San Francisco is a gem. This city is chock-full of surprises just waiting to be found, thanks to its proud individuality and unchecked quirkiness.
Now dating in San Francisco — that’s a whole different story. Despite our plethora of singles, going on a proper date is more difficult than ever now that it supposedly costs approximately $161 per date in SF.
To help out with SF’s struggling romance scene, we’ve compiled four different full-length dates, including activities, restaurants and other highlights of SF that are bound to impress your lover (or potential lover). These aren’t date ideas, they’re dates that have been vetted from start to finish — so you can break out of that vicious “Netflix and wine?” cycle.
Go on, spice up your dating life.
Start your day off at Cassava, an intimate yet modern brunch or lunch cafe.
The artisan spot is blessed with tons of natural lighting, creative food choices with a Japanese twist and a friendly atmosphere; you won’t feel pressured to talk, you’ll want to. Make sure to get there before 2:30pm or you’ll miss their lunch hours.
After lunch, head to Golden Gate Park for an hour-long paddleboat ride at Stow Lake.
Look at that. That could be you and your date, living out every romance movie in the history of the world, sans the will-they-or-won’t-they drama (hopefully).
When you’re done enjoying the peaceful scenery, dock your boat and head over to the nearby Strawberry Hill. Stroll around the luscious greenery of the Hill, making sure to snap a pic in front of the man-made waterfall.
While you’re in the area, why not mosey on over to the Golden Gate Pavilion? The pagoda was a gift from Taipei to San Francisco in 1976, and remains one of the most meditative and lovely places to rest in Golden Gate Park.
After soaking up the peaceful and the lovey-dovey atmosphere, head over to Gitane’s for dinner, a high-end restaurant consistently cited as one of the most romantic — if not the most romantic — evening spot offered by San Francisco.
This is where the real romance comes in. Just dark enough to be intimate but too eclectic to be stuffy, Gitane is most definitely a sexy restaurant. For a “Lady and the Tramp” vibe, sit outside in their alleyway — you’ll get more privacy that way, too.
Price: Lunch @ Cassava (~$12/each) + Boat ride ($10/each) + Gitane ($20/each) = $42/person
Locals only, cars recommended. This particular date is best for SFians that want to experience the city in a whole new way — who knows? You might find something new.
Explore the Mission with a scavenger hunt designed for locals; specifically Watson Adventure’s Secrets of the Mission District Scavenger Hunt. The hunt will take you all over the Mission for a solid two hours: “Teams will hit the hip (Dolores Park and the Valencia Street corridor), the historical (the hydrant that saved the city, a zoo’s remains), murals, gardens, Victorian houses and the countless indescribables that make this district—and San Francisco—the dreamiest, quirkiest place in the U.S.”
Plus there’s nothing that bonds you quite like scheming and arguing about clues with your significant other; just ask love guru Angie Lee from Tawkify.
If a scavenger hunt doesn’t appeal to you (or if you can’t get a reservation), check out the Church of 8 Wheels instead — it’s retro rollerskating inside the former Sacred Hearts Church! Bet you haven’t heard that one before.
After you’ve had your fun, head over to Pier 39. If you have some time and energy left, we recommend checking out Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze. Unique, fun and still small enough to be considered a hidden gem, the mirror maze is perfect to take your date for a fun little trip before dinner.
Dinner on an island getaway? In San Francisco? Sounds laughable, but Forbes Island really does exist off the edge of Pier 39 — just make sure to bundle up before you go! (Note: Forbes Island is basically a very large boat — read more about it here.)
Guests are picked up by the I Gate on the pier by private ferry. From there, it’s a 3-5 minute boat ride to the underwater restaurant — the nautical theme lends itself well to the naturally intimate atmosphere. They’ve even have a faux beach with white sand and palm trees! You can opt to stay in the underwater dining room or bar (with neighboring sea lions) or you can go up the 40 foot lighthouse for a better view.
The only downside is that this dinner is expensive — the four course meal, though delicious, is set at $75 per person. Hey, quality doesn’t come cheap.
Price: Scavenger Hunt ($20)/Rollerskate ($15) + Mirror Maze ($5) + Forbes Island ($75) = $95 ~ $100/person
The first date should be, by rule of thumb, flexible and short — what if you have nothing to say to each other? What if you end up hating the person? What if?
To soothe those first date nerves, a simple coffee or a drink at a casual, non-crowded bar before heading your separate ways (or not, it’s really up to you) is the best way to minimize the awkward silences. Keeping it short and sweet is sometimes the best way to score yourself a second date.
Wake yourself up with a great cup of coffee from any one of SF’s incredibly delicious coffee shops — but make sure to scope it out first to make sure the shop is spacious, private, and good for conversation. If you or your potential romantic interest is a coffee aficionado, we recommend Sightglass Coffee on 7th and Folsom. If you’re looking for a more bohemian and romantic feel, try Caffe Trieste in North Beach instead.
If Sightglass is more of your thing, then make sure you grab one of their new affogatos (now available thanks to a partnership between Sightglass and Salt & Straw) before you head out.
From Sightglass, it’s about a mile drive or walk over to One Kearny, a weekday rooftop hangout spot. Plus it’s free entry! Just make sure you have an ID with you to sign in and that you take the left elevator to the 11th floor — the right one doesn’t go all the way up.
Unbelievable view making you hungry? Sauce on Belden Place has incredible French food for good prices, not to mention it’s Belden Place, aka Little Europe in SF.
If you want to visit another neighborhood or stick closer to home, check out our Ultimate Neighborhood Guide to SF coffee for more ideas.
Price: Sightglass ($5) + Rooftop view (Free) + Sauce ($15) = $20/person
So waking up before noon isn’t your thing. That’s fine, because San Francisco is blessed with hundreds of fantastic (and sometimes crazy) lounges/bars/clubs that you can carry a good conversation in.
You want to impress your date, so don’t take them to any old dive bar or the latest kitschy spot that’s “shaking up the scene” — if this first meet up goes well, you’ll have plenty of time to show them around your fav spots. Check out The View instead: its romantic, has decent (if pricey) cocktails and, seriously, that view.
It’s a bit overdone, but this Marriott hotspot is well-known for a reason.
The next stop on your (classy) bar crawl should be the Local Edition, just a five minute walk away. An underground bar “inspired by the newspaper business of the ’50s and ’60s”, the atmosphere is equal parts sultry and casual — perfect for a first date. If you’re lucky, you might catch the live jazz band playing!
If you’re up for a little late-night snack, head down to Box Kitchen between 5th and Mary to pick up some of their meaty, greasy burgers. Just don’t expect their decor to be on-par with the classier joints you’ve gone to tonight — the Box Kitchen is a literal “hole in the wall”.
Price: The View ($15) + Local Edition ($15) + Box Kitchen ($10) = $40/person
Lazy? Want to go on a good date but can’t be bothered to walk around? That’s okay, we understand. Dates don’t have to be all about going somewhere new and exciting; sometimes, the best dates are when you get to relax with your SO and take a load off. That’s exactly what this date is all about.
Go to a walk-in movie night to watch classics under the stars, just like the good ol’ drive-in movie days. Unfortunately, the walk-in movies only happen on special days, make sure to check the San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation in various venues for upcoming dates!
After you snag a great viewing spot at the park, there’s only one thing left to do: get some grub. Since this is a lazy picnic date, it’s all about that delivery life — no sit-down restaurants allowed. But what store would have delicious food and a cheap delivery service?
Answer: Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen. Call ’em up about an hour before you’re hungry, since there’s usually a 40-60 minute wait before you get your sandwiches. Make sure to get their famous pastrami cheese fries too! If you’re too lazy to BYOB, you can always get your poison of choice delivered by SF Room Service.
Price: Walk-in movie ($0) + Wise Sons ($10) + Delivery ($5) = $15/person
What are your favorite SF date spots?
[Featured Image: Darwin Bell via Flickr]