SF Date Ideas You’ll Both Actually Enjoy Right Now

Keep romance alive with a vampire-themed bar, pumpkin picking, art experiences, and more.

circus and arts show
Photo by Kevin Berne

Okay, so “hot vax summer” was a bit of a bust in SF, mostly because we don’t celebrate the season known as “summer” when everyone else does, but also because ever-evolving and (re)tightening restrictions, like the return of the indoor mask mandate and proof of vaccination requirements for bars, restaurants, clubs, large events, etc. At the time, those sent a lot of us running back into the arms of our familiar friends, but now that we’re pretty used to the current rules (and since they don’t seem like they’ll be going anywhere anytime soon), it’s time for us to get back out there and do fun things in the name of not dying alone.

Whether you’re scouting prospects for cuffing season or spending QT with your significant other, we’re here to help you maximize any time not spent working at your dining room table or sitting on your couch. Which is where we come in with this list of actually fun fall date ideas, all of which will still actually be fun even if your date is just your bestie or yourself. And only one of which involves a pumpkin patch.

SoMa
Want to find out if your date’s a screamer? Take them to this fully immersive haunted journey that combines theater, mazes, special effects, and an endless parade of witches, nuns, and demons jumping out at you when you least expect it. Oh, and also some full-frontal nudity. Enjoy a drink at the Fang Bang—an ‘80s/new wave/goth/vampire bar—or at least know that you’ll very much need one when you finally escape the hellscape that is the “Immortal Reckoning.” If you prefer to drink among vampires and not have the living daylights scared out of you, the Fang Bang bar is open to anyone—you don’t need a ticket. There will also be a Terror Ball, a Halloween party hosted by Peaches Christ, on October 30th.

circus
Photo by Kevin Berne

Club Fugazi
Beach Blanket Babylon was one of the best things about San Francisco for decades, so it’s fitting that the first act to follow it in the historic Club Fugazi is a love story to the City. “Dear San Francisco: A High-Flying Love Story” is produced by a world-renowned circus and arts collective, which, yup, means you can expect to see all kinds of daring and impossible feats up-close and personal (it’s an intimate theater), all told in tableaus that pay homage to this crazy, wonderful town and the beauty and characters that embody it. Come hungry and thirsty because there will be small bites, wine, and beer to enjoy ‘cause this SF circus is very much for adults.

Spirit Works Distillery

Sebastopol
Take a stroll with your date through the Barlow, 12 acres of spots that are perfect for getting to know someone (or hanging out with someone you already know). Take a tour of the Spirit Works Distillery before enjoying a tasting flight or a cocktail. Enjoy a delicious lunch at Blue Ridge Kitchen, a farmhouse-style wood grill and cocktail bar with the best ahi tuna tartare you’ll ever eat, a bomb smash burger, and a drunken fried chicken that looks like it came from a Flintstone’s dinosaur chicken (it’s huge) but is still the perfect combo of crispy and juicy. Pop into Region to discover and taste 50 small production Sonoma wines from self-serving machines (each wine is offered in one-ounce, two-and-a-half-ounce, or five-ounce pours, and you can also do it the traditional way with a human being pouring for you). Grab a beer at one of several breweries, a couple of which have live music on the weekend. And be sure to pick up a wedge of proper British-style aged cheddar from WM Cofield Cheesemakers to enjoy later (trust us).

Half Moon Bay
You know what most people in the country don’t get to do? Go to a pumpkin patch on the coast. But since you’re in NorCal, you can do just that at the (self-proclaimed) “pumpkin capital of the world,” Half Moon Bay. There are a bunch of farms to choose from, but Andreotti Farms is the place to go if your date is doubling as an Instagram photo opp, and Arata’s is the spot if you enjoy a crazy hay maze. Make a day of it by hiking on one of Half Moon Bay’s gorgeous trails, enjoying some local craft beer at Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, and eating some truly fantastic Peruvian food while enjoying waterfront views at La Costanera. (The cebiche mixto is possibly the best cebiche you’ll ever eat and tastes even better with a pisco sour.)

San Francisco Symphony

Go to some classic theatrical and musical performances

Various locations
Live shows are finally back, and, in many cases, we’re going old school. “Jesus Christ Superstar” is playing at the Golden Gate Theatre from October 13–November 7. “My Fair Lady” is at the Orpheum from November 2–November 28. The San Francisco Symphony season offers a slew of concerts featuring music by Beethoven, Debussy, Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Mozart. And the San Francisco Opera is also back live with a brand new production of Beethoven’s only opera and music by Mozart.

Keep it simple and go out to dinner at one of SF’s newest hot spots

Various locations
You really can’t go wrong with dinner and drinks, especially if you take it up a notch by showing your date you’re in the know. Go casual and lively at Wilder, a new spot in Cow Hollow from the Westwood crew where brunch can get a little rowdy (in a good way, of course). Impress at Empress by Boon, a modern Cantonese restaurant in a stunning and historic banquet hall (if you can get a reservation, that is). Keep it simple with excellent pizza, pasta, and cocktails on the roof at Fiorella’s newest location in the Inner Sunset. Immerse yourself in a fairytale at Merchant Roots’ newest fall-themed dinner, Stone Soup, an extraordinary meal you really just need to experience for yourself. Enjoy a modern twist on classic American favorites at Luna in the Mission. Travel to Mexico at the Traveler at 25 Lusk, a drinking and dining experience that will eventually “go” all over the world. Visit Greece at Michael Mina’s beachy new spot, Estiatoro Ornos, where you’ll find coastal vibes, fun cocktails, and SF’s only “fish sommelier.” Sip on spritzes and snack on cured meats and stinky cheeses at Chezchez from the Trick Dog team. Or make it a little cozy and romantic (but still fun) at Linden & Laguna, a new—decidedly unpretentious—wine bar in Hayes Valley with probably the most affordable and legit good wines you’ll get at any wine bar in the city and flatbread pizzettas that taste a million times better than whatever that other wine bar you go to serves.

Santa Clara
Okay, well, first, let’s be clear: We only make noise when we’re on defense. But when we are, get as loud as you want. (Yes, it’s “we” because “we” are clearly an important part of the team.) The 49ers look pretty good this year. Unfortunately, so does the rest of the NFC West. But hey, that only makes the season more exciting! There are some exciting home games on the schedule, including Saturday Night Football against the Colts, Monday Night Football against the Rams, and any game against a team in our division. If we can avoid injuries, who knows what could happen!

Calistoga Motor Lodge
Photo courtesy of Calistoga Motor Lodge

Calistoga
Spend the day in Calistoga, Napa’s quirkiest (and we think most fun) town and home of the best mud baths and mineral springs in the area. Start with a wine tasting at Tank Garage, a very laid-back winery inside of a vintage gas station, and then after a leisurely lunch, make your way to the Moon Acre Spa at Calistoga Motor Lodge and sling some mud in the “apply-it-yourself” mud baths (you each get your own tub) before rinsing off and soaking in one of the three geothermal mineral pools fed from underground hot springs. If you and your date are in the sleepover phase of your dating situation, make a night of it by getting a room (the brand new ones on the second floor at the way to go) and enjoying wood-fired dishes and creative cocktails at the new (and already bustling) on-site restaurant, Fleetwood Calistoga. (FYI: The mineral pools and firepits are open until 10:30 pm, so you can take another dip before “bed.”)

Listen to some smooth (and not-so-smooth) jazz

Various locations
SF’s jazz scene has been in the news lately because of one of our not-so-popular politician’s failure to wear a mask, but that’s just a good reminder for all of us that SF has some great jazz clubs! Black Cat in the Tenderloin, a sexy basement club with craft cocktails and small plates; Mr. Tipple’s Recording Studio in Hayes Valley, also with excellent cocktails, as well as dumplings and dim sum; Boom Boom Room in the Fillmore, a classic SF spot with good vibes and dancing opportunities, and the always-under-the-radar-and-always-a-good-time Club Deluxe in the Upper Haight where you’ll find “live music and libations” seven days a week.

Golden Gate Park
Visiting the California Academy of Sciences is always fun, but their NightLife event, which brings in booze and DJs every Thursday evening from 6–10 pm, makes exploring the butterfly-filled, four-story rainforest, sitting in the dark and watching bioluminescent sea creatures, getting all shook up in the earthquake simulator, wandering through the African Hall, and watching the penguins play, marveling at the 87-foot-long blue whale skeleton, and checking in with Claude, the albino alligator a one-of-a-kind experience. And while it’s not going anywhere (pandemics aside), if you don’t go before January, you’ll miss one of the coolest exhibits the museum’s had in a while: “Sharks,” which features all kinds of cool stuff about these creatures that were around before trees, including life-size models, a virtual shark dive, and a look at all of the crazy contraptions humans have built to stay safe around them while in the water.

Audium/Lower Pac Heights
Audium is one of those “you just have to experience it to understand it” activities, but the gist of it is that you and your date will “bathe” in sound piped in from 176 speakers during a one-hour performance/experience that takes place in complete darkness. This is definitely one of those “only in SF” things that has actually been taking place here for over 50 years. Tommy’s Joynt is just a few blocks away, so head there after for some more SF history in the form of giant meat-filled sandwiches and cheap drinks.

Photo courtesy of Immersive Van Gogh

SVN West/Civic Center
Take a journey with your date inside of Van Gogh’s art at this exhibition that uses light, music, and movement to show the post-Impressionist artist’s iconic work in a way that feels like maybe you ate a gummy an hour ago. Watch as his works of art move, grow, and transform, all accompanied by a powerful soundtrack. Even if you don’t love museums, you’ll love this museum. Want to look at the trippy art while doing downward dog? Convince your date to go with you to one of the morning yoga classes.

SPARK Social SF
SPARK Social SF

Mission Bay
Someone can be smart, funny, and super hot, but if they’re a super picky eater, there’s a good chance all bets are off. Take your date on a culinary food truck journey at Spark Social SF, where there are always vendors slinging everything from authentic Mexican to fancy seafood to Asian fusion, to find out if you’re dining compatible. And, hey, even if they just want pizza and beer, you’ll still have a good time because, well: pizza and beer.

Lands End
You know what’s expensive? Dating. You know what’s free? Hiking. And thanks to panoramas around every corner, San Francisco turns exercise into an exercise in romance. SF has a bunch of awesome urban hikes, but you can’t go wrong with Lands End. Pack a picnic to enjoy on the somewhat secret Mile Rock Beach, try to find the abandoned Octagon House, take in vistas of the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands, walk the labyrinth, look for shipwrecks, and explore Sutro Baths. Basically, it’s like a hike and a treasure hunt all in one. If it’s a sunny day, head over to Park Chalet afterward to enjoy beer and fish tacos on the lawn.

botanical garden
Courtesy of Saxon Holt

Golden Gate Park
This 55-acre “urban oasis” is home to more than 9,000 kinds of plants from around the world, as well as lots of hidden nooks in case you’re looking to get away with a little PDA without so much of the “P.” It’s also got plenty of places to spread out and enjoy a picnic or a nap in the sun, and if you and your date are SF residents, you can both get in for free.

Mission Bay
Stagecoach Greens, SF’s only outdoor miniature golf course,  is the perfect place to see how your date handles a little friendly competition while also picking up some new knowledge about everything from the Gold Rush to our famous fog. The 18-hole “Boom & Bust” course offers surprises at every turn, and when you’re finished, you can celebrate your win (or lament your loss) with food truck grub and cocktails from Parklab Gardens’ Watering Hole Bar.

Sea Trek
Courtesy of Sea Trek

Sausalito
One of the fastest ways to find out if you’re compatible with someone is an activity that requires cooperation and teamwork and you’ll definitely need both during Sea Trek’s “Paddle the Gate” kayak tour, during which you and your date will slide into a two-person kayak and paddle under the Golden Gate Bridge and along the shore of the Marin Headlands. If you want to seriously up the romance factor, opt for the “Full Moon” kayak tour when you and your potential partner will glide through the waters off of the coast with only the light of the moon to guide you. (Don’t want to wait for the next full moon? There’s also a “Starlight” kayak tour for the impatient.)

"Wood Line," Andy Goldsworthy | Ian Abbott / Flickr

Take a stroll down Lovers’ Lane

Presidio
The Presidio is full of urban hikes, which means most of them aren’t super crowded, even on the weekend. Start with one of those and then, if things are going well, head over to Lovers’ Lane and work up the nerve to hold your date’s hand. Be sure to take a detour to see Andy Goldsworthy’s Wood Line installation and then finish at either the Main Post Parade Ground where you can put a blanket down on the grass and enjoy a picnic with Bay views or if you’re all picnicked out, grab a French onion burger and a margarita on the patio at the Presidio Social Club Exchange.

Golden Gate Park
The oldest public Japanese tea garden in the U.S. is open to 100 visitors at a time with one-way paths of travel over stepping stone paths and past pagodas, Japanese plants, and koi ponds. Want to have the conversation about your relationship status? This is the perfect place as it’s pretty much impossible not to be centered and calm. (It’s also a good break-up spot since no one would dare raise their voice in such a serene spot, but hopefully it doesn’t come to that.)

Ferry departs from Fisherman’s Wharf
This island that was once home to Native Americans, a quarantine station during the Bubonic plague, and an immigration station where Chinese, Japanese, and other Asian immigrants were detained, is now a huge state park with tons of amazing hiking trails, including one that takes you to the peak of Mt. Livermore where you’ll find views of the entire island and much of the Bay Area. If you’re not up for a lot of walking, you can also rent bikes or take a tram tour. Go on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon during the summer and you can listen to live music on the deck overlooking the water while drinking beer and sharing nachos.

balmy alley
Flickr/mirsasha

Check out the murals in the Mission

Balmy Alley and Clarion Alley
There are murals all over San Francisco, but if you want to see a bunch of them all in one place, Balmy Alley and Clarion Alley in the Mission are the places to go. The murals are ever-evolving and changing, but if you look closely, you’ll see colorful and powerful pieces that address topics like human rights, local gentrification, community spirit, calls for justice, and more. The alleys are a little over a mile away from each other, so may we recommend at stop at Señor Sisig to enjoy some loaded nacho fries and a beer or Smitten Ice Cream for a freshly churned scoop salted caramel in a waffle cone to eat as you walk?  
 

Larkspur
Going to the mall hasn’t been a good date idea since eighth grade, or really ever, but desperate times… Plus, the Marin Country Mart is hardly a mall. It’s more of an open-air shopping and dining destination... okay, fine, it’s basically a mall. Still, it’s a “mall” with all kinds of shops to peruse, a farmers market on Saturdays, and lots of snacking opportunities, including Johnny Doughnuts, Miette, Shake Shack, and Marin Brewing Company. Who knows, maybe one of you will even be brave enough to reach for the other person’s hand!

Muir Woods National Monument
Courtesy of Muir Woods National Monument by kirainet

Mill Valley
Okay, so the Ewok scenes in “Return of the Jedi” weren’t actually filmed in Muir Woods, but they sure could’ve been, and since Ewoks live in all kinds of redwood forests, there’s no reason you might not spot one at this national park famous for its towering old growth redwood trees. And, hey, even if you don’t come across Wicket or one of his family members, at least you’ll still get to enjoy miles of hiking trails in a completely magical setting. (Just don’t forget that reservations for Muir Woods are now required, so you and your date will need to decide on a time and arrive within 30 minutes of your window. A perfect opportunity to find out if the person you’re seeing is punctual!)

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Daisy Barringer is an SF-writer who doesn’t remember what dating is like and isn’t sure she even wants to but is definitely looking forward to doing everything on this list. Follow her on Instagram @daisysf.