For some, Valentine’s Day can be a time of frantic shopping involving a stressful debate over the ‘perfect’ gift for your Valentine. In reality, the holiday celebrating love really doesn’t have to be that complicated.
To make it less complicated, I went ahead and did some research to find the top rated activities and gifts that are guaranteed to put a smile on your Valentine’s face, while saving you some serious cash. All of my recommendations below are targeted and localized to sunny San Diego; however, most of the ideas are concepts that can be implemented across any city. Remember, a little creativity, a lot of enthusiasm, and a little romance can go a long way!
To help the Valentine novice navigate the plethora of options, I broke my ideas down into 3 categories based on the personality of your special date.
THE ADVENTUROUS AND CURIOUS HEART
The adventurous and curious heart is someone who loves the great outdoors, enjoys spending afternoons exploring a museum, lives for spontaneity, and might consider themselves an intellect at heart.
Museum + Ocean View Lunch + Flowers = $75 or less
February is Museum month in San Diego, which means all museum admissions are 50% off! Visit the San Diego Museum Council for information on tickets and the full list of participating museums. I have picked two of my favorites – Birch Aquarium and The Museum of Contemporary Art La Jolla.
For both museums, I would recommend purchasing tickets in advance, allow up to 2 hours to peruse the museums exhibits (not to forget the tide pools at Birch!), followed by a low maintenance ocean view lunch. With museum month, two tickets will run $8.
La Jolla is filled with over-priced restaurants, but there are a few hidden gems and happy hours that are not to be missed. If you would like to surprise your date, I would recommend checking out Cliff Hanger Café. This small, modest café is tucked away in La Jolla Shores near the Torrey Pines Gliderport. This is a wonderful opportunity to order a sandwich and enjoy watching the hanggliders sail above your head and out into the ocean horizon. The café also has live music Saturday afternoons. To add in a bit more romance, try ordering your sandwiches to go, hike down the hill to enjoy your lunch on the sandy beach. Just remind your date to wear something she can hike in!
If you are looking for something a bit more sophisticated after your museum exploration, check out Prep Kitchen on Fay Ave. You and your date can enjoy $5 glasses of sangria, Mediterranean tapas for $4-$10 and 25% off all bottles of wine.
Coronado Bike Ride + 2 drinks at the Hotel Del Coronado + Picnic = $75 or less
Treat your special someone to a romantic beach cruise around Coronado Island and enjoy two drinks at the historic Hotel Del Coronado, before laying out a blanket to enjoy a private picnic on the beach. Plan an entire day together and impress your date for less than $75.
I would recommend stopping by your local Whole Foods, purchase two custom sandwiches for $8 each, two sparkling waters, and a chocolate bar – Gourmet lunch for $24. Plan to bring your lunch with you and pack a towel or blanket for later.
Hit up Cruiser King for all day rentals for two for only $19. For location and additional information, visit Cruiser King’s website. Cruiser King also has a location in Mission Beach, so if you don’t want to make the drive south to Coronado Island; try a relaxing ride around Mission Bay instead and enjoy lunch on the boardwalk.
Couples Horseback Ride + Wine + Cheese Pairings = $99
There is nothing more romantic than horseback riding and wine. Bring some chocolate truffles from Godiva and you will win over any heart. This Travel Zoo deal includes a 90 minute ride through The Ranch at Bandy Canyon. Reservations are required and there are black-out dates, so please read the fine print before purchasing. Need I say more?
THE ROMANTIC AND FOODIE HEART
The romantic and foodie heart is someone who loves great food, isn’t afraid to try new things, enjoys wine, likes long walks on the beach, spends their Sundays’ reading a new novel, and likes to dabble in the finer things of life.
Meditation Gardens + Bistro Meal at Sunset + Pearl Bracelet = $78 or less
Spend a day rejuvenating your body and reflecting on the beauties of life at the Meditation Gardens of Encinitas. The gardens are surrounded with breathtaking views of Swami’s beach and filled with exotic plants, fish and birds. Work up an appetite exploring the gardens or the beach below before heading out for a sunset snack at Wine Steals in Cardiff. For a limited time, you can purchase a bistro meal with cask wine and champagne for two for only $22. Sit outside near a heat lamp and enjoy the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. Cheers your glass to a unique gift – a pearl and leather bracelet that exemplifies the classic marine beauty you spent most of the day enjoying. Nicholas Landon Jewelry creates hand-made nautical treasures inspired by the ocean for all types of budgets. I recommend the White Pearl and Commercial Leather bracelet or Cape Cod Hoop Earrings.
Whale Watching + Yacht Cruise + Lunch + Wine = $69 per person
Step up your game and take your date out on an intimate sailing yacht cruise. The cruise sails out of downtown’s Harbor Island and includes a meal, glass of wine / beer and an opportunity to spot grey whales up close and personal. It is peak season for whale watching and no better time to take in the fresh air. For information on this deal please visit the Travel Zoo deal.
Cinepolis Movie + Bottle of Wine + Flowers + Handwritten Card = $90
If your date is more traditional, there is no better place to take her – than the luxury cinema Cinepolis. Tickets are $20 each and include a luxury leather recliner and waiters who deliver food and alcohol right to your comfy chair. You will never go back to a traditional movie theater again. Buy tickets on Cinepolis’ website and don’t forget to show up to her door with a fresh bouquet of flowers and a personalized, handwritten card. If written expression isn’t your best quality, try googling a simple love poem and write it inside the card, don’t be afraid to add a few personal touches!
JUST FOR HER
If you can’t spend the day with your Valentine, try out one of these perfect gifts just for her and under $100!
Spa Day + Massage + Mimosa = $95
Pamper your Valentine with a one day spa treatment at a prestigious AAA 4 Diamond resort, La Estancia in La Jolla. This amazing deal gives you access to the salt water pool, unlimited access to the spa’s amenities, a 50 minute Rest Massage, one mimosa and free valet parking. You can’t go wrong with this lux deal!
Flowers + Jewelry= $100ish ….
Nicholas Landon Jewelry
There are two things that would make any woman smile on Valentine’s Day: flowers and jewelry. As I mentioned above, Nicholas Landon Jewelry creates custom nautical inspired jewelry incorporating silver, pearls, leather, and longitude and latitude. I would recommend the Sterling Hand Stamped Tag for $102 which you can personalize to include the coordinates to a place that she treasures… maybe the location of a wedding, a proposal, or where you first met. Peruse the website to find the perfect treasure that fits your love.
Julian and Company
In an effort to support local San Diego companies who deliver high quality products and designs, I would also recommend Julian & Company. Based out of Coronado, she creates custom engraved silver and gold jewelry that is sure to impress any man, woman or child! For starters, try this personalized Tiny Nameplate Bracelet for only $49. There are hundreds of options so please be sure to check out the website for additional necklaces, bracelets and earrings that are all handmade and customized.
Say Be Mine with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Living Social has a deal for $15 to order up to $30 worth of fresh flowers, sweets, and more. The deal is for the reputable ProFlowers and has great online reviews. Every celebration deserves fresh flowers!
Whatever your style and whatever your budget there is always something special that can be done for those we love. It doesn’t have to be accompanied by a high price tag and doesn’t have to be diamonds or caviar; it just has to come from the heart.