This post was most recently updated on February 20th, 2019
Costa Mesa is the perfect city for a romantic getaway. It’s a central location from which you can easily explore beaches and amusement parks alike. But you don’t have to venture outside of Costa Mesa at all. In fact, you can stay in the arts and theater district of Costa Mesa where nearly everything is within walking distance. I know, because I just spent the most wonderful romantic weekend strolling hand-in-hand with my husband, exploring Costa Mesa. This is a great way to rejuvenate your relationship!
Let me share my suggestions with you…
Costa Mesa is known as the ‘City of the Arts’ and our getaway included lots of art and a Broadway performance of ‘Hello Dolly’. We also enjoyed exquisite dining, a cooking class, and shopping at three very unique venues. And we still had time to kick our feet up and relax, sleep in a little, and enjoy being together. Just right for a pre-Valentine’s celebration!
You still have time to plan for Valentine’s Day, a special anniversary, or just because you deserve a romantic getaway!
Getting to Costa Mesa
We’ve lived in San Diego for 30 years, and going to Orange County really appealed to me. It’s crazy that I haven’t spent more time exploring outside of San Diego county, It was definitely time! Do you know it took us less than an hour and a half to drive to Costa Mesa on a Friday afternoon? Plus, we got to sing with the radio all the way! Ours was an easy drive, but the John Wayne Airport (SNA) is only 3 miles away from Costa Mesa, so flying in is also an option.
Where to stay in Costa Mesa
I can’t imagine staying anywhere else but the Westin for our visit. The Westin South Coast Plaza hotel is smack in the center of the arts and theater district. As in…walk out the door and turn left to go shopping at the South Coast Plaza. Turn right, and you’ll be seated at the Segerstrom Center within five minutes. Walk straight ahead to enjoy dining at Vaca — home of the TOP CHEF runner-up, Amar Santana. And all around you is the Costa Mesa Art Walk, stunning architecture and grassy park-like space, as well as public plazas.
Why the Westin?
At the Westin, a beautiful lobby welcomes you; beyond it are the Neptune Water Spouts and waterfall. Our room was spacious and comfortable, with views of the ocean to the west, and mountains to the east. It was the little things I liked best, actually. A vial of lavender oil to help me sleep better, the perfect choice of pillows, a magnified make-up mirror, and a footrest for shaving my legs in the shower…my husband appreciated the wifi and never having to wait for an elevator. Another cool thing — the Westin provides exercise clothes and running shoes for a small fee, if you want to work out and didn’t pack gym clothing. Oh, and the swimming pool is heated to 85 degrees F. in the winter!
Dining at the Lobby Lounge restaurant with the waterfall as a backdrop was also a luxurious experience. Our breakfasts were made to order, and even healthy food was delicious! It was a treat to meet Chef Adrian as well and see his passion for creating food that delights your emotions as well as your taste buds.
Of course, there are several other hotels to choose from, including the Avenue of the Arts Costa Mesa, the Hilton Orange County, and the Crowne Plaza. They are close, but not quite as centrally located as the Westin.
Costa Mesa Art Walk
When I was researching things to do in Costa Mesa, I discovered the Art Walk and knew we had to include it. My husband and I like art of all styles AND we also like to take photos. After checking into our hotel, this was the first thing we did. If you’d like to see the Costa Mesa Art Walk as well, use this guide, which gives you the route as well as the names of the artists and interesting information about each sculpture. My favorite was the Noguchi Garden, which is a 1.6-acre park representing California’s varied landscapes. I loved its minimalist style, plus it also makes for some great Instagram shots!
Other sculptures were found in plazas, in office building lobbies, in a hotel courtyard, or attached to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
LAB Anti-Mall and The Camp
Say what?! Just the names of these outdoor malls got my attention. This is the only time we used our car — to drive to the SoBeCa district to check out the LAB and The Camp, although they are only a mile away and very walkable. So glad we went!
The LAB Anti-Mall is a fun collection of boutique shops and eateries in the remains of an old goggle-making factory. Cushions and picnic tables beckon you to sit and relax, and even socialize a bit. We enjoyed browsing the Buffalo Exchange where we found plenty of vintage and retro styles. We walked through an arch made of CD’s. And in the center of the “anti-mall” is a giant cage structure with tags attached — tags that give advice or inspiration. There’s plenty of art here, too, including a water wall feature made of old metal barrels.
Memphis Cafe in the LAB Anti-Mall
We also ate dinner here at the Memphis Cafe, an intimate cafe specializing in soul food from the south. I couldn’t help singing along with the background music; it brought back so many memories from the 70’s!
Every order comes with sweet cornbread, and that just gets you in the mood for gumbo or a po’boy, doesn’t it? But we were adventurous…for our starter, we got the Sauteed Brussel Sprouts. I ordered the Seared Ahi Salad with hearty portions of kale, mango and fried onion strings; my husband had the Blackened Chicken with potato cakes, sauteed green beans, and grilled corn. All delicious, by the way!
The CAMP is a unique collection of businesses all focused on fitness, health, and being active. It’s right across the street from the LAB Anti-Mall and is similar only in the fact that it is not a traditional shopping mall. It has its own vibe and is the first shopping center in the United States to be focused on being green. Their motto is “Breathe. Wander. Nourish. Discover. Be.” We saw lots of plants, water, wood, and other organic materials.
My favorite store was the SEEDS Peoples Market where there were lots of handmade crafts, outdoor wear, gifts, gear, and more. I bought a beautiful hammered metal bracelet. I take that back! Maybe my favorite was Vitaly Caffe, where we indulged in artisan gelato. If you like to try new flavors, this place is a winner! I had the Risotto Pear with Cinnamon gelato, and it was absolutely out-of-this-world amazing! They also sell bakery goods, paninis, pastas, salads, and soups.
And that was the end of our first day in Costa Mesa. Look out for what comes next!
Costa Mesa’s South Coast Plaza
Honestly, this is probably Costa Mesa’s greatest claim to fame. Did you know that the South Coast Plaza is the highest grossing shopping destination in the United States? And that people come here to shop from all over the world? So cool, right?! But does shopping at one of the world’s most glamorous collections of stores qualify as romantic? Well, as my husband put it, if the wife is happy, then the husband is too!
Not gonna lie, I could have spent the entire weekend here. But that might have been cruel to my husband, so we mixed it up a bit. Our South Coast Plaza visit included a fine art gallery with Andy Warhol and Murakami pieces (remember we both love art!)…
Taking photos of the elegant Garden Bridge and a stained glass ceiling…
Taking a cooking class at the Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School in Macy’s (an absolute must…you get to EAT the food, folks! And take the recipes home, too!)…
And relaxing at the Access Suite for a break. (Drinks and snacks and wifi included — you know…kind of like an airport lounge)
We also checked out a few clothing stores and shopped for gifts for our grandchildren at the Puzzle Zoo — that’s shopping we can both enjoy.
Costa Mesa’s Orange County Museum of Art
Directly across the street from the South Coast Plaza is the OCMA (Orange County Museum of Art). We popped in for a quick visit. With quite a variety of exhibits, there’s sure to be something you’ll like. I was excited to learn that the OCMA will be moving to a brand-new building at the Segerstrom Center of the Arts, and from the model we saw, it will be rather stunning.
Time for Dinner at Vaca!
What’s so amazing about Vaca? Well, like I mentioned before, Chef Amar Santana was a runner-up in the TOP CHEF Season 13. Plus, it’s a restaurant with energy and Spanish flair. The tapas are the best I’ve ever had, and the steaks? Well, let me just say they are literally mouth-watering. Our favorites? The ‘bikini sandwiches’ (gourmet grilled cheese up a notch or two), ‘Daltiles con Tocino’ (dates stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in bacon), and ‘Canelon de Pollo Ahumado” (chicken canelloni). We also enjoyed a charcuterie sampler plate. Absolutely no room for dessert after this meal!
Pièce De Résistance of our Getaway
I think we saved the best for last, because going to a Broadway musical at the Segerstrom Center was absolutely fantastic! We saw ‘Hello, Dolly’, which we had never seen before. Everything about the evening was fun — from getting dressed up, to joining other patrons who were also walking to the Segerstrom, to taking photos in the lobby, and finding our seats in the gorgeous theater.
And then when the curtains opened, it was all so magical! The cast was so incredibly talented. No one ever missed a line or a beat. The dancing was superb. The sets and the costumes were beautiful. The story grabbed us and pulled us in. Heck, I even cried when Dolly did! The part of Dolly was played by Tony Award-winning Broadway legend, Betty Buckley, and she played the part superbly. Since I couldn’t take photos during the performance, I’m sharing these public domain images with you…
Segerstrom Hall always has top-quality performances on its schedule, including music, ballet, broadway, opera and children’s programs. I honestly can’t wait to return to see another show!
So there you have it — a perfect romantic getaway in Costa Mesa. You might want to change it up a bit to customize it to your own interests. The Travel Costa Mesa website has a lot of suggestions for places to eat and things to do. There’s a map for exploring via bicycle, and a lot more restaurants to enjoy. Take in the OC Market Place on weekends for live music and outdoor shopping, too. I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy Costa Mesa as much as we did!
As is common in the travel industry, I was invited by ‘Travel Costa Mesa’ to visit and experience the perfect romantic getaway in Costa Mesa. My experiences and opinions are my own, and I am grateful for the opportunity to share my weekend with you.