5 cheap, er, inexpensive ideas on where to take your Valentine

I love to go out to do things with Trinity. I love it even more when they’re cheap, or better yet, free. So, in the spirit of love and romance and sharing, here are some of the cheap or free activities I’ve dragged Trinity along to do over the years.

The Getty Villa

Cost: Free
What’s the catch: $8 to park, tickets are timed and most be secured in advance. Plus, getting there ain’t no picnic — you must take Pacific Coast Highway from the south and turn right into the Getty Villa driveway.
What’s so great about it: If the Getty Villa were more easily accessible, I’d be here more often. Just like its cousin up the hill, the architecture and gardens are awe-inspiring. But the smell and sounds of the ocean are that much closer. I particularly like the Getty Villa because of my longtime interest in Greek and Roman history and mythology. My favorite spot at the Villa is the East Garden — it feels like a hidden, secret spot with a gurgling fountain and shady trees. In my opinion, its a perfect place for a tryst — or, at least, a secret rendezvous. There is a cafe at the Villa (and I can think of nothing more metropolitan than having lunch and coffee at the Villa, hee), but if that’s not your cup of tea, there are plenty of food options in Malibu or Santa Monica, ranging from cheap yet quality (like California Chicken Cafe) to expensive but worth it (like Enterprise Fish Co.)

Whale watching

Cost: On weekends, $20 per adult. Weekdays, $14 all fares. (These fares are higher than I remember; The picture above was taken circa 2004/2005, and I could swear the fares were maybe $10-$12.)
What’s the catch: Obviously, you’d be on a boat, so if you get motion sickness, you might want to forego this option. Also, the ticket booth is not near the boat, so keep that in mind when timing your arrival. Yeah, we were almost late for our trip.
What’s so great about it: Being out on a boat, with the wind in your face and hair, the smell of the sea in your nostrils? You don’t like the thought of that? Are you dead inside? No, all kidding aside, a two-hour whale watching trip is entirely manageable. The trip I took, from Redondo Sport Fishing, took us around the Rancho Palos Verdes peninsula and back again. While my trip was light on the whale spout/dolphins playing sightings, it was still incredible to get out on a boat and spend an exhilarating day with my honey bunny. But I don’t think you have to worry about that, since the whale watching sites are reporting sightings on nearly every trip. You may or may not want seafood after your trip (um, this should go without saying, but don’t eat before you get on a boat), nonetheless, there are always plenty of food options around these ports. Go hog wild.

Long Beach’s Aquarium of the Pacific

Cost: $20.95 per non-member adult admission. If you order your tickets online, you get a $5 discount.
What’s the catch: If you go on a weekday, chances are you will encounter plenty of children. Um, if you go on the weekend, chances are you will encounter plenty of families. The choice is up to you.
What’s so great about it: I love museums, zoos and aquariums, period. The pluses about the aquarium include the awesome shark lagoon, where you also have the option of touching (!) baby sharks and stingrays. If you’re a guy, it’ll give your date a chance to come running into your arms for comfort. If you’re a girl, it will give you a chance to run into your date’s arms for comfort. It’s a win-win situation. As for food, I do recall a cafeteria-like restaurant at the aquarium, but dude, you’re in Long Beach — there’s tons of food options within walking distance, even a Roscoe’s Chicken N’ Waffles if you’re willing to go a little farther.

Point Fermin Park in San Pedro

Cost: Free. Not counting the gas that it will cost you to get there. But seriously, its free.
What’s the catch: There’s not much nearby, plus, you might want to avoid walking too close to the edge, since quite a few people have met their maker that way.
What’s so great about it: Other than being free, its an incredible park. The view is spectacular, and the feeling you get up there is almost exactly like the feeling you get from being on a boat, without being on a boat. Trinity and I got married here in 2004, in a long, interesting but convoluted story. If you opt to go here, I’d say you should pick up a to-go order from your favorite restaurant and have a picnic. Your date will be so impressed!

Los Angeles County Arboretum

Cost: $7 for adults, admission is free on the third Tuesday of every month (in case you were thinking of postponing your V-day plans)
What’s the catch: For admission, they only take cash and checks. Its also in Arcadia, which many is the same as Timbuktu. The place also closes pretty early — 5 p.m.
What’s so great about it: The other garden in the area can’t hold a candle to this place, in my opinion. There are super cool turn-of-the-century houses and structures to check out, wandering birds to coo at, lush trees and flowers all over the place, running rivers and a waterfall. When Trin and I went, it was a weekday, so it was literally deserted. Ahem, other more indiscreet couples might take advantage of that, but not us, of course. If you want to picnic first, there’s a lawn out front where you can do so. It also seems that there is now a cafe, appropriately called the Peacock Cafe. But you’re so close to the Santa Anita mall, you might as well go to Dave and Busters for some more fun, or eat at one of the many chain restaurants there.

So that’s it! Go forth and be romantic.