You, Your Love & Your Wheels: Drive-In Date Night in San Diego

Social distancing is still a fact of life as we navigate the new year. And while a “return to normal” is certainly on the horizon, new norms are ever-emerging.

One of the most promising? In-car date nights. America has always had a love affair with hitting the open road in their cars, but literal vehicular love affairs have been gaining in popularity as social spaces have continued to represent risk. Many experts predict that our cars will become even more crucial spaces for safer social interaction through this year. 

So as we cruise into ‘21 in earnest, it’s time to gas up, take the wheel, and embrace that driving is the new dating. Here are some great ideas for how to get in a little woo on wheels.  

Motoring to the Movies

What’s the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear the words “drive-in”? If you’re like most Americans, you’ll envision the classic drive-in movie theater. Drive-ins have been enjoying something of a resurgence in popularity during the age of social distancing. San Diego has always played host to some great drive-ins, thanks to our famously mild climate that allows for year-round screenings. South Bay Drive-In has been entertaining movie-goers since 1958 with a fun mix of blockbusters and cult films alike. The Santee Drive-In theater always plays double features of major new releases. There are even pop-up drive-ins happening all over town. No matter where you are, chances are there’s a drive-in near you. Check out The Drive-In Directory to find yours! 

Plan a Picnic

There’s something that’s decidedly romantic about taking a trek to a quiet spot and engaging in a little alfresco dining. The timeless picnic is a great way to turn a drive into a date. Packing a basket or cooler with some cold beverages, a little cheese, charcuterie, or even hearty sandwiches only takes a few minutes to execute. And thanks to San Diego’s abundance of green space, beaches, and spectacular sunset spots, you’ll never be at a loss for a special setting. If you need some tips on how to pull off your movable feast with aplomb, check out this handy picnic-planning guide from our sister property, Pacific Terrace Hotel.

Classic Campout

What could possibly be dreamier than camping out under the stars? The best part is, if you have a ride, you don’t even need a tent. Just pack some pillows and a blanket and hit the road. You’ll of course want to check your area’s camping regulations, but most public land is fair game in many states. Once you pick a scenic spot, if you have a moonroof, open it. Convertible top? Drop it. You can even throw an air mattress into the back of a pickup or SUV for a little extra plush. So why not answer the call of the open road and discover a little cozy calmness out in the wild?


Take a Food Tour

Having a seat in the dining room at your favorite restaurant might not be on the menu yet, but most eateries are offering takeout. So why not make an evening of it? Pull up your favorite foodie app on your phone and order all the best à-la-carte goodies from your favorite cafés. Get the pasta from that Italian restaurant, the onion rings from your favorite diner, and the dumplings from that Szechuan place you’ve been meaning to try. Mix, match, and then make a sport of driving around to pick up each new course. Plus, you never know what irresistible temptations you and your date will find along the way.

Chase the Sunset

“Driving off into the sunset” is practically shorthand for “romance,” and for good reason. Holding hands and watching another day slip below the horizon isn’t just visually spectacular — it evokes a wide range of feelings just as warm as the sun itself. And while we’ll admit to a heavy bias in this regard — San Diego is home to some fantastically spectacular sunsets, after all — we’ve never stopped to watch one anywhere and been sorry we did it. If you’re looking for a place to enjoy one of our breathtaking local sunsets, our friends at Humphreys Half Moon Inn have put together a great guide to the best sunset spots in town.


A famous folk adage states that “not all who wander are lost.” So why not just pick a random direction and drive in it? Take the road less traveled and see what you discover. Turn left when your instinct says to turn right. Stop at little roadside shops and attractions, and treasure-hunt for souvenirs. Along the way you’ll no doubt enjoy a conversation with your traveling companion that’s as free-spirited as your sense of adventure. Often our most treasured memories arise from spontaneity — simply throwing caution to the wind and seeing what’s just over the next rise. However, do make sure you bring along a GPS-enabled device. Getting lost can be great fun, but it’s always a good idea to make sure you can find your way home again.