensive admission than weekends. (The Huntington is closed on Tuesdays).
Sherman Oaks Castle Park
4989 Sepulveda Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
Many couples remember a date night that involved miniature golf. But when was the last time you went mini golfing without kids? It takes on a different vibe when it’s just the two of you. Sherman Oaks Castle Park offers three different 18-hole golf courses, and if you can get there early during the week, you’re not likely to encounter big crowds.
Larchmont Sanctuary Spa
331 N. Larchmont Blvd., Los Angeles, CA
Stepping into the Larchmont Sanctuary Spa, you and your partner will be entering a 100-year old home that is now a popular and comfortable day spa. Escape the daily demands of life and parenthood and focus on yourselves and each other. Larchmont Sanctuary Spa offers several couples massage treatments. So whether you have 60 minutes or a few hours, you and your partner can find a treatment to meet your needs. Check the website for descriptions and fees. (They are closed on Tuesdays).
2903 Cornell Rd., Agoura Hills, CA 91301
Contact Malibu Riders to set up a horseback riding session with your special someone. They offer daily rides in Malibu Creek State Park which cover a 3-mile loop in a one-hour time period. You’ll be treated to magnificent views, and while you’re riding, you won’t see the same view twice. It’s a great way to gain a different perspective on our city (and each other). And don’t worry if you’ve never been on a horse before, no previous experience is necessary. Check the website for fees and scheduling information and to make a reservation.
The Queen Mary
1126 Queens Highway, Long Beach, CA 90802
Maybe a cruise isn’t in the budget, but that doesn’t mean you can’t spend some time on what was once a world-class, luxury ocean liner. Today, The Queen Mary serves as a major tourist attraction, floating hotel, and event venue. Couples will find a variety of dining options including a Sunday Champagne Brunch, Sir Winston’s Restaurant and Lounge, Malibu Wines, and more.
The Griffith Observatory
2800 E. Observatory Rd., Los Angeles, CA 90027
If you’ve only been to the Griffith Observatory with kids in tow, it’s a different experience when it’s just you and your loved one. As you explore the Observatory’s exhibits, you’ll be engaged, curious, and in awe. Somehow, within the vastness of space, things worked out for you and your partner to find each other! Admission to the Observatory is free, but if you opt to see one of the shows offered in the Planetarium, there is a slight fee. On clear days, you’ll be treated to incredible views of our city (including the Hollywood Sign). You can also dine at the on-site cafe.
5437 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, CA 90803
Maybe you can’t afford a trip to Venice, but you can certainly afford a trip to Naples. That is, the Naples Island located in Long Beach. There you’ll find Gondola Getaway which offers different customizable packages so you can design the cruise that best fits your needs. Last year, my husband and I celebrated our seventeenth wedding anniversary with a special gondola ride. You can read all about it here.
South Coast Botanic Garden
26300 Crenshaw Blvd., Palos Verdes Peninsula, CA 90274
The South Coast Botanic Garden is open every day from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Within the Garden’s 87 acres, you’ll find blooming trees, flowers, and shrubs including California native plants, Moreton Bay Fig trees, a desert garden, a Japanese garden and koi pond, a rose garden, a “Garden for the Senses” (where you can touch and smell the plants), and more. Enjoy the peaceful garden settings together and don’t forget that you’re not that far from the beach. How about a picnic on the beach (before or after the Garden) to complete the day?
Hornblower Dining Cruise
13755 Fiji Way, Marina del Rey, CA 90292
It might not be a cruise to the Caribbean, but a Hornblower Dining Cruise isn’t a regular date either. Escape the traffic and your usual surroundings as you sit back and relax and enjoy good food, fine views, and each other. Hornblower offers different cruise options such as a 2-hour brunch cruise and a 2.5-hour dinner cruise. Check the website for information on scheduling and fees.
Hike and Picnic
You and your partner can determine how much you want to focus on hiking and how much you want to focus on picnicking. Maybe it’s just some trail mix and snacks tucked into a backpack. Maybe, it’s a full-fledged picnic basket with all sorts of treats. Either way, get outside, give yourselves the opportunity to see some different views, and while you reconnect with nature, you’ll reconnect with each other. Click here for a list of family-friendly hiking trails to give you some ideas on where to go.