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.

San Francisco Cavallo Point View, Sausalito, California

San Francisco Cavallo Point View, Sausalito, California | Marin County Tourism Photographer | San Francisco Travel & Editorial Photographer

Fun Places To Go, Date Ideas & More In San Francisco

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:

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):

My Napa and Sonoma date idea list:

For my Marin County date ideas, read this:

Best SF Date Spots According to OkCupid/Yelp Study:

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.

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:

Online Dating Frequently Asked Questions (Photos, App Choice, Wardrobe, Messaging, Bios and More):

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