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Great Dates

By RON DONOHO
Additional research by Breianna Bowen, Carl Friedmann and Jessica Yadegaran


February 14 falls on a Sunday this year. Essentially, this means you’ve got a whole weekend to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Whew. Yes, dreaming up and pulling off the perfect date is tough work—and not just a man’s chore, mind you. But now it’s a two-day affair. Don’t worry. Here’s where we come in.

No, we can’t offer to date you. Instead, we’ve assiduously researched 10 great date packages set here in greater San Diego. Of course, nobody’s ordering anybody to stick to these plans, well laid as they are. Feel free to pick and choose—as if selecting from a buffet of love. Or read along and imagine yourself on each date with the paramour of your dreams.

But for those looking for bona fide tips on outstanding outings, you’ll be well served on the following pages. If price is a concern, check out The Cheap Date. If not, look over The Extravagant Date. Generation Xers, baby boomers and golden yearlings have all been given due consideration. Likewise the artsy, the sporty, North County’s citizenry and downtown dwellers.

Fall in love. Have fun. Batteries not included.

The Extravagant Date
The Hotel del Coronado has the ultimate deep-pocketed date combo. Start with a two-hour private cruise on a 72-foot Hornblower yacht ($1,425). Captain, crew, maître d’ and musicians are at your service ($2,000). Upon arrival back at the marina, a horse-drawn carriage ($500) takes you to the Del’s Beach House ($2,300 a night), where Marilyn Monroe stayed during the filming of Some Like It Hot. A welcome basket contains aromatherapy candles and oils ($150) and personalized bathrobes ($250). Chocolate-covered strawberries and caviar ($200) are nearby, and two bottles of Dom Perignon ($300) are chilling. Don’t fill up on strawberries—your personal chef ($500) will be here soon. He’ll prepare a prearranged five-course meal right there in your cottage. Dinner accouterments include 12 dozen roses ($1,080) and a string quartet ($1,200).

The next morning, the lavishness continues—there’s that chef again. After preparing breakfast on your private beachfront patio ($200) the chef clears out, and a masseuse arrives for “Duke and Duchess” massages ($180) on the patio. No, you haven’t popped the question yet. But now’s when you ask your beloved to look up in the sky. Here come five Elite Frogs skydivers ($5,000). They’re carrying banners reading “Will,” “You,” “Marry,” “Me,” “?” They land on the beach as you reveal the ring (cost is up to you). A one-year engagement seems appropriate.


Total tab: $14,985-plus. One-stop shopping via the hotel: 800-HOTEL-DEL.

The Romantic Date
A Simply Elegant Vintage Vehicle Limousine Service provides the chauffeured 1960 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud ($75 an hour) with white interior. There’s champagne in crystal glasses. Driver is in full British chauffeur’s uniform. Sunday brunch at downtown’s waterfront Top of the Market is smoked-trout omelettes or crab cakes Benedict with fresh pastries and unlimited champagne ($33 for two). After brunch, it’s a short walk to the Broadway Pier to catch the ferry. The relaxing 20-minute trip to Coronado is $4 (two one-way tickets). Jeeves, your chauffeur—he took the bridge over—then whisks you to the Loews Coronado Bay Resort. A bayside villa ($1,300) is waiting. First, though, there’s a gondola ride ($90 a couple) by Gondola di Venezia. Gondoliers, clad in striped shirts and those big-ribboned hats, sing opera excerpts during the one-hour cruise. Dinner is in the hotel’s Azzura Point. A Valentine’s Day special ($75) includes belon oysters and golden osetra caviar, potato-crusted Atlantic monkfish, mesquite-roasted venison sirloin and Sonoma foie gras. Retire to the hardwood floors and chintz-draped beds of your villa. Hang the Do Not Disturb sign.


Total tab: $1,577. Limo: 579-8303; Top of the Market: 234-4TOP; ferry: 435-6029; Loews: 424-4000; gondola: 221-2999.

The Sports-Minded Date
Arrive, dressed casually, at California Bicycle in La Jolla. Rent mountain bikes ($26 a person per day). Two good nearby biking courses are Rose Canyon and San Clemente Canyon—both have trails that take one to two hours to traverse. Afterward, hop into your SUV and grab a healthy lunch at Jyoti Bihanga on Adams Avenue: the curry for him; the stir-fry for her; strawberry smoothies for both ($21).

The next stop is Brown Field Airport on Otay Mesa. After a 30-minute ground lesson, Air Adventures Skydiving can have you 14,000 feet above the earth and ready for a tandem skydive ($195 a person). It’s

a shared experience you’ll talk about all through dinner at Seau’s. The sports bar offers a noisy background, 60 televisions filled with college basketball and hockey games and one 11-by-15-foot big-screen television. Dinner: the Pacific swordfish for him; the grilled veggie melt for her; brewskis for both ($30). Over dinner, give your date her companion ticket to the multi-sport Frog’s Eco-Adventure you’ll both participate in next weekend ($525 a person).


Total tab: $1,543. Bikes: 454-0316; restaurant: 282-4116; skydiving: 661-6671; sports bar: 291-7328; Eco-Adventure: 755-0811.

The North County Date
On Saturday the 13th, check into the Presidential Suite at the Four Seasons Resort Aviara ($4,000 a night). Yes, there are cheaper rooms, but those don’t come with chilled Louis Roederer Crystal champagne. After a quick tour of the hotel property, hop back in the car for lunch at Charlie’s by the Sea in Encinitas. Start ordering seafood off this beachfront eatery’s menu, and don’t stop until you’ve had steamed mussels ($6.95), sautéed calamari ($6.95) and seared ahi ($10.95). Back at the hotel, change into evening wear—you’ve got two tickets for Spirit of the Dance ($45 each—call now; seats are going fast). Those toe-tapping Irish dancers are performing at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido. Shuffle back to your suite.

The next day’s lunch is on-property at the California Bistro. A three-course Valentine special, with Iron Horse Wedding Cuvée, is $45 per person. Just before 3 o’clock you’re due back in Encinitas. Your “Sweetheart Flight” by way of California Dreamin’ Balloon Adventure is about to set sail ($600 for a private outing—sorry, a pilot has to tag along). The flight covers 7-10 miles of scenic Rancho Santa Fe and lasts about an hour. That’s plenty of time to pop the question. And since you’re already in the mood to tie the knot, Pastor Mike Mitschke is waiting when the balloon lands. A 15-minute ceremony later ($175, including courthouse fee), you’re hitched.


Total tab: $4,979.85. Hotel: 760-603-6800; restaurant: 760-942-1300; theater: 800-98-TICKETS; balloon: 760-438-3344; pastor: 984-3334.

The Golden Years Date
The years may have crept up, but the vim and vigor haven’t waned. So for Saturday, you’ve reserved a deep blue Corvette from Rent-A-Vette ($149 a day)—remember Jack Nicholson and Shirley McLaine in Terms of Endearment? Head north on I-15 for a pleasant, wind-whipped trip to Temecula and dinner at the Thornton Winery’s elegant Cafe Champagne. A three-course meal will probably run $100. Drive home carefully—put the top up—and get plenty of rest.

Sleep in Sunday. Wake up in time to hear the barbershop quartet you hired from San Diego Sun Harbor Chorus ($35 for three songs). After a rendition of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” gas up the Corvette for a trip to the Lawrence Welk Resort in Escondido. The dinner-theater show, Phantom, starts at 1:45 p.m. The matinee and buffet meal costs $70 for two. Afterward, point the ’Vette toward the San Pasqual Valley and the Orfila Vineyards. Seek out the charming Alejandro Orfila, the 73-year-old former Argentine diplomat who’s the winery owner. His tales of wine and politics are fascinating. A bottle of his Ambassador’s Reserve Merlot is $25. Romance rekindled and new memories in place, go home, and don’t get out of the ol’ Craftmatic Adjustable for a week.


Total tab: $528. Rent-A-Vette: 238-3883; restaurant: 909-699-0088; chorus: 272-3834; theater: 760-749-3448; Orfila: 760-738-6500.

The Boomer Date
Remember those whales you wanted so badly to save? Have a look at a few for old times’ sake. The Birch Aquarium at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography has a whale-watching boat leaving at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday the 13th (two-hour cruise, $17 per person). Hippiedom duly revisited, it’s time to be a yuppie again. Hello, La Jolla. Lunch is at romantic George’s at the Cove. An average lunch for two is $50; there’s no Valentine’s Day special. Reserve an ocean-view table. No matter what entrée you pick, get the smoked chicken, broccoli and black-bean soup as an appetizer ($6.50). After the dark-chocolate soufflé cake ($6.25), you’re ready to check into the historic La Valencia Hotel. You’ll need the full-ocean-view room ($475), which comes with king bed and Jacuzzi tub.

After a nap or a soak, stroll across the street to the new Victoria’s Secret. Shop for some spice for later tonight—check out the black velvet teddy ($68) and matching garter belt ($12). Stash the lingerie in the room and head to Trattoria Acqua for dinner. Here, you’ve reserved a table in the ocean-view gazebo—shoot for table 50. A steak or lobster dinner for two ($50) can be accompanied by wine from a list that numbers 500. Finish it off and go back to unveil the teddy.


Total tab: $701-plus. Whale watching: 224-7767; George’s: 454-4244; hotel: 454-0771; teddy: 459-0688; Trattoria: 454-0709.

The Gen X Date
Toss on your cleanest Old Navy togs and head for lunch at the Wired Cafe near Balboa Park. No need to check out the cafe’s Internet setup—you’re on a date, remember? Go Dutch, or treat your companion

to a peanut butter–and–jelly sandwich on multigrain bread, chocolate milk and a Pop-Tart for dessert ($12 for two). Eat heartily—you’re on your way to Kensington to catch a flick at the Ken Cinema ($14 for two). Over Valentine’s Day weekend, the iconic Ken is showing All the Rage, a provocative story about a gay playboy.

After the movie, head to the Kensington Club to discuss your postmodern liberal feelings about the movie over Slippery Nipple shots ($3.50). This will get you in the mood for dinner at Taste of Thai in Hillcrest. Be sure to have made reservations—lines often stretch out the door. Spicy noodles with veggies for two and a couple of Singha beers will run you $18. Last stop is the piano bar at the Red Fox Steakhouse. Gen X harmonically collides with the past around 10 p.m. Shirley Allen tickles the ivories on Saturday; Carrie Baker takes over on Sunday. Premium martinis and cosmopolitans are just $3.75.


Total tab: $58-plus. Cafe: 544-9890: theater: 283-5909; club: 291-7450; restaurant: 291-7525; piano bar: 297-1313.

The Artsy Date
Celebrate Valentine’s Day and the Chinese New Year at a cultural fair at the Gaslamp Quarter’s Third and Island avenues. Starting at 10 a.m., merchants are showing off Chinese arts and crafts. Performers include the Lucky Lion Dancers. Walk up to Fifth Avenue and Market Street to shop at Z Gallerie. Browse the wall paintings and knickknacks. When nobody’s looking, recline on the camouflage-green Harvest queen canopy bed ($695). Okay, get up. Just a few blocks up Fifth is Ceramic Cafe. You’re here to pick out and paint your own ceramic figurine. Spend an hour or two painting a pendant ($5), a heart-shaped bowl ($8) or a heart-shaped plate ($22). Wash up for an early dinner at Taka, also on Fifth. Sidle up to the sushi bar and start with spicy tuna salad. Segue into yellowtail sushi or rainbow roll. Wash it all down with some hot Ozeki sake (dinner, $60 for two).

The night’s entertainment is at the Lyceum Theatre, where the San Diego Ballet presents For Lovers and Others (tickets, $25 each). The three-fold program begins with ballet set to 1950s dance music. Next is a contemporary treatment of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Overture. The evening wraps with Javier Velasco’s tantalizing Exotica, in which dancers slink and slither to the exotic sounds of Les Baxter, Yma Sumac and Martin Denny.


Total tab: $154-plus. Fair: 235-8880; Z Gallerie: 696-8137; Ceramic Cafe: 231-7991; restaurant: 338-0555; ballet: 294-7378.

The Downtown Date
Take an ear-popping elevator ride to the 40th floor of the Hyatt Regency. The Top of the Hyatt lounge offers drinks (Bombay Sapphire martini, $7) and light lunch fare (sandwiches, $9.75). No reservations accepted—unless you inform the manager you’re going to propose marriage. Whether you plan to pop the question or not, the draw here is the panoramic city view. Now, look down at Seaport Village and notice the Cinderella Carriage Company. This is the next stop. You’re taking a leisurely, one-hour horse-drawn carriage ride ($95; reservations required for Valentine’s Day). A champagne basket ($35) is available for the Belgian draft horse–powered ride. Dinner is at the Gaslamp Quarter’s Blue Point Coastal Cuisine, on Fifth. Early birds get the romantic, shell-shaped booths (there are only 10). Four-course prix fixe meals are $55 per person. Don’t forget to order oysters as an appetizer—and aphrodisiac—and lean toward the miso-seared sea bass main course. Nightcaps are optional, but options in the area are plentiful. The Field is a friendly Irish pub; Buffalo Joe’s has live music.


Total tab: $218-plus. Hyatt Regency lounge: 232-1234; carriage ride: 239-8080; restaurant: 233-6623; Field: 232-9840; Buffalo Joe’s, 236-1616.

The Cheap Date
There’s free parking for your rusted orange Karmann Ghia in most areas within Old Town State Park. The walking tour starts at 10:30 a.m. Guides will lead you on a fun, free trip down the park’s historic lanes and past the period museums. After the tour, walk over to the trolley station. Buy two round-trippers ($3 each). It’s barely a 10-minute ride to downtown’s Seaport Village. If it’s Saturday the 13th, get to the quaint village’s entertainment gazebo by 1 p.m. That’s when the Accordion Lover Ensemble begins a two-hour set. Sing along, and get up for a dance or two. You may even get a laugh out of Kazoo the strolling mime (or not). Snuggle with your honey on the trolley ride back to Old Town. Get home in time for some whoopee-making before heading off to the night shift at your second job.

If you can opt for this economical outing on Sunday, Seaport Village features live jazz and R&B from Barbara Jamerson & Two Deep (1-4 p.m.) and tunes from strolling a cappella singers (5-8 p.m.). Yes, Kazoo will be around, too. And at Old Town, from 10 to 3 there’s a traditional celebration of Valentine’s Day, with sack races and pie-eating contests—for prizes. Artisans attired in 1800s-style costume will demonstrate the arts of blacksmithing, tortilla cooking and corn-husk dollmaking. Aforementioned snuggling also implied throughout.


Total tab: $6. Old Town State Park: 220-5423; Seaport Village: 235-4014.

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