Where to Go on a Date in San Francisco This Spring

From immersive art shows to blooming botanical gardens to food trucks, these activities make for the perfect date in the Bay.

After two years of hanging out with your quarantine bubble, you’re probably ready to burst it and invite someone new in. Or maybe you’ve been partnered for a while and are looking for some ideas that will interrupt your Netflix and chill routine. Whatever situation you’re navigating, San Francisco is flush with options, ranging from romantic restaurants that are perfect for date night to cool spring adventures that are sure to get your pulse racing.

Whatever you’re looking for, this is where our list of SF date ideas comes into play. Your new go-to guide anytime you need an idea for something that is actually fun to do with another human, including new dining hot spots, live music, cultural offerings, and much more.

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Western Addition
If you’ve always be in awe of the creativity, whimsy, and irreverence that Roald Dahl wrote about in Charlie in the Chocolate Factory, then buy you and your date Golden Tickets to this nine-course Merchant Roots dinner inspired by the classic tale. Expect delightful moments throughout, including starting your meal with a box of “Raisinpossibles: Magically made from anything but grapes.” Guess what the flavors are and you’ll be rewarded with a prize later on in the evening. The best part of any dinner experience at Merchant Roots is all of the delightful surprises (okay, the BEST part is the food, but the magical moments throughout are also pretty amazing), so we won’t say too much more, but you’ll enjoy edible landscapes, a little science experiment mid-meal, and a finale of edible floating bubbles that will leave you on cloud nine. Just to be clear: This dinner has a very specific theme, but it’s not a gimmick. It’s just a creative, captivating, and smile-inducing way to enjoy a very delicious meal.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child | Photo by Matthew Murphy

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Union Square
After a pandemic break, this spellbinding theatrical performance has returned to The Curran as one show (instead of as two parts as before), which means you can experience the magical return to Hogwarts all in one evening. Even the most casual Harry Potter fans will be blown away by this theatrical masterpiece which is unlike anything you’ve ever seen on a stage before—truly. We don’t want to give away too much, but not only is the story charming and compelling, the wizardry of the astonishing special effects, pyrotechnics, and mind-boggling illusions is stupendous. The perfect date—even if your date is “just” your muggle BFF.

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SoMa/Hayes Valley
Experiential and immersive art is all the rage these days and for good reason—it’s awe-inspiring to see beautiful paintings in a larger-than-life format that moves throughout the space and is set to a mood-setting original score, and it’s also a lot more accessible.The latest of these digital projection exhibits features beloved Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, who is known for showcasing her emotional and physical pain in self-portraits, her marriage to Diego Rivera, her progressive and feminist politics, and her gorgeous folk style. In this exhibit, you’ll actually learn more about her life, which is so mirrored in her art.

Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center
Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center | Photo courtesy of Fort Mason

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Fort Mason
After a torturous two-year break, Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center is bringing back its Friday night food truck party on April 1, with 25+ food trucks, a bar, and live entertainment. There will be some trucks that are new to OTG, like Vegan Mob and Media Noche, as well as some old favorites, like Bacon Bacon, Curry Up Now, Senor Sisig, and The Chairman. The food extravaganza goes from 5 pm to 10 pm and is the perfect way to start an evening or as the main event.

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Civic Center
If you’re meeting your date for lunch, La Cocina Municipal Marketplace is a fun dining experience that’s a little out-of-the-box. Inside the food hall, you’ll find amazing vendors selling delicious and affordable food, all owned by immigrant women and women-of-color. If you’re in more of a happy hour mood, head there between 4 and 6 pm (weekdays only) and grab a seat at the bar at La Paloma, a cocktail bar inside of the food hall with fun craft cocktails, a good selection of beer and wine, and some tasty snacks as well.

Dutch Windmill in Golden Gate Park
Dutch Windmill in Golden Gate Park | Chase Maddox/Shutterstock

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Golden Gate Park
You know what they say: “April showers bring May flowers” but because of SF’s Mediterranean climate, you don’t even have to wait until May to see the blooms in Golden Gate Park. If you want the greatest hits, be sure to check out the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden—during March and April, the colorful tulip beds surrounding the Dutch windmill really pop off. (And you can head to Park Chalet after for a beer on the lawn in the sun.) The Rose Garden actually peaks during summer, but a visit during the spring, especially around Mother’s Day, will yield an impressive display of the award-winning roses. You’ll basically see all kinds of blooms all over the park this spring, but other gardens to check out include The Shakespeare Garden—the crab apple trees will be flowering, and the Rhododendron Dell (be sure to say “What’s up” to John McLaren, whose statue is there to greet you). Obviously a picnic with wine (alcohol is allowed in the park, but no glass bottles) is the perfect way to take your date to the next level. Or a spin on the SkyStar Wheel if you want to makeout on the observation wheel (or, you know, take in the views).

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Various locations
A string quartet playing Taylor Swift songs inside of St. Ignatius Church. A jazz ensemble playing Beyonce, Lady Gaga, and Lizzo at the Folsom Street Foundry. These are just two of the candlelight concert experiences you can attend this spring. Others include tributes to Coldplay, Queen, Stevie Wonder, and Amy Winehouse, as well as classical concerts (Mozart, Vivaldi, and more). All of the venues are iconic and beautiful and will be bathed in candlelight for the evening.

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Lower Haight
Hold hands during the couple skate at Church of 8 Wheels, SF’s only indoor skating rink that just so happens to be in an old church, which means there’s a pretty good chance that your prayers not to fall and break your butt will be heard by someone. FYI: Church of 8 Wheels does have all ages hours, so if you want to just be around other “grown-ups,” you’ll want to make it a nighttime date.

SFMOMA San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
SFMOMA San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Stroll through an art gallery

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Various locations in SF
Take advantage of SF’s amazing art galleries not just because they have some fantastic art but because you’ll learn a lot about your date. Head to the de Young (get tickets to the Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love exhibit that celebrates the legacy of the impressive Black fashion designer) because then you can grab lunch and drinks in the outdoor Sculpture Garden. The SFMOMA and its world-class art is always a classic go-to, while the Asian Art Museum flies a little more under-the-radar, but has an interesting exhibit Seeing Gender right now that looks at the “complexities and nuances of gender across Asian Art” and another one, After Hope: Videos of Resistance, that looks at the idea of hope in contemporary art and activism. And while Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) is closed through March 31, when it reopens, there will be several cool new exhibits to check out, including The Threads that Bind, a textile collection meant to “evoke memory, presence, labor, trade, industry, slavery, luxury, baptisms, weddings, funerals, gender, and history in the African Diaspora.”

For some family fun, check out the Walt Disney Family Museum and then enjoy a picnic on the Main Parade Lawn. Or explore the Legion of Honor before getting margaritas at Tommy’s. Want something even a non-aesthete will find fun? Get handsy with the exhibits at the Exploratorium or play antique arcade games at the Musée Mécanique.

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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. Or, if you don’t mind a bit of a drive, you can always head to Sea Bowl in Pacifica and then follow it up with tacos and frozen boozy concoctions at the world’s most beautiful Taco Bell.

circus
Photo by Kevin Berne

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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.

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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 know about the most exciting restaurants, newest bars to open, and only-in-SF dining experiences. Enjoy lively dinner party vibes and really delicious pasta at Penny Roma (and then head next door for drinks at Trick Dog if you want to keep the festivities going). Grab cocktails and bites (be sure to order the hot buttered Dungeness crab) at The Madrigal, the stylish new Hayes Valley-adjacent cocktail destination where you can actually make a reservation for a table just for drinks and alleviate any of that uncomfortable posturing and/or waiting for seats—go after 9 pm for a late-night happy hour. Enjoy the casual and eclectic menu at Automat, a fun spot from the folks behind Lazy Bear that’s way more affordable and less of a commitment. (Going on a daytime date? Pop in for tasty sandwiches and a beer.) Kaiyō Rooftop, the new tropical hotspot with endless views on top of the Hyatt Place Hotel, is a no-brainer, and no worries if you’re not ready to commit to dinner; you can also just grab drinks at the bar. 

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

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Various locations
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, 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.

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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.

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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.

SPARK Social SF
SPARK Social SF

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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.

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Various locations
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, as does the East Bay if your date takes you in that direction. One of our favorites is 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

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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.

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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.

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

Take a stroll down Lovers’ Lane

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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.

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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.)

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Ferry departs from Fisherman’s Wharf and Tiburon
The 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 and segways or take a tram tour. After you work up an appetite, you can enjoy sandwiches and beer at the island’s cafe while soaking up some of the best views around.

balmy alley
Flickr/mirsasha

Check out the murals in the Mission

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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?

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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

Free
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.