Creative Date Ideas San Francisco: Date Ideas in SF By Neighborhood, Occasion Including Outdoors, Drinks, Hikes, Walks, Coffee, Games, Fun Date Night Ideas
Online dating is tough, many folks struggle with getting likes, turning those likes into matches and then engaging with said matches in conversations with the hope of it leading to a date.
(Read this prior post to get a glimpse into what dating in San Francisco is like).
If you are new to town, don’t get out much or are unfamiliar with a neighborhood, planning a date can be difficult. Private events, noisy bars, crowded cafes with nowhere to sit, sold out shows and more are the last things you want to encounter on a first date.
As an online dating photographer and consultant here in the San Francisco Bay Area, my offerings go beyond photos to include wardrobe, bio/prompt critique, photo analysis, conversation starters, app strategy and first date ideas. If you are looking for social distancing date ideas, check out my other list.
Here are my favorite places around San Francisco neighborhoods for nearly every occasion, lifestyle on those early dates.
Please note there are many, many other places I recommend beyond those listed below including more intimate locations, seasonal or weekly one-off events, hidden gems and date ideas beyond early dates – these are exclusively available for my clients.
For my Marin County, Sonoma and Napa date ideas scroll to the bottom of the page.
For more tips on online dating first date etiquette, read this post: https://eddie-hernandez.com/online-dating-first-dates/
Andytown Coffee + Salesforce Park Walk
Snowy Plover Drink (Pellegrino, crushed ice, espresso, brown sugar-based syrup and homemade whipped cream) is a great choice on a warm day in the city. There is even a mini-tram ride to reach the park as well as a center courtyard area with board games and snack bar with beer and wine during select times.
Boba Guys Boba Tea + Hayes Valley Neighborhood Walk
Lots of boutiques, murals, green space and a biergarten make this area a popular place to walk around.
Philz Coffee Truck Marina + Wave Organ – Marina Green / Crissy Field
Great area to walk and explore on a clear day. Views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Angel Island and the San Francisco skyline.
Victorian House Tour + Ice Cream Bar Sundaes – Cole Valley
Many of the popular Victorian homes are located on Waller, Cole and surrounding streets of the Upper Haight and Cole Valley. After a long walk, there is nothing quite like a refreshing sundae or scoop of ice cream at this old school ice cream bar.
Spark Social SF Drinks, Food and Games – Mission Bay
For those that like games, food trucks and people watching, this is a popular date spot. Activities include mini-golf, fire-pits and areas to watch sporting events.
Church of 8 Wheels, Alamo Square
Fun, festive, funky rollerskating rink inside a converted church.
Bear vs Bull Cocktail and Craft Beer Bar, Alamo DraftHouse – Mission District
Bars like this make going to the movies tolerable. A great craft beer selection as well as delicious cocktails in this dimly lit bar at the Alamo make it a destination place worth checking out. Don’t forget to check out the arcade games upstairs while there.
Holy Water Craft Beer Bar and Cocktails – Bernal Heights
Craft beer bar and cocktail bar, this establishment does both well which is rare even in San Francisco. Favorite cocktail on the menu is the Zombie (limited to two person). If you like a good stiff cocktail, this is the drink for you.
Land’s End Hike, Labyrinth + Cliff House
Scenic hikes that lead to the Legion of Honor, Labyrinth, beach or Cliff House, this set of trails is popular for outdoor dates. Cozy up at the Cliff House with a post cocktail drink like a Blood Mary or Irish Coffee and some homemade, warm popover bread (best in the city).
San Francisco Ferry Building Farmer’s Market
There are endless sampling of food and snacks at the Farmer’s Market as well as the permanent vendors in the building. Some favorites are the empanadas and pork buns. If craving Blue Bottle, go to the outside location for shorter lines.
Mr. Tipple’s, Live Jazz – Civic Center
This popular jazz club is no longer a secret for locals in SF. Come early and have backup plans because this place fills up.
El Techo Rooftop – Mission District
This popular destination in the Mission fills up quickly on weekends and after work on warm days so plan ahead. With great margaritas, this place is the place to be when temperatures hit 70 and skies are clear in the city.
San Francisco Crosstown Trail
Blackbird Cocktails – Castro
This unpretentious cocktail bar is a perfect place for first dates.
Dandelion Chocolate Tour – Mission District
For you chocolate aficionados, Dandelion offers chocolate samples, chocolate beverages and tours (these fill up fast so make reservations in advance).
Padrecito – Cole Valley
The upstairs bar area is a cozy spot which fills up on evenings and weekends. Favorites here include the margaritas, chips+salsa and the duck tacos.
Radhaus: Bavarian Biergarten – Fort Mason
Limited outdoor seats are actually less coveted than the indoor seats which feature big, beautiful window views of the bay and Golden Gate Bridge.
Jackson Place Cafe – Jackson Square
Hidden exposed brick courtyard cafe only open during business hours during the week. Popular among coffee breaks with colleagues, investor meetings and first dates.
Club Deluxe – Haight-Ashbury
Great live music venue often overlooked on the Haight. With rotating but monthly repeating bands, this place has music all day long in 3 hour sets. Band to check out here is Barrio Manouche (flamenco gypsy jazz) and can’t go wrong with the fresh squeezed greyhound drinks.
Buena Vista Cafe – Fisherman’s Wharf / Pier 39
Upgraded coffee from Graffeo and handmade whipped cream make Irish Coffees the perfect drink when you realize you underdressed and are freezing cold with your family on vacation. A destination place even for locals.
Absinthe – Hayes Valley
Mostly known as a neighborhood restaurant, this is one my favorite places in San Francisco whether grabbing a pre-show meal, having a New York dinner snack (cocktail and fries), meeting with with friends or people watching during the Dickens Fair and Edwardian Ball this place is pretty versatile and classic.
Samovar Afternoon Tea – Yerba Buena Gardens
Nothing beats rainy day tea from this location. Also, great for warm days outdoors as well.
Alembic – Haight-Ashbury
Great bar in the Haight known for the cocktails, craft beer selection and bar snacks. I am a big fan of bars with small, shared plates for snacking or larger plates if you get hungry – having options is key. Dimly lit and a variety of areas to sit including the back and side booths for a more intimate feel.
Blue Bottle Coffee and Downtown San Francisco Architecture Tour
A do-it-yourself walk will reveal how much effort your date planning skills.
Ocean Beach Walk / Golden Gate Park Bike Ride on Sundays
A large section of the park is off-limits to cars making it easier to ride bikes around the park. Stops to see the Bison as well as a stop at Park Chalet or Trouble Coffee or bites at Hook Fish are a great way to round out a date.
Best Singles Bars in San Francisco
There are no right answers. It depends on your age, lifestyle, fashion sense, demographics, what you seek, height, day of the week etc. Everything from lighting, available seats, what’s on the menu, time of day, day of week, where you sit, what you order, who you are with all factor into the recommendations I customize for each client. Some bars are better for singles who are with friends, some bars in San Francisco are better for those in pairs or small groups.
Without over analyzing this too much, you cannot ignore things like volume, personality and just randomness each night. There will be hit or miss nights as crowds are inconsistent. Go to see bands you want to see. Go to bars you like based on the drink offerings, specials, ambiance, location from work/home or article you read. Express curiosity, passion etc. Also, you can’t just expect to spark up a conversation from nothing.
The more traveled you are, the more interests you have, the more you explore your city, surrounding areas, country, world, the more you listen to podcasts and watch shows or diversify your interests, the easier it is to carry conversations.
If you have no hobbies, have no interests, don’t get out much and don’t have good energy, it will be tough to convince anyone no matter how good the male/female ratios are (I know the best ones in SF), that they should spend 5 minutes talking to you for any reason.
Check out guides like SF Fun Cheap for last minute festivals, fairs, openings, deals, pop-ups and more.
East Bay Date Ideas (Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda): https://eddie-hernandez.com/east-bay-date-ideas/
My Napa and Sonoma date idea list: https://eddie-hernandez.com/sonoma-and-napa/
For my Marin County date ideas, read this: https://eddie-hernandez.com/marin-county-date-spots/
Best Morning After Brunch: Nopa
No-Judgement Makeout Spots: El Rio
Fitness & Wellness Dates: Dogpatch Boulders
Best Hotel Bars: The View
Cheap Eats: La Taqueria
Photo Friendly Spots: Foreign Cinema
Spots That Spark Conversation: California Academy of Sciences
Spots Where Drinks Could Turn Into Dinner: Trick Dog
Best Themed Bar: Smuggler’s Cove
About Eddie Hernandez
Eddie Hernandez is a professional photographer specializing in natural, candid online dating photos. Featured in the SFGate, ABC7News, East Bay Express, Salon; contributor to Good Men Project, Plenty Of Fish and Meddle. In addition to photos, he provides guidance around app choice, bio optimization, messaging techniques, wardrobe advice and date ideas. https://eddie-hernandez.com/contact/
Dating Profile Critique
For those of you who are remote or virtual dating help and are looking for an online dating profile critique you can read more about my services here.
For other helpful online dating tips check out my blog for more helpful advice: https://eddie-hernandez.com/blog/
Online Dating Frequently Asked Questions (Photos, App Choice, Wardrobe, Messaging, Bios and More): https://eddie-hernandez.com/online-dating-frequently-asked-questions/
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