Written by Kelly Aiglon
When it comes to getting heart eyes, know this: A well planned date night goes a long way. Whether you’re just testing the waters or have been together for years, we’ve got ideas. And because there’s no one-date-fits-all, we’ve got some further guidance for you. Don’t worry, singles, there’s an idea for you and your besties, too.
For music lovers
While SF’s big music venues like The Fillmore and Slim’s might not be the best places for long, heart-to-heart conversations (chalk it up to those woofer speakers), you’ll have plenty to talk about after the show. After all, The Fillmore (1805 Geary St.) is a legend, having hosted The Doors and The Grateful Dead back in the ‘60s. Today, you can catch acts like The Violent Femmes or get in on a noise-pop festival. Slim’s (333 Eleventh St.), for its part, is a 600 seater that welcomes acts five or six times a week in genres ranging from indie to blues to hip hop. (Hit the street-food park at the streetcorner for a quick pre- or post-show bite.) If softer mood music is more your jam, pop by Mr. Tipples Recording Studio (39 Fell St.), where you can sip a craft cocktail and eat soul food while live jazz drifts late into the night. On weekends, find a scene at Virgin Hotel SF, where DJs and entertainment are featured at Commons Club and Everdene rooftop.
For hopeless romantics
First stop: a chocolate shop. The classic is Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop (900 N. Point St.), where the namesake chocolate is made. After that, carve out a moment of Zen in the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park (75 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr.). You’ll get to the charming tea pagoda by walking along stone pathways, past stone lanterns and across arched bridges. To feel the high of new romance, quite literally, climb or take the elevator to the observation deck at Coit Tower (1 Telegraph Hill), a 210-story lookout in Telegraph Hill. Or, if you’re feeling really ambitious, trek to the 64-acre hilltop park at Twin Peaks (501 Twin Peaks Blvd.). The second highest point in San Francisco (the first being Mount Davidson) lays the entire city out before you — even as far as Oakland. Wind down at Virgin Hotel SF’s Everdene Rooftop (250 Fourth St.), where bartender Patrick Smith concocts a drink called Her Majesty’s Pleasure. Enough said.
For you and your bestie
Friend dates are the best dates. Spend a day doing “more fun with a plus-one” activities like… shopping. Rake through the vintage and bargain finds on Upper Haight Street (we love the goth-noir vibes of Wasteland at 1660 Haight), or hit the Mission District for modern home and decor stores (first stop: Heath Ceramics, 2900 18th St., for made-in-SF pieces). There’s always Market Street in the heart of downtown, should larger stores like Nordstrom and Anthropologie call your name. Catch up over lunch at Commons Club at Virgin Hotel SF (250 Fourth St.), which has bright cocktails and fresh, modern California cuisine. Then carry on with the day at the San Francisco Museum of Contemporary Art (151 Third St.), which has an amazing ongoing exhibition of pop, minimal and figurative art.
For thrill seekers
If you’ve been suffering from been-there-done-that, throw your relationship a curveball. Start with a date at Circus Center (755 Frederick St.), a performing arts school where you will learn to balance, twirl and even swing from a trapeze. Not to worry — safety harnesses are a given. If you prefer to do your own stunts, leap around at House of Air (926 Mason St.), the Marina’s epic indoor trampoline park that has open jumps, trampoline dodgeball tournaments and more. Need for speed? Head to the Sonoma Raceway race car school (29355 Arnold Dr., Sonoma), where you can take an F3 or McClaren for a spin. During the summer, you’ll feel your heart leap from your chest as you set sail and look for humpback and blue whales swimming along the coast and to the Farallon Islands during their migration. Try Oceanic Society (oceanicsociety.org) for guided tours.
For first dates
Tiptoe-ing into things? Here are few ideas for shy types. Catch a movie at Castro Theater (429 Castro St.), where a Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ rises from beneath the stage before your flick begins. Around since 1922, it stands out with breathtaking Art Deco, Spanish and Asian design influences. Another place to join the audiene (and let other people do the talking): BATS Improv (Fort Mason Center for Culture, Landmark Building B), the largest and longest-running improv theater and school in Northern California, where you’ll see completely improvised shows every weekend. For visual inspiration, head to the Mission District and walk Clarion Alley (between Mission and Valencia streets and 17th and 18th streets). Tucked amid old-school taquerias, craft cocktail bars and tattoo parlors, this one-block alleyway doubles as a blank canvas for the city’s best and most controversial street artists. The art leans political, with nods to the area’s immigrant history. Finally, wind down at Virgin Hotel SF’s Funny Library (250 Fourth St.), a lounge where you can grab coffee, wine or a snack. Its book selection is quirky by nature, giving you plenty to break the ice over. There are board games, too.
For outdoor enthusiasts
Head on an adventure outdoors — a little adreneline never hurt a relatioship. Start at Crissy Field Marsh and Beach (1199 E. Beach), a beautiful place to watch water birds and admire native plants. You’ll find it on the Presidio’s Golden Gate Promenade. Another option: Venture into the woods of Lands End in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (680 Point Lobos Ave.), where a trail hugs giant cypress trees and arrives at a lookout point across the rugged shoreline. If you really want to test the limits of your love, go camping on Angel Island, the largest natural island in the bay. You’ll have to backpack to the campsite since it’s a little over a mile from the ferry dock (info on departures at angelisland.com). Once you’re set up, explore the old military base and have a glass of wine at Angel Island Cafe.