Happy last day of January. 

Tomorrow marks the end of Dry January for some (finally) and the beginning of the planning period for everyone’s favorite Hallmark holiday — you know the one.

So today, I’m going to share a few ideas to help you get a head start on crafting the perfect Valentine’s Day gesture for your favorite person(s), whether that’s your S.O., your crush, your FWB, your besties, your bros, or hey, maybe even your mom (who absolutely deserves a bundle of roses regardless).

Don’t groan, Feb. 14 should just be another excuse to carve out some time with your loved ones. I’m not (necessarily) asking you to empty your wallet, but I will share some ideas to make your Valentine feel something like this: ✧ ೃ༄*ੈ✩ 

V-Day falls on a Wednesday this year. Oh, you’re busy you say? Sorry, that’s not a good enough excuse — activities are acceptable to plan any day of that week or on either bookending weekend. Below you’ll find four types of dates to choose from and how to pull them off in and around Long Beach.

But first, no matter which date plan you pick, remember to get flowers — you must get them. Who doesn’t love flowers? Keep it simple (and cheap) by grabbing a bouquet at Trader Joe’s or you can stop by Allen’s Flower Shop, which has been open in Long Beach since 1977. The family-run shop offers floral arrangements ranging from the simple to the ornate from $20 up to $700. 

Here are three itineraries to copy this Valentine’s week: 

♡ The outdoorsy 

If your Valentine happens to be a nature enjoyer, this is great news for your wallet. Plan a sunset, midday or all-day picnic at any of Long Beach’s sprawling parks, which are bound to be plenty green after a pair of upcoming storms.

Here are my favorite places to park it: Marine Stadium (also has a beach), El Dorado Park, Drake Park, Lincoln Park, Rose Park and Bixby Annex Park (the oft-misnamed stretch of green off Ocean Boulevard and Junipero Avenue). My all-time favorite spot though, is the grassy area by the Colorado Lagoon.

“Lounging in the lagoon grass w/ friends is a vibe unmatched,” Betty Benderson III once said in a tweet in response to another newsletter in which I plugged the lagoon. Agreed, Betty. 

Here’s how to do it right: 

Step 1 – You must have snacks, if not a full-blown brunch/lunch/dinner spread. If you plan on assembling this yourself, head over to somewhere like Trader Joe’s, Olives Gourmet Grocer or The Plant Butcher (for vegans) to find premade sides, cheese platters, entrees and more. 

Step 2 – Don’t. Forget. Flowers.

Step 3 – Lots of parks have picnic benches, but I prefer to sit on the ground. Bring a blanket or tapestry big enough to fit you and yours on. Also, bring extra blankets for warmth (and snuggling opportunities).

Step 4 –  Extras: You might want some other fun stuff like conversation cards for couples or a board game. If you’re a nerd like I am, you could also bring some short story or poetry books to read to your company. For extra coziness and atmosphere, bring some battery-operated twinkle lights to wrap around nearby trees, some flameless candles and throw pillows.

♡ The quirky

For the artsy and activity-oriented community, I’m going to list off some dreamy events happening around Long Beach. These are great to share with anyone, but if you’re just getting to know someone, having something structured to do might just help ease some of those first-date scaries (alcohol will do that too, see a list of bars in the classic section). 

A pot of hot tea and a glass idle in front of Jasmine Thong, left and Ana Luna at Twelfth House Tea Sanctuary in Long Beach, Friday, Oct. 27, 2023. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

This list will be continued next week so stay tuned. 

♡ The classic 

The classic general for the “dinner and a movie” camp. And there’s nothing wrong with that camp, especially if the forecast is looking chilly. 

I like to do it in this order: Drinks, dinner, movie and post-film drinks. 

While you’re more than welcome to check out showings at AMC, Cinemark or Regal Edwards in Long Beach, here are some of the more avant-garde picks and their showings on and around V-Day: 

  • The Long Beach Art Theatre on Retro Row is showing Harold and Maude (1971) on 16mm on Friday, Feb. 9. For those who haven’t seen it, it’s a bit of an odd one, but it was what I saw on my Valentine’s date last year. It was my first time seeing it and I absolutely adored it from start to finish. 

Here’s the synopsis: “Young, rich, and obsessed with death, Harold finds himself changed forever when he meets lively septuagenarian Maude at a funeral.” 

Here are my recommendations for that pre-and-post movie drink: Art du Vin (attached to the theater), Vine and Baby Gee. And some nearby restaurants:  Tarantella on 4th (super recommend), Lola’s, Alder & Sage, El Barrio Cantina, Shady Grove Foods, Aji Peruvian Cuisine and Honduras’ Kitchen. 

  • The Frida Cinema in Downtown Santa Ana is Orange County’s only nonprofit theater and truly one of my favorite movie houses around (don’t tell the Art Theatre I said that). A brand new release of Amélie (2001) will be shown at 5:45 p.m.; The Sweet East (2023) is at 6 p.m.; Harold and Maude shows at 8:30 p.m. and The Zone of Interest (2023) plays at 8:30 p.m.

Drinks: Vacation Bar, Mission Control Bar Arcade (super recommend) and Native Son Alehouse. Dinner: Chapter One: the modern local and 4th Street Market (hall with tons of stalls for drinks and food).

  • Quentin Tarantino’s New Beverly Cinema, located near the Fairfax District in Los Angeles, is offering a double feature: Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and Tarantino’s True Romance (1993) on Feb. 13, 14 and 15. Harold and Maude is also showing at 2 p.m. on Feb. 16, and another double feature, Casablanca (1942) and Before Sunset (2004) is showing on Feb. 16. Plus, there’s a midnight showing of Pulp Fiction at 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 16. Book tickets (and book them early) here

Drinks: El Coyote. Dinner: El Coyote (IFKYK). 

I hope this was helpful, lovebirds. Where are you going on Saint Valentine’s Day? Do share.  

Kat Schuster is the assistant editor for the Long Beach Post. You can reach her at [email protected].