[Young hip lovers enjoying each other's company... and lips. Henri Cartier Bresson's "Sidewalk Cafe, Paris 1969"]
It's springtime, and it seems love is in the air; the birds are singing, the sky is clear blue, you don't need to turn on the A/C yet, and those two friends you never thought would get together, did! Orange County is known for having fine dining, incredible art and music, and plenty of expensive designer attire which famously adorns housewives. But for those of us with smaller budgets, there's no need to sell your watch to indulge in a date night with your loved one or impress that cutie you've been eyeing at the gym. Get in the lovey-dovey springtime spirit with this list of some of my favorite places to go in the OC for a date that doesn't break the bank:
[The Balboa Fun Zone]
1. Get outside.
There's no better way to break the ice on a first date or get some fun back into your long-term relationship than going outdoors to do something together, preferably something silly. The Lake Forest Golf and Practice Center has very inexpensive green fees to play on its small, fun 9-hole course, or you can grab a bucket of golf balls and show your date how to hit the perfect drive on the driving range. If your hand-eye coordination's a little shaky, try the charming Balboa Peninsula for a visit to the Fun Zone, a mini Coney Island-style amusement area with a ferris wheel and an arcade.
2. They call it “happy hour” for a reason.
You can enjoy some of the county's finest restaurants at completely affordable prices if you go out a little bit early and sit in the bar. Mozambique in Laguna Beach has a “sunset menu” which features calamari, sirloin sliders and half off wines by the glass. 230 Forest in Laguna features exquisite martinis with flavors like plum-basil and pomegranate for $6 and half-off starters. For a more casual choice, try BeachFire in Ladera Ranch or San Clemente, or Memphis Cafe in Costa Mesa.
[The beautiful Salt Creek Beach, Dana Point.]
3. The beach? Oh yeah, the beach!
After you're full of half-priced appetizers, head down to the beach. Judging by the number of people who say they like long walks on the beach in their personal ads, chances are your date will love it! Really, though, it seems lots of people who actually live in Orange County often overlook the miles of gorgeous beaches, driving by them every day but rarely stopping to stick their toes in the ocean. (I'm guilty of this.) Sometimes it's fun to be a tourist in your own town, so hit the sand and walk off those sweet potato fries. There's no better backdrop for romance than a sunset over the Pacific.
on my iTunes: Jay Buchanan's “Feel Better”