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It’s a Date

49 cool places to fall in love (or like)

By By Erin Meanley, Christine Pasalo, and Casey Chiotti with additional reporting by Michelle Wilson | Photography by Justin Lee

It's a Date

Walking in the San Diego Botanic Garden

Wander the San Diego Botanic Garden

{Advice from a Local Expert}

“Dating is like surfing—it is good to have patience. You don’t just take the first wave of a set because you are tired of waiting (especially if it’s a crappy one). There might be better waves more suited for you behind it. Same thing with dating. Don’t settle because you are bored or lonely. Hang in there and the right one will come.”

Nancy Spooner Bsharah and Tara Brouwer, co-authors, Everything I Know About Dating I Learned Through Surfing

This Month Only!

February is Museum Month!
Admission to museums ranging from the haunted Whaley House to the Museum of Contemporary Art is half off this month if you purchase tickets at any Macy’s department store. We think actress Jessica Lange’s retrospective, Unseen, at the Museum of Photographic Arts sounds promising.

Want a Valentine’s dinner alternative?
Sample light appetizers and at least seven wines at the seventh annual “Cupid is Stupid” Party at Bacchus Wine Market.

It's a Date

It’s a Date

Get cooking.

Topped off with wine and a candlelit dinner, each cooking class at Hipcooks in North Park is a date night in itself. If you’re looking for V-Day dinner ideas, try The Romantic Dinner for Two, where you’ll learn recipes for wild mushroom risotto and crème brulée so you can replicate them at home. Classes $55,

Smooch among the succulents.

Meander through dense bamboo groves and stroll along a waterfall in a mini-tropical rainforest at the San Diego Botanic Garden. Thanks to the microclimates on this hidden hill in Encinitas, everything from succulents to cork oak trees thrives on the 37-acre plot. Parking $2. $12/adult.

Catch the fever.

For just $11, you can get inside the dugout, press box, and more on an 80-minute tour of Petco Park. But if you want to picnic on an MLB pitcher’s mound, you’ll have to audition for The Bachelor.

Go on a pizza crawl.

San Diego’s pizza options have never been better. Take advantage and hit up several different spots that represent all regions of Italy, including Monello for Milanese style, Neapolitan at South Park’s new Buona Forchetta, Roman style slices at Napizza, or thicker Sicilian at Sicilian Thing in North Park. Mangiamo!

Let it fly at Frisbee golf.

It’s Frisbee. It’s golf. It’s Frisbee golf. Otherwise known as disc golf. A competitive couple could really get into this game, although you don’t have to be super-athletic. Unlike driving a ball 200 yards in golf, anyone can throw a Frisbee. This date is super fun, good exercise (you walk the course), and can be very scenic. Loser buys dinner. $3 weekdays, $4 weekends, $1.50 disc rentals;

Paint the town—and a canvas.

Dabble and drink in the fine arts during a painting and vino class at 98 Bottles, Caffe Bella Italia, Jake’s on 6th, Village 631, or Roppongi. Spots are limited and fill up quickly; reserve early! $45 per person, art materials provided. Drink specials vary per venue.

Learn how to make crêpes.

Set up a private lesson for you and your chéri at Fabrison’s, where you’ll learn to make savory and sweet crêpes, and then eat the results. As you cook, nibble on complimentary apps. Wednesday–Saturday, evenings only, $150.


It's a Date

Rent out the Ken Cinema

Rent out the Ken Cinema

{Advice from a Local Expert}

“Research shows that couples who go on ‘exciting’ dates tend to have a better connection than couples who do not, so skip the boring dinner-and-a-movie routine. Instead, try something thrilling, such as indoor rock climbing or bungee jumping.”

Jennifer Donnelly, dating consultant,
It’s Just Lunch San Diego

Don’t Forget to Thank the Babysitter!

When your relatives watch the kids for free, show your appreciation in other ways.

Stock the fridge. Grandma needs a glass of wine after she puts the kids down. Grandpa? Maybe mint chip ice cream. Just make sure there’s something they like in the fridge.

Stock the DVR. If they’re coming to your house, DVR one of their favorite shows or queue up a good documentary on Netflix.

Leave your driveway open, or a spot in the garage. The least you can do for free child care is move your damn car! Auntie with an Audi will appreciate it.

Deal with your pets. Keeping your kids alive and happy is enough work. Don’t make them feed, walk, and wrangle Fido, too.

Buy them something. Gift certificate. Massage. Booze. Not every time. But every once in a while. Leaving your kid with trusted family—for free—is priceless.

Explore up-and-coming Barrio Logan.

Voz Alta Project is a gallery and work space where you can catch art shows and live music, like Latin Jazz every Thursday night. Ever wanted to make your own t-shirts? The Roots Factory offers screen printing class every Wednesday and Thursday. $90 for two people. Browse new vendors like the Sustainable Pantry at the San Diego Public Market, open Wednesdays and Sundays.

Attempt a progressive meal.

The quintessential main drag in Encinitas is built for restaurant-hopping. Try Third Corner for wine and apps, make reservations at tiny Q’ero for an intimate Peruvian dinner, then tuck into Blue Ribbon Pizza for their out-of-this world butterscotch pudding. We also like the Bankers Hill itinerary of appetizers and a margarita at Barrio Star, Hane for sushi and ice-cold Sapporo, and a decadent dessert and glass of wine at Bankers Hill Bar and Restaurant.

Catch a private midnight screening.

This may sound extravagant, but for $550 you can rent San Diego’s last single theatre venue, The Ken Cinema, on Saturday nights, starting at midnight. Bring a DVD and a bottle of wine and it will be the movie night that trumps all others. If you’d rather mingle with the masses (and bone up before the Oscars), the Kensington theatre will be showing all the Oscar-nominated animated and live action shorts the first week of February. 619-283-3227,

Create asignature scent.

Why should Khloe Kardashian and Lamar Odom be the only couple with a signature perfume? Attend a make-your-own workshop at Tijon, the new parfumerie in La Jolla, and choose from 300 oils to create a custom aroma. Love: It’s all about chemistry. From $69,

Tour the sky.

Want a not-so-obvious reason to get kissably close? Share a telescope while exploring the night sky from the Observer’s Inn in Julian. In what’s known as a “sky tour,” an experienced astronomer will point out prominent constellations, planets, and nebulas. Refreshments provided. $25 per person.

Ride a horse, eat some cheese.

Escondido’s Ranch at Bandy Canyon offers “couples rides,” with post-ride wine and cheese. It’s surprisingly peaceful touring the San Pasqual Valley in a saddle. $220; add dinner for two in the lodge and a weeknight stay in cottage, $479 total.


{Advice from a Local Expert}

“You have to pay to play. Gentlemen: Always cover the full bill. Ladies: If the issue of payment is unclear, ask if he’d like you to help. If he says no, let him pay and be sure to say, ‘Thank you.’ If he says yes, extend your credit card and evaluate his long-term potential in your life.”

Brandon Aki, eBook author, HE Said: A Crash Course in Dating for Women

Where the Women Are

Salsa dancing: Salsa Wednesdays at Cafe Sevilla; Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday at Hyatt La Jolla; Fridays at Crosendo; Fridays at The Blue Agave.

Adult classes: Chinese at the Language Door; floral design or ascending Mt. Whitney at San Dieguito Adult School

Book clubs: SD Readers and Eaters Book Club,

Yoga conferences: Ashtanga Yoga Confluence, Feb. 28–March 3; Iyengar Yoga: May 10–15, 2013

Farmers markets: Hillcrest: Sundays 9 a.m.–2 p.m.; OB: Wednesdays 4 p.m.–8 p.m.; Little Italy Mercato: Saturdays, 8 a.m.–2 p.m.

The shopping mall: Nordstrom Half-Yearly Sale for Women, May and November, 2013

Where the Men Are

Comic-Con: July 18–21, 2013

29th Annual Gold Medallion Awards: (bartenders and chefs galore!) June 4

Golf tournaments: Farmers Insurance Open: January 21–27; Kia Classic: March 18–24, 2013

Beer Week: November 2013

Whiskey tastings: Starlite, Seven Grand

College alumni clubs and sporting events: Go Tritons, Go Aztecs!

It's a Date

Take a trapeze class

Go cocktail tasting!

Learn the finer nuances of mezcal—or just sip some really cutting-edge cocktails—at the Community Bar at Polite Provisions in Normal Heights. Notable bartenders from around the country are holding everything from cocktail classes to spirits tastings. Check the website for prices and upcoming events.

Go beer-tasting and then get a room.

Why go all the way to Temecula for a wine tour when you can get a great buzz tasting at our very own microbreweries? The Look What’s Brewing package at the Rancho Bernardo Inn includes tasting tix at Iron Fist and Port/Lost Abbey Brewing, a driver, an overnight stay, and breakfast. From $285,

Go on a whale watching expedition.

For nature lovers, The Birch Aquarium’s Whale Watching Expedition (February 27–March 4, $915 per person, double occupancy) during the height of mating season may be the trip of a lifetime. The six-day adventure takes you to Baja via private motor coach and includes three boat trips when as many as 2,000 whales can be in the lagoons! For those short on time, the aquarium offers twice daily whale watching cruises through April. 800-661-1325,

Fly on a trapeze.

Set the bar high. No, really. During a class at Trapeze High, you’ll both get the chance to swing from 22 feet in the air (while harnessed) under the guidance of expert instructors. Sparkly spandex outfits completely optional. $60 per person.


Satisfy your sweet tooth (teeth!).

Heart-shaped box, begone! Appreciate chocolate like a connoisseur. As a couple, sign up for a tasting at Chi Chocolat ($27 per person, or Dallmann Fine Chocolates ($20–$45 per person, Or go in on a group date with 14 friends and book a private truffle tasting at Eclipse Chocolat ($20 per person, minimum 15 people,

Take in a show, give a standing O.

Prove your relationship is right with a production about one that’s all wrong: Pete ‘n Keely at Lamb’s Players Theatre tells the story of a musical couple that has begrudgingly reunited for a TV special five years after breaking up. Hilarity ensues. $50,

Bounce off walls.

Chula Vista’s indoor trampoline park, Sky Zone, claims you can burn up to 1,000 calories an hour in their SkyRobics classes ( Further north, off Miramar Road, the soon-to-open Sky High Sports will offer AIRobics, a burst of cardiolicious fun.

Go olive oil tasting on the waterfront.

Seaport Oil & Vinegars is the newest addition to Seaport Village and offers every flavor of infused olive oil imaginable, from blood orange to white truffle. Pick your favorite and use it as part of a special Valentine’s Day dinner drizzled over salad and grilled fish.

See San Diego from a chopper.

Get swept off your feet with a private helicopter tour of SD’s beaches, cliffs, and skyline. Choose the “Fly, Float, Feast” package through Corporate Helicopters and embark on a Hornblower dinner cruise once you touch back down. Helicopter tours for two, $325–$1,175.

Blow glass together.

Nothing heats up your relationship like working with a 2,000-degree Farenheit furnace. In a 3-hour private couples lesson, 30-year veteran artist Andy Cohn will teach you and your love how to make “round art” (paperweights), before graduating on to drinking cups in the second lesson. $165 for two, 619-338-0441, Studio 19 in Spanish Village, Balboa Park

Go on an urban wine tasting adventure.

Local wine makers are trying to put San Diego County on the map. Sample at a handful of new tasting rooms, including Solterra Winery and Kitchen in Leucadia. Located a block from the beach, it’s a working winery, tasting room, and Spanish tapas bar all in one. Carruth Cellars on Cedros in Solana Beach is also open for tastings, and we can’t wait for the folks at San Diego Cellars to open their new Little Italy location this spring.

Sneak away for an intimate meal.

Tiny two-top tables are dotted across multilevel decks with tons of twinkle lights and a cozy fireplace at what might be San Diego’s most tucked-away restaurant, The Wine Vault in Mission Hills. It’s only open on weekends, and a reservation is tough to wangle, so just getting in is a romantic gesture. Go on a Saturday, when the chef prepares a different, locally sourced five-course taster with wine pairings for $50.


San Diego Couples

It's a Date

Kelley and Kevin Towers

Our Leucadia couple

“We love going out to dinner at Addison at the Grand Del Mar. Kelley likes the Champagne cart and chef’s choice menu. We also love going out for beer and pizza at Carino’s in Bird Rock, which is one of our all-time favorite spots. Ask for the off-menu Gunslinger pizza!”

Kelley, 47, and Kevin Towers, 51, MLB general manager

It's a Date

Lydia and Cote Perkins

Our Coronado couple

“After a day in the kitchen, Cote and I love to ride our bikes up to the Brig to get a seat at the bar for fish tacos and a draft beer.”

Lydia Perkins, 26, owner, Sweet Lydia’s; and Cote Perkins, 26, realtor, Willis-Allen

It's a Date

Nan and Bud Black

Shana Siler

Our Rancho Santa Fe couple

“We love to go to Cinépolis at Del Mar Highlands Town Center. If I pick, we see a love story and go to Crush in Solana Beach, and if he picks, we go to an action movie and Ruth’s Chris!”

Nan and Bud Black, 55, manager of the San Diego Padres 

It's a Date

Christine and Raoul Martinez

Our San Diego couple

“We like Seasons 52, Cucina Urbana, or the Steakhouse at Azul. Usually, that’s followed by a show at the Civic Theatre and a walk around town. Lately, though, we have to limit our dates to a few hours so the babysitting grandparents don’t burn out!”

Raoul Martinez, 39, news anchor, Fox5 San Diego/KSWB; and Christine, 33, marketing manager

It's a Date

Rachel and Scott Caygill

Our North Park couple

“We love our neighborhood and that we can walk just about everywhere. Lately, we’ve been walking up to The Smoking Goat for dinner. We love the chicken liver pâté and the escargots. We also love the brunch at Farmhouse Cafe. Its chicken liver pâté is some of the best in town!”

Rachel Caygill, 31, owner, Bread and Butter Baking Co.; and Scott Caygill, 37, chef, True Food Kitchen

It's a Date

Jamie Lynn Sigler Pescatello and Jake Pescatello

Our Pacific Beach couple

“We keep it simple right in our own neighborhood. The perfect date for us would include a run up to Kate Sessions park to take in the views, followed by lunch at the Pacific Beach Fish Shop—the TKO Tacos with Mahi Mahi are OMG!”

Jamie Lynn Sigler Pescatello, 34, partner, J Public Relations; and Jake Pescatello, 34, partner, The Commons Bar

It's a Date

Mike Alfred and Jean Heinz


Our La Jolla/UTC couple

“Our favorite date is to drive out to Mount Laguna for the night, rent a cabin, and start a fire in the fireplace. It’s quiet and peaceful and we can just enjoy being together.”

Mike Alfred, 31, CEO, BrightScope; and Jean Heinz, 27, Marketing, LPL Financial

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