Where to Go on a Date in San Francisco This Summer

From day dancing to free concerts to baseball games and more, these dates are sure to impress.

First of all, congrats! If you’re reading this there’s a good chance you managed to score a date in this town where it's notoriously hard to date. Secondly, congrats on looking for something fun to do that isn’t meeting for drinks. You’ve come to the right place. Whatever you’re looking for—whether it’s fun outdoor activities, budget-conscious dates, a cultural experience, or something else, this list is full of stuff that’s fun to do with other humans, no matter how long you’ve known them or may end up wanting to know them.

Stern Grove Festival
Photo courtesy of Paige K. Parsons & Stern Grove Festival

Free
Outer Sunset
The Stern Grove Festival has a pretty amazing line-up this summer, with performances by Liz Phair, Cold War Kids, Geographer, Old Crow Medicine Show, Cat Power, Leann Rimes, the San Francisco Symphony, Taj Mahal, and more. If you live in SF and you haven’t been to this 85-year-old festival, this is the summer to change that, but in order to do so, you’ll need to snag free tickets ahead of time. (Pre-COVID you could just show up, but whatever, maybe next year.) To do that, you’ll need to grab a reservation by going to the website at 2 pm 12 days before the show. Set an alarm. Once you have your reservation, just show up with a picnic blanket, a picnic (alcohol is allowed), and lots of layers because you just never know what’s going to happen with the weather in the Outer Sunset.

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Oracle Park/SoMa
Root root root for the home team at a Giants’ game at Oracle Park. Even if you’re not a huge baseball fan, it’s worth grabbing tickets for a game, if only for the Crazy Crab’z Dungeness Crab Sandwich on buttery grilled sourdough. Go to a day game if you want sunshine and to avoid hypothermia, or a night game if you both enjoy snuggling under a blanket to stay warm.

Unsplash/Kimson Doan

Free
Ocean Beach
The rest of the country may be able to rely on the summer sun to keep them warm at the beach, but we know better than to make plans that center around warm temps and clear skies. Luckily, Ocean Beach has 16 fire rings on the beach which you can load up with wood to burn so you won’t have to totally rely on your date to keep you toasty well into the night. The rings are first-come, first-served and are only available to use through October. There’s a Safeway right across the street where you can stock up on wood, hot dogs, and s’more ingredients (though, be warned, it’s almost always out of skewers).

Play a SF version of Chutes and Ladders

Free
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 amazing 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.) Afterwards, take yourselves out for ice cream to celebrate being such good sports.

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

$$$-$$$$
Union Square
This spell-binding 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. Can’t make it this summer? No need for a Time Turner. It’s now playing through early January 2023.

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’s Friday night food truck party is back, with 25+ food trucks, a bar, and live music. There are 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. Want to take your pup on a date? “Fido Fridays” happen every third Friday—during yappy hour (5 pm to 7 pm), you’ll get 10% off your drinks, and your pooch will get free treats at Kivelstadt Wine Garden.

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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

Free
Golden Gate Park
Stop and smell the roses across Golden Gate Park, beginning with The Rose Garden, whose award-winning roses do their best work during summer. You’ll basically see all kinds of blooms wherever you explore, but other gardens to check out include The Shakespeare Garden and the Dahlia Garden, whose vibrant colors stick around until October. 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. Do this at the Conservatory of Flowers, which really shows off during the summer months. Add on a spin on the SkyStar Wheel if you want to make out on the observation wheel (or, you know, take in the views).

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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

Free–$
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 where the Obama Portraits (on a national tour) will be exhibited through mid-August, followed by lunch and drinks in the outdoor Sculpture Garden (assuming things go well). 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 profiling Filipino artist Carlos Villa called Carlos Villa: Worlds in Collision, a “spectacular, visually magical worlds of feathers and photographs, capes and masks, bones and tattoos.” At the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) check out Elegies: Still Lifes in Contemporary Art, featuring a myriad of mediums, including painting, photography, sculpture, printmaking, performance, and installation.
You can also check out The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited at the Contemporary Jewish Museum (also an excellent excuse to split a pastrami sandwich at Wise Sons) or do 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.

15 Romolo
Photo by Balthazar Media, courtesy of 15 Romolo

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Various locations
Okay, sure, up above we rolled our eyes at the typical “Let’s go for drinks” date idea, but 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 restaurantsnewest bars to open, and only-in-SF dining experiences. Get a two-in-one experience at Members Only, a new cocktail bar and supper club where you can get oysters, steak frites, or just drinks on the upper level and explore a cabinet of curiosities and “leave a secret, take a secret” in the subterranean sister bar. Grab temaki and handrolls at Handroll Project, a new spot in the Mission from chef Geoffrey Lee of Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant Ju-Ni (you’ll have plenty of time to get to know each other better since you’re almost guaranteed to wait in line). Come alive with a live-fire menu at the Palm Court at Restoration Hardware San Francisco, inside the Restoration Hardware showroom or keep it more casual with a glass of wine at one of the bars. Kaiyō Rooftop, the new tropical hotspot with endless views on top of the Hyatt Place Hotel, is a no-brainer (because: rooftop), and no worries if you’re not ready to commit to dinner, you can also just grab drinks at the bar. For something more casual, hit up Shuggie’s Trash Pie + Natural Wine, a pizza joint in the Mission that’s all about highlighting upcycled ingredients and sustainable proteins in a space with colorful funhouse vibes. Lastly, if you’re looking for a restaurant in the Marina, Maybeck’s is reopening at the end of June with a new chef/owner situation and a new menu (don’t worry—the Beef Wellington will still be available on Wednesdays).

Black Cat
Black Cat

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, albeit it more blues than jazz; 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.

California Academy of Sciences: NightLife
Photo by Kathryn Whitney, courtesy of California Academy of Sciences

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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

$
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
Unsplash/Daniel Chicchon

Free
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

Free
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.

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

Take a stroll down Lovers’ Lane

Free
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.

Japanese Tea Garden
Unsplash/Nathan Guzman

$
Golden Gate Park
As of April, you can visit the oldest public Japanese tea garden in the US for free. Make your way 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

Free
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?

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.