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Here Are the Best Spots to Take Your Date in Orange County, Los Angeles and San Diego

Written By: Neal Hruby
Photographed By: Carlos Valle, Michael Wesley and Tae Kwon
Models: Dionna Chambers and Paul Keating of Peak Models & Talent and Xavier Gutierrez, Myles Orosco, Adam Santa Cruz and Rayna Valade of Brand Model & Talent Agency Best Date Ideas

From first dates to anniversaries, spending time with your partner is what keeps the butterflies in your stomach fluttering. Whether you’re starting something new or rekindling an old flame, a well-planned date is a universal way of saying “I love you”…or maybe just “I really, really like you” if you’re not there yet. To take the pressure off the planning, we’ve turned to an expert—Neal Hruby, Creator of Date the City—to curate three unforgettable summer outings in Laguna Beach, Santa Monica and Del Mar. No matter who you’re sharing your time with, these dates are bound to bring you and your summer crush closer than ever.

Orange County Best Date Ideas

The Wine Gallery – 5 p.m.

Along the “unassuming” stretch of Laguna Beach coastline known as Woods Cove, you’re sure to spot sandy couples scuttling to their cars and surfers squeezing out of their wetsuits as the beach day comes to a close. Happily dry and sand-free, you turn in to The Wine Gallery and receive the kind of welcome normally reserved for a neighborhood regular. Take your seat at the high table and listen as your energetic waiter dishes out wine and food specialties. Italian “tapas” à la meatballs and roasted cauliflower arrive as the energy in the tiny venue slowly builds along with your glass of wine. When your pizza arrives, snack, sip and repeat as necessary. Once you’ve maxed out your cheese consumption for the evening, it’s off to the races.

The Seahorse Bar – 6:15 p.m.

Two entrances serve The Seahorse Bar, but the back driveway more adequately introduces the concept of this one-time auto parts store-turned-boutique-watering-hole. Once inside, time slows down a while for the always-busy OC, so soak in the old school bohemian vibes. There is a theme to everything you see, and uncovering the little mysteries means it’s worth repeat visits. The makeshift bar serves an eclectic mix of beer, wine and a surprisingly refreshing “adult kombucha.” Plop down on a vintage couch next to the record player emitting a bygone era’s top hit and pretend it’s 1963. Relax and rehash old times while sipping on a freshly poured glass of the good stuff. Soon, you’ll be dancing worlds away.

Mozambique – 7:30 p.m. Best Date Ideas

The multilevel castle of Mozambique’s maze baffles you as you pass live toucans and giggling couples en route to your final stop. Above the high-brow dining room is a party gearing up for your arrival. Pass into the energetic room and squeeze up to the bar in time to order before the band takes the stage. Go with an African Mojito or Drunken Elephant to pair with the Peri Peri Prawns or Blackened Salmon to whisk you to faraway lands just as the first beat of a classic rock anthem engulfs the room. To wait at the bar or hop on the dance floor, that is the question.

San Diego Best Date Ideas

Pedego Bike Shop – 10 a.m.

The welcoming archways of The Cedros Avenue Design District greet you as you begin to rubberneck from art store to adorable café. Stepping inside the Pedego Bike Shop, you will be greeted by none other than The Lord of Fun and his elderly Chihuahua, Chica. With a full afternoon of cruising, get yourself and your partner sized, serviced and strapped in to the day’s vehicle: the electric tandem cruiser. After a few test-runs, you’ll be set up to roll out and win the day.

Café Secret – 11:45 p.m. 

As you traverse hilltops and dodge other fun-loving cyclists, you’ll casually arrive at your destination: the ivy-laden Café Secret. Take a seat under the sidewalk pergola, as your respite from the road begins with freshly squeezed mimosas. Dig in to their menu of ceviches and saltidos-galore. The “secret” here may be the effortlessness with which it takes to enjoy yourself prior to the food arriving. Then, a colorful display of fresh fish, indigenous veggies and mango salsas engulf your senses. Each bite sends you a kilometer closer to Peru, but your next stop is in a different direction. 

Free Flight – 1:15 p.m.

Follow the echo of “skwaaawk” as you turn for the next destination, Free Flight. Push open the gate to reveal a mini oasis of exotic birds scattered throughout a tropical oasis. After a lesson from the docent, purchase a bowl of fruit from the “tiki bar.” Cautiously step from parrot to parrot, and gather the courage to invite one on your arm; laughs and unsure moments are all part of the game. When that perfect Insta-photo has been captured, take a short ride to your final destination.

Viewpoint Brewery – 3:00 p.m. Best Date Ideas

Inside the warehouse of  Viewpoint Brewery, join the packed scene of locals, passing cyclists, aspiring cornhole pros and various sun-worshippers sipping a brew. With beer flight in hand, don’t get suckered into a normal place to sit—look around and make your way to the swings on the far patio. It’s your “private” floaty-seat—the perfect space to relax after a day’s ride. Before too long, the hardest decision of the day is to return for another round or return the tandem. You decide. 

Los Angeles Best Date Ideas

The Museum of Flying – 4 p.m.

Overlooked World War II hangars sit in plain view behind the chain-linked fences lining Santa Monica’s Airport Avenue. An area once boasting America’s top-of-the-line plane manufacturing now houses artist stalls and casting studios. Above one end of the street is a floating Douglas DC-3 marking the location of your first stop: The Museum of Flying. As you step foot inside the modernized hangar, you’re dwarfed by flying machines of old. Pay your dues and wander like a kid under wings and cockpits of Santa Monica’s golden-era of aviation. After soaking in all you can, head out to experience a flight of your own.

The Spitfire Grill – 6:30 p.m.

The Spitfire Grill shines like an ancient beacon of aeronautical greatness. Cross over the old runway before making your way through the white picket fence into an air-fan’s dream. Gawk at the classic photos as you wander through the original WWII-era “bar.” Find a seat among the local crowd who dutifully sip their wine and ponder the miracle of flight. With a drink in hand, you head out to the patio then place an order of fish and chips, like any Navy man would’ve back home from a tour. As the sun sets beyond the silver hangars and guiding lights of the runway, focus in on your internal flight pattern—it’s time to make some history of your own.

Lost & Found – 8:15 p.m. Best Date Ideas

The wooden door to Lost & Found swings open, revealing a dive bar fit for any flying ace. The curved wooden bar has seen its share of weary travelers pull up for a stiff cocktail, and your first moves are no different. Glass of whiskey in tow, you head past the Christmas tree to make your presence known at the pool table. Trade sips of your glass with shots at the pockets as your evening melds into legendary status among the “legends.” Play for glory or play for drinks, you’ll have a chance to play long enough for your local wings. Regardless, as the night slowly makes its final descent, you’ll have to make the decision to pull up for another round or make way for a crash landing.

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