Summer Lovin': LBC Vacation Guide for Romantics
Maybe it’s the warm weather, the bright skies, or maybe it’s that sunsets just feel better when shared – whatever, summer just seems to be the right time for love. If you and someone special find yourselves in the mood, here’s some ideas – swans to sweets, classics to carousels – of how to indulge a summer romance.
There probably is no more iconic, romantic activity In Long Beach than sharing a gondola ride on the canals of Naples with that very special someone. Now in its 40th year, Gondola Getaway’s (5437 E. Ocean Blvd.) traditionally trained gondoliers have ferried and serenaded couples through the enchanting, meandering canals, passing by beautiful homes and underneath bridges where it is traditional to share a smooch. Bring your own bottle of something – there’s free corkage – and get an assortment of cheese and meats as a sort of appetizer.
When the ride is over, stay in an Italian state of mind and head less than five minute drive from Gondola Getaway, to Domenico’s (5339 E. Second St.). Long Beach’s oldest restaurant, this Belmont Shore institution has an enchanting atmosphere, the kind of place you’d imagine to find Lady and the Tramp eating pasta behind – actually, they’d likely be sharing Domenico’s legendary ground pepperoni or ground sausage pizzas. If you’re looking for more contemporary Italian cuisine and atmosphere, head just a few blocks up Second Street to Michael’s on Naples (5620 Second St.). This award-winning restaurant’s entire menu – pasta to sauces, mozzarella to gelato – is made from scratch. Pump up the romance by dining alfresco on the roof, perhaps with a terrific Negroni to start.
Crazy, Silly, Love
If you’re in the early, can’t-stop-smiling stages of a romance – or looking to recapture it – indulge your silly side at Shoreline Village. Once there, head right for Pelican Pier Pavillion where you can play skee-ball, air hockey and lots more but, ultimately, find your way to its gorgeous carousel, featuring elegant horses and phosphorescent sea creatures. Then head to The Funnel House (425 Shoreline Village Dr.) and continue with something scrumptious like funnel cake, ice cream sundae or a churro before heading to the nearby Love Locks (429 Shoreline Village Dr.) installation, where you can “lock in” your love with a personalized padlock you bring from home or purchase at a nearby kiosk.
After you head over to the nearby, iconic Lion’s Lighthouse for Sight (200 Aquarium Way) to intermittently gaze at the sunset and each other, stroll across the street to the Rainbow Lagoon Swan Boats (Shoreline Dr. at Pine Ave.) by Wheel Fun Rentals. Jump aboard one of the beautiful Swan Boats and pedal to glide across the lagoon, seemingly without a care or any real direction, you know, like young love. The swans are especially stunning at night, when lit by LED light, providing your relationship with the perfect glow.
Some places are just made for an evening out; L’Opera (101 Pine Ave.), for example. This downtown landmark signaled the area’s revitalization with its 1990 opening, attended by the likes of Paul Newman and Mario Andretti. It’s become the go-to, fine dining destination for intimate dinners, special occasions, wedding rehearsals and just about any meal that people want to splurge on a night of top-notch food and service. It has an award-winning menu and an interior that’s been completely redone, making L’Opera even more romantic, if that’s possible.
Similarly, just a few blocks away, is another Italian heartthrob, La Traviata (301 N. Cedar Ave.). Located in the historic, French revival Willmore Building, La Traviata serves an award-winning Nuevo Italian menu in a cozy dining room featuring a rather stunning chandelier. Admittedly, not as well-known as L’Opera – few Long Beach restaurants are – it’s proud of being a cherished secret to devotees and those in the know, one with a friendly bar and terrific Social Happy Hour from 5-7 p.m.
If you’re not feeling Italian, one of the area’s most popular date night restaurants–located about half a mile from La Traviata–is Thai District (149 Linden Ave.). The two-story spot–it also has a large outdoor dining area–is known for creating an intimate atmosphere as well as delicious, traditional Thai cuisine. Though both the food and surroundings feel very upscale, prices are reasonable, which is likely one reason why it’s so popular for a night out.
Now, for a lot of people, a trip to any of these spots is enough, but if you’re looking to combine fine dining with fun activity, head to nearby Brushstrokes + Beverages (501 E. Broadway), where you’ll be guided, step-by-step, to create the evening’s featured painting, all the while enjoying a bit of the liquid inspiration you’re invited to bring with you.
New romance can be a lot of fun, but let’s say you’ve already shared a lot of summers together, sat across from each other at countless meals, shared myriad sunsets and adventures, is there still some summer lovin’ waiting for you? You bet! If your romance can be counted in years, maybe decades, you may be looking for something new and different, something to do together. We’d suggest heading to Bixby Knolls, an area well-known not only for great beer – it’s nicknamed Brewery Knolls – and great places to eat, but a rotating menu of community activities. Start with the sweetest: a weekly, chef-guided, chocolate treat-making workshop being run by the one-and-only Romeo’s Chocolates (345 E. Carson St.) out of its private event space. Not only do students learn to dip and temper chocolate, but they take home the four chocolate bars they create. Complimentary sparkling wine or espresso is provided.
The popular First Fridays event brings together art, music, food and retail. Businesses stay open late as thousands of folks stroll between shops, restaurants and street-side booths on Atlantic Avenue, all the while being entertained by live bands and entertainers. Similarly, Concerts in the Park(ing Lot) presents great local artists performing in the parking lots of great local businesses. You and your honey are invited to bring chairs and dancing shoes, while ordering food from nearby eateries.