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The best fairytale romances and happily ever afters always occur in sunny Southern California. From mountain retreats and couple’s vineyard tours to secluded beaches and striking deserts, the places to show off your love for one another are endless—a casual lunch date just won't cut it.
Fun and unique date ideas don’t have to be over-the-top, either. A memorable shared experience is more than enough. Whether it’s visiting a place from your favorite movie or taking your S.O. to the spot where you first met, your partner in crime will appreciate your thoughtfulness. If you're in need of new ideas to spice things up, check out the most romantic things to do in Southern California.
1. Go On A Gondola Ride in Ventura County
Go beyond the usual dinner date, and transport yourselves to Italy on a romantic Venetian gondola cruise with Gondola Paradiso. Perfect for a memorable proposal, the one-of-a-kind ride through the Channel Islands Harbor puts you and your partner in the right mood for romance.
The magical gondola ride is an uncommon activity yet one of the most romantic things to do in California. So, mix things up and get cozy with your beloved as you float along the canals around Coral Island while enjoying the views of Oxnard. Feel the touch of Venetian romance under the sunny sky of the Golden State.
2. Soak in the Views at the Griffith Observatory
One of the most romantic things to do in Los Angeles on a budget is a date night at the Griffith Observatory. The popular tourist attraction magnetizes couples with its stunning views of the city. Whether you arrive by car or hike through Griffith Park, you can never go wrong with a date here. Day or night, spectacular vistas are guaranteed.
Act out a scene from La La Land with your partner, or explore the astronomy exhibits and observe the displays. Set aside time to appreciate the vastness of the sky from the observation deck, too—you might even catch an up-close glimpse of the planets and stars through the telescopes.
3. Stay at the Joshua Tree House
Although it may not be a top-rated hotel for the rich and famous, the Joshua Tree House does the job for a magical desert getaway. Offering three different homes, the property provides you with the perfect high-end desert lifestyle experience that’ll make you forget summer is over.
Perfect for couples looking for romantic things to do in Southern California, this is the ultimate spot to spend a marvelous night or two and stargaze with your beloved from the hot tub. The incredible desert views and private romantic atmosphere will sweep your partner off their feet. Joshua Tree House is also a wonderful sunrise spot; bask in the glow of the newly risen sun as the innumerable Joshua trees surround you.
4. Embark On A Catalina Island Boat Tour
If you don’t have much time to travel somewhere remote for a romantic getaway, Catalina Island is only 26 miles off the coast of Southern California, southwest of Los Angeles. A scenic city excursion or a leisurely walk along the palm tree-lined streets is a classic date idea, but the most romantic thing to do on this island is a scenic boat tour.
Hop aboard a glass-bottom boat and peek at the beautiful, crystal-clear underwater world of Catalina Island. Giant black sea bass, leopard sharks, playful California sea lions, and bow-riding dolphins can amplify your adventure, but if you're looking for more thrills, book a scuba diving tour to get an even closer look at the island's abundant marine life.
5. Watch a Movie at Rooftop Cinema Club
Catching a flick with your significant other at a theater is cute, but watching a movie alfresco is even better. With many romantic things to do in Los Angeles, take your date to an open-air screening of cult classics and award-winning movies at Rooftop Cinema Club for an unforgettable night.
Unlike drive-in movie theaters, you don’t need to worry about bringing your own gear—here, lovebirds are pampered and need for nothing. Snuggle in a double-deck chair and keep yourselves warm with a cozy blanket. Admire the city skyline, sunset, and starlit evening as you munch on delicious food and watch a flick with your favorite chick (or dude).
6. Visit the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
There’s always new art waiting to be discovered in L.A., and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is a top destination for that, especially when you’re visiting with your better half. Couples seeking romantic things to do in Los Angeles can always count on this place for the picture-perfect date. The must-see museum has a world-class art collection featuring works from Europe to Asia and showcasing cultures from ancient times to the modern-day.
The other draw here is the famous Urban Light installation, which is composed of restored antique street lamps from the 1920s and 1930s—it's LACMA's most iconic artistic creation and attracts lovebirds from around the world, so enjoy a couples photo shoot here after seeing the artworks. LACMA also holds free outdoor concerts in the summer, so you and your special someone can create even more unforgettable memories.
7. Take A Sunset Stroll at Santa Monica Beach
Santa Monica Pier may be a touristy place, but that doesn’t take away the romance. Relive the honeymoon phase of your relationship and ride the Ferris wheel, roller coaster, or the vintage merry-go-round. Win a prize or two by playing carnival games, and share cotton candy.
Among the most romantic things to do in Los Angeles is a long sunset stroll along the shoreline. Walk from the pier to the beach with your partner as the sun disappears across the horizon. Find a spot to sit on the sand, and listen to the waves and the crowd noises in the distance. A simple yet memorable experience in Santa Monica, it makes for the perfect romantic date.
8. Enjoy Pedal Boating at Echo Park Lake
Who cares if pedal boating is a cliché date idea? This outdoor activity may be corny, but it's something that we all secretly enjoy and it's one of the best things to do in Los Angeles for new couples. Echo Park Lake is a hidden gem where you can enjoy the outdoors and the company of a special someone, so head here and rent a pedal boat.
Fortunately, you don't have to be a boating expert for this experience. Easy to operate, pedal boating is a great way to spend an afternoon relaxing while simultaneously being active. Just be careful not to paddle too close to the fountain—you might get your date soaked (and start a mini-water war).
9. Explore the Venice Canals
Even if you accidentally stumble upon the Venice Canals, you’d immediately recognize this historic district. The picturesque area consists of multiple waterways, lavish houses, and unique bridges. The canals are a wonderful place to go on a stroll with your significant other and immerse yourself in the tranquility of the canals—it almost feels out of place compared to the hustle and bustle of Venice Beach.
With beautiful architecture and gorgeous landscaped yards, the Venice Canals comprise an oasis of serenity and composure. It’s one of the best places to catch the last bits of light. Spend a romantic evening with your loved one and feel the magic of Venice in this quaint neighborhood.
10. Ride the World’s Largest Rotating Tram Car
Palm Springs is an ideal romantic getaway even during the colder months. Take your relationship to a whole new level with a magical ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Enjoy the spectacular vistas with your beloved as the world’s largest rotating tram car transports you to the pristine wilderness of Mount San Jacinto State Park.
But the journey doesn’t end there. Once you’ve reached the top, you have multiple dining options—including Pines Café and Forest View Restaurant—and over 50 miles of trails to hike. As viewing platforms await you at the summit, this tram ride is one of the most thrilling and romantic things to do in Southern California.
11. Have A Good Old-Fashioned Picnic at Balboa Park
Balboa Park is a must-visit San Diego destination, so why not go there with your boo? Bringing together culture, science, and nature in one large space, the 1,200-acre urban park offers plenty of romantic settings to wow your significant other. Providing the lushest gardens in San Diego and numerous historical museums, it’s the perfect place to pack a picnic and enjoy the company of your favorite person.
After your picnic, stop by Casa de Balboa. This breathtaking structure in the park currently houses the Museum of Photographic Arts, the San Diego History Center, and the Balboa Art Conservation Center. Walk hand-in-hand with your lover as you visit the stunning gardens and the Botanical Building, where you’ll find over 2,000 plant species to brighten your downtown San Diego outing.