If Disneyland is the Happiest Place on Earth, and February 14 is the Most Romantic Day of the Year, then Anaheim must be the best place imaginable to spend Valentine’s Day with your sweetheart — right? Well, I’m about to find out, as my wife and I are spending Valentine’s week in Anaheim.
On the plus side, weekdays in mid-February (like the 14th) are on the moderate side of our Crowd Calendar; Valentine’s Day, itself, is expected to be a 6 out of 10 at the Disneyland Resort. And from February 11 through 17, as part of the Limited Time Magic marketing campaign, Disney is rolling out some additional meet & greet opportunities and menu offerings.
Unfortunately, thanks to seasonal refurbishments many of our favorite attractions to experience together — including it’s a small world, Mad Tea Party, Big Thunder Ranch, Muppet*Vision, and Fantasmic! — will be unavailable on Valentine’s Day. Even so, there are plenty of romantic spots remaining around the Resort.
Here are just a few of my favorite places is Disneyland Resort to take that someone special. Please add your own suggestions in the comments below, and have love-filled 14th wherever you are!
There’s no better way to impress a date than a blowout meal at a fine restaurant, and Disneyland Resort gives you several special venues to spend your cash. Napa Rose, Blue Bayou, and Steakhouse 55 are all fine choices for fine Disney dining, and are accordingly often booked solid weeks in advance of holidays. but my new favorite supper spot is Carthay Circle Restaurant.
For starters, the decor is divine (especially for fans of old Hollywood and vintage Disney) and matched by the menu. Second, menu item prices are slightly lower than at the Resort’s aforementioned other top-tier eateries, especially at lunch. Third, it seems easier to get a table at Carthay on short notice; I was able to snag a table for 2 less than 2 weeks out, and some lunch spots for the 14th may still be available.
Last but not least, ordering a two-course meal (entree and appetizer or dessert) entities diners to VIP World of Color FastPasses, allowing entry into the central viewing area unavailable to ordinary guests. If you want the best view for Valentine’s Night’s biggest spectacle, a meal at Carthay is bite-for-bite your best value.
If dining at Carthay Circle is too rich for your blood (or wallet) why not sit and sip in pseudo-Sonoma instead? The often-overlooked Alfresco Lounge at the Golden Valley Winery, located outoors on the second level of Wine Country Trattoria, looks out over the Blue Sky Cellar towards a postcard-perfect perspective on Cars Land.
Head upstairs a little before sunset, grab one of the comfy sofa seats, and order a glass (or flight) of California wines. Time it right, and you can can be sipping Chardonay just as the switch is flipped on Radiator Springs’ lovely neon lighting. Just one word of advice: don’t order the delectable Fritto Misto platter to nosh on unless you’re sure your date likes mussels and squid. Otherwise, you’re not getting a kiss no matter how nice the view is.
Grand Californian Fireplace
Ok, so what if even a couple cups of vino are out of your price range (not to mention a pair of park passes) but you still want to visit a romantic Disneyland venue? Park in the Downtown Disneyland lot (free for up to 3 hours) and walk into the Grand Californian hotel. Just inside the lobby you’ll find the coziest spot on property: a giant stone fireplace surrounded by rocking chairs.
Order a coffee or cocoa from the Heathstone Lounge around the corner, then pull a seat up to the fire. Temperatures on Valetine’s Day are expected to reach into the low 70s, but don’t let that stop you and your sweetie from cuddling by the flames. If you’re lucky, a limber-fingered pianist will be along to play romantic melodies. And if you the inside seating is too crowded with other couples, step outside and look for another fireplace near the backside of its bigger sibling.
Pinocchio’s Daring Journey
This may seem a strange pick for my final romantic place, but “dark rides” have been associated with romance since their amusement park ancestors were known as “tunnels of love.” Since Disneyland’s opening day, amorous adolescents have savored first kisses (or seventh, or seventieth) while whirling through black-lit plywood fantasy worlds.
The long-lost Adventure Thru Inner-Space Ominmover ride is well-remember by baby boomers as the most intimacy-friendly attraction Disneyland has ever seen, but modern rides like Star Tours or Indiana Jones Adventure are far too rough and/or exposed to become amorous on. What you want is an indoor ride with small, smoothly-moving semi-private vehicles. As Fantasyland’s least popular ride, Pinnoccio’s Daring Journey is the perfect choice; you’ll almost always get a car all yourselves with little or no waiting, and the ride is designed so that different vehicles barely glimpse each other once inside the show building.
A final word of warning: even if you aren’t in view of your fellow guests, there are hidden low-light cameras inside every ride that give attraction Cast Members a full view of your activities. So don’t get too carried away with the Valentine’s spirt until you’re back at the hotel, and keep your on-ride petting PG-rated. That’s the way Walt would have wanted it.