Getting to spend Valentine’s Day in beautiful Orange County means getting to spend one of the most (maybe the most) romantic day of the year in beautiful weather, enjoying the sunshine, scenery and spectacles that make Southern California great.
Valentine’s Day, with its annual celebration on February 14th, is one of the most popular holidays in America. Initially piggybacking off the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, the date became the feast of Christian martyr St. Valentine, and then became a romantic celebration in the 14th century.
Nowadays, we celebrate our loved ones with elegant cards, tasty candies, and adorable crafts, but the spirit of Valentine’s Day has stayed the same. It’s the day we’re all about love.
If you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day with kids, it pays to get creative with how you show that love, which means you need to know your options. We’ve collected some of the best ideas to celebrate Valentine’s Day with the love(s) of your life in fun, exciting, and interesting ways (Oh, and if you love history and trivia, we’ve got that, too!).
A History of the Heart
Valentine’s Day has been celebrated for centuries all over the world. It might not be celebrated on the exact same day everywhere (February 14th for the US and July 6th for countries using the Eastern Orthodox calendar), but it’s still considered the prime time to declare your love.
Did You Know: In the Philippines, Valentine’s Day is the most popular day to get married.
Of course, it didn’t start off that way. According to legend, the world’s most romantic day started with a mix of civil disobedience and Christian persecution. While there are at least two historical Valentines (and we’re not quite sure who is who), the generally accepted story is that Valentine was a priest or bishop martyred by Claudius II, emperor of Rome, who was angry that Valentine was conducting illegal weddings and helping young lovers marry.
Did You Know: The skull of Saint Valentinus (Valentine) can be seen in Basilica di Santa Maria in Rome.
There’s also a lovely legend that he healed the daughter of his jailer from her blindness. Before he was executed, Valentine wrote her a note signed “with love, from your Valentine”.
Did You Know: Valentine’s Day technically started in 496 AD, when the pope declared it to be the official saint day for Saint Valentine.
Resistance to the emperor and a refusal to recant his faith got Valentine tortured and beheaded… not exactly the kind of beginning you might expect for a modern holiday that’s all about cards and sweet sentiments. The switch from Christian devotion to romantic love didn’t start until about nine hundred years afterward.
Did You Know: While Saint Valentine is still an officially recognized saint of the Catholic church, as of 1969, he’s no longer venerated (honored as highly holy).
If you’re wondering why the change was made in the first place, you can thank Geoffrey Chaucer. Chaucer, the 14th century Father of English Poetry, popularized the Christian Saint Valentine by attaching him to the idea of courtly love in 1375. Courtly love, between a man and a woman, became one of the things Valentine was supposed to be the patron saint for.
Did You Know: Valentine isn’t just the patron saint of romantic love. He’s also the patron saint of beekeeping, epilepsy, fainting, and the plague.
Modern Valentine’s Day
The modern version of Valentine’s Day is still a lot older than you might think. Even if we start with the first modern Valentine’s cards, we actually have to go back to the 18th century. If you remember being a kid and putting huge amount of time and effort into making the perfect Valentine card for your parents, that’s the kind of card you’d be seeing in that time.
Did You Know: The oldest recorded Valentine was written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1415.
The first pre-made, store-bought cards started showing up in the late 1700s, and mass production kicked in around 1840. Esther Howland, the Mother of the Valentine, sold the first mass-produced Valentine’s Cards in England.
In 1913, Hallmark came out with their version of the Valentine’s Day card, and they never went back.
Did You Know: The Museum of London has a collection of historical Valentine’s Day cards.
Fun Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day with the Kids (of all ages)
Valentine’s Day isn’t just a romantic holiday for two, or a popular wedding date. It’s also a fun theme to play with for family time.
Pro-Tip: If you noticed that there are a lot of Did You Knows in this article, there’s a reason for that. One of the fun things you can do to celebrate Valentine’s Day is to have a trivia contest… maybe as an engaging car activity with the family as you drive to a cool Southern California destination.
Depending on the ages of your kids, there are plenty of things to do, ranging from free trips to the local park all the way an all-day thing at SoCal favorite Disneyland. So, if you’re looking for family-friendly heart-themed entertainment, look no further than our list of fun activities to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Orange County.
- If your family is the active type, then maybe a Valentine-themed scavenger hunt is what you’re looking for.
Yes, you can go grab some easy Valentine items at your local dollar store and set up an official scavenger hunt, but there’s no real need to if you don’t want to.
Kids of all ages will love the excuse of looking all over for heart-shaped leaves or rocks. Head to your favorite park or beach and turn the kids loose to see how many they can find or track how fast they can find them.
Did You Know: Conversation candy hearts, the iconic Valentine’s Day candy, nearly disappeared from the national candy scene in 2019?
- Plan a beach trip. There are tons of great beaches in Orange County to choose from. Pick your favorite, or choose somewhere new to go, and then go hunting for heart-shaped shells. The kids can build their own collection or use the shells (and beach pebbles) to make a handmade card.
If you want to be ecologically friendly, you can still hit the beach. Just go when the tide is lower, then get the kids to make heart shapes with their footprints in the sand. Why stop there, though? You can always spell out an I LOVE YOU with footprints, too. All you’ll need is your cellphone and your feet.
- Visit your local garden center. A quick and easy trip, a visit to a garden center makes a great scavenger hunt opportunity no matter how young (or old) your kids are. Set them loose to find as many pink and red flowers as they can. Who knows, you could always end up with new plants for your yard!
- Visit your local art museum or art gallery. If a formal visit to the Bowers Museum isn’t on your list of things to do, you can always take the kids down to Laguna Beach to browse through all the art galleries. Hand out little notepads and pens and tell the kids to see how many romantic paintings they can find.
If going outside isn’t quite your thing, or if you’d rather have a more creative reminder of the heart-filled holiday, crafting something might be what you’re looking for.
Crafts have been a part of Valentine’s Day as long as there’s been a Valentine’s Day. The original cards were hand-made, and the original treats were, too. Why not go back to the holiday’s roots?
For fun Valentine ideas that will (hopefully) only make a small mess of your kitchen or dining room table, keep reading.
- Fingerprint Rocks: Rock painting usually takes a brush, but it’s more personal if you let your little ones use their fingers. Just use fingers and red paint to put your personal heart-shaped stamp on smooth river stones.
- Slime! There are tons of fun DIY recipes out there (we’re fond of the sparkly Valentine’s Day Slime here or the fantastic edible pudding slime recipe here.) It doesn’t matter how old the kids are, everybody loves slime.
Did You Know: There’s an interactive candy map that lets you check out the most popular candy by state.
- Homemade playdough: Like slime, there are plenty of homemade playdough recipes available on the Internet. You just need to pick your favorite and have fun. For color and scent, add food coloring gel, a little glitter, Jell-O mix (or Kool Aid mix), and you’ll have fantastically scented playdough that’s fun for everyone.
- Fruit skewers: For a Valentine’s Day feast that’s thematically appropriate and healthy, use heart-shaped cookie cutters to make shapes out of fruit, then help the kids build skewers for a heart-healthy and fun treat. (Hint: watermelon and strawberries make a great combination that’s also the colors of the holiday).
Pro-Tip: Pair the fruit skewers with a Valentine themed yogurt parfait (strawberry or cherry yogurt and granola make for a quick, healthy snack.)
We celebrate Valentine’s Day as the most romantic day of the year, but who says that adventure can’t be romantic?
No holiday in Southern California would be complete without making a note that Disneyland is the perfect place to celebrate. The park usually has a sweet romantic decoration or two added to some of their more famous areas (looking at you, Disneyland hotel!) and they also tend to carry seasonal holiday treats in the restaurants.
Pro-Tip: There’s a Sweetheart’s Nite event during the evening, just in case you want a little alone time without the kids.
But going to Disneyland isn’t a must do (unless you want it to be). There are plenty of other special events for the enjoyment of everyone in your family, regardless of age.
If your family has a heartfelt romance with tacos, the Gente Night Market in Santa Ana is the place for you! Held at the Heritage Museum of Orange County, the Love & Tacos Festival gives you access to:
- live entertainment and music
- a kid’s craft corner
- photo opportunities
- a train ride into the Tunnel of Love for that 50’s feel
- shopping with local artisans
- a beer garden
- Tacos. Lots of tacos.
If you really loved the beach scavenger hunt but don’t want to leave, why not try a Valentine’s Day whale watching trip? Dana Wharf Whale Watching has packages for the whole family (and just you and your other half, if you’re so inclined).
Valentine’s Day in Orange County has a lot of options and opportunities for all sorts of fun. From home-grown fun to family hikes and museum visits, there’s something for everyone and every family. All you need to do is pick your perfect activity and enjoy!
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Kelly Smith is a freelance writer living in Southern California with one dog, two cats, two guinea pigs… and the rest of her family. She writes about Orange County, faith, family, special needs and tea, and world-builds science fiction universes on the side. Find her at www.bluerosecopywriting.com.