Where to Go on a Date in San Francisco This Spring
Impress that special someone with fun outdoor activities, exciting cultural experiences, and more.
We’re all slowly emerging from our winter cocoons, and whether you’re planning to keep your “cuffing season” companion, ready to ditch them for someone new, or single and thriving, there’s no doubt that the changing season has put a spring in everyone’s step and inspired us all to get back out there. After all, as San Francisco legend Robin Williams once said, “Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!’”
And what better way to do that than by embracing spring fever to its fullest and going out on lots of dates at places other than your local watering hole? Whether it’s fun, outdoor activities, budget-conscious dates, exciting cultural experiences, or something else, we’ve compiled a list of fun springtime date ideas you’ll enjoy whether you’re coupled, throupled, single, or looking.
The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco
It would take a lot of stamina to explore the hills of San Francisco on foot, and we can think of far more entertaining ways to see if your date has that, so why not drink your way through SF’s iconic neighborhoods, all without leaving the comfort of a comfy lounge chair? The Lounge in the Ritz-Carlton on Nob Hill recently introduced a fantastic (and fun) cocktail menu that represents some of SF’s most notable neighborhoods in name and execution (we don’t want to spoil the surprise of what happens if you order “In Love with Karl” [the fog], but just trust us that it’s worth an order. If you’re more of a martini drinker, be sure to sidle up to the bar to watch the 19th-century-inspired Imperial Shaker in action.
Tuesdays–Sundays, April 29–May 29
See how the other half lives at the Decorator Showcase, an annual event where over 20 of the best interior designers completely transform a landmark San Francisco home to raise money for the San Francisco University High School Financial Aid Program. This year’s home is a nearly 6,100 square-foot home built in 1927 with 28 unique spaces, including five bedrooms, a game room, a movie room, and a bunch of other amenities that most of us can only dream about. It’s always a really fun space to explore, and it’s for a good cause. After, take advantage of being all the way out in Sea Cliff by grabbing the world’s best margaritas at Tommy’s.
It’s definitely a special occasion date spot due to the price tag, but if you need a date night that will leave a lasting impression, look no further than Merchant Roots, which consistently blows our minds with its creative and delicious dinners. The themes change with the season, and for spring, it’s all about an opulent experience inspired by W.M. Thackeray’s novel Vanity Fair, which fuses English, French, and Indian cuisine. That’s all we’ll say about that, as anyone who has been lucky enough to partake in one of chef Ryan Shelton’s experience-based meals knows that half the fun is the whimsical surprises. Be sure to book your seats now because reservations go fast.
Every Friday through June 23
One of the most important things to discover about a potential paramour is what kind of eater they are. You can get an excellent taste of just that while feasting your way through Off the Grid’s Friday night food truck party at Fort Mason. There are 25+ food creators every week serving out of food trucks and—for the first time ever—pop-up parklets. OTG also has a full bar, a wine garden, and live music and DJs. Just be sure to check the weather because it can get chilly if the fog rolls in.
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 iconic skyline. 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 beer and wine from Parklab Gardens, which is just a few feet away. Plus, you can impress your date with your philanthropic side by letting them know that most of Stagecoach Greens’ profits go to Braid Mission, a charity the owners co-founded that supports local foster kids and families
Enjoy an evening at the theater
Various theaters in SF
Various theaters in SF Going to the theater is a great date because the entertainment is provided, and it gives you an obvious conversation topic if you decide to get drinks after. Plus, there’s something on the stage for everyone this spring. If you or your date are a fan of musicals, you don’t want to miss BroadwaySF’s latest shows, including Come From Away (through April 23), based on a true story about 7,000 passengers stranded in a small town in Newfoundland. Pretty Woman has also been turned into a musical (“It was so good, I almost peed my pants!”) that’s only in SF for a week (April 25–April 30), and Into the Woods comes to the Curran in June, also for a short six-day run (June 20–June 25).
A.C.T.’s latest theatrical performance Poor Yella Rednecks, an over-the-top hip-hop comedy about a Vietnamese family who swapped war-torn Saigon for rural ’70s Arkansas, promises to make you want to “laugh and dance at the same time” and is playing through May 7. Then, in June, follow the yellow brick road (or Geary Street) to the Toni Rembe Theater, where The Wizard of Oz is playing during June.
Other date-worthy performances include Berkeley Rep’s brilliant interpretation of English, an Obie Award winner for Best New American Play, that tells the story of four adults in a classroom in Iran preparing for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (through May 7) and Let the Right One In, “a supernatural thriller that’s part brutal vampire myth and part coming-of-age romance” from the theatrical team behind Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (May 20–June 25).
The New Conservatory Theatre Center also has a lot of fun performances happening, including Locusts Have No King, a story about two closeted gay couples who can’t stand each other but get together for a dinner party (through April 14); The Canterville Ghost, a “spooky screwball comedy” adapted from the Oscar Wilde story (April 28–May 7); and The Confession of Lily Dare, which “follows one woman’s road to ruin - paved with good intentions” (May 12–June 11).
If you like to dance, then you need a person who can hang. Find out if your date is that person at one of Madrone’s many dance parties. Go on Mondays to hear Motown or every third Thursday for “Emo vs. Pop Punk” night. Want to also know if they’re game to embarrass themselves on stage? Check out “Glitter Tears Karaoke” every other Wednesday, a karaoke tribute party to icons who have passed. Madrone also has indie dance rock parties, “I Hear the ’90s” parties, and basically something for every person’s taste.
Play an SF version of Chutes and Ladders
All over SF
No one likes when people play games when they’re dating unless those games are not really games at all, but instead, a grown-up version of a children’s classic where everyone wins! Here are the rules: in any order you want to, race down SF’s adult-friendly slides—Seward Mini Park (look for the cardboard piece previous sliders have left behind) and the Winfield Street Slides (these are metal, so you should be good to go) and run up and down as many of SF’s amazingly colorful and hidden staircases as your legs can take. Our faves are the Lincoln Park Steps tiled in bright greens, yellows, and oranges; the 16th Avenue Tiled Staircase with seascape-themed mosaics, and the hidden Vulcan Stairs in Corona Heights. Afterward, take yourselves out for ice cream to celebrate being such good sports.
Golden Gate Park
Sometimes the best date is a good old-fashioned walk in the park, especially during spring when so many flowers are in bloom. You still have time to check out the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden—the colorful tulip beds surrounding the Dutch windmill pop off through April. (And you can head to Park Chalet after for a beer on the lawn in the sun.) Then, right around Mother’s Day, The Rose Garden will yield an impressive display of award-winning roses. Other gardens to check out include The Shakespeare Garden—the crab apple trees will be flowering, and the Rhododendron Dell. If you want to add a picnic to the date, do that at the Conservatory of Flowers—the flower beds last all through the spring, and the building is a stunning backdrop for a romantic, al fresco meal. Plus, if you’re both SF residents, you can go inside to see the blooms there for free. Add a spin on the SkyStar Wheel ($18 for adults) to take in the views and maybe sneak a kiss at the top.
Stroll through an art gallery
Various locations in SF
First things first: The SFMOMA throws one of the year’s best parties. The always-spectacular Art Bash is happening on April 19th this year and is the perfect date thanks to amazing art activations, fantastic musical performances, open bars, and fabulous outfits. It’s a little pricey, but the later you go, the more affordable it is. Plus, the money goes to help fund SFMOMA’s education programs and community events so that you can feel good about it (and write some of it off).
If you can’t make it to that party, SF’s amazing art galleries are a perfect date spot any time of year, not just because they have some fantastic art but because you’ll learn a lot about your date in the process. Head to the de Young, and then if things go well, enjoy lunch or drinks in the outdoor Sculpture Garden or explore the Legion of Honor before getting margaritas at Tommy’s or dim sum at Dragon Beaux. SFMOMA and its world-class art are always a classic go-to, while the Asian Art Museum flies a little more under the radar but always has something interesting on display. The same goes for the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) and the Contemporary Jewish Museum (the latter also provides an excellent excuse to split a pastrami sandwich at Wise Sons). Want something even a non-aesthete will find fun? Get handsy with the exhibits at the Exploratorium or play antique arcade games at Musée Mécanique.
Presidio and Mission
Is bowling the most obvious date idea ever? Sure. But that’s because bowling is really, really fun. And a good way to get a little insight into your potential paramour. Are they competitive? A good sport? Do they eat nachos with their hands right after putting their fingers in the bowling ball? How do they feel about bumpers (aka cheating)? SF has three bowling alleys: Presidio Bowl, which has a classic bowling alley vibe (plus over 45 beers), Yerba Buena Ice Skating & Bowling Center (the most affordable of the bunch), and Mission Bowling Club, which is more of a boutique bowling alley with only six lanes and fancy cocktails.
Ongoing Wednesdays through Sundays
Start your love story with a love story to the City. “Dear San Francisco: A High-Flying Love Story” is produced by 7 Fingers, a world-renowned circus and arts collective, which 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. It’s the perfect chance to see how your date feels about SF and if they plan on sticking around or if this is just a short stop before they return to the East Coast or wherever they came from. Come hungry and thirsty because there are small bites, wine, and beer to enjoy.
Listen to some smooth (and not-so-smooth) jazz
A bar with live jazz is always a great date option, but especially for someone who may have the first date jitters. You’ll be able to talk, but you can also take short hiatuses from the chit-chat without any of the awkwardness to appreciate the music (or pretend to appreciate the music while searching for new conversation topics). Check out Black Cat in the Tenderloin, a sexy basement club with craft cocktails and small plates; Mr. Tipple’s Recording Studio in Hayes Valley, 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, albeit it more blues than jazz; and stay tuned because renovations are supposed to be finished soon at the always-under-the-radar and always-a-good-time Club Deluxe in the Upper Haight where you can normally 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 shaken up in the earthquake simulator, wandering through the African Hall, 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.
Audium/Lower Pac Heights
Audium is one of those activities you have to experience in order to understand, 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. Afterward, head to Tommy’s Joynt, which is just a few blocks away, for more SF history in the form of giant meat-filled sandwiches and cheap drinks.
Take a stroll down Lovers’ Lane
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 meatball sandwich and a beer on the patio at the Presidio Social Club, or tacos and margaritas at Colibri Mexican Bistro.
Golden Gate Park
This 55-acre “urban oasis” is home to more than 9,000 kinds of plants from around the world, and, for obvious reasons, it goes off in the spring. There are also lots of hidden nooks in case you’re looking to get away with a little PDA without so much of the “P.” Bring a blanket to enjoy a picnic (there are plenty of nearby spots to grab lunch around 9th and Irving) or a nap in the sun. Best of all, if you and your date are SF residents, you can both get in for free.
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 stopping 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?