San Diego

21 Great San Diego Dates To Go On Right Now

These ideas can’t miss.

Near-perfect weather and an abundance of entertaining and adventurous activities are at the top of the list of reasons to love living in San Diego, but it also makes planning date night especially challenging. How do you pick just one when there are so many choices? And how do you plan a safe, but romantic, night out (or indoors) in the era of COVID-19? To help your nervous heart beat a bit more slowly, we’ve narrowed it down to the very best the city has to offer, whether you’re looking for a casual hang, an impressive first date, or a grand celebration. So put on your mask, sanitize your hands, and relax—here are our favorite things to do and places to go with someone special.

Make it a Valentine’s Day to remember

Various locations
After months of sheltering-in-place and working from home, we’ve all gotten a little, shall we say, too familiar with our significant others, which makes Valentine’s Day the perfect day to ditch the sweats, pour a couple of glasses of wine, and sit down for a nice meal together. Plus, Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, so you can easily put together a romantic brunch with Meal and Mimosa kits from Eclipse Chocolate for breakfast in bed, or cozy up on Madison on Park’s beautiful patio for Mediterranean and Southern California fare, clever cocktails, and an extensive wine list. If nighttime indulgences get your heart racing, Herb & Wood and its sister restaurant, Herb & Sea, offer an indulgent three-course takeout menu featuring a show-stopping beef Wellington entree, best-selling starters and sides, and of course, their world famous chocolate lava cake, ready for plating at home; or fall in love over melted cheese at Grater Grilled Cheese, where you’ll get a complimentary brownie or cookie to share (or not) when you buy two grilled cheese creations.

Cooking at Home with Wells | Juniper & Ivy Restaurant

Cook a romantic meal together

Little Italy 
Juniper and Ivy’s Executive Chef Anthony Wells shows you the ins and outs of cooking an upscale meal with Cooking at Home with Wells, a weekly to-go meal kit that comes with all the same high-end ingredients that the restaurant uses, along with written instructions for preparation, plus a QR code that allows access to Chef Wells’ IGTV tutorials. Current kits serve two to three people and feature two J&I classics, a whole Gonestraw Farms chicken dinner or a Jorge steak dinner, with more packages to come in the future. Order for curbside pickup Wednesday through Sunday via Tock.

See a movie on a rooftop...

Mission Hills
Every Thursday through Saturday the Mission Hills rooftop theatre, Cinema Under the Stars, features the best classic and cult films, shown on a 20-foot screen with HD projection and surround sound. You can choose from safely distant single or double zero gravity recliners, loveseat cabanas or deck chairs with ottomans when you make your reservation online. The smallish snack bar serves coffee, tea, soda, bottled water, popcorn and a variety of candy for just $2 each. Masks must be worn at all times, unless you’re in your seat. Come with cash—your credit card just reserves your seat online and they only accept dollars at the door and the snack bar for payment.

...Or at an old school drive-in theatre

South Bay
Built during the heyday of drive-ins in 1953, South Bay Drive-in Theatre has undergone several renovations, finally upgrading to fully digital picture and sound, with the brightest picture quality available on three 100-foot screens. You can see a double-feature every day, year round for the bargain price of $10 for adults and just $1 for kids 5-9 years old. Capacity is capped at 425 cars for safe distancing. The snack bar covers all your movie faves, plus burritos, tacos and tortas, and they even have email coupons for food discounts, but feel free to bring your own goodies if you prefer. Audio is played through your car speakers, but if you’re concerned about your car’s battery life, bring along an FM radio—most audio apps don’t work well here. Plastic is accepted for tickets, but the snack bar is cash only.

Try your hand at disc golf

Balboa Park
It won’t matter if you have beginner’s luck or flame out spectacularly, this mashup sport of golf and frisbee is still a good time at a budget-friendly price. Even on weekends, Morley Field Disc Golf Course’s surprisingly challenging 19 holes are a mere $5-$6. Afterwards, hit up Panama 66 for grab-and-go bowls, salads and ficelle sandwiches, and have an impromptu picnic in the park.

Unleash your inner lumberjack

North Park, Oceanside
Yoga and meditation are great stress relievers, but so is throwing a tomahawk across the room, albeit it’s a little more...aggressive. Try your hand at AxeVentures in North Park, one of several tomahawk axe throwing venues that have popped up across the city. Book a lane online or walk in anytime, learn the ropes from one of the coaches, and spend the next hour or so perfecting your technique. Check them out on Thursdays for Dark Light Night and one-of-a-kind date night memories. Afterwards, head across the street to The Friendly for a Dirty Flat Top and a slice, or Fall Brewing Company for a round or two of craft beer. The Oceanside location is currently closed; check their website for the latest updates and reopening news. Safety note: Closed toe shoes, social distancing, and masks are required.

Climb the walls

Show off your climbing skills on 7,000 square feet of wall space at Grotto Climbing and Yoga.  Featuring state-of-the-art indoor bouldering terrain, including more than 13,000 handmade holds, a campus board, a peg board, an illuminated moon board, fingerboards, and a 60-degree training board, climbers of all skill levels are ensured an exhilarating experience. In addition, there’s a yoga studio teaching all-level Vinyasa, Acroyoga, Yin, Restorative and Budokon-inspired flow classes and a fitness area with a Rogue fitness rack, weights, and rings. The Intro to Bouldering class is a great choice for first timers and includes shoe rental, 30 minutes of instruction, and a day pass, so afterwards you can hit the weights or stretch out any sore muscles in a yoga class. Masks, a temp check upon entering, and social distancing are required.

Bike along the Silver Strand

Coronado Ferry Landing
The Silver Strand Bikeway begins at Coronado Ferry Landing, and takes you along the nine-mile flat, sandy tombolo all the way to Imperial Beach. Perfect for riders of all levels, you’ll be treated to views of the Pacific Ocean on one side and the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge on the other. Don’t miss a stop at Silver Strand Beach for a quick swim or a walk along the sand. Your bike rides for free when you cross over on the ferry and rentals are available at the ferry landing if you haven’t brought your own.

Try a new cuisine together

Multiple locations
Burgers and pizza will always be there for you, but it’s good to break out of your culinary comfort zone and get busy with some new flavors once in a while. Fortunately, San Diego’s restaurant scene is fully stocked with all sorts of tasty international eats, including central Vietnamese dishes at Da Nang Corner, Roman-style pizza and gelati from Gelati & Peccati, or Fortunate Son’s old school Americanized Chinese fare (to name a few). Check out their websites for patio dining, pickup, and delivery options.

Get cheesy with Venissimo 

Cheese, it is said, is milk’s leap toward immortality, but for a shorter term relationship, let Venissimo’s cheese mongers  guide you through virtual tasting events. Choose from kits with charcuterie, beer, whiskey, sake, tequila and mezcal or wine pairings, plus an array of cooking classes, including making your own mozzarella and ricotta at home. Kits for tastings are available online for pickup or delivery (extra charge), then check their pairing notes and tune into their YouTube channel for live demos.

Sip some mezcal at Cantina Mayahuel 

University Heights
Introduce yourselves to tequila’s sexier, smokier cousin at Cantina Mayahuel, where over 100 different mezcals, sotols, bacanoras, and racillas line the wall behind the bar. While mezcal margaritas are available (and delicious), aficionados prefer to sip it neat, and the friendly, knowledgeable bartenders will gladly guide you through your tasting experience. If mezcal isn’t your thing, there are also 250+ varieties of tequila, including the house brand, Don Lorenzo Reposado Reserva.Their expanded patio can accommodate in-house drinking and dining on a first-come basis. You can also order to-go from the menu, including margaritas by the glass or kit.

Celebrate with a wine pairing dinner 

Whether it’s your three-year, three-week, or three-hour anniversary, celebrate your milestone with the Wine Vault and Bistro’s wine pairing dinners, one of San Diego’s best, most reasonably priced nights out for wine and food lovers. Although its cozy, intimate dining room is closed, the restaurant is still offering an exceptional menu on to-go, including up to five dishes, with optional wine pairings, bottled wines, cocktails, and pour-over desserts featuring gelato from downstairs neighbor Gelato Vera. Available Fridays and Saturdays, the weekend’s menu goes live every Sunday.  

Explore First Fridays at Liberty Station

Liberty Station, Online
Strolling through the beautiful architecture, gardens and art installations at Liberty Station’s First Friday is always a romantic experience, not to mention an abundance of venues for imbibing excellent local beer, dynamic craft cocktails, and everything from pizza and wings to award-winning Italian fare. They’ve also taken the Arts District online, so you can safely wander the galleries, enjoy live performances and exhibitions and take a look behind the scenes at Installations at the Station

Share an ice cream flight at Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream

North Park, Point Loma
Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream offers over 300 flavors of Tropical Dreams super premium Hawaiian ice cream and sorbet, which is the perfect excuse to skip dinner and go straight for indulgence. Having a hard time deciding between chocolate coconut macadamia nut, lilikoi (passionfruit) sorbet, or peanut butter and guava jelly? Opt for flights of your favorites in adorable mini cake or waffle cones, to share (or not). The Pacific Beach location is temporarily closed.

Drink wine and paint a masterpiece 

Liberty Station
Anyone can be an artist at Pinot’s Palette in the beautiful Liberty Station Arts District. Each 90 minute to two-hour session takes you through the creation of your own colorful painting, no experience required. Classes are held outdoors and virtually, with Pinot’s Palette bar service and a special menu from the neighboring Solare Ristorante available. Grab a glass of vino to get your creative juices flowing, then relax and follow the instructor-led, step-by-step directions. Whether you end up with flawless masterpieces or undisplayable accidents, it’ll certainly bring you closer.

Embark on a dinner cruise under a glowing moon

Little Italy
What could be more romantic than viewing San Diego’s glittering skyline from the water, beneath a luminous moon? Board Hornblower Cruises’ signature dinner cruises and enjoy a variety of different date night options, from cocktails at sunset to a three-course lobster dinner. There’s even a dinner and movie cruise featuring old and new classics. If you and your crush are more into daytime adventures, there’s sea life and whale watching cruises, where you can see migrating gray whales, Minke whales and pods of dolphins, or during the summer months, you might get a glimpse of blue whales, the largest animal on earth!

Pick up pickleball 

Various locations
Invented in 1965, pickleball is a fast-paced, easy-to-learn mash-up of tennis, ping-pong, and badminton, where players (singles or doubles) face off and whack a wiffle ball with a solid paddle across a low net on a small court to score points. Give it a try at one of the open play sessions at dozens of outdoor courts across San Diego County for safely distanced play, where some have free clinics for beginners.

Swim with sharks 

La Jolla Shores
As the weather gets warmer, the shallow waters of La Jolla Shores attract scores of leopard sharks, especially around the front of the tennis club and The Marine Room Restaurant. There, during peak season, the sharks typically hang out in groups of hundreds in about four to five feet of water. Although seeing a five-foot-long shark can be intimidating, leopard sharks pose no danger; despite being carnivores, they never attack humans. Besides, these sharks draw snorkelers from all over the world and are used to seeing people gawking at them. Use your own equipment or rent from one of the local shops within walking distance of La Jolla Shores Beach.

Explore Balboa Park like a tourist 

Balboa Park
Similar to human relationships, it’s easy to start taking even a treasure like Balboa Park for granted. Renew your love for both with a romantic hand-in-hand stroll through the exquisite gardens and architecture, hike one of the 19 trails, or snuggle through a free afternoon concert at Spreckels Organ Pavilion, held every Sunday at 2 pm.

Perfect your double axel at the mall 

University City
Lace up your skates and hit the ice at UTC Ice Sports Center, located next to the food court inside Westfield UTC. Daily public skating sessions are available in one-hour sessions and include four hours of free parking with validation, so you and your love can glide to your heart’s content, then grab lunch or dinner at one of UTC’s 55 cafes, coffee shops, or fine dining restaurants. Rental skates are included, and helmets are available for a few bucks more.

Check out a food hall

Various locations
Food halls, the latest trend in casual dining, are a far cry from the old mall food courts you used to hang at back in middle school, plus you can scope out your new crush’s culinary leanings while indulging your own whims. Little Italy’s Food Hall at the Piazza della Famiglia, the Liberty Public Market in Liberty Station, and Windmill Food Hall in Carlsbad host craft cocktail bars and nearly every kind of food shop you can imagine, from pizza to poke.

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Mary Beth Abate is a San Diego-based freelance writer by way of Chicago and Los Angeles. Her hobbies include yoga, pickling and fermenting stuff, reading cookbooks, and drinking fabulous gin. Keep up with her experiments @MaryBeth_Abate.
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