Rekindle the Romance in the OC at These 10 Alluring Locales

Couples looking to stoke the fires of romance will find many options in Orange County, where Hollywood's elite have long come to play. One of the wealthiest cities in the U.S., Newport Beach lured stars from the Golden Era of Hollywood, such as John Wayne, Shirley Temple, Buddy Ebsen, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, to make this county their home and moor their boats in Newport Harbor. Newport Beach's harbor offers opportunities aplenty to get on the water whether it's by gondola, yacht or a self-driven electric boat, which was invented here. Watch the playful sea lions frolic in the harbor as you take in some magnificent homes. Orange County is also home to major theme parks like Disneyland and smaller waterfront amusement parks like the Fun Zone on Balboa Island where you can let your inner child out to play together with your sweetheart. There's many a dramatic place for the perfect kiss from Inspiration Point to Newport Pier and it's easy to find yourself in a loving embrace as you peer out at the sun setting over the ocean, stroll hand in hand through quaint villages and dine under glowing lanterns at the best local restaurants. If you're looking for love, you'll surely find it in Orange County. 


Balboa Fun Zone

The Fun Zone at Balboa Island is one of the oldest Southern California beach amusement parks. This classic park with a carnival atmosphere offers entertainment for all ages, including a waterfront Ferris wheel with views of Newport Harbor and the Pacific Ocean, which runs day and night. There are also arcade games, casual restaurants and plenty of quaint shops. Stroll historic Balboa Pier built in 1906, one of the few piers to survive undamaged by Southern California's coastal storms, or charter a harbor, fishing or whale-watching excursion. You can also hitch a ride on the Catalina Flyer for a one-hour trip out to Catalina Island.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: With its carnival-like atmosphere, the Fun Zone at Balboa Village gives you a chance to let out your inner children for some impromptu fun.

Lyn's expert tip: Ride the Balboa Island Ferry, which since 1919 has provided continuous service for vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians between Balboa Island and Balboa Peninsula, for just $1.

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Newport Pier

The Newport Pier, which is located at Balboa Peninsula, sees lots of action from surfers at the jetty to skaters, cyclists and swimmers. The view looks north toward Huntington Beach and south to the Balboa Pier. It's a great place to ride your bike along the trail that extends around most of the peninsula. There's a wide variety of beachfront and harbor front dining, including 21 Oceanfront, Fly N Fish Oyster Bar & Grill, Woody's Wharf and Crab Cooker when you're ready to refuel. Don't miss the busy bar scene popular with locals, and visit the historic Dory Fishing Fleet, founded in 1891, located near the base of the pier.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Walking out onto the pier is a popular activity for couples, and locals say it's one of the best places to kiss in Newport Beach.

Lyn's expert tip: Newport Pier provides the best place for a beach bar crawl. Many of the locals flock to historic bars in the area like Beachball, Blackie's and Mutt Lynch's.

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Too Sweet

Take your pick of caramel apples in this charming sweet shop on Balboa Island, which is linked by a short bridge to Newport Beach. Choose from Oreo, Reese's, Butterfinger and Coconut Caramel coated apples after you enjoy a stroll around the Marine Avenue shopping district with its distinctly small town feel. Other Too Sweet options include chocolate gummy worms, chocolate Red Vines and chocolate dipped marshmallows. Too Sweet is one of several sweet shops serving Balboa Island's famous frozen banana and Balboa Bar, an ice cream treat. Stop by Tutti Frutti, which is connected by a large glass wall so patrons can see one another, for your choice of frozen yogurt.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Feed your significant other caramel apples after wandering hand in hand around this delightful little island full of shops, bakeries and restaurants.

Lyn's expert tip: Try a famous frozen banana as featured in the TV show "Arrested Development" or a Balboa Bar, a creamy ice cream treat made-to-order with your choice of decadent toppings.

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Hornblower Cruises

Describing itself as the only floating Newport Beach restaurant, Hornblower Cruises offers a variety of dining cruises from champagne brunch to formal sit-down dinners with music and fine wine. The company also offers tours, including the chance to go aboard John Wayne's famous yacht, the Wild Goose, which is moored in Newport Harbor. There are also special holiday cruises for Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Memorial Day and Labor Day. For Thanksgiving, enjoy an on-board buffet, and for the Fourth of July, take in the harbor fireworks on the top deck accompanied by music and dancing with a live DJ.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Views of Newport Harbor, beautiful homes and fantastic yachts paired with Hornblower Cruises' gourmet food makes it an ideal setting to kindle those lovin' feelings.

Lyn's expert tip: Try a full moon cruise to dial up the romance even more.

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Corona Del Mar
Inspiration Point

With sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and its rocky outcroppings, Inspiration Point is the perfect place for a stroll, a wedding or watching the snorkelers and scuba divers below. The rock jetty forms the east entrance to Newport Harbor, and if you're lucky, you may catch sight of the occasional migrating whale in the distance. Located at the southeast end of Corona Del Mar State Beach, be sure to head down to the beach, just a short distance away and accessible by a connecting path, for a splash in the surf or a stroll down this stretch of southern California coast.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: The view overlooking the Pacific Ocean is second to none, making it a wonderful spot for a smooch, a picnic and a glass of wine.

Lyn's expert tip: No need to pack a picnic; delis and grocers have you covered. Session's West Coast Deli artisan goods earned one of the "Top Places to Eat in the US" and other quick eats in the area include Rose Bakery Café, Gallo's Deli and Whole Foods at Fashion Island.

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Disneyland Resort
Photo courtesy of Disneyland Resort

Make like you're kids again and frolic in this iconic American playground. Don't miss being spooked in the New Orleans-style Haunted Mansion, which is uniquely different from Walt Disney World's version, and see where everything Disney originated in this delightful park for all ages. Hop a ride together on the Disneyland Railroad, reminisce and sing along on It's a Small World, and bounce along with Tigger on The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. The Blue Bayou Restaurant is definitely romantic with its mossy trees and glowing lanterns set in the New Orleans bayou underneath a hauntingly blue night sky.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: There are many romantic things to do at Disneyland from wishing at the wishing well to holding tight to your sweetheart down Splash Mountain.

Lyn's expert tip: Grab a great view of the fireworks as they light up Sleeping Beauty's castle every evening while you stand hand in hand or in an embrace. Be sure to sneak a kiss during the fireworks finale.

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Oak Grill
Photo courtesy of Island Hotel Newport Beach

Chef Marc Johnson combines flavors from around the globe, as well as those from the American South to create imaginative dishes from locally-sourced foods. Sample entrees include Pesto-Crusted Salmon, Cioppino and Roasted Lamb Chops. Sunday Brunch is also popular at Oak Grill with selections including Pancake Souffle, Belgian Waffles and Chilaquiles. Located inside the elegant Island Hotel Newport Beach, Oak Grill has an extensive wine list with 50 California wines by the glass, as well as a robust program of mostly craft beers. Weekly events include live music by the fire pit under the restaurant's lovely outdoor patio and Street Taco Tuesday.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Oak Grill has an uber romantic outdoor patio with glowing lanterns hanging from mature trees, the perfect ambiance for a dinner for two.

Lyn's expert tip: For an after-dinner cocktail, head over to Aqua Lounge at Island Hotel. They have an authentic ice program for spirits, in which the ice is carved in perfect squares and placed in a beautiful square glass.

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Balboa Boat Rentals
Photo courtesy of Kevin Steele

Cruise around Newport Harbor in a variety of vessels available from Balboa Boat Rentals. Choose from kayaks, stand up paddleboards, pontoon boats, pedal boats and the popular Duffy Electric Boat. Even if you don't have boating experience, you can still rent an easy-to-maneuver Duffy Electric Boat invented at Newport Beach. The boats cruise at 5 knots and hold a charge for six hours. They even come with a dining table and a stereo with iPod connection. It's a unique way to see this beautiful coastline of California all by powering your own boat. Keep an eye out for sea lions!

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Grab a bottle of wine and a picnic lunch for two and head out on these easy-to-drive boats, enjoying fantastic harbor views as the sun sets.

Lyn's expert tip: Cruise your boat to a harbor-front restaurant in Newport Beach and dock your boat at its public docking space. Eat your meal on board or head inside the restaurant.

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The Resort at Pelican Hill
Photo courtesy of Courtesy of Pelican Hill

With sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, the five-star, five-diamond Resort at Pelican Hill offers more than 120 2-, 3- and 4-bedroom villas and more than 200 guest rooms with private terraces. Set on 500 acres, the resort features two Tom Fazio-designed courses with ocean vistas. Known for its Coliseum Pool, featuring tiered decks and cabanas and one of the largest circular pools anywhere, the resort also has several world-class restaurants and a five-star spa. With Italian architecture and a lush Mediterranean landscape, the Resort at Pelican Hill is a luxury experience befitting this beautiful section of the southern California coast.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: The resort's Golf & Spa Escape package lets couples play golf, have a massage or go their separate ways, reuniting in their gorgeous villa.

Lyn's expert tip: Enhance your experience by reserving the Spa Suite by the hour or for a full day where you can relax in your own personal lounge before, after or in between spa treatments.

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Gondola Adventures, Inc

Treat your loved one to a gondola ride for two through Newport Harbor and its quaint canals guided by your very own gondolier. Tradition dictates that couples kiss under every bridge and you can choose from specialty add-ons like chocolates, rose petals, champagne and more. Enjoy the views of some of the most expensive real estate in California as you cruise by yachts, including John Wayne's, and magnificent homes all while sea lions swim below. Pretend like you're a movie star from the Golden Age of Hollywood who loved to both vacation and live in this area – sunglasses, scarf and all.

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Meet Lyn Mettler

Lyn Mettler is an Indianapolis-based freelance travel writer who writes for a variety of national outlets. She blogs at about simple ways to travel for less using the Southwest...  More About Lyn