Nightlife: Valentine's Day in Long Beach

BY: JEN MOORE

Roses are red, violets are blue. Valentine's Day is coming up; I'm ready, are you? Before you start to fret, read on. Consider this your one-stop guide to the most anticipated day for couples nationwide, with ideas even St. Valentine, the patron saint of lovers, would be envious of. Fortunately for Long Beach residents, we have a city that is full of fun and romantic spots to make this day extra special without all the stress. So belly up to the bar, all you romantics, as I serve up exactly what this city has to offer.

The first stop on this tour is a romantic treasure tucked away in Belmont Shore. Long Beach offers a little taste of Italy in its backyard with a traditional gondola ride that cruises through the beautiful Naples Island as you cozy up to your special valentine. This somewhat hidden tradition has been a part of Long Beach since 1982 and business continues to grow. Feb. 14 is just around the corner, so reservations are a must. Check out www.gondolagetawayinc.com to book a ride.

Once you've set the mood, grab a bite to eat at Dominico's Ristorante on Second Street. This quaint restaurant is the perfect spot to warm up after your ride, and their traditional Italian cuisine is sure to tickle your taste buds. If the wait is bit long, sit down at the restaurant's checker table for a friendly game.

On a budget and still want to treat your loved one to a memorable night? Head over to the Long Beach Museum of Art located right off Ocean Boulevard. Not only does this museum offer an aristocratic evening complete with modern art and breathtaking views of the Long Beach coast, but its connecting restaurant is serving up a special Valentine's Day feast with prices that will keep your wallets smiling, along with the impressive student discount it offers. Call ahead for reservations.

Remember, there is no rule stating that you have to celebrate on Feb. 14. As Valentine's falls on a Thursday this year, some people might not be able to make the late night plans. The lines and crowds might be too much to handle. Rent a movie and wait until Friday because daVinci Ristorante (located near the Long Beach Airport) offers a helicopter tour around the city and wine tasting for $50 per person! The restaurant also has amazing food prepared and served by an exceptional staff.

Feel like harnessing your inner artist? Color Me Mine is a little spot on Second Street where you are able to do just that, and why not share it with someone you love? This unique experience allows you to choose from over 300 ceramic pieces, sketch your own personal design and then paint it however you like for a keepsake that will last a lifetime. Once you're finished creating a ceramic masterpiece, reward yourself with a decadent yogurt treat at Pinkberry, located just down the street.

Perhaps an afternoon escape at the Aquarium of the Pacific, located in downtown Long Beach, is just what the two of you need for a fun and educational getaway that is student price friendly. Check out all the latest exhibits and petting pool.

After all the excitement of walking around the aquarium, go grab some dinner. If you are looking for a relaxing lounge with good half off appetizers, stop by the Mai Tai Bar. If the aquarium has you craving seafood, check out Gladstone's, which offers a fun atmosphere and good prices. A special Valentine's menu will also be prepared and will leave you smiling. Both places are located at the Pike right near the aquarium.

School and classes, especially at the beginning of the semester, can leave you stressed, so if you have little time to plan, Cal State Long Beach has a romantic spot that is educational and cultural. The Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden is the perfect place to take that special person without denting the wallet. The vast garden and scenic water pond make this place an enchanting utopia. The serene beauty of CSULB's very own garden is guaranteed to put you in botanical bliss.

Valentine's Day seems like a holiday for women to get spoiled with chocolates and flowers, but men deserve just as much in return. If you girls are having trouble figuring out what to do for him just keep reading. Does he like to golf, play baseball or shoot hoops? Nothing is more attractive or fun than spending a day doing what he likes. Long Beach has plenty of places for couples to go get a physical workout together. El Dorado Golf Course is right down the street from school and is a perfect place to hit some golf balls or head down the peninsula to the open basketball courts to play a quick game.

Want to get a scare without the scary movie? Long Beach is the home of the famous Queen Mary. This once-fastest cruise liner in the world is docked off the ports and offers a range of activities. Check out the "Ghost of Legends" tour, which is a half-hour of frights and stories about haunted mysteries.

After all the screams, stop on by the "Star Trek" exhibit featured in the dome. It is only in town for a short time, so tour it while you can. All of the walking and touring will work up an appetite, so book reservations at one of the two award-winning restaurants, Sir Winston's or Chelsea.

Long Beach is an amazing city with plenty of options to do on Valentine's Day. If you want to enjoy a romantic dinner, there are plenty of restaurants on Second Street and downtown Long Beach that are offering Valentine's packages. Georges Greek Café, La Opera, the Sky Room, 555 Steakhouse and Sevilla are just are few restaurants that have a unique vibe and wonderful food. Whether you feel like spending big bucks on the upcoming holiday or enjoying a quiet evening, remember that the memories will last a lifetime.