February 1, 2010 (San Diego’s East County) – Looking for some creative ways to romance the sweetheart on Valentine’s Day weekend? San Diego’s eastern region has many unique options for romance, ranging from free hiking and picnic spots to gourmet dining, upscale resorts and sweetheart spa retreats.
For the adventurous at heart, thrill to your heart’s desire with options such as sky sailing, trail rides, a train trip, and overnight Jeep tours for two. There are also special events planned including a chocolate lover’s festival, winery parties, a romantic comedy musical, an exotic night at the Wild Animal Park and a “Cosby and Cupid” live comedy performance. Scroll down for 25 romantic ways to delight your Valentine!
AEROBATICS & SKY-SAILING: What could be more romantic than a sky sailing adventure for two in East County’s backcountry? Choose from mountain flights (including one to Palomar Observatory), Hot Springs Peak Flight, or a daredevil’s dream, the “super-spectacular aerobatic ride.” There is also a motor glider flight available. Rates start at $80/person, $160/couple—and include photos of you soaring taken from a wing-mounted camera. http://www.skysailing.com/pages/rates.html
BOATING ON LAKE CUYAMACA: Rent a motorboat for an entire day for just $25—the cruise to a secluded cove. Rowboats and pontoon boats are also available. Enjoy a picnic and hiking along trails in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. Watch for wildlife, especially in morning and evening hours, including deer, raccoons, birds, coyotes and bobcats. http://www.lakecuyamaca.org/
CALIFORNIA OVERLAND EXCURSIONS: Choose from desert tours, stargazing, overnight trips, winetasting in the backcountry with tri-tip and salmon BBQ, or a Valentine’s special: a private Jeep tour complete with bottle of wine and cheeses at a romantic location in the sunny Anza Borrego Desert. Private Valentine’s Tour: $350 per couple. Prices on other tours vary. http://www.californiaoverland.com/
CHOCOLATE LOVERS FESTIVAL: On Saturday, February 13th, Escondido hosts its “For the Love of Chocolate and SweetArt Festival.” Hearts won’t be the only things melting in downtown Escondido, where streets and shops of Grand Avenue will be saturated with chocolate, as well as wine tasting and other activities throughout the day. Take a romantic carriage ride down Lover’s Lane, savor artworks on display, and share a toast at the Champagne Garden. Admission to “Sweet Street” is free; tickets for 10 beer or wine and chocolate pairing tastes are $20. http://www.downtownescondido.com/pdfs/ChocolateSchedule.pdf
COSBY AND CUPID: Comedian Bill Cosby will tickle your funny bone in this special live performance in the pavilion at Harrah’s Rincon in Valley Center on Sunday, February 14th at 6 p.m. Tickets cost $55-65; must be 21 and over. http://www.harrahsrincon.com/casinos/harrahs-rincon-san-diego/hotel-casi...
DANCING LESSONS: It takes two to tango—or waltz, salsa, mambo. Dance Motion Studios in the Carmel Mountain area of east San Diego is offering a Valentine’s Day special gift that will keep you on your toes: three private dance lessons for couples for $199. Gift certificates are good for a full year. http://www.dancemotionstudios.com/pdf/vday.pdf
DAY TRIP TO HISTORIC JULIAN: Take a horse drawn carriage tour through the quaint mountain town of Julian, a former gold-mining town and nationally designated historic site. Stop off at the Julian Grille or Jeremy’s On the Hill for a romantic and delicious dinner—and be sure to stop by Mom’s for hot apple pie and cider! You can also tour a gold mine, visit museums, galleries and gift shops. http://www.julianca.com/
DRIVE-IN MOVIE: The Santee Drive-In Theater is one of the last remaining drive-in movie theaters in San Diego County. Pass the popcorn and cuddle up with your date for a cozy viewing—just the way your parents and grandparents used to court their beaus. http://www.santeedriveintheatre.com/Home_Page.html
GARDEN STROLL: The Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College has five acres of beautifully landscaped grounds—all featuring low-water usage plants and techniques. There are many secluded and romantic spots, from a gazebo oasis to a white garden where wisteria cascades down a lattice-covered walkway. Admission is free, though donations are welcome. http://www.thegarden.org/aboutus.html
GET HITCHED ON HORSEBACK: Want to sweep your sweetheart off her feet? Blue Horse Ranch in Ramona offers horseback weddings on a white Arabian stallion! Choose from a pastoral gazebo setting on the ranch, or a location of your choice. http://www.bluehorseranch.com/weddingsonhorses.html .
GUIDED NATURE WALK (FREE!) AT MISSION TRAILS: On Valentine’s morning at 9:30 p.m., join a free guided nature walk departing from the Visitor Center at Mission Trails Regional Park, the “third jewel” in San Diego’s park system along with Balboa Park and Mission Bay. The park is the site of the Old Mission Dam, built to store water for the Mission San Diego de Alcala. Guides choose from three trails: Oak Grove Trail, Visitor Center Loop Trail, and the Riverside Grinding Rocks Trail. Also stroll through the Native Plant Garden. Camping is also available at Kumeyaay Lake. Details: http://www.mtrp.org/index.asp
MAGIC LOVE JAM CONCERT: Magic 92.5 radio presents “Old School Valentine Show” on Friday, February 12th at 7:30 p.m. at the Viejas Arena on the campus of San Diego State University. Show stars include Percy Sledge, The Impressions, The Intruders, The Moments, Gene Chandlers, JoJo (the original lead singer of the Mary Jane Girls), and One Way. Tickets range from $28.75 to $48.75, or buy a four-pack for $86. http://www.as.sdsu.edu/viejas_arena/
MOUNTAIN RETREAT: Spend Valentine’s weekend at Orchard Hill Country Inn in Julian, named among the top inns in the western U.S. by Sunset Magazine and rated four diamonds by AAA. Orchard Hill is offered a five-course Valentine’s dinner for guests at $40 per person, not including lodging. Lodging rates run $195–$250 for lodge rooms; $295-$375 for cottage rooms; Cortland: $450. Many rooms have fireplaces and whirlpool baths. Enjoy afternoon hors’ d’heuvres and a hearty breakfast, relax in a hammock, picnic beside a flowing stream, stroll through nearby wooded areas, or spend time in historic downtown Julian. http://www.orchardhill.com/specials/valentines-2010.html.
RIDE THE RAILS ABOARD A HISTORIC TRAIN: Pacific Southwest Railway museum offers 11 a.m. and 2:30 departures of its historic Golden State train on February 14 for $25 a person—including a Valentine’s brunch. Savor romance as you ride the rails back through time. http://www.sdrm.org.
ROMANTIC COMEDY MUSICAL: “They’re Playing Our Song” has performances at the Scripps Ranch Theater on Valentine’s weekend. Written by Neil Simon with music by Marvi Hamlisch and lyrics by Carol Bayer Sager, the show centers around a composer and an aspiring young lyricist. Promoters promise, “This production will send you out the door with a smile on your face and a song in your heart.” http://www.scrippsranchtheatre.org/
STARGAZE AT MISSION TRAILS: Join a “Star Party” at Mission Trails Regional Park, where astronomer George Varga will provide a telescope for celestial viewing. This is the night of the new moon, so Mars may be visible as well as deep sky objects such as the Orion Nebula and the Crab Nebula, result of a supernova that occurred in 1054 AD! Meet at the Kumeyaa Campground and day use parking lot. This event is Saturday night, February 13 from 5 to 8 p.m.
SUMMERS PAST HERB FARM: What could be more romantic than a stroll through five acres of herbs and flowers interspersed with footbridges, stone walls, picket fences and a gazebo? Located on Olde Highway 80 in Flinn Springs, Summers Past also has a gift shop in a timbered barn and a separate herb and soap shop. Bring home some lavender items—or even learn how to make your own herbal goods. Savor refreshments at the outdoor Green Bean Coffee Bar, purchase plants or seeds at the farm’s nursery, or sign up for future fantasy-inspired events including Sweet Pea Day, a rose talk, and a Fairy Festival. http://www.summerspastfarms.com/index.htm
SWEETHEART SPA SPECIAL FOR TWO AT BARONA: Relaxation meets romance at the Barona Resort’s spa, where couples can indulge in his-and-her facials, hot stone massages, and a relaxing aromatherapy hot tub soak plus aromatherapy fragrances to take home – all for $410. Or stay over at the resort’s hotel and pamper yourselves with an in-room couples’ massage. http://www.barona.com/spa/ambience-day-spa-menu/
TRAIL RIDE IN BONITA: Take an old-west style trail ride through park-like settings and flowering meadows at Sweetwater Farms in Bonita, where sure-footed dude ranch horses are gentle enough for anyone to ride. http://www.sweetwaterhorses.com
VALENTINE’S DINNER AT GIO: Gio Bistro Wine Bar in La Mesa is serving up a five-course Valentine’s Day dinner featuring wine paired with each course. Start your feast with a chef’s “taste of Gio” sampling, followed by salad or chowder, choice of stuffed pork tenderloin or oysters Rockefeller, second entrée choice of braised short rib, stuffed salmon or half-roasted chicken, followed by honey thyme cheesecake or pumpkin brioche. Also order up “Gio’s Glogg” – a piping hot Swedish drink amid Gio’s cozy and romantic ambience. Cost is $75 per person. For an extra $45, Gio’s will have a dozen long-stemmed red roses waiting to surprise your sweetheart. http://www.giowineanddine.com/
VINO VALENTINO NIGHT AT BERNARDO WINERY: Indulge your senses on Saturday, February 13th with an evening of wines, champagne, an extensive dinner menu and desserts including crepes made to order and a special parting gift. Then dance the night away to a live band on the tasting room patio, enjoy bubbly in the 120-year-old barrel room at San Diego’s oldest winery, or find a secluded candlelit corner. Offerings in the tasting room and lounge include “Spice up your life, Perfect partners, and Sweet sensations.” Vino Valentino will be on hand for couples seeking to renew their vows or have photos taken. Arrive early to stroll through the quaint village shops on the winery grounds. Cost: $125 a couple ($65 per person) if purchased before Feb. 6; $75/person or $140/couple after the 6th. This event is expected to sell out, so reserve space by calling 858-487-1866. For details, visit http://www.bernardowinery.com/.
WEEKEND AT WARNER SPRINGS RANCH: This historic, early California-style resort in beautiful Warner Springs is famed for its natural mineral hot springs and Olympic-sized hot mineral springs pool. Rustic ranch casitas are ideal to get away from the outside world, since there are no TVs or phones. You can also upgrade to a historic adobe room or parlor suite. Optional additions include guided horseback horseback trail rides or riding lessons, glider rides, a round of championship golf on the highest elevation course in San Diego County, massages and other spa treatments at the Ranch Spa. Also savor winetasting at several nearby wineries. http://www.warnersprings.com
WILD ANIMAL PARK VALENTINE’S DINNER &/OR ROAR & SNORE SLEEPOVER: On Saturday, February 13th, Executive Chef Casey DeBrask has planned a delightful five-course Valentine's Dinner in the Park's Hunte Nairobi Pavilion for you and someone you love. The evening begins with an animal presentation, no-host cocktails, and hors d'oeuvres at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:30. Cost is $99 per couple, including a bottle of wine per couple, plus tax and gratuity. Call 760-738-5055 for reservations. Wild Animal Park Valentine's Dinner Menu (pdf) . For added romance and a truly “wild” night, sign up for the “Roar & Snore” sleepover – tents provided. http://www.sandiegozoo.org/calendar/calendar_highlights.html
WINE, ROMANCE & 1950s FUN AT ORFILA VINEYARDS: Love birds are invited to “show your main squeeze a boss time this Valentine’s Day” on Sunday, Feb. 14. Rock ‘n roll to a juke box and enjoy diner-inspired eats and treats in Orfila’s Escondido Tasting Room and new Barrel Room. Poodle skirts, letterman jackets and leather are welcome! Cost is $85 a person; this is not a sit-down dinner. http://www.orfila.com/events.html
Know of a Valentine's special or romantic adventure east of I-15 that we missed? Please post in the comments section below.