The 38 Best Date Ideas in Orange County, California

Fall in love in the OC.
Couple kissing on beach in Orange County, California in front of lifeguard stand
Photo: Cavan Images/Janae Videos / Getty Images
lindsay tigar the knot
by
Lindsay Tigar
lindsay tigar the knot
Lindsay Tigar
Wedding Planning Contributor
  • Lindsay contributes articles to The Knot Worldwide, with a specialty in honeymoon travel and creating wedding planning.
  • Lindsay owns a content agency, Tigar Types, to help businesses of all sizes grow their digital footprints.
  • Lindsay freelances for a plethora of publications, covering many topics, ranging from wedding advice and planning to travel, health and more.
Updated Feb 21, 2024

In Orange County, California, romance is always in the air, with its stunning beaches, vibrant culture and diverse culinary scene. Whether you're planning a first date, celebrating an anniversary or simply looking to spice up your routine, Orange County offers an array of experiences to suit every couple's interests, budget and preferences.

From strolls along picturesque coastal trails to adrenaline-pumping adventures at amusement parks, there's no shortage of activities to ignite the sparks of romance. Explore charming historic districts, visit world-class museums or embark on a scenic hot-air balloon ride for breathtaking views of the region's natural beauty.

Join us as we explore the best date ideas Orange County offers, providing inspiration and recommendations to help you plan your next romantic rendezvous in this captivating corner of Southern California.

In this article:

The Best Date Ideas in Orange County

We did our best to narrow down our top picks! From scenic coastal escapes to cultural excursions and culinary delights, explore the best date ideas in Orange County:

Lighthouse Lunch

You can do more than enjoy the view from a lighthouse in Orange County—you can have a date inside! Set within the Newport Beach lighthouse, the Lighthouse Cafe offers a panoramic experience, complete with a brunch/lunch menu. After you fill up, continue your date with kayaking or paddle boarding onsite rentals!

1600 West Balboa Blvd., Newport Beach, CA

Date with Mickey

For couples seeking adventure, fascination and some magic, Disneyland offers an enchanting date idea in Orange County. You'll feel like kids again as you immerse yourselves in the whimsical world of thrilling rides, enchanting attractions and beloved Disney characters. Share moments of excitement as you explore the park's iconic lands and indulge in delicious treats together.

Cost: Admission prices vary. Check the official website for details.

Sunset Dining

Experience the very best of romance at Orange Hill Restaurant, renowned for its sunset dinner seating with a gorgeous view of the area. As you eat, drink and enjoy one another's company, you'll be surrounded by cascading waterfalls, koi ponds and twinkling patio lights. Enjoy sweeping vistas from their patio, by the English-style fireplace, or while savoring handcrafted cocktails at their onsite O BAR lounge.

Cost: Moderate to high-end pricing. Check the official website for reservations.

6410 E Chapman Ave, Orange, CA

Heisler Park in Laguna Beach

For a fun day date idea in Orange County that gives you permission to roam wild and free, head to Heisler Park in Laguna Beach. Here, you'll find plenty to keep your attention, like oceanfront paths, art installations and stunning coastal vistas. Stretching along Cliff Drive from Aster Street to Diver's Cove, this park has it all: walking trails, gardens, tide pools in a marine refuge, picnic spots, barbecues and lawn bowling greens. Pack a picnic and make a day of it.

Cost: Free.

375 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach, California

Elegance for Two

For a timeless and elegant culinary experience, The Cellar Restaurant in Fullerton comes highly rated and sought after. Situated beneath the historic Villa del Sol, this restaurant offers a curated menu blending classic French and contemporary American cuisine, complemented by an extensive wine selection. From the moment you walk in, you and your date will be dazzled by its opulent, subterranean setting that exudes old-world charm, with vaulted ceilings, candlelit tables and other meaningful details.

305 N Harbor Blvd, Fullerton, CA

Whale Watching

Experience the thrill of whale watching with Dana Wharf, Dana Point's premier and beloved whale-watching company. Together, you'll experience an unforgettable adventure as you witness and admire diverse marine life. Keep your eyes wide open to try and spot more than 1,500 gray whales during the season, along with blue whales in the summer and year-round sightings of fin, minke, humpback and sharks.

Cost: $56+

34675 Golden Lantern, Dana Point, CA

Fun Date Ideas in Orange County

Uncover a collection of adventure, excitement and thrills in Orange County with our favorite fun date ideas:

Fun Zone

When you think of when you had the most freedom to just play, you're likely taken back to your childhood. The Balboa Fun Zone is the definition of a fun date idea in Orange County, where you can let loose—and be a kid again. This hot spot in Newport Beach offers classic arcade games, rides and waterfront views. You can try the iconic Ferris wheel, other fair-style thrills like the Family Swing and Coconut-Tree Climb and an arcade with ticket prizes. Accessible by the Balboa Island Ferry, the adventure continues with a stroll through a nautical museum, shopping for beachwear or renting bikes and boats.

Cost: Varies based on activities.

600 E Bay Ave, Newport Beach, CA

Paddle Along

A fun date idea in Orange County that gets your heart rate up? Rent a kayak and explore the scenic Newport Harbor together. As an active way to soak up the outdoors, you and your partner can experience Newport Beach by gliding through the harbor's calm waters and enjoying picturesque views with a distinctive vantage point.

Cost: Rental fees apply; Single kayak: $65+, Tandem kayak: $95+

2000 W Balboa Blvd Suite B, Newport Beach, CA

Anti-Mall

For a unique and fun date idea, you and your date will be impressed with Costa Mesa's SoBeCa District at The LAB, home to a unique blend of boutique shops, eateries and artistic events. Originally a goggle factory, The LAB's structure now houses a relaxed indoor-outdoor courtyard for lounging and regular events. Indulge in the city's finest foods while enjoying The LAB's distinct "anti-mall" atmosphere.

Cost: Free to explore; expenses vary based on purchases

2930 Bristol St, Costa Mesa, CA

Shipwreck Bar

Strong Water Anaheim is an interesting shipwreck-themed bar offering Asian-inspired cuisine—and a hidden room you'll need to find together. Inspired by the enigmatic mid-1800s shipwreck of the Brig Strong Water, this unique hot spot provides dynamic flavor, expertly crafted cocktails and an atmosphere that transports you to a bygone era of seafaring legends.

270 S Clementine St, Anaheim, CA

Surf's Up

You don't have to be a surfer to learn about the history and culture of surfing together at the International Surfing Museum. Here, you can explore iconic artifacts like Duke Kahanamoku's surfboard and the Guinness World Records-breaking World's Largest Surfboard. Experience the laid-back atmosphere of Surf City USA and enjoy bonding over your shared passion for the ocean.

Cost: Admission fees may apply

411 Olive Ave, Huntington Beach, CA

Team Together

Challenge yourselves and strengthen your bond with an escape room adventure, where you'll put your teamwork and problem-solving abilities to the test. You can choose from various environments of numerous escape room locations scattered across Orange County, each offering unique themes. Afterward, celebrate your victory or laugh off your near-escapes over a cozy dinner for two.

Cost: Prices vary.

First Date Ideas in Orange County

When you're hopeful and hesitant all at the same time, you need a first date that sends the right message. Here, our favorite picks:

Rooftop Dining

For a memorable first date in Orange County, consider Topside Roof Deck, Newport Beach's only rooftop bar. With stunning 360° views of the peninsula, marina and beaches, it provides an ideal backdrop for a casual—yet elevated—evening. Share starters and playful cocktails while soaking in the scenery, then continue the night with a fireside nightcap at the adjacent Mayor's Table restaurant or a romantic stroll along the boardwalk of Lido Marina Village.

3300 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach, CA

Pier for Two

For a casual first date in Orange County, take your time getting to know one another with a leisurely stroll along Huntington Beach Pier. Stretching 1,850 feet into the Pacific, this iconic landmark offers ample opportunities to observe surfers in action. Dine at Duke's or Sandy's Beach Shack for upscale atmospheres, stunning views and seafood-focused dishes.

Cost: Free to walk; expenses vary based on purchases.

325 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, CA

Foodie Paradise

If you and your date bonded while texting about your love of food, have your first date at the Anaheim Packing District. Referred to as a "foodie paradise", this trendy food hall offers a variety of dining options and a vibrant atmosphere. What was once home to one of the last remaining citrus packing warehouses in Orange County is now home to dozens of unique local vendors.

Cost: Varies based on dining choices.

440 S Anaheim Blvd, Anaheim, CA

Art Walk

Discover contemporary art together at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Santa Ana, offering engaging exhibits for art lovers—and for lovers to be! Explore thought-provoking installations and discuss your impressions, then continue your first date with coffee or dessert at a nearby cafe for relaxed conversation.

Cost: General admission is free; additional fees may apply for specially-ticketed exhibitions

250 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA

Reclaimed Love

For a first date that's easy-going but also has a unique flare, suggest heading to SteelCraft, a Long Beach-based outdoor urban eatery built with repurposed shipping containers. SteelCraft unites local eateries with a communal dining space in Garden Grove. It's a new take on a classic get-to-know-you hang.

Cost: Expenses vary based on purchases

12900 S Euclid St, Garden Grove, CA

Stand Up (Or Fall)

For a first date where you can show off your skills or laugh as you flail, try stand-up paddleboarding together in Newport Beach. It's a fun and relaxed activity and an adventurous way to get to know one another. We suggest grabbing some beers to recover after an hour or so splashing in the ocean.

Cost: Rental fees apply; $20+

1131 Back Bay Dr., Newport Beach, CA

Anniversary Date Ideas in Orange County

When you're celebrating the gift of time you've had together, you want an anniversary date idea that really 'wows' your partner. Here, we made our top picks.

Up, Up & Away

Your love has taken you to new, exciting places—and now you can celebrate your anniversary with new heights when you book a memorable hot air balloon ride over Orange County. You will slowly glide upwards as the hot air fills the balloon, giving you a one-of-a-kind view with your one-of-a-kind partner. Afterward, toast to your love with a romantic dinner—and scroll through the 100s of photos you're sure to take.

Cost: Prices vary. Check local providers for details.

Gondola Ride

Celebrate your anniversary with a romantic gondola cruise in Newport Harbor, offering a gorgeous journey through charming canals. Glide alongside your loved one, soaking up the peaceful ambiance and company, all guided by a gondolier. This one-hour cruise includes a bottle of sparkling cider or imported Italian sparkling mineral water, accompanied by gourmet chocolates.

Cost: Rental fees apply; $165+

200 Bayside Drive, Newport Beach, CA

Helicopter Tour

Elevate your anniversary celebration—literally!—with a private helicopter tour over Orange County. With your partner on this journey called life, you will experience the thrill of soaring through the sky together, admiring the beauty of the coastline, lush hills and iconic landmarks below. After your flight, continue your special day with a romantic dinner.

Cost: Prices vary. Check local providers for details.

Dinner Cruise

Why dine on land when you can toast to your anniversary at sea? For a sophisticated and romantic evening, hop aboard the Newport Beach Premier Dinner Cruise. This top-rated excursion features classy cocktails, chef-prepared menus and attentive service. Set to the backdrop of Newport Beach Harbor, you and your partner will enjoy a dreamy ambiance with views of Southern California's coastline, yachts and waterfront homes.

Cost: Prices vary; $92+

2431 West Coast Highway, Newport Beach, CA

Staycation Please

Escape to The Resort at Pelican Hill for a romantic anniversary staycation in Orange County. Nestled in a picturesque beach town, this Italian-inspired oasis offers stunning views of the Pacific and acres of manicured landscape reminiscent of Tuscany. If you don't want to stay overnight, that's okay—you can book a Love Local Day Pass. This experience starts with a massage at the spa, followed by relaxation at the Coliseum Pool and a romantic dinner at Pelican Grill, complete with butcher-cut steaks and signature craft cocktails overlooking the ocean.

22701 Pelican Hill Road South, Newport Coast, CA

Free and Cheap Date Ideas in Orange County

No money—no problem. These free and cheap date ideas in Orange County won't break the bank but will deliver lots of quality time with your partner.

Mother Nature

For a free date with your partner and Mother Nature, discover the natural beauty of Crystal Cove State Park. This oasis has pristine beaches and scenic hiking trails perfect for a tranquil escape from the urban hustle. Here, you'll find rolling surf, sandy shores and diverse landscapes for every type of dynamic duo. Situated between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach along Pacific Coast Highway, it stands as one of Orange County's largest expanses of unspoiled coastline and open space.

Cost: Free to enter; parking fees may apply.

8471 Pacific Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA

Eco Reserve

Visit Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach for bird-watching and a peaceful nature walk—free of charge. The Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is an approximately 1,300-acre coastal estuary, including open water, mudflats, salt marsh, coastal dunes, seabird nesting islands and riparian and freshwater marsh habitats. Here, more than 200 avian species have been identified!

Cost: Free.

18000 CA-1, Huntington Beach, CA

Downtown Art

Attend the Downtown Fullerton Art Walk, held on the first Friday of each month, to immerse yourselves in the local art scene and vibrant community. You can walk through galleries, chat with artists and discover unique pieces that spark conversation and creativity, creating an engaging and memorable free date night experience. (Unless you fall in love with a unique work of art, of course!)

Cost: Free.

Picnic & Hike

For a date that only costs as much as you pack along with you, grab your partner and have a picnic or go for a hike at O'Neill Regional Park in Trabuco Canyon. With 4,500 acres in the Trabuco and Live Oak Canyons, this park offers 23 miles of trails and a unique landscape. Parts are heavily wooded with coast live oak and sycamore trees, while the hillsides feature cactus, wild buckwheat, sagebrush and chaparral of scrub oak, buckthorn and mountain mahogany.

Cost: Park entrance fees may apply.

30892 Trabuco Canyon Rd, Trabuco Canyon, CA

Zoo Time

The OC Zoo, situated within the scenic Irvine Regional Park in Orange, is nestled within its sprawling 477-acre wilderness. With a focus on native animals and plants of the southwestern United States, the zoo provides a sanctuary for injured, orphaned or non-releasable wildlife. You and your date can observe a variety of species, including black bears, mountain lions, bald eagles and domestic animals like goats and sheep in the zoo's barnyard—all for $2 each. Talk about a bargain!

Cost: Admission Fee: $2 per person

1 Irvine Park Rd, Orange, CA

Walking Tour

The best part of this date is the time you spend together—and the permission to go at your own pace. You can explore historic architecture, antique shops and charming cafes with a self-guided walking tour of Old Towne Orange. Repeatedly voted Orange County's favorite downtown, the streets of Old Towne Orange are lined with antique and collectibles dealers, specialty shops, art galleries and restaurants.

Cost: Free.

300 E. Chapman Ave., Orange, CA

Romantic Date Ideas in Orange County

Put on the moves—and let the magic of Southern California do the rest with these super-intimate and sweet date ideas in Orange County:

Fine Dining

Enjoy a remarkable, memorable romantic dinner at The Hobbit in Orange, known for its prix fixe menu and unique dining experience. With carefully crafted dishes in a charming atmosphere, it's the perfect setting for a memorable date night. Cherish the moment and the delicious cuisine, creating lasting memories together. Just make sure you book in advance, as this seating gets snatched up fast.

Cost: High-end pricing. Check the official website for reservations.

2932 E Chapman Ave, Orange, CA

Private Picnic

Escape for a romantic day at Rancho Las Lomas in Silverado, where you can stroll through lush gardens, encounter wildlife and share a private picnic together. Tucked in the foothills, this picturesque venue offers an intimate setting perfect for special occasions and a reason to spend more time cuddled up together.

Cost: Event fees apply. Check the official website for details.

19191 Lawrence Canyon, Silverado, CA

Sip, Sip Hooray!

For a romantic date idea that leaves you feeling a little flirty and tipsy, visit Orange Coast Winery in Newport Beach, where you can have a private wine-tasting experience in a cozy atmosphere. This local boutique winery offers a selection of handcrafted wines made with the finest grapes sourced from Temecula Valley, Paso Robles and Lodi, California, providing the perfect backdrop for an intimate evening together.

Cost: Prices vary; $20 individual tasting fee

869 W 16th St, Newport Beach, CA

Spa Day

Reconnect with your partner at The Gardens Wellness Spa in Orange County, offering high-end and luxurious couples' treatments in a serene environment. It's the ideal spot for a romantic date focused on relaxation and rejuvenation, providing a tranquil escape from daily stresses. After your spa session, unwind together in the peaceful garden surroundings.

Cost: Varies depending on packages

900 E Katella Ave Suite G, Orange, CA

Day Date Ideas in Orange County

California is the golden state—and for a good reason, the weather is almost always perfect. Get outside and enjoy the sunshine with these day date ideas in Orange County:

Library & Garden

Spend a delightful day date at Sherman Library & Gardens, an oasis of living plants, bubbling fountains and serene walking paths in Orange County. Explore the museum showcasing Pacific Southwest flora, then stroll hand in hand through the gardens. Enjoy a variety of classes and events, from wellness workshops to floral design classes, making it a perfect daytime date destination for nature lovers and enthusiasts alike.

Cost: Admission is $5

2647 East Coast Hwy, Corona Del Mar, CA

Nature Center

Oak Canyon Nature Center is a 58-acre natural park in the Anaheim Hills, with a year-round stream that softly meanders through the park. It comprises three adjoining canyons and four miles of hiking trails. This unique landscape makes it one of the last remaining areas of oak woodland and coastal sage scrub the area, giving you ample opportunity to spot native wildlife! Once you've spent time with Mother Nature, visit the John J. Collier Interpretive Center, a small museum with live animals and regional natural history exhibits.

Cost: Free to enter; donations appreciated.

6700 E Walnut Canyon Rd, Anaheim, CA

Guided Trail Ride

This daytime date idea puts you in the middle of an old Western movie. Together, embark on a scenic horseback ride through historic groves of Coast Live Oaks and California Sycamores in Orange County, where you can encounter native wildlife like hawks, quail and deer. Horseback riding offers a memorable natural experience and teaches you that life and your relationship are always a ride.

Cost: $80 per rider for a one-hour ride and $180 for a two hours.

1 Irvine Park Rd, Orange, CA

Brewery Tour

For a boozy daytime date idea, go on a brewery tour in Anaheim in Orange County. Sample a variety of craft beers from local breweries, exploring each establishment's vibrant flavors and atmosphere. After your tour, stop to eat at a charming cafe or restaurant and sober up as you talk about your favorite brews.

Cost: Varies based on tastings.

History Walking

For a rule-free and casual daytime date that can take you into the night, explore the charming historic district of San Juan Capistrano. Rich in history and cultural heritage, the district boasts unique assets such as the Legend of the Swallows, a historic train depot and beautifully preserved adobes and buildings. Experience the vibrant local culture with festivals, concerts and art shows, all conveniently located within walking distance of each other.

Cost: Mission admission fees may apply: General admission is $18 for adults.

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