Romance, redefined: Who says Valentine’s Day has to be all about couples?

XXXL Photo. Humorous Anti Valentine with a candy that says 'never ever' with holographic red heart paper background, pink heart glitter and candy.
XXXL Photo. Humorous Anti Valentine with a candy that says ‘never ever’ with holographic red heart paper background, pink heart glitter and candy.
(merrymoonmary/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

There are plenty of fun things to do in San Diego on February 14 that celebrate love in whatever form works for you.


Valentine’s Day is a weird holiday. For me, a prickly-on-the-outside person who secretly loves nothing more than being in love, any display of affection that seems performative, forced or rooted in anything other than absolute genuineness causes me to roll my eyes.

Aside from not loving heart-shaped everything and “romantic” prix-fixe menus, though, I also think Valentine’s Day misses the mark by focusing solely on romantic love. Not having a romantic partner on the arbitrary designation of any old February 14th shouldn’t be a reason to write off the day altogether.

Instead, I vote we celebrate Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to celebrate whatever love we have in our lives, be it coupled, familial, between friends, or, arguably the most important kind, love of ourselves.

Here are some things to do on Valentine’s Day that are guaranteed to be fun and celebratory, minus the cheese and definitely with no partner required.

Metl Bar & Restaurant

On Valentine’s Day, the agave spirits and rock music-focused bar is holding a singles mingle. The “Love Your Neighbor” special is a buy-one-get-one-free cocktail with Ilegal Mezcal ($1 of proceeds goes toward, an organization combating climate change). Five dollars will get drinkers a “Skrew my Ex” shot of Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey. Dinner purchase will net an included glass of Champagne or Miller High Life (the “Champagne of Beers”), live music by Josh Rosenblum and a raffle for prizes.

@ Gaslamp Quarter,

Metl Bar & Restaurant in Gaslamp Quarter is holding a singles mingle.
(Arlene Ibarra)

The Rope Collective

In recent years there’s been a genuine upwelling of interest in kink, particularly in rope play (also known as the Japanese tradition of Shibari), which despite being sexual for some people also translates into performance art and other expressions of self and intimacy. The Rope Collective, a San Diego-based group that hosts events and provides education on rope play, is hosting an Anti-Valentine’s Day workshop at Upright Citizen Studio that’s open to singles, friends and partnered people who want to learn the ropes (pun intended) of this particular kink. Those rolling solo or with friends can either take notes, self-tie or link up with other partners in attendance who may also be un-partnered.

@ Chula Vista,

Lakehouse Hotel & Resort

Staycations need not be just for those with significant others. Lakehouse Hotel & Resort is, as the name suggests, a luxury lakefront hotel on Lake San Marcos with views for days, an outdoor pool, golf amenities, boat rentals and a short hop to all of the breweries and bars downtown San Marcos has to offer. The resort is offering a Valentine’s Day-themed special throughout February called “Treat Yourself at the Lake,” which costs $259 and includes overnight accommodations; a $100 dining credit to Decoy Dockside, the on-site restaurant; a bottle of rose on arrival and two pink rose sheet masks. Bring a friend or family member or indulge alone — there’s something deliciously decadent about dining solo and using both face masks, yourself.

@ Lake San Marcos,

The Casbah

San Diego’s most legendary music venue throws a banger of a concert on Valentine’s Day. Headliner Chastity Belt, an indie all-woman foursome from Washington state, will be playing with Aussie three-piece, genre-hopping band Loose Tooth. Grab a $15 ticket, as well as a few friends, and rock out to distorted guitar and a girl group that perfectly melds ’90s grunge with early-2000s dance punk.

@ Midtown,

Enjoy "a banger of a concert" at the Casbah on Valentine's Day.
(Isiah Jones)

The Rose

One of San Diego’s funkiest-in-a-good-way wine bars is The Rose. True to form, rather than holding a traditional Valentine’s Day special, the bar will instead be hosting its annual craft party, which is open to everyone and free to attend. “Servers hate it but everyone else loves it,” owner Chelsea Coleman told me via text. “There’s glitter, feathers and construction paper scraps everywhere at the end of the night. It’s a great, giant mess!” Sounds like a great time to me.

@ South Park,

Liuyishou Hot Pot

Brand new to the Convoy District is Liuyishou Hot Pot, an upscale Chinese chain restaurant that originated in Chongqing, the epicenter of infamously spicy Sichuanese cuisine. Hot pot consists of simmering soup stock, either one flavor or up to three in Liuyishou’s case, placed in the center or the table until brought to a rolling boil. The classic broth includes beef tallow and Sichuan peppercorns, which are astringent and exceptionally hot, but delicious. Other broths are more savory and don’t include spice at all. Perfect for groups, diners sit around the table and cook premium meats and vegetables in the stock before garnishing it with a wide variety of condiments, which are available in the restaurant’s sauce bar.

@ Kearny Mesa,

Liuyishou Hot Spot in Kearny Mesa is perfect for groups.
(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

Blonde Bar

This upmarket dive bar is best known for simple cocktails and nearly nightly live music, whether by DJ or musicians, spanning mainly dance/electronic, art pop and rock genres. Blonde’s cover band nights typically draw big crowds that always end up in a full-on dance party. Their Valentine’s Day show should be no different: Three tribute bands will play sets of Strokes, Interpol and Yeah Yeah Yeahs songs, ensuring a little something for everyone on the indie rock spectrum.

@ Mission Hills,

The Smoking Gun

Also bucking the trend of holding events just geared toward couples is The Smoking Gun, which is holding a singles night on Valentine’s Day from 9 to 11 p.m. Themed games and activities accompany a special cocktail menu with drinks made with Uncle Ed’s Damn Good Vodka. This one seems ideal for anyone going stag or, owing to the fact that this is one of the most fun bars in the Gaslamp with a more local crowd, a group of buddies.

@ Gaslamp Quarter,

Gather your friends and head to The Smoking Gun for singles night featuring a special cocktail menu.
(Rick Nocon)

Tuetano Taqueria

There isn’t anything special, necessarily, going on at San Ysidro’s Tuetano Taqueria on Valentine’s Day. There doesn’t need to be, though, because Tijuana-native Priscilla Curiel’s beef birria tacos with a side of bone marrow are so sinfully decadent, to me, eating them is the very best way to give into any feelings of love, lust, obsession and adoration. To kick it up a notch, be sure to order the quesabirria with fresh corn tortillas — her birria, which per tradition is cooked in its own juices for hours with a top-secret mix of spices, shines when served over cheese and heirloom corn tortillas and adorned with a healthy glop of piping hot bone marrow. But the best part? It’s almost impossible to share a taco. This one is best tackled on your own.

@ San Ysidro,

Indulging in Tuetano Taqueria's beef birria tacos "is the very best way to give into any feelings of love, lust, obsession and adoration."
(LA Times)

Cherry Bomb

If, by the end of this article, nothing has inspired a celebratory attitude when it comes to Valentine’s Day, that’s OK. Like I said, it’s a weird day with a lot of heavy feelings and assumptions. For those who just want to get through the day and forget about it until next year, there’s certainly a case to be made for simply drowning one’s sorrows. That’s where the time-honored classic establishment, the dive bar, comes in. Arguably the grungiest watering hole in town, Cherry Bomb specializes in dirt-cheap giant shots of booze, which makes even the savviest of bargoers and workers wonder how the bar makes money on such margins. A rough-and-tumble crowd of bikers and friendly but grizzled locals ensures maximum fun and minimal romantic vibes. As a bonus, tamales made from scratch by Hijas del Maiz chef Lety McKenzie will also be on sale on that day.

@ Bankers Hill, 619.544.1173