The best Orange County date ideas: 12 romantic things to do in OC

Couple walking on an Orange County beach

Orange County is full of great date ideas and, after extensive testing, EliteSingles is proud to report that we’ve discovered the best of the best. From gorgeous beaches to romantic restaurants, from beautiful gardens to rooftop bars, OC dating has something for all tastes – and these are some of our favorites. Find your next great Orange County date idea right here!

Dating in OC? Looking for love in L.A? Want to meet people in San Diego? No matter where in SoCal you’re based, these date ideas will help you make the most of romance. Read on to find out more about each idea, or scroll down to find a map that will lead you to each spot.

12 romantic things to do in Orange County: date ideas you have to try

1. Explore Balboa Island (Newport Beach/Balboa)

An Orange County dating highlight, Balboa Island is a must-visit for TV buffs (especially Arrested Development fans). But the island is far more than a sitcom backdrop. Take the ferry from Newport Beach, then spend the day strolling along the beachfront checking out the incredible homes (especially cool when decorated for Halloween or Christmas). Next, wander over to Marine Av. for salt water taffy and other seaside treats. Note: sharing a frozen banana from Sugar & Spice is mandatory: after all, there’s always romance in the banana stand.

Read more: looking for a date closer to DTLA? Try our great L.A. date ideas

2. See some SoCal Redwoods – yes, really! (Brea/Yorba Linda)

The peaceful ambience of a redwood grove is undeniable. Yet, all the redwoods are up north, right? Wrong! In fact, you don’t even have to leave Orange County to find SoCal’s biggest grove – you just have to head Carbon Canyon Regional Park, right between Yorba Linda and Brea. Although not as utterly majestic as their northern cousins, the clutch of redwoods here are still beautiful, providing a shady little oasis in which to relax with your sweetie.

3. Fall in Love in Laguna Beach (Laguna Beach)

Does your idea of the perfect Orange County date idea involve beautiful beaches? Head to Laguna. Prefer sweeping cliff top views? Laguna. Want to see some Californian wildlife? Yep, Laguna. Want to wander around a cozy, arty, beachside town? You got it – Laguna Beach is the place to go. Whether it’s experiencing the sheer beauty of Heisler Park, booking tickets for the famous Pageant of the Masters (July through September), or simply walking Laguna Beach’s charming streets, this town is the kind of place that makes it easy to fall in love.

4. Find your favorite romantic beach in OC

  • Laguna Beach: Main Beach in Laguna is a gorgeous place to stroll with a date. Time it right and you can even climb out over the rocks to check out the tidepools. Make sure to catch the eye of a tidepool volunteer: they’ll happily help you find starfish, sculpin, and other Californian costal treasures.
  • Huntington City Beach: One of the best surf beaches in OC, date ideas here have to involve strolling along the pier, checking out the surfers below. Pro tip: at the end of the pier, make sure to look out across the water – when EliteSingles visited, a pod of dolphins was swimming past. 10/10 for romance!
  • Corona Del Mar State Beach: Picture yourself sitting in front a beach bonfire, curling up to your date as the sun sets over Catalina and the Pacific Ocean. Sound romantic? Then make sure take your date to Corona Del Mar State Beach, and claim a spot by one of the available fire rings. Lovely.
  • Victoria Beach: Victoria Beach is one of OC’s best places for a romantic beach date, thanks in large part to a surprise waiting for those who walk around the rocks: the gorgeous La Tour tower. Built in the 1920s, it’s more like the home of a princess or pirate than something you’d find in suburban CA – and discovering it together is great date material.
  • San Clemente State Beach: If you and your date love classic beach date activities like sunbathing and swimming, this beach is a solid bet. With its clean, sparkling waters and clear sands, it’s a wonderful place to just relax together.

5. Eat at The Packing House (Anaheim)

Set in an old packing house (funnily enough), The Packing House was once a place where OC oranges were sorted before being loaded onto trains and sent all over the US. Today, it’s a buzzing food hall in the style of the grand markets of Europe. A brunch or lunch here is one of the more delicious Orange County date ideas as every corner you turn will uncover new gourmet delights – it really is the ideal place to get to know your date and their palate.

6. Take a Gondola Ride along the Newport Canals (Newport Beach)

Dreaming of a date in Venice, Italy? What if you could get there without having to deal with traffic and parking at LAX? If the thought appeals, head to Newport Beach and make a beeline for the Newport Canals. Simply strolling around these gorgeous waterways makes for a dreamy afternoon, but for an extra-romantic Orange County date idea, book a gondola ride with the Gondola Company of Newport. The 50 min ride will take you up and down the canals – a beautiful backdrop that, according to the gondoliers, has been the setting for 1000+ proposals!

Read more: thinking about turning your OC date idea into a proposal? Try our top tips on how to propose!

7. Go whale watching at Dana Point (Dana Point Wharf)

The warm(ish) waters off of the SoCal coastline are a treasure trove of sea life – and you don’t have to have your diving license to find them! Instead, head for Dana Point, and book yourself onto one of the whale tours. Not only is this an activity that gets you away from the usual nice bar/restaurant routine, actually getting to see whale or a pod of dolphins with your date is an experience neither of you will forget. There are many companies giving tours, but Dana Wharf Whale Watching is Orange County’s oldest, making them our pick of the bunch.

8. Head to the Fullerton Arboretum (Fullerton)

The Huntington Library’s gardens may be the more famous SoCal botanical wonderland – but they’re in LA County, and these are Orange County date ideas! Luckily, OC has a garden paradise all of its own (and, score one on Huntington, it’s free/a donation to get in). Fullerton Arboretum is a plant-lover’s dream and, with acres of beautiful trees, cacti, and an orange/avocado grove to explore, it makes for a wonderful afternoon date. Just make sure to leave time for Heritage House, a stunning restored villa that sits at the heart of the gardens and dates back to 1894. You’ll want pictures on the wrap-around porch, we promise!

9. Discover Orange County’s most romantic restaurants and bars

  • Lola Gaspar (Santa Ana). The ambiance at Lola Gaspar is just the kind of thing you want for a date night; from the romantic chandelier-lit interior to the cozy heated patio, it feels like the kind of place where special moments happen. Add in unique cocktails and delicious tapas and you might just have Santa Ana’s best date spot.
  • SeaLegs Wine Bar (Huntington Beach). Wine lovers need to make a date for SeaLegs, stat. The vibe here is perfect for a casually elegant date, and the food is wonderful, but the real drawcard is the extensive, thoughtfully selected wine menu. What’s more, brunch here means bottomless mimosas. Perfect.
  • The Deck (Laguna Beach). The Deck on Laguna Beach is everything you want from an oceanside OC date spot. The drinks are delicious, the food (particularly the seafood) is fresh and fun, and the view from the beachside deck is simply unbeatable. Book a table for sunset and get a taste of Laguna romance.
  • The Fifth (Anaheim). There’s nothing quite as date-worthy as a rooftop bar, especially one that also offers fire pits, great views, and craft beer. Find the lot at The Fifth in Anaheim; a bar that sits on top of the Grand Legacy Hotel in the heart of the Disney resort area. Bonus: the location means you get a killer view of Disney’s nightly fireworks.

10. Visit San Juan Capistrano

Dating a history buff? Then visit San Juan Capistrano. While the Mission is probably the most famous part of this city, there is a lot more to explore, like Los Rios – the oldest residential neighborhood in California, and home to historic buildings like El Adobe de Capistrano, a restaurant that started life as a private home in 1797. Round off your date by listening to When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano, a longing, 1940s love song inspired by the romantic legend of the Capistrano cliff swallows.

Want to explore more of SoCal? Try our San Diego date ideas

11. Go back in time at the Regency Lido Theatre (Newport/Balboa)

Once upon a time, taking your date to the movies was a recipe for a night of elegance. Recapture that feeling by ignoring the typical shopping mall movie date in favor of a night at the Lido Theatre, a restored art-deco gem on Balboa Peninsula that is a slice of pastel-pink, 1930s perfection. Possibly the quirkiest place in OC to watch a movie, this is the kind of theatre that still offers balcony seating, and which opens each screening by lifting a thick, red velvet curtain. A date night here can feel like being swept back in time – it’s truly romantic.

12. Eat at The Hobbit (Orange)

Since 1972, The Hobbit has been one of the more unique romantic restaurants in Orange County, thanks to their seven course prix-fixe menu that is more of an immersive experience than a meal. Presented in three distinct acts, your night out at The Hobbit will see you moving through a beautiful old house as you sample the incredible French food. Start with champagne and hors d’oeuvres in the wine cellar, take a break between acts to relax on the patio, and end your night starry-eyed and satiated with good food, good wine, and romance.

Ready to try one of our great Orange County date ideas? Find your favorite on our map below – and happy dating!

Do you have any top OC date ideas that we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below!

About the author: Sophie Watson

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