Last Updated on September 14, 2021 by Paroma
Are you visiting San Francisco with your partner/spouse and looking for romantic things to do in SF? Look no further, cause I have just the perfect post for you with 25 of the very best date ideas in San Francisco-tried, tested and loved by yours truly. From romantic dining to outdoorsy activities and finding the best date spots and date night ideas in San Francisco, let this article help you craft the perfect romantic outing in the city by the bay!
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FINDING DATE IDEAS IN SAN FRANCISCO
Dating in San Francisco might feel like more of a chore (i.e. panning through an endless stream of what seems to be only techies for a sincere nugget or swiping till the end of time on apps to find a first date that you won’t live to rue) but there is no dearth of romantic things to do in SF if you are visiting as a couple.
In fact, San Francisco is so picturesque and packs so much within its tiny 49 square miles frame, that finding the best date ideas for a romantic getaway is not hard at all. From jaw-dropping views and magical secret gardens to charming urban hikes and from diverse neighborhoods filled with myriad attractions to foodie experiences, this romantic Northern California city truly has what it takes to come up with fun date ideas to impress your other half even on a short visit!
Contrary to what you may think, going on a date in San Francisco will not make you go broke either, cause there are a lot of fun and cheap and even free things to do in San Francisco on a romantic outing! And, this post is filled with such budget ideas for date nights in SF because you don’t need a whole lotta money to have fun (thank you Sia!)
Finally, I understand that the notions of dating, romance and intimacy are personal and may appear a little different from one couple to another. San Francisco embraces and celebrates all kinds of sexual orientations, fetishes and kinks. My post centers around conventional mores of romantic things to do in San Francisco.
Seriously though, this article is by no means a manual on what you should do in San Francisco on a date. Do whatever it is that floats your boat when it comes to expressing love, romance and desire-as long as it is in a safe, responsible and consensual manner. If you’re visiting San Francisco with your partner for the first time, read my ultimate local’s guide to SF to get started!
LOVE IN SAN FRANCISCO (… AND A WEDDING)
Our wedding day photo (near Twin Peaks): Anna Kuperberg Photography
Before I move on to a huge list of finding the best things to do in San Francisco on a date, let me take a quick detour to tell you why I decided to pen this post on a blog that deals with mostly travel (and of course, dog friendly adventures and food!). The truth is that I’ve always associated San Francisco with love and romance, because this is the city which gave me my own love story. So, writing a little bit about exploring matters of the heart in San Francisco seemed just the right thing to do.
11 years ago, I moved to San Francisco with a broken heart and, cheesy as it may seem, I got a new lease of life right here in this 7*7 frame. I met a man with a curly mop of hair and crazy sense of humor (with a little brown mutt as a sidekick) and fell in love-over coffee, dinners, theatre nights and trudging through the steep San Francisco streets.
We got married in San Francisco at the incredibly beautiful and minimalist Sunnyside Flower Conservatory in Glen Park (shoutout to my old neighborhood!) one very warm day in October a year and half later and decided to anchor ourselves right here in this city by the Bay. Even after all these years, our love affair with each other and the city continues to grow as we discover new ways of falling in love within our old, familiar surroundings.
BEST DATE IDEAS IN SAN FRANCISCO
I am an urban sloth crossed with a culture vulture whose perfect idea of a date in San Francisco includes some sort of permutation/combination of a museum visit with a delicious lunch and a post lunch wine tasting thrown in for a good measure. Same goes for date nights where I’ll settle just fine for a movie and dinner or a performance (theatre) if I’m feeling fancy.
However, San Francisco has way more offerings beyond these basic date ideas and I’ve indulged in quite a few more diverse activities with my partner over the years that are not only great for first dates in the city but also to rekindle some spark in couples looking for romantic things to do in San Francisco. For the convenience of readers, I have grouped some of the best date ideas in San Francisco in different categories, depending on your afflictions. These are as follows:
DATE IDEAS FOR FOODIES IN SAN FRANCISCO
Since I pretty much live to eat, no surprises that I will be starting off this list of San Francisco date ideas with the best food finds. San Francisco has a mind boggling variety of cuisines, unique foodie experiences and dining options for all paletes and budgets! So if you and your beloved are looking to tingle romance and those taste buds, here are my recommendations on dating activities that foodies will enjoy in the city.
1.Exploring San Francisco’s ginormous outdoor Farmer’s Market at the Ferry building on Saturdays from 11-2 AM. With a cornucopia of fresh produce, small batch and locally made items, food stalls and everything possible under the sun that Northern California can provide in terms of food and drinks, the Farmer’s Market is a sheer delight for all the senses.
The views of the bay and the Bay Bridge are spectacular and form the perfect backdrop as you nosh your way through all kinds of delicious grub. Don’t forget to check the inside of the building as well which is blessed with rows of food stalls and specialty stores showcasing the best of Bay Area-be it restaurants, bakeries, market halls, wine tasting ice cream or mushrooms! (yes, we have a whole stall dedicated to fungi). Stop by on a weekday for a quieter experience.
2. Going on a food tour is a fun date idea for adventurous foodie couples looking to scope out San Francisco’s envious culinary scene in its various amazing neighborhoods. Although there are quite a few food tours out there, nothing beats the sheer gastronomic pleasure and the fun and friendly ambiance of tasting your way through San Francisco with Chris Milano’s Foodie Adventures!
It’s so nice, that I have joined it twice (Mission and Chinatown/North Beach tours) and loved every minute of it. No one knows SF food history and local businesses like Chris-you are guaranteed to have a great time and a bellyful of goodies at the end of the tour.
3. Visiting San Francisco on a budget but still want to go on a purse/wallet friendly food centric date? Fear not, cause I have gone to great lengths to scout out some of the best cheap eats in San Francisco just for you. Better yet, ditch the idea of a sit down meal and get yourself some delicious local grub from one of our many food trucks all over the city or in dedicated food truck parks or events. SOMA strEat food park and Spark Social SF (Mission Bay) are two excellent outdoor spaces featuring a rotating selection of food trucks and a lively beer and sangria garden to keep the good times flowing.
4. Can there be anything more romantic than enjoying a cup of afternoon tea together? Why just cosy up on tea when you can make it a whole thing with biscuits, finger sandwiches and petite pastries? San Francisco has some really charming tearooms and lounges to get that romance flowing. Check them all out in this one handy post on where to have afternoon tea in San Francisco.
My picks: Sip Tea, Crown and Crumpets and SF’s favorite LoveJoy tea room
5. San Francisco has no dearth of romantic restaurants or those with killer views. For couples date night in the city, I highly recommend Boulevard (a San Francisco culinary giant right next to the scintillating Bay Bridge that lights up the night), Dirty Habit (their heated patio has some of the best views of downtown SF), La Mar Cebichería in the Embarcadero (for that matter any good restaurant lining that street) and Mister Jiu’s for a magical view of Chinatown at night.
For a morning date, try brunch at Top of the Mark at the topmost floor of Intercontinental Mark Hopkins hotel (to enjoy panoramic views of the city) or Greens in Fort Mason (terrific view of the Marina with boats and yachts bobbing in the water).
6. Feeling fancy or plain indulgent? Craving for an intimate dining experience for a night to remember? Allow San Francisco to woo you into the throws of luxury dining with its glittering array of Michelin star restaurants and private dining experiences.
My recommendations: Avery, Benu, Sons & Daughters and my favorite Atelier Crenn for a memorable meal in the city.
7. One of the most epic date ideas in San Francisco is to meet someone over coffee or even better wine! Being only 1.5 hours away from Napa and Sonoma means only one thing-wine, wine and even more wine with a large number of wine bars and lounges to match every mood and budget! I recommend going in between 5-7ish when happy hours are in full swing for tasty bites and house wine in most places.
My picks: Mr. Tipple’s Recording Studio (cocktails and jazz/blues), Etcetera wine bar, Birba, Union Larder, 20 Spot, Scopo Divino (in my sweet neighborhood) and Alembic.
8. Love to cook and eat together? Then book a cooking session in one of the many venues and culinary schools in San Francisco for a memorable date with your foodie sweetheart. Have a fun time cooking, learning about San Francisco’s diverse cuisines and enjoying (eating) your fruits of labor! Check out these culinary spots in San Francisco offering cooking classes.
Check out my other foodie guides to San Francisco:
SAN FRANCISCO DATE IDEAS FOR OUTDOORSY COUPLES/NATURE LOVERS
San Francisco is an incredibly scenic city. Surrounded by water on three sides, these 49 square miles boast of panoramic view points, rolling hill like streets leading to even more dreamy views, hidden beaches for gorgeous sunsets and a bunch of tranquil urban hikes.
In short, San Francisco is not like another ordinary American city and there is plenty to do here for even the most outdoorsy at heart. So if find yourself in the company of a fellow nature lover, here are some outdoor date ideas in San Francisco for first or repeat rendezvous:
9. San Francisco was built on hills, so it should come as no surprise that it has some crazy good viewpoints. A great romantic first date idea would be get some fresh air and exercise by hiking up any of San Francisco’s dog parks or open spaces for panoramic cityscapes. My absolute favorites are Bernal Hill, Kite Hill, the tiny Billy Goat Hill and of course Grand View Park with the Mosaic steps leading to it (there is another flight of equally colorful steps steps very close by which is one of the many hidden gems of San Francisco).
10. Looking for hiking through a Lord of the Rings type misty forest? How about a coastal hike revealing dramatic views of the SF coastline and the Golden Gate Bridge? San Francisco has a mind boggling number of urban hikes to please nature lovers on a date and you can read them all here in my 12 best SF hikes to take your breath away. From a relaxed hike at Mount Davidson with the best views of the city to a ton of scenic hikes in our Presidio, there are so many outdoor romantic things to do in San Francisco!
11. Next, come the beaches- San Francisco has over half a dozen beaches and some of them are pretty unknown to locals too! For some quality beach time with your beloved, hike to Baker Beach (local’s favorite) in Presidio (one of the many amazing spots to get a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge) or enjoy a quiet sunset from the secluded Mile Rock Beach. My other favorite beaches are in the Crissy field area of Presidio which is perfect as a picnic venue with the giant orange bridge as its backdrop.
12. San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is even larger than New York City’s Central Park, so rest assured there’s plenty of things to do here on an outdoor date. I highly recommend smelling the roses in the Rose Garden, saying hi to the chubby bisons at the Bison padlock, admiring the Japanese Hagiwara Tea Garden, visiting the sprawling Botanical Garden and admiring the blooms at the Conservatory of Flowers. Enjoy paddle boating at Stow lake boat rentals, admire the artificial waterfall and Golden Gate Pavilion at Strawberry Hill, a manmade island on Stow Lake.
13. If your idea of a romantic date in San Francisco consists of biking, then you’ve hit the jackpot! San Francisco is one of the most bike friendly cities with bike lanes flanking even the most busiest streets. Although I cannot bike to save my life (I know, I have very few useful life skills), what I can tell you with absolute certainty that biking along Marina Greens with a breathtaking view of the bridge and ocean is as fun as bike riding can ever be! If you’re visiting from out of town, simply rent your two wheelers from several places in the city.
14. Catch a tranquil sunset minus the crowds at two of San Francisco’s well kept secrets-i.e. hidden beaches where only locals go. I am talking of China Beach in the Sea Cliff neighborhood and Mile Rock Beach at Land’s End. Both are terrific spots for gorgeous sunsets with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
ROMANTIC THINGS TO DO IN SAN FRANCISCO FOR ART, HISTORY AND CULTURE LOVERS
Like any other city worth its salt, San Francisco too has a thriving art and culture scene. From museums to murals, SF truly has it all and some of the best date ideas in San Francisco for art and culture loving visitors is to take full advantage of the city’s public art, city tours and museum visits. Here are my top suggestions:
15. Spend quality time with your date at one of the many beautiful museums in San Francisco, be it contemporary art at SFMOMA (they have a terrific in-house restaurant named In-situ), Asian art (past and present) at Asian Art Museum, European art and Rodin sculptures at the breathtaking Legion of Honor and special exhibits at de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park.
16. If museum art feels too pretentious and stuffy, then enjoy the pure, unadulterated creation for the masses that are murals. San Francisco is a city of dozens of murals and unlike Los Angeles, they are mostly concentrated in a few neighborhoods. Wander through Clarion and Balmy alleys as well as down 24th street in Mission to see some of the most vibrant murals on social justice, race and contemporary urban issues. Other two fantastic spots are Chinatown and Haight street passing through Haight neighborhood.
17. Date night in San Francisco means heading to the theatre district to catch a performance at the ACT theater. Need more performing arts? Then enjoy an evening of jazz at the SFJAZZ Center or a spellbinding Ballet at the San Francisco Ballet or indulge in a cultured night out at the opera at San Francisco Opera. All these venues are within walking distance of each other in the vibrant neighborhood of Hayes Valley, known for its shopping and good eats.
18. Curious about San Francisco and it’s crazy gold rush seeped history? Why not discover its colorful past via a walking tour? SF city guides makes it easy for you to choose from their wide array of tours to discover the city’s hidden gems, murals and other nuggets from its past in different landmarks and attractions of town. The tours are free but a $15 donation per person is highly encouraged during registration. Discover San Francisco (and each other) in a new light on a walking tour date.
OTHER FABULOUS DATE SPOTS AND DATE NIGHT IDEAS IN SAN FRANCISCO
19. Nothing spells romance in San Francisco more than a picnic basket on a sunny afternoon in a pretty corner of the city, and trust me, we have lots of them! Pack that bottle of bubbly and your favorite sandwiches (or other yum goodies) and head out to Crissy Fields or the main lawn in the Presidio, Strawberry Hill in Golden Gate Park (there are picnic benches near the Chinese Pagoda), Mt. Davidson Park, Alamo Square park (next to the famous Painted Ladies) or Fay Park in Russian Hill.
20. San Francisco has dozens of diverse and beautiful neighborhoods, so please don’t choose the touristy ones such as Fisherman’s Wharf for a date! I highly suggest exploring Russian Hill (which I consider the most romantic neighborhood in San Francisco) hand in hand and getting lost in its secret gardens and lovely views.
The other neighborhoods perfect for a date are the Marina District, with perfect views of the bridge as you walk along the water and the Palace of Fine Arts with its crazy beautiful rotunda. Land’s End with the Sutro bath ruins and hiking trails leading to dramatic views of the coast is also a very romantic spot in San Francisco.
21. Spice up your date night in San Francisco with movie experiences like no other. The epic single screen theatre in Castro where an organ player rises above from beneath the platform is that “only in San Francisco” experience that you won’t find elsewhere. Other movie date ideas include enjoying a drive through movie on giant screen at Fort Mason or movie and dinner at Foreign Cinema’s patio and free Friday movie nights at the Chase Center.
22. Looking for romance beneath the stars? Then do some stargazing hand-in-hand in some of these awesome spots in San Francisco for a date night like no other! Remember to bundle up, and grab those torchlights and binoculars!
23. This may be touristy as heck, but a fun date idea in San Francisco is to hop on to the cable car all the way from downtown to Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s silly, kitschy and pure fun rattling up those slopes in SF as you hold on the sides of the cable car and take in the marvelous views of the city and its distinct neighborhoods. Get all your SF cable car info here.
24. San Francisco is THE city by the bay, so why not take advantage of that when planning a date night? May I entice you with a gorgeous sunset cruise sailing right past the Golden Gate Bridge with panoramic cityscapes and view of Alcatraz? Sounds dreamy? You bet!
25. Saving the best for the last here with our iconic Golden Gate Bridge, the orange guardian of this fog city. If you and your other are early birds, then do plan some lone time around a jaw dropping sunrise with this bridge as your background. Although some of the best views of the Golden Gate bridge are obtained by crossing it, i.e. from the Marin Headlands side (aka Battery Spencer and these spots), you could just go to the Presidio or the Marina boulevard for a memorable sunrise outing.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post on 25 of the best date ideas in San Francisco. There are so many romantic things to do in San Francisco that you’ll always find that perfect venue or activity for a memorable date. Thanks a lot for stopping by and I hope San Francisco helps you find love or rekindle that lost spark with that special someone!
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