California’s beauty is one that goes unmatched and can truly take anyone’s breath away. The best part about exploring this west coast state is that the landscapes and cities are all so diverse. Beaches, valleys, national parks, forests, and more — California has it all.
But if you’re trying to plan a romantic escape in The Golden State, there are some cities that seem like they were made for this particular occasion. We’re going from north to south, mapping out four lovely cities perfect for a romantic getaway. Whatever city you decide to travel to, we’re sure this trip will be a memorable one!
Even those who don’t consider themselves wine experts will enjoy a weekend in Northern California’s Napa Valley. Napa is located about one hour north of San Francisco by car. Once there, you’ll have your pick of over 400 different wineries operating in the area. The entire Napa Valley region can feel immense, especially for first-time visitors who may not have a lot of time.
Pro tip: If you’re staying at a hotel or resort, be sure to ask if they have any discounted deals with local wineries! This can help you decide which wineries out of the 400 to start with. If you’re staying at a private home and don’t have a concierge, don’t hesitate to ask the property manager for their top suggestions. One great winery for first timers to start with is Grgich Hills Estate. This winery was founded by Mike Grgich, the legendary winemaker who paved the way for California wines, giving Napa international recognition at the 1976 Paris Tasting, with his 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay.
Aside from wine, Napa is also known for its high quality restaurants. For a delectable dining experiene, check out culinary genius Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bistro which serves different menus for brunch, lunch, dinner, and even late night eats. Or if you’re trying to impress your other half and in the mood to go all out for this romantic occasion — take the liberty of making a reservation at Thomas Keller‘s three-Michelin-starred restaurant, The French Laundry. The restaurant’s nine course tasting menu changes daily, with prepaid reservations starting at $325 per person.
Making our way south towards the the central coast of California, Big Sur is nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Lucia Mountains. With a distinct lack of development, Big Sur is the place to go when you crave natural beauty and isolation on your California vacation. First and foremost, you’ll want to meander along Highway 1, which runs right through Big Sur. Many agree that this stretch of highway is one of the most breathtaking roads in America.
Although swimming conditions around Big Sur are not ideal due to cold water and unpredictable currents, do yourself a favor and spend some time taking a stroll on the sand. If you’re able to, a short hike to McWay Waterfall is definitely worth the walk!
Check out the beach at Garrapata State Park, about 18 miles north of Big Sur, which features two miles of sand for coastal hiking. If you came for the beaches, then Pfeiffer Beach should be on your itinerary too. This is the point where Sycamore Canyon Creek hits the Pacific Ocean. At low tide, you can explore amazing tide pools. Try to time your visit for sunset if you want a real treat, and don’t miss the north end of the beach.
Situated in the Santa Ynez Valley of Southern California, Solvang is often called the Danish capital of America. Solvang means “sunny field” in Danish, and when you arrive in this little city you’ll instantly feel like you just got to Denmark. Surrounded by historic buildings that feature European architecture, you can explore the village to your heart’s content. Danish bakeries are plentiful, serving up distinctive pastries that are out of this world.
For date ideas, early birds can head over to Brekkies for a brunch fix, with menu items like Danish pancakes, Belgium waffles served with powdered sugar and maple syrup, flaky french toast, and more. If you like to sleep in, you still have options. Check out Cecco Ristorante for traditional Italian food, or Rusack Winery‘s tasting room and picnic area for a wonderful afternoon by the vineyards.
You can also browse the many shops and boutiques to take home a few Solvang souvenirs. Solvang boasts more than 150 different shops, many offering European imports and other high-end wares. A horse-drawn trolley will take you on a tour of the city. As you tour, a guide will provide fascinating details about Solvang. If you want to catch a show, you can also make plans to visit the Solvang Festival Theater, dating back to 1974, and maintaining an active calendar of events throughout the year.
Located southwest of Los Angeles in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Catalina Island is a bustling resort town that has much to offer for couples seeking a romantic getaway. The island features everything vacationers could want, including mouthwatering restaurants, pristine beaches, comfortable lodging, and rugged wilderness. Arrive on the island by ferry or helicopter to begin your weekend vacation. You can navigate Catalina Island in a different few ways: foot, bike, or golf cart!
There’s a casino on the island which actually isn’t a casino at all. Instead, it’s a breathtaking establishment that was built in 1929 by William Wrigley Jr. as a gathering place for people to unwind after a long journey across the ocean. You can take a walking tour of the casino to experience it more fully, or you can catch a movie on the premises in the on-site theater.
Descanso Beach Club is the place to go when you want nothing more than to relax on the beach in a private cabana. Waitstaff will bring you refreshments in your cabana. You can also access more active pursuits while you’re there including snorkeling, zip-lining, and kayaking.