Romantic O.C. Staycation Ideas

Photograph courtesy of Marriott Irvine Spectrum

The pandemic brought our plans for 2020 to a halt—including much-needed vacations. Whether you’re looking to have fun with your family, unwind with your beloved, explore the outdoors, or clear your mind with yoga or meditation, O.C. has many spots where you can play tourist right now. Read more from this cover story at

Marriott Irvine Spectrum
Blocks away from the namesake shopping center, Marriott Irvine Spectrum is a local destination for foodies and craft cocktail enthusiasts. A sleek, modern design extends throughout the resort with expansive rooms featuring picture windows, a reading nook, open closet shelving, and clean lines. You’ll also find art celebrating Orange County’s agricultural roots. See Irvine in a new light with your special someone at Hive and Honey, the rooftop bar on the 16th floor. Watch the city come to life while digging into signature honey-themed bites such as the sweet potato fries with spicy honey and Gorgonzola aioli or drinks such as the honeycomb-infused Old-Fashioned. You can also order craft beer, wine, and spirits. Unwind at a poolside cabana and stroll Irvine Spectrum, which debuted a weekly drive-in entertainment schedule over the summer.

Inn at the Mission San Juan Capistrano
Whether you’re looking to host a wedding, celebrate an anniversary, or indulge in a romantic weekend, this just-opened Autograph Collection resort will cater to your desires ($263 and up). The resort takes hints from the city and its historic mission across the street and weaves them into every detail and decoration: There are nods to swallows, the ranching lifestyle, art that highlights El Camino Real as well as pieces on loan from the mission itself—even the color scheme reflects the serene hills nearby. Ysidora, the main restaurant, pays homage to mission matriarch Ysidora Forster by invoking the warm hospitality for which she was known. Linger with your sweetie over a milk rum punch—somehow both tropical and holiday-themed—at any of the inviting outdoor areas, including the olive grove and the terrace just off the restaurant and bar. The resort’s own line of olive oil makes a perfect souvenir to remind you of your idyllic time there.

Photograph courtesy of Hotel Joaquin

Hotel Joaquin
Walking distance from Shaw’s Cove, this small resort offers a tranquil, stylish escape for couples ($309 and up). Your neutral-toned room comes stocked with Boxed Water™, a record player and vinyl records, games, and toiletries from Le Labo, making it hard to leave. Grab your partner and enjoy the day poolside on your socially distanced daybed or head to the garden deck where you can sit back and relax. You can order takeout or delivery from a local restaurant and dine on the hotel’s patio to watch the sunset over the water. You can also order a bottle or half bottle of wine or Champagne, as well as 12-ounce beers, from the hotel bar to your room. In the evening, you’ll receive a text from the hotel’s service asking what time you would like your complimentary tea, coffee, and pastry delivered to your room the following morning.

Photograph courtesy of Hotel Joaquin

Things to Do

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Laguna Beach
Brown’s Park
Dedicated to Joseph E. Brown Jr., who donated the property to the city, this park is full of surprises. A 100-foot narrow path leads to a small deck overlooking Main Beach. The wrought-iron railings of the lookout point feature stained-glass art and an inspiring ode to the sea.

Laguna Beach
McClain Cellars
The family-owned tasting lounge sources wine from the family’s award-winning winery in Santa Ynez Valley. You can book tasting reservations at the outdoor patio ($15 to $35 each) or purchase an at-home tasting kit ($25 to $40). Try new wines before they get released.

Anaheim Packing House
Choose from more than 25 vendors and enjoy the district’s revamped outdoor dining spaces, including Farmers Park, which features live acoustic music on weekends and movie nights every month. Pair wine with artisan charcuterie boards from BXCR Wine Bar, sip cocktails from The Blind Rabbit or Sacred Junk Bar and share a Japanese-style treat from Crepe Coop.

Restaurant Adia photograph by Christoper James

Throughout O.C.
Restaurant Adia
Get a luxury multicourse dinner served at home from this pop-up restaurant ($225 per person). Many of the courses are paired with libations, and extra safety precautions are in place.

Santa Ana
Frida Cinema
Take movie night outside with the nonprofit’s drive-in series. Past films have included classics such as “The Princess Bride” and fairly recent hits such as “Knives Out” ($20 to $30 per car).

Costa Mesa
Cheeze Be With You
Upgrade your picnics with charcuterie boxes loaded with cheese, crackers, meats, and more. Sizes range from a small box for yourself ($25) to a large party box for 12 people ($125).

Corona del Mar
Café Jardin
Indulge in Dinner for Two Under the Stars, a four-course, prix fixe meal Thursdays with wine pairings and music outdoors at the Sherman Gardens venue ($130 per person). Reservations are required for the French meal by Pascal Olhats and his team.

Newport Beach
Art Soul Collective
Pack something to drink and head to Art Soul Collective’s weekend workshops. Choose classes in watercolor, ceramics, embroidery, macramé, and more, and enjoy the creative process ($50 to $100 per person).

Keara Wilson
Sommelier at A Hidden Vine on the Lake in Mission Viejo

“Lots of couples come in for date night. Two of our regulars came in to celebrate their anniversary—she’d just had a baby, and it was their first time out since Covid. He brought flowers in beforehand, and we had a special wine and cheese charcuterie ready. It was fun to be a part of that. … We’ve extended the part of the outdoor patio with the best view overlooking the lake, plus we’ve set up hand sanitizer stations, and our staff wears masks and gloves. People can sip, swirl, and savor, and still feel safe.”

by Alan Gibbons, Astgik Khatchatryan, Michelle Pagaran, Chelsea Raineri,
and Barbara Neal Varma

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