BY: KARINA ANASTASIA ROCHE
Los Angeles, with its sky-high rent and even more outrageous housing prices, is not known as being the most budget-friendly place for a romantic Valentine’s Day date. But Southern California’s beauty is a wealth that comes without an admission price–if you know where to look, you can spend a memorable Valentine’s in Los Angeles without overdrawing your bank account. From the peaceful shores of Malibu to the dramatic mountain trails of Topanga Canyon, the greater Los Angeles area has much to offer the romantic but frugal soul.
1. Topanga Canyon
If you’re staying with us at the Topanga Canyon Inn, you need look no further for your Valentine’s Day celebration. Sit out on one of our mountain-view balconies, which float above the peace of the canyon, punctuated only by the sound of birds or an occasional peacock, and create a romantic atmosphere that could be a date in itself. Or take a sunset hike through the state park and absorb the dramatic landscape of chaparral and sandstone formations, stopping by Elephant Rock to enjoy the ocean view. Alternatively, take a romantic trail ride with L.A. Horseback Riding, soaking in the mountain views and sunset from horseback. They even have a special Valentine’s Day ride. For dinner, there are several beautiful restaurants in the canyon–we recommend Canyon Bistro for those seeking ambiance without splurging. You can read more about Topanga’s budget-friendly attractions in our guide to Topanga.
2. Malibu Lagoon & Malibu Creek State Park
Malibu Lagoon State Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Los Angeles area, an idyllic oasis that couldn’t be more perfect for a romantic walk or Valentine’s picnic. The creek pours into the ocean, creating a scenic lagoon where countless bird species come to feed and nest. The recently renovated park has many seating areas, observation decks, and paths that take you throughout the lagoon and down to the beach. While you’re there, make sure to visit the historic Adamson House museum, former home of the “King and Queen of Malibu,” with its intricate tile work and blooming, peaceful gardens. Or, to view the Malibu mountain landscape from within, drive inland to Malibu Creek State Park, and take a hike with breathtaking views of meadows and steep mountainsides, stopping by a picture-perfect rock pool for a picnic.
3. Point Dume
Point Dume at sunset or swathed in moonlight is one of L.A.’s lesser-known romantic treasures. The bluffs of northern Malibu form a natural terrace over the ocean, gazing towards the other side of the bay. Hike up a trail through Point Dume Nature Preserve to the hidden side of the bluffs for the best sights: a viewing deck with benches allows you to rest and soak in the views, and perhaps spot some sea lions frolicking on the narrow beach below. If you’re visiting during the full moon, watch it rise directly over the ocean, casting silver moonlight on the waves as the mountains glitter in the distance. For a longer walk, drive down to Zuma Beach, a 4-mile beach of soft sand, waves, and the sensuous California sun.
4. Griffith Observatory
You might recognize this astronomy museum and observatory as the location of the romantic sky dance from the film La La Land–but did you know admission is free? This historic observatory is situated on a mountaintop, its great domed structure as elegant as the sweeping views of Los Angeles that surround. Its stunning planetarium shows are not to be missed. Once the sun goes down, go take a peek at our neighboring planets through one of the museum’s telescopes, and linger outside on a terrace to watch Los Angeles quiver and shimmer with stars.
5. Visit the Getty Museum(s)
Two of L.A.’s most romantic art museums, like the Griffith Observatory, don’t charge for admission (although they do for parking). The closest of these to Topanga Canyon, the Getty Villa, was inspired by a 1st-century Roman villa buried in Pompeii. The Villa feels both out of time and yet perfectly at home, perched on a hill overlooking the ocean, and houses Classical art, antiquities, and various exhibits–but the true attraction is its authentic architecture, sculptures, and gardens, ideal for a romantic day out. (Check their schedule for Greek plays in the outdoor auditorium). Or visit the larger Getty Center, a modern locus for art and research that boasts not only stunning white-stone architecture, collections spanning every time period, and serene gardens, but vast views of Los Angeles and the Santa Monica Mountains.
An inexpensive but idyllic Valentine’s is more than possible in Los Angeles and the surrounding area. In the City of Angels, a picnic on one of our scenic beaches can be more romantic than dining at the city’s priciest restaurant. If you’re a local looking for a romantic escape without purchasing a plane ticket, book your stay with us at the Topanga Canyon Inn for a “staycation” that is easy on the wallet but makes you feel like you’re miles away. After all, Valentine’s is all about whom you’re with, and the love you bring.