Friday, February 14, 2014

10 unexpected outdoor (and mainly free!) date ideas to impress your Valentine this February 14th

So once again Valentine’s Day is upon us. And you’ve planned…..nothing. Don’t let yourself end up in this situation. If you’re in San Francisco and poor planning is your thing, you’re in luck - some of the best Valentines Day ideas here require neither reservations nor prior planning.

If your special someone likes spending time outdoors, places like Twin Peaks and Ocean Beach are always crowd pleasers. However, if you want to go a little farther off the beaten path, here are 10 unexpected spots (in no particular order) to share with your love this February 14th.

  • Vibe: Romantic, Classic SF 
  • Neighborhood: Telegraph Hill 
  • Details: What this park lacks in size, it more than makes up for in romantic ambience. After climbing a quick flight of stairs, you’ll find yourself on a small platform that is Jack Early Park. This pint-sized wonder has panoramic views of the Bay including the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, and Alcatraz. What’s more is that while you can fit approximately 10 people in the park, nine times out of 10 there are approximately zero people up there. So, what are you waiting for? Let the smoochfest begin.

2. Lovers Lane
  • Vibe: Romantic and historic
  • Neighborhood: Presidio 
  • Details: In late 1700s, the Spanish used this footpath to walk between the Mission and the Presidio. A century later, US soldiers used this path to walk back into town to meet up with their sweethearts. The walk itself is short, but sweet. Don’t miss out on a photo opp of you and your partner in front of the Lovers Lane trailmarker, and while you’re here, why not check out  nearby Wood Line (photo below).

3. Andy Goldsworty Works in the Presidio

  • Vibe: Casual, but cultured
  •  Neighborhood: Presidio
  • Details: English artist, Andy Goldsworthy now has three large-scale artworks in the Presidio including Wood Line Mentioned above. You’ll get bonus points for all the planning it will look like you did.

4. The Ecology Trail (plus wine and cheese!)
  • Vibe: Rustic, but cultured
  • Neighborhood: Presidio 
  • Details: The Ecology Trail houses the Presidio’s largest redwood grove. On one end of the trail, you can walk to Spire and Inspiration Point. On the other end, you have the Presidio Main Post. I recommend starting your hike at the Main Post, walking to one end of the trail and then back. On your way back, stop for a glass of wine at the firepit in the back of the Inn at the Presidio.  

  • Vibe: Carefree fun
  • Neighborhood: Bernal Heights
  • Details: Want something fun and free spirited to do for Valentine’s Day weekend? Then you perfect itinerary might include a walk up Bernal Hill and a ride down the Bernal Heights Mini Park Slides. The slides are less-well-known than the Seward Street Slides, so you’ll get extra points from your special man or lady for your insider knowledge. 

  • Vibe: Carefree fun 
  • Neighborhood: Glen Park 
  • Details: For another carefree and fun idea, try the Billy Goat Hill Rope Swing. While just featured on the cover of San Francisco Magazine (check out the January cover here), this spot is still a secret to many locals. 

7. The Sunset’s new Mosaic Steps 
via @mcarrick on flickr:
  • Vibe: Quirky fun 
  • Neighborhood: Inner Sunset
  • Details: Now in addition to the 16th Avenue Tiled steps, there is a new mosaic stairway just down the road. You can combine both stairways into a fun stairway walk. Then, after you’ve burned some calories, head back to Irving Street for some delicious ethnic food.

8. Hilltop Picnic Anywhere! 
  • Vibe: Romantic 
  • Neighborhood: All over SF 
  • Details: Grab a bottle of wine and snacks and you’re off! Climb up to your nearest hilltop park (we’ve got over 40 hills - one of them has to be near you) and you’re all set for a perfect picnic for two. Whether it’s Bernal, Corona, Tank Hill, or Kite Hill, unless Karl the Fog has taken over the city, you can’t go wrong.

9. Urban Hike and wine tasting on Treasure Island
  • Vibe: Eclectic  
  • Neighborhood: Treasure Island 
  • Details: Yes, Treasure Island is part of SF, and yes there are wineries on the island. Check out our blogpost on the subject for an example itinerary that will make you look like you’ve got it all planned.

  • via @ stevedamron on flickr:
    Vibe: Romantic, beachy
  • Neighborhood: Sea Cliff
  • While folks are congregating on Ocean Beach and Baker Beach, you’ll have China Beach to yourself. A neighborhood gem in Sea Cliff, it’s quieter and has fewer visitors than its neighboring beaches. You can have a picnic or watch the sunset here, but whatever you do, definitely bring a sweater!

So there you have it - 10 ideas to try out on Valentines Day. Even with more planning next year, you might not be able to beat these great unexpected outdoor gems.



  1. Wonderful to see the Hidden Garden Steps (16th Avenue, between Kirkham and Lawton streets; accessible from the N Judah streetcar line and the 66 Quintara bus) listed as #7 on this great list. Hope Urban Hiker fans are realizing the mosaic and gardens are in San Francisco's Inner Sunset District, not Bernal Heights as noted on the original posting here.

  2. Oh goodness! This must have been a cut ans paste error when I initially wrote the post. I fixed that detail and the post should now be accurate.

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