There's no better way to commemorate Cupid's holiday than swapping L.A.'s smog and traffic for the bucolic tranquility of the Central Coast and Santa Ynez Valley this Valentine's Day. And whether you want to hit the beach or wine country, we've got you covered when it comes to finding the best deals for your romantic rendezvous.
The picture-perfect beach town of Santa Barbara is romantic in its own right, but on Feb. 14 the city's restaurants up the ante.
Try Bella Vista at the Biltmore Four Seasons Resort (www.preview.fourseasons.com) or Bistro 1111 at the Hyatt Santa Barbara (www.santabarbara.hyatt.com). Both restaurants will be featuring affordable, full-course menus for under $100.
For a more wine-influenced affair, the State Street Wine Bistro (www.pierrelafond.com) on Santa Barbara's picturesque main street, is celebrating Valentine's Day with a sparkling wine flight that includes samples of Cristal, Domaine Carneros Le Rêve, J. Brut Rose and Friesta Sparkling Wine for $20.
Before dinner, up the romance factor by taking your special someone out on the water for Celebration Cruises' (www.celebrationsantabarbara.com) 1.5-hour Sunset Cruise, departing Santa Barbara's Stearns Wharf at 4.15 p.m. on Feb. 14. Watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean from the deck of the 64-foot yacht before enjoying a slow dance on its ballroom floor. There's also a full bar on board.
Cap off the night at the Orchid Inn at Santa Barbara (www.orchidinnsb.com/specialextras). It's offering a special "Romance Package" that includes a chilled bottle of champagne and a dozen red roses in your room upon arrival, plus a 60-minute Swedish or deep tissue couples massage.
Only 60 miles northwest of L.A. — but worlds away — Oxnard is the gateway to the breathtaking Channel Islands National Park and makes the perfect backdrop for a Feb. 14 proposal.
"Year after year we have couples come [to Oxnard] to do a boat trip out to the Channel Islands National Park," said Byron Best, the marketing and communications manager for the Oxnard Convention & Visitors Bureau (www.visitoxnard.com). "The views make you feel like you're at the top of the world and you can see miles and miles of ocean all around you."
Take in the views from the air with a Channel Island Helicopters (www.ciheli.com) trip (be sure to ask about the popular Anacapa Island Tour). "We see a lot of couples going up for the holiday," Best said of the chopper excursions. "Plus, at this time of year you see a lot of whales and dolphins from the air, and that is an amazing sight."
Santa Ynez Valley
Heading inland, the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley wine region awaits. On Feb. 14, the town of Solvang hosts the Valley Wines and Valentine's Party at the Elverhoj Museum of History and Art (www.elverhoj.org). The festivities run from 5 to 7 p.m. at the museum and admission ($5 for nonmembers and free for members) includes live music and dancing by candlelight, plus a variety of local and award-winning wines, cheeses, chocolates and appetizers to sample.
Also in the valley, the Ballard Inn & Restaurant (www.ballardinn.com), which has been voted one of the most romantic restaurants in the area, is offering a special Valentine's Day menu.
Even if you haven't been so lucky in the love department this year, you can still win big in the valley town of Chumash, which is home to the Chumash Casino (www.chumashcasino.com). The casino resort is a great spot for a weekend with friends — plus, they're hosting a huge event on Sunday Feb. 12. The "Sweetheart Bingo Winner Fest" starts at 2 p.m. and has an $80 buy-in, which includes 20 regular games paying out a minimum of $2,500. Couples can also cash in at the AAA four diamond rated hotel here. Away from the chaos of the casino floor, Chumash's elegantly decorated guestrooms offer a spacious and quiet sanctuary.
The city of Lompoc is known for flowers, another Valentine's Day symbol, as well as its Annual Father Daughter Sweetheart Dance held the weekend prior to Valentine's Day and hosted by the Lompoc Parks, Recreation & Urban Forestry Department. The semi-formal is open to girls between the ages of 3 and 18 and their dads, and features snacks and beverages plus lots of dancing and, this being Lompoc, individually wrapped flowers for the girls. Professional photographers will also be on hand to capture the special daddy-daughter day.
—Becca Blond, Custom Publishing Writer