Do you live in or near San Francisco? You’re in luck! This location in Northern California is known as The Paris of the West for good reason. You basically can’t run out of things to do when it comes to this city, which is why — as a resident — I’m super excited to share a variety of San Francisco date ideas with you.
My 100-date experiment allowed me to tap into an abundance of San Francisco date ideas, ranging from lighthearted first date ideas to more intimate places for an evening third date. If your an EmLovz subscriber (click here to join), you know that the first three dates are crucial when it comes to assessing whether or not the person you’re seeing could be a compatible, long-term partner. For this reason, it’s integral to the process that you follow my blueprint during these early dating stages:
- The first date should be something that is less than an hour and does not exceed $15.
- The second date should be something that is active and free.
- The third date is the date where you can pull out all the stops with a romantic, intimate dinner.
When you follow this blueprint, you end up with compelling dates that also don’t break the bank. Along with keeping your credit score intact, my blueprint also makes it easier to MegaDate. MegaDating is a dating strategy that involves dating several different people at the same time in order to diffuse energy and keep your calendar full.
When you’re not in an exclusive relationship, going on dates with a variety of different people helps you see that there is truly a lot of fish in the sea, which prevents you from settling for the mediocre. MegaDating also helps you practice your “game” when it comes to dating, so you get really good at it. I used this strategy during my experiment and came out of the experiment with a long-term, fulfilling relationship.
At the end of this article, I will provide information for dating coaching services to help you reach your dating goals even faster than you can imagine. But right now, let’s take a look at all of my most recommended San Francisco date ideas.
Let’s Start with First Date Ideas in San Francisco
The first date is all about building trust and rapport. Ideally, this date should take place during the daytime between 11 am and 2 pm. Saturday is the best day of the week to plan this date, followed by Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Sundays and Mondays are the worst days to plan this — or any — date. Why? People are already in work mode on Sunday and, let’s face it, Mondays are just basically the worst.
Date Idea #1: Warming Hut
The Warming Hut is a coffee and souvenir shop located underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. This place offers a creative spin on the otherwise typical “coffee date,” thanks to a stunning view of the Golden Gate bridge. The food and coffee are awesome and also offers some great people watching should there be any lulls in conversation.
This is my most recommended San Francisco date ideas (for first dates) because you can grab a coffee with your date and walk along the bay with views of Angel Island, Alcatraz, the Presidio, and the city of course. Here’s a few pictures of the inside and outside areas of the Warming Hut.
Date Idea #2: Starbucks in the Presidio Followed by a Walk
Here’s another way to turn a coffee date into something epic. The Presidio used to be a U.S. Army fort but has since become a massive, epic park. Throughout its sprawling 1,500 acres are plenty of amazing views (including the Golden Gate Bridge) and great smelling eucalyptus trees.
Walking through the Presidio makes this date a bit more active, so you don’t have to feel like you’re spending the entire time sitting interview-style while drinking your coffee. Being out and about on a date also helps prevent awkward silences (which can happen when you spend the entire time sitting across from each other) and provokes organic conversation. See below for an image of the Starbucks in the Presidio along with images of the short walk you can take along the black asphalt which leads to a waterfall and small pond.
Date Idea #3: Chestnut Coffee Roastery in the Marina, followed by a Walk to the Palace of Fine Arts
The Coffee Roastery is a hip, folksy coffee shop with plenty of seating and eclectic menu items. The Palace of Fine Arts is relatively close by (maybe 1/4 mile). I recommend you grab a coffee at the Roastery and then walk over to the Palace of Fine Arts. This is a great way to include some culture on a first date in San Francisco.
Do some homework and learn a bit about The Palace of Fine Arts before taking your date there. A couple of interesting things I learned about the Palace was that it was constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific exposition and it’s one of the few surviving structures from that event. It was rebuilt in 1965 and it currently hosts art exhibits, a favorite for weddings, and it’s popularity is so large that Disney built a miniature replicate at it’s California Adventure location.
Date Idea #4: Meet at the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero
If you tend to get nervous on first dates — or any date, for that matter — this date has tons of cool things to distract you from your anxiety. There are an array of chocolate shops, coffee shops and other small businesses that are fun to check out. And, of course, a view of the Bay Bridge is always a great addition to any date.
Below is an image of the Embarcadero building at dusk. Remember my first date rules- if you’re heading out for a first date, make sure it’s during the daytime.
Idea #5: Samovar Tea Lounge
There are two Samovar Tea Lounge locations in San Francisco that I recommend — one in the mission district and the other is in the South of Market (SOMA) district. This place has some crazy good bites along with its eclectic variety of teas and boasts a great ambiance for a first date.
Idea #6: Kara’s Cupcakes on Chestnut
If you and your date have a sweet tooth, this will be the perfect first date in the city. Kara’s Cupcakes has a great assortment of on demand cupcakes and pastries that are made with great ingredients and a ton of TLC. Kara’s is located near the cross streets of Scott/Chestnut in the Marina district.
Idea #7: Swensen’s Ice Cream
Swensen’s is a famous ice cream shop situated on a very steep part of Union Street. They have a ton of awesome flavors, whether you want to satisfy your sweet tooth with some traditional vanilla or chocolate, or something a bit more exotic like the lemon chiffon or Bordeaux cherry.
Idea #8: Split a Sundae at Ghiradelli Square
Along with being the perfect spot for a decadent sundae or piece of chocolate, Ghiradelli Square is a hotspot for tons of shops and 5-star restaurants. It’s located on the west side of Fisherman’s Wharf, which also happens to be a favorite spot in San Francisco, whether you’re a tourist or a local.
Idea #9: Get a Mrs. Fields Cookie at Fisherman’s Wharf and Go Watch the Seals
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — cute animals make everything better. If you’re unfamiliar with Fisherman’s Wharf, firstly, what is your life? And secondly, Fisherman’s Wharf is amazing and comes equipped with tons of sea lions who take up residence on the docks.
Although I recommend making first dates daytime dates, note that these seals come out in droves during sunset, so I’d be ok with you altering the time of day for the sake of some seal watching. If you go in the afternoon, you’ll likely spot at least a few, and you can suggest doing a later date at sunset where you can really get a show.
Idea #10: Visit Caffe Trieste and Walk Around North Beach
In North Beach, there’s a great old time coffee shop called Caffe Trieste. Make sure that you study up on the history of this cafe (if you don’t know it already) and impress the girl you’re on a date with by sharing that knowledge, letting her know you’re cultured.
Then, walk around North Beach for some light exercise and cool sight.
Idea #11: Go to Hollow Coffee Shop and Then Walk to the 16th Street Stairs
When you go to Hollow, I highly recommend ordering the Titanic coffee drink — it’s amazing. It’s a ramped up Mocha with a huge marsh-mellow in it.
After getting your drinks, you can walk down the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps for an artsy twist. Combining Hollow’s Titanic with these steps makes this one of my favorite San Francisco date ideas.
Idea #12: Jackson’s Place Cafe
This is a quaint outdoor nook in between the Financial District and North Beach. It’s got a great atmosphere and cool menu items.
Keep in mind Jackson’s Place Cafe closes on Saturday and Sunday, so this place works best if you want to sneak in a date after lunch during the work-week (if you date works nearby).
Idea #13: Any Joe & the Juice Location
Joe & the Juice has various locations in San Francisco. It’s an awesome coffee shop and juice bar that attracts an eclectic crowd and boasts a great atmosphere.
If you have a first date coming up, and she lives in the Pacific Heights district, tell her to meet you at the Joe & The Juice at the cross-streets of Fillmore/Sacramento. Below are a couple of images from this location.
Idea #14: Any of the Boba Guys Tea Locations
You can tell from this list that I love coffee, but I’m not going to leave out the tea drinkers! Boba Guys Tea is an amazing milk tea shop with tons of cool options to tantalize your taste buds.
Idea #15: A Mochi Date
In case you aren’t familiar, mochi is a Japanese rice cake that can be used as a dessert or in ice cream. It’s absolutely delicious and makes for a unique alternative to grabbing an ice cream or a quick bite. You can find some awesome San Francisco locations that serve mochi here.
Idea #16: Blue Fog Market, Followed By…PUPPIES!
If your date lives in the Cow Hollow district, grab some coffee or tea at Blue Fog Market, and then walk across the street to Allyne Park. Like the Fisherman’s Wharf, this is a San Francisco date idea that I permit taking place during the early evening, even if it’s the first date. At around 5 pm, you can watch a bunch of pups interact with each other at the park.
Again, cute animals make everything better.
Now onto Second Date Ideas in San Francisco
The purpose of the second date is to escalate sexual attraction, which is why I suggest this type of date always be active. When you’re active, you can naturally break the touch barrier and intrigue her by introducing a new, compelling experience. And, yes, you can do all of this without spending a dime.
Date Idea #17: The de Young Museum
Although it typically costs $15 for adult admission to this museum, there are several free days where you won’t have to pay to visit. Nestled in a gorgeous location (Golden Gate Park), this museum offers plenty of awe-inspiring exhibits that will make a big impression.
Date Idea #18: Lyon Street Steps
The Lyon Street Steps are the steepest steps in San Francisco — yes, really!
I recommend this if you two have established that you both really enjoy being active and she seems game for this. Make sure you let her know to wear running shoes and workout gear. Nothing can ruin the mood quite like calluses and a twisted ankle, so be prepared.
There’s two sections of the Lyon Streep Steps. The first image below showcases the top of the steps (less steep). The second image below shows the tough bottom portion of the climb.
Date Idea #19: Rent a Bike and Go Over the Golden Gate Bridge
On sunny weekend days, my boyfriend and I love jumping on our mountain bikes and adventuring over the Golden Gate bridge. In fact, nothing says “San Francisco” quite like the Golden Gate Bridge, and a bike ride is a perfect way to enjoy it!
If you and your date are up for it, try riding all the way to beautiful Sausalito. It’s about a 7 mile bike ride from the Cow Hollow District, but remember, that’s 14 miles roundtrip.
If you’re exhausted when you arrive in Sausalito don’t worry, you can always take a ferry back to SF.
Date Idea #20: Go to Dolores Park and Meet Up With Friends Halfway
Walk up to Mission Dolores Park for a gorgeous view of the city skyline and — if it feels appropriate — meet up with some of your friends halfway there. This is a great way to show her a side of you outside of the date and it can also alleviate your nerves since you’re already used to engaging with your friends.
Date Idea #21: Take a Walk Along Ocean Beach
A walk on the beach never gets old. Bring your dogs if you’re animal lovers!
Date Idea #22: Go to Baker Beach
Go to Baker Beach with a backpack full of frisbees and fun beach games. If you and you’re date are the athletic type, try running up and down the Sand Ladder a couple of times. It’s a fantastic workout that’ll get your blood pumping and your endorphins flying. Below is an image I took of the Sand Ladder the last time I was there.
Date Idea #23: Lovers’ Lane in the Presidio
This location is guaranteed to be one of the coolest hikes or jogs you’ll experience with a date. Lover’s Lane trail is relatively short, only about .6 miles (but to be honest it feels like 1 mile). This trail is either downhill or uphill, so pick your poison based on your current endurance level.
If you want to jog/hike/walk downhill, then take an Uber to the cross streets of Presidio/Pacific and find the Presidio date pictured below (third image).
If you wish to jog uphill, then start near the Presidio/MacArthur cross streets near the fire hydrant you’ll see in the middle of the road. That’s where the hike information marker is located (see first image below).
If you’re really in shape, try starting from the bottom of the trail. Once you get to the top, head over a block to the famous Lyon Street Steps. Go down the Lyon steps, then back up them, and down Lover’s Lane again. Let me know how you feel afterwards. 🙂
Date Idea #24: Lands End Lookout Trail
Date Idea #25: Church of 8 Wheels
If you like roller skating, the Church of 8 Wheels will offer an awesome time in an eclectic environment. What used to be a sprawling church (closed since 2004) is now a recreational hub that is sure to offer a unique and fun experience for you and your date.
Date Idea #26: Go Kayaking right behind AT&T Park During a Giants Game
You don’t need tickets to enjoy a Giants game. AT&T park offers an awesome spot to kayak, which will provide a tailgating experience for you and your date like no other. Be warned: you should really only do this date on a warm day.
If you don’t own a kayak don’t worry, you can always rent them from CityKayak.
Date Idea #27: Crissy Field Picnic
Once again, this offers a great view and having a picnic is always a cost-effective but romantic date.
Date Idea #28: Frisbee Golf in Golden Gate Park
Visiting Golden Gate Park is a great date in itself, but why not get a little more creative? Frisbee golf is a cool hybrid of — SURPRISE — frisbee and golf, where players hurl discs at metal targets. And guess what? There is a free frisbee golf course located right in Golden Gate Park, so all you have to do to play is show up! No assembly required.
Date Idea #29: Visit the San Francisco Botanical Garden
Another great San Francisco second date idea is to visit the Botanical Garden inside Golden Gate Park. This treat for the eyes and the nostrils features of 8,500 different kinds of plants inside over 50 acres of area.
What makes this botanical garden exist is our very unique weather here in San Francisco. We get year-round mild temperatures, an Indian Summer, Karl the Fog, and wet winters to keep the climate here to be constantly shifting. This allows us to host a variety of plants from around the world.
Date Idea #30: Head over to North Beach and Walk up to Coit Tower Together
This creative date idea will give you both some exercise and the reward of a stunning view. Beautiful murals offer some additional eye candy while you wait for the elevator to the top or climb the stairs.
Below is a photo from the backside of Coit Tower (on the Embarcadero side) to show you how high this tower goes.
And below are a couple example photos of the 360 degree views you get when you reach the top of Coit Tower. See North Beach, Angel Island, and the Golden Golden Bridge in the first image. See the Bay Bridge, Transamerica Building, and the Financial District in the second image below.
Date Idea #31: Visit Angel Island and Hike Around This National Park
A visit to Angel Island is sure to impress. This blissful destination is home to a bevy of amazing sights that make for an awesome hike (see the second image below for what you’ll see when you make it to the top of the island).
Angel Island also has a rich history, so be sure to do a little research before your date. Some things you could mention is Angel Island’s first settlers were the Coast Miwok’s, and the island was a great supply stop for many Spanish explorers.
Later in the early 1900’s, the U.S. Immigration department used the island to process thousands of immigrants from Asia, mostly Chinese. During your hike on Angel Island, make sure to visit the Immigration Station to get a glimpse of where and how these immigrants lived at the time. It wasn’t until 1954 that Angel Island transitioned to a state park. Learn more about Angel Island’s rich history here.
View of Angel Island from a distance.
Below is the view when you reach the top of Angel Island.
Date Idea #32: Take a Class Together
There are tons of free or low-cost classes that you can find around San Francisco with a simple Google search or by visiting websites like Eventbrite. Depending on your shared interests, you could pick something unique and adventurous like jiu-jitsu, a cooking class, spin class, or a chocolate-making class.
Date Idea #33: Explore the City via Scoot
There are tons of free or low-cost options when it comes to exploring the city via scooter. A plus to this option is that it allows you to naturally and innocuously break the touch barrier, since your date may have trouble pushing the scooter off its legs. Check out the Scoot app to find rentable scooters in your area.
My boyfriend and I love crusing around in the city on Scoots. Here’s an image he took of me getting ready for a ride.
Date Idea #34: Stow Lake Boat Ride in Golden Gate Park
Ok, so this one breaks the rules a little bit since it costs $22.50-$38.50 to rent a boat for an hour depending on what type of boat you want. Still, this is an amazing daytime date, with tons of great views and opportunities to escalate sexual tension. So if it sounds like the perfect option based on your budget and shared interests, go for it.
Date Idea #35: Do a Marina District Jog
If you and your date are athletic types who enjoy cardio, turn your date into a fun run. Jog through the marina district on a route where you can stop at the Palace of Fine Arts, pop in Crissy Field, and finish at Fort Point, beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. Give her a short tour of Fort Point before jogging back (see third image below for Fort Point).
This is a great second date idea in San Francisco because it’s virtually free (you could bring $2-5 to donate to Fort Point), you get to build-up some endorphins with your date, and the scenery is insane!
Date Idea #36: Visit House of Air
Fact: Trampolines are just as fun as an adult as they were when we were kids. If you and your date consider yourselves adrenaline junkies, consider working up a sweat at House of Air. This trampoline park is also located near Fort Point, so you can include it as part of the jogging date I mentioned above.
Bonus Second Date Idea: Kirby Cove
Last weekend my boyfriend and I opened up our AllTrails hiking app and realized that although we’ve lived in San Francisco for most of our adult lives, but we’ve never visited Kirby Cove. So we jumped into the car, drove across the Golden Gate Bridge, took the first exit on the right. We found a parking spot and hiked down the 1.5 to 2 miles that it takes to get to the amazing secluded beach and campground area of Kirby Cove. Check out the video below for what you’re going to experience on a sunny day.
Note that if you are thinking of taking a woman on second date to Kirby Cove, just make sure that you’ve built up enough rapport with her beforehand. Although there are other people hiking the trail, it’s definitely one of the more uncongested hikes in the Bay Area. This could make your date feel uneasy if she isn’t comfortable being alone with you yet.
Now, Let’s Talk San Francisco Third Date Ideas
Now that you’ve established a connection with the first and second date, it’s time to get more intimate. The third date is a crucial one, so make you have some good questions ready to go. This is the date where the two of you will establish whether or not you are a good fit as far as morals and values go. This is often the date where physical intimacy occurs, so make sure you have a good strategy to make it a memorable evening.
Date Idea #37: The Franciscan, Followed By a Sunset Cruise to the Golden Gate Bridge
The Franciscan is an amazing seafood restaurant in Fisherman’s Wharf. You’re already going to impress her by taking her to a fancy dinner here, but if you really want to knock this date out of the park, follow the dinner with a Red and White Fleet sunset cruise.
If you can’t stomach paying the ticket price for the Red and White Fleet, there is always a couple of independent boat operators in the Wharf area who will take you (and a group of 10-20) out on their smaller boat for $10-15 per person, a nice savings from the Red and White fleet (see third image below).
Date Idea #38: The Brazen Head
This is a small and very intimate restaurant that has an amazing menu and killer customer service. However, they don’t take reservations, so make sure you call ahead to try and schedule something by mentioning you’re going on a special date.
Date Idea #39: Off the Grid
This event happens about every Friday night in Fort Mason (and often times Sunday’s in the Presidio). If you live near the Marina/Cow Hollow districts, you could take a date here for a drink and some food. Afterward, depending on how things are going, you could go to another bar or head back to your place to close the deal.
Date Idea #40: Terzo
Terzo is a swanky Mediterranean restaurant in the Cow Hollow district that features an amazing selection of tapas. It’s the perfect spot for a romantic dinner date.
Date Idea #41: Tropisueno, Followed By a Walk to The View Lounge
Enjoy some great Mexican cuisine and margaritas at Tropisueno. Follow that up with a walk to the nearby View Lounge for a nightcap before bouncing back to your or her place. This spot is a great way to end the date because the handcrafted cocktails paired with a romantic view of the cityscape will really set the mood.
Image of the View Lounge (credit for picture: Marriott)
Idea #42: Il Casaro Pizzeria
Il Casaro is located in the North Beach district and delivers an out-of-this-world thin crust wood fired pizza. They also keep fairly late hours, making it a great third date spot. The pizza is also fairly thin crust, so it won’t damper the mood as you transition for a nightcap or back to your place.
Date Idea #43: Cobb’s Comedy Club
A comedy show is a great way to ease nerves and let a little loose on a third date. If she’s really into stand-up comedy, do a little research and see if a comedian she likes is being featured or someone who has a similar style to what she typically enjoys.
Here’s an image of a recent show that I attended with my boyfriend and friend. Kevin Nealon was great.
Date Idea #44: Absinthe Brasserie
If you’re looking for a place that was basically designed for romantic dates, look no further than Absinthe Brasserie. This French restaurant was even named one of the “Most Romantic Restaurants in San Francisco” by Thrillist. This is a great third date idea if your date lives near the Hayes Valley district.
Date Idea #45: Press Club for a Glass of Vino
Along with many other attributes, San Francisco is a place that doesn’t skimp on delivering great wine. Press Club has the best of the best when it comes to wine, and their vino is sure to impress your date. Although I don’t recommend choosing Sunday as a date night, Press Club does offer a pretty kick-ass Jazz Sunday Series with no cover charge if you and your lady are big jazz fans.
Now that we’ve covered a lot of great third date ideas that allow you to loosen the purse strings, let’s move on to some other ones for you guys that are on a tighter budget.
Date Idea #46: Fig and Thistle
This wine and beer bar offers an elegant setting and great menu options that won’t break the bank. Grab a glass of wine or beer and enjoy some light bites. My boyfriend took me here once and we loved it. Keep in mind you may have to look hard to see this place. The entrance is on a small side street adjacent to Gough street.
Fig and Thistle is also right across the street from Absinthe, which makes it a great before or after dinner drink if you’re looking to change environments a couple of times before trying to seal the deal on date #3 (yes, dinner at Absinthe and then drinks at Fig and Thistle is a third date, not a second, and definitely not a first!)
Date Idea #47: The Italian Homemade Company
The Italian Homemade Company is a cheaper solution to a fancy third date. They have locations in North Beach and Hollow Cow. It is a-la-carte and delivers some of the best Italian food you’ve ever tasted at an affordable price. The caveat here is that this is not a fancy outing, so you may be taking a bit of a risk if you’re dating someone with high expectations on the third date. I’d recommend having a wine bar (after dinner spot) selected for when you finish eating, as they pump out the food pretty fast at Italian Homemade.
Date Idea #48: Academy of Sciences
If you and your date geek out over science and animals, the California Academy of Sciences could make for the perfect third date spot. Along with a ton of cool exhibitions, there are also Nightlife events on Thursday nights that have food and drink options. This might be one of the more fun date ideas in San Francisco.
Date Idea #49: Cook Up Something Romantic at Your Place
There’s no need for a third date bounce back plan when the date takes place at your home or apartment. Although this type of date idea is going to save you some major moola, you want to make sure you still set a very romantic and elegant tone. Delish and Cosmopolitan offer some great, easy recipe ideas that will impress your date and make her happy to skip the restaurant scene to spend an evening at your place.
Date Idea #50: Take Your Date to Billy Goat Hill
This is one third date option that proves you can be just as romantic during the daytime as you can in the evening. Pack a lunch and enjoy the epic views near the Diamond Heights District.
San Francisco Date Ideas Wrap-up
Now that you know some of the best San Francisco date ideas, it’s important to remember to deliver these ideas to women in a strategic way. Enter the TDL.
A TDL is an acronym for Time, Date, and Location, and it’s what we at EmLovz use to refer to a date’s call-to-action.
When you ask a woman out on a date, you want to make sure that you have planned the exact time of day, the day of the week, and specific location before approaching her with this idea. When you do this, she won’t have to worry about going back-and-forth with you, making it much more likely for her to agree to the date. All the dates I have listed are extremely compelling as well, making it even more likely that she will jump at the chance to take you up on your offer.
Here’s an example of proper use of TDL based on one of the aforementioned date ideas:
“Hey, Becca. I know you mentioned you love history and we both like a good caffeine fix. There’s a really cool old time coffee shop called Caffe Trieste and it’s got a sick backstory I’d love to tell you about. After we grab some coffee we could also walk around North Beach for a bit. How would you like to meet me this Saturday at Caffe Trieste around 1 pm, date-style?”
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