Orange County is better known for its beautiful coastline and shopping than it is for date night-worthy neighborhoods, but that is changing as more communities revive their downtown areas. In keeping with the OC style, one shopping mall made the list too.
Pacific Coast Highway and Forest
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
The options for a car-less date night in Laguna Beach are endless. Park in one of the public parking lots and then walk or take the free trolley during summer. Start your evening at a rooftop bar, a hotel deck on the beach or take in the sunset and stroll the cliff side path at Main Beach. Afterwards make your way to dinner in the downtown or a performance at The Laguna Playhouse, Pageant of the Masters (summer only) or a night of art at the Sawdust Festival (summer only). For art enthusiasts, First Thursdays Artwalk is held on the first Thursday of the month.
First Saturday Artwalk in Santa Ana
2nd Street Promenade, Broadway to Spurgeon Street
First Saturday of the month, 7 – 10 p.m.
Santa Ana, CA 92701
The Santa Ana Artwalk is especially date night worthy because it’s on a Saturday instead of during the week. The four-block area in downtown Santa Ana is surrounded by hip and hot restaurants and food trucks randomly appear as well. Entertainment varies and could be a movie or a live band on any given night. Parking is available at street meters until 8 p.m. or at the covered Artists Village structure at Third and Broadway for $2.
Downtown San Clemente
Avenida Del Mar
San Clemente, CA 92672
Avenida Del Mar is the main street in downtown San Clemente. It is full of restaurants, wine tasting opportunities and eclectic boutiques. Continue down the street and you’ll hit the pier, which is a perfect spot to have an appetizer or drink while watching the surfers and the sunset. Street parking is available on Avenida Del Mar. Check out our picks for the best San Clemente restaurants.
Downtown San Juan Capistrano
Ortega Hwy and Camino Capistrano
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92672
San Juan Capistrano is most well known for its mission and this is a date night-worthy stop, especially when the crowds are gone at the end of the day. The Camino Real Playhouse and Regency movie theater is a few blocks away and restaurants surround the area. Cross the railroad tracks and you’ll be in the Los Rios District – California’s oldest, continuously-inhabited neighborhood. The famous Swallows Inn bar is always hopping at the end of the evening – it’s at least worth a peek inside this San Juan Capistrano institution. There is street parking around town and a parking garage next to the movie theater. Most of the shops and the Mission close by 5 p.m.
Irvine, CA 92618
A shopping mall doesn’t usually come to mind for a great date night but the Irvine Spectrum has more to offer than the standard mall. Date night-worthy restaurant choices continue to expand, there is a movie theater and a comedy club onsite and main outdoor areas have interesting Middle Eastern decorative elements. Weekends are full of strolling families and a few budding singers.
Kristi Marcelle is a travel writer and regular contributor at Ciao Bambino and CBS Los Angeles. She loves planning travel adventures with her family, a good glass of wine at the whining hour and the Green Bay Packers. Follow her on Twitter @kristimarcelle.