Love it or hate it – Valentine’s Day is almost here. Most couples we know tend to do the typical romantic dinner route. Don’t get us wrong — that can be a truly special night. But why pay an inflated prix-fixe menu, when you can do something unique for the same cost? Or less. There are so many options — especially in Los Angeles. Here are our top recommendations to celebrate Valentine’s Day on any budget. And yeah, we still included some restaurant recommendations on this list for those set in their ways. Though, we think these are worth it.
THE CHEAP DATE:
Sundance Theater on Sunset
You’ll get bonus points from your date by stepping it up from the mega movieplex. Located in West Hollywood, the AMC Dine-In Sunset Theater shows mainstream hits and many lesser-known independent flicks. It’s one of our favorite cheap-o recommendations with reserved plush seating. Plus, you also won’t have to worry about screaming children or iPhone obsessed teenie boppers. This place is strictly 21 years and above – complete with a bar that allows you to take any food or drink purchases into the theater. Tickets cost $14.50 each, but on Tuesday it’s a steal at just $6 each for AMC Stubbs members (free to join).
Self-Guided Biking Tour Along the LA River
Okay, this recommendation is mostly for those adventurous types. It’s also better for a weekend trip (or during the day). Head over to Frogtown (LA’s new buzzy neighborhood) and hit up Coco’s Variety Bike Shop and Prop Rental where you can rent top-quality bikes by the hour. A few weeks back, we rode for 2 hours and paid just $9 an hour.
The trail runs along the somewhat grungy (okay, very grungy) LA River. But the path is paved most of the way and easy to navigate. Our recommendation would be to head South towards Downtown LA (rather than heading North towards the zoo, which runs through a few homeless encampments). Load up your Google maps — selecting the bike path option — and head to one of Chinatown’s hot new outdoor restaurants like Howlin’ Rays (for fried chicken) or Burgerlords (that also has a vegan burger that’s one of the best we’ve ever tasted).
On the way back to the bike rental shop, you’ll want to grab a coffee at Spoke Bicycle Cafe right along the bike path.
Challenge Your Date To a Friendly Match of Skee-Ball
More into drinking beer than physical activity? No problem. You’ll love all the custom brews on tap at the Arts District Brewing Co. in the super trendy Arts District in downtown LA. Best of all, they have a variety of games inside including the classic skee-ball machines like you’d see at carnivals or old-time arcades.
Just watch out if you’re dating a competitive type. These machines track your score… not that I’d know anything about getting competitive. Or would refuse to leave until I won at least once. Never!
THE MODERATE PRICED VALENTINE DATE:
Catching a Big Musical or Stage Production
If your date is into theater, you really can’t go wrong with the productions at the Geffen Playhouse, The Wallace Annenberg Center or the Pantages Theater. The Geffen was the first theater Kevin and I visited in LA. We were expecting something on the level of community theater. Boy, were we wrong! This intimate venue regularly features some of Hollywood’s biggest actors in starring roles (both on stage and in the audience). Check out Goldstar, which regularly offers discounted tickets.
Get Rowdy at a Mexican Wrestling Match
Lucha Vavoom is not for the faint-hearted. Okay, this would be the complete opposite of a quiet night and conventional date night. But it is certainly unforgettable! This is where you’ll find authentic Mexican masked wrestling, comedy, striptease and freak show beyond explanation all under one roof. On Feb 8-9, Lucha Vavoom will present their special Twisted Valentine night at the historic Mayan Theater in downtown LA. We recommend sitting in the cheap seats for this one – up on the balcony overlooking the main wrestling stage. The main floor seating is closest to the action – but you’ll need to keep your eyes open for flying Mexicans that are regularly flung into the crowd. Get ready to catch them – or pack your running sneakers! General admission (i.e. balcony seats) is $40 while ringside is $55.
HEY BIG SPENDER! – IDEAS WHERE MONEY IS NO OBJECT
Dining High in the Sky at 71Above
So if you’re dead set on eating out on Valentine’s Day, you might as well go big! Nothing will beat the views from 71Above, located on the 71st floor of the US Bank Building in downtown LA. No matter what night you’re booking, you will need to make advanced reservations and pick your table. There is a variety of seating options, but the best spots are the tables along the floor to ceiling windows. And you won’t get a better view anywhere else — 71Above is considered the highest restaurant West of the Mississippi.
You’ll pay for your table upfront (starting at $70 per seat), which will be subtracted from your overall food bill. We’ve eaten at a lot of romantic places, but this one will really blow you away. It is a prix-fix menu every night with drinks and desserts as extra. And best of all, the food is just as spectacular as the views. Highly recommended.
Get Even Higher – Birds-eye View of Hollywood
There is something magical about seeing LA from the sky. There is a sparkle that you can’t capture up close. Adventure Helicopter Tours runs a top-notch operation, flying out of Pacoima in the Valley.
There are many flight routes, but we’d recommend the 30 minute Hollywood Landmarks tour. It sure isn’t cheap at $169 per person (minus tax). But you’ll get to soar over world famous Hollywood landmarks and have a real adventure from the air.
Seaside in Malibu
There is just something romantic about Malibu. Maybe it’s the lack of people? The crashing waves? Or that it feels worlds away from ANYWHERE since it’s so darn hard to get to. But one way to really impress your date is a special full day trip. First stop, grab a table at Moonshadows Malibu. There really isn’t a bad view – the only way you’d possibly be closer to the ocean would be on a boat! The food is also pretty good, but the big reason you’re here is for that view.
Moonshadows is on the higher price scale (with lunch entrees running around $20-$30), but it’s actually a lot less than many other seaside restaurants nearby. But if you’re a big spender, who cares!
Your day out in Malibu is just starting. After your lunch, you’ll next swing over to nearby Malibu Wine Safaris, an experience like no other. Kevin and I have done every experience on this list, but we haven’t had the opportunity to try out this winery/safari experience. Though, many friends have given it two big thumbs up.
During your winery visit, you and your date will board a custom-built open air safari vehicle where you’ll explore the 1,000 acre Saddlerock Ranch filled with zebras, camels, bison and even Stanley the giraffe. Along the way, you’ll also get to taste 6 wines (which I imagine will make the animal spotting even more exciting!).
Many of the wild animals come to the ranch to retire after successful careers in Hollywood. And you’ll have a chance to get up close by feeding them carrots and bananas. But just remember, not the wine (for humans only!).
Tours run daily and the ranch also offers a special Valentine’s Day package for $125 per person, which includes wine, chocolate and a 1/2 bottle on the 110 minute tour. They also offer a variety of other packages, with the most basic called the Explorers Tour at $65 per person, which takes 90 minutes and includes complimentary snacks and 6 tastings. For more information, visit their website here.