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Valentine's Day weekend? Get outta town!
Why stick with the traditional roses and in-town dinner when so many special hotel packages are just a short drive or train ride away?
As new developments and hidden finds are popping up in neighborhoods such as Old Town Pasadena and South Pasadena, Joshua Tree National Park's wildflowers are just beginning to blossom. Citing the double-whammy of Valentine's Day and Presidents' Day falling on the same weekend, several scenic locales are piling on the perks. So here's your guide to some easy-to-do getaways that won't break the bank.
Joshua Tree National Park 74485 National Park Drive Twentynine Palms, CA 92277 (760) 367-5500, www.nps.gov/jotr/
The recent rains may have made morning commutes harder, but it certainly didn't put a damper on this national park's foliage. Wildflowers have begun to bloom on the south end's Cottonwood Canyon entrance, just past Indio off of Interstate 10. Although the park doesn't have food service, romantics can always turn up the charm with pre-packed picnics from hometown farmers markets and bakeries. The holiday weekend also marks the kickoff of the spring season events, says park publicist Joe Zarki. Guided walking tours of the historic Keys Ranch and a natural history walk will be available for $5 each. Park admission costs $15 per vehicle; car camping at the park's six campgrounds costs $10 to $15 per night. Call (877) 444-6777 or go to www.recreation.gov for reservations.
Oceana Santa Monica 849 Ocean Ave. Santa Monica, CA 90403(310) 393-0486 www.hoteloceanasantamonica.com/
Decked out in warm, beachy pinks and yellows, this cozy little retreat overlooking the Pacific Ocean recalls memories of family vacations at the pier. A popular destination for the visiting stroller-accessorized set, the 70 recently renovated suites beckon couples to ditch the sand pails and floaties and make a memorable holiday weekend for two that barely requires leaving the room. Champagne and strawberries wait at the front desk with the Oceana Escape package; in-suite perks include a one-hour couple's massage before the Oceana Lounge sends up a candle-lit dinner. Prices for the hotel package ranges from $650 to $950 per night, with a third of the rooms offering a view of the water.
Canary Hotel 31 W. Carrillo St. Santa Barbara, CA 93101 (805) 884-0300 www.canarysantabarbara.com
The newly updated and renamed Canary Hotel (formerly Hotel Andalucia) has large four-poster Spanish beds for midday breaks between short drives to wine tasting in nearby Los Olivos and Solvang. Plus, its downtown location makes dinner at local institutions such as Bouchon and Downey's an easy walk. Introductory rates for the 97 rooms in the Spanish and Moroccan-themed hotel start at $249 a night. The Canary Canoodle package offers a king bed, valet parking and dinner for two at the hotel's Coast restaurant, (sister to one of the owners' other properties, Shutters in Santa Monica) for $449 per night.
Westin Hotel 191 N. Los Robles Ave. Pasadena, CA 91101 (626) 792-2727 www.starwoodhotels.com/westin/pasadena
The renaissance of new restaurants and bars in South Pasadena and Old Town Pasadena give romantics an opportunity for some one-on-one time while still being able to get back if the baby sitter calls.
Just off Colorado Boulevard, the airy, modern Westin Pasadena boasts a one-night $189 Indulge Package, which includes an in-room breakfast and 4 p.m. checkout, allowing guests to make the most of the signature pillow-top mattresses. Meanwhile, hiking and walking maps are at the front desk, and romantic strolls through the Huntington Library's grounds and foodie hangouts such as 750ml wine bar and bistro are a few minutes away.
Avalon Hotel 124 Whittley Ave. Avalon, CA 90704 (310) 510-7070 www.theavalonhotel.com/
Aurora Hotel 137 Marilla Ave. Avalon, CA 90704 (310) 510-0454 www.auroracatalina.com/
While Catalina Island is a heavy-trafficked family-themed tourist destination in summer, cooler temperatures make the small island off of San Pedro and its one official city, Avalon, a remote place for cuddling by the sea. The California Craftsman-style Avalon Hotel near the bay and its recently acquired 19-room sister hotel, the Aurora, have getaway deals in February. Starting at $395 per night for a garden room at the Avalon and $353 per night for city-view rooms at the Aurora, the respective Indulgence and Just Flirting packages cater to sweet-tooths with a tray of gourmet chocolates and a bottle of champagne, along with transportation to the island via Catalina Express, which leaves from San Pedro, Long Beach and Dana Point.
The Inn at Fawnskin 880 Canyon Road Fawnskin, CA 92333 (888) 329-6754 www.fawnskininn.com
Some innkeepers bake great cookies; others make sure the pillows are fluffed. But Nancy Davis offers up a Valentine's Day holiday package at her Big Bear inn that's all heart -- mostly hers. In addition to dinner for two, a dozen roses and two nights at her five-room B&B, visitors also receive two tickets to the musical "Diva," which she wrote and performs in, at the Big Bear Lake Performing Arts Center on Feb. 15 and 16. Proceeds go to the Big Bear Valley Foundation, which raises funds for the local hospital -- the second smallest in the state after Catalina's. The log inn is set amid trees and away from the main hubbub of Big Bear. A package for two for two nights ranges from $410 to $670 for the top-of-the-line garden suite (If you miss Valentine's Day, check out some of the midweek specials.)
Sequoia National Park Wuksachi Lodge (866) 807-3598 www.visitsequoia.com/SpecialsAndPackages.aspx
For romantics who embrace the snow (tire chains required), the 102-room lodge offers a moonlight snowshoe to stargaze, check out the night wildlife and then sip a cup of well-deserved cocoa afterward. This natural-wood lodge, built in 1999, with a cozy dining room is more upscale than the usual national park digs. But the real draw of this lodge is the breathtaking Sierra setting and its proximity to the big sequoias in Giant Forest and Crescent Meadow (also a good spot for snowshoeing amid the mammoth trees) -- oh and the romance of being out in nature. Along with the guided snowshoe hike, the Romance Package includes dinner for two and chocolate truffles. Rates start at $209 per room per night; if you miss Valentine's Day, the deal is good through March 15.
Glen Ivy Hot Springs 25000 Glen Ivy Road Corona, CA 92883 (888) 453-6489
Though Glen Ivy Hot Springs has opened day spas in Brea, Valencia and the South Bay, the original spa is the perfect escape valve for harried Southern Californians. The red clay mud baths -- which earned it the nickname Club Mud -- are just part of the pampering at this spa that includes mineral baths, lounge pools and secluded massage areas on 11 acres. There's much to do -- or not do -- here for couples seeking some down time. Open daily, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; admission starts at $35 per person; $48 on weekends and holidays. (You must be 16 or older to enter.) This is strictly a day spa, but you might want to ratchet up the romance factor by staying overnight at a nearby hotel. Ayres Suites Corona West has a Glen Ivy Hot Springs Getaway for one night -- $164 midweek, $191 weekends -- that includes a king studio suite and two passes to Glen Ivy Hot Springs. Call (800) 452-4995 or go to www.ayreshotels.com/ayres_specials.asp.
East Brother Light Station San Francisco Bay (mailing address) 117 Park Place Point Richmond, CA 94801 (510) 233-2385 www.ebls.org
Think about sleeping on an island with views of San Francisco -- and we're not talking Alcatraz. The lighthouse, on East Brother Island in San Pablo Bay, has just five rooms -- four of them former keeper's quarters and one, the rustic Walter's Quarters, in a separate building. Now that's privacy. Stays are available Thursday through Sunday only. There's some luxury (champagne and a four-course dinner) and some adventure (climbing a vertical ladder from the boat to the island). And did we mention the fog? No matter, romance will trump adversity when you watch the sun set on that San Francisco cityscape. Plan ahead, as Valentine's Day this year is already filled up. Room rates range from $284 to $374 per night, depending on room selection. Price includes the round-trip boat ride, hors d'oeuvres and champagne, a tour of the lighthouse and breakfast.
San Luis Creek Lodge 1941 Monterey St. San Luis Obispo, CA 93401 (800) 593-0333, Ext. 210 www.sanluiscreeklodge.com/index.htm
Pick a room, any room -- provided you like Londonderry, Craftsman or Plantation styles. Those are the recurring themes that run through the 25-room lodge that's within striking distance of Hearst Castle. The Romantic Retreat Along the Creek package runs Sunday through Thursday, a one-night deal with room (with fireplace or spa tub), a $50 certificate toward dinner for two at wine-friendly Koberl at Blue, wine tasting for two, a bottle of local wine, in-room breakfast, locally made chocolate truffles, roses and more. Prices start at $279. Click the "Upscale on Sale" button on the website for more deals.
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