Pick Your Own Great Date
We offer 65 of our most romantic, adventurous, and delicious date ideas so you and your sweetie can schedule the perfect day.
Broad valleys blanketed with grapevines make an ideal backdrop for your romantic day. Whether you want wind in your hair, a little indoor recreation, or a night of dancing, Wine Country’s got that and more.
Up, Up, and Away
❑ In the earliest morning light, you’ll hear a roar from the burners, then silence. You and your Valentine are in a hot-air balloon, riding the gentle wind. After you touch down in a field of wildflowers, it’s time for brunch. napavalleyballoons.com.
❑ Book a round-trip to France, or at least to Bouchon Bakery in Yountville to share the most decadent of breakfasts: a fresh-out-of-the-oven flaky, buttery croissant and a cup of fresh-roasted coffee. bouchonbakery.com.
❑ Go turbo on your shared foodie fetish with a morning cooking demonstration followed by wine at the world-class Pine Ridge winery. pineridgewinery.com.
❑ An afternoon of relaxing playtime in paradise—could that work for you? At the Carneros Inn, delicious spa treatments—say, a blood orange oil couple’s massage—come with your very own guest cottage. Ask for one with an outdoor soaking tub and a fireplace. thecarnerosinn.com.
❑ Wander around the beautiful shops of St. Helena, and treat each other to a hand-selected box of Woodhouse Chocolate. Even the scent of these chocolates is intoxicating. woodhousechocolate.com.
❑ What could be more romantic than a ride on a bicycle built for two? Tootle to tasting rooms, shops, and restaurants around the square in downtown Sonoma. The El Dorado Hotel has a new little café with house-made baked goodies and local beers and wines on tap. Then, hit the trails north of the plaza. sonomavalleybiketours.com.
❑ Swing by Gloria Ferrer for a flute of brilliant Brut Rosé and a view that will make your hearts beat as one. gloriaferrer.com.
➽ ➽ ROMANCE RATING:
“The Best Places to Kiss in Northern California” devotes more pages to Wine Country than any other region
Dinner of a Lifetime
❑ You’re going to need a few hours to experience the wonders of Meadowood’s three-Michelin-star cuisine. Start your culinary adventure with the “flowering broccoli” with aphrodisiac quail egg. Then, savor course after dazzling course. meadowood.com.
❑ Become a Latin lover—and dance to salsa, merengue, cumbia, or reggaeton—at a Saturday Salsa Night at Bistro Sabor. bistrosabor.com.
❑ After dinner at Italian hot spot Oenotri in Napa, get a room! Across the street is Avia, which offers cozy, sumptuous suites. oenotri.com; aviahotels.com. —Michaela Jarvis
In a region full of intellectuals, eco-minded foodies, and outdoor enthusiasts, there is no shortage of hip museums, farm-to-table restaurants, and scenic trails and vistas to relish with a loved one.
Kiss in a Secret Garden
❑ Stroll around Lake Merritt while geese and feather-headed herons still outnumber joggers. Hidden in the trees near Fairyland are a bonsai garden, waterfall, and Japanese garden, perfect for a reconnecting chat. gardensatlakemerritt.org.
❑ Snag a patio seat at charming La Note in downtown Berkeley, and savor orange-flavored French toast or lemon gingerbread pancakes with poached pears. lanoterestaurant.com.
❑ For some romantic competition, hit the tennis courts at the Berkeley Rose Garden, and challenge your partner to a match with Bay views and fragrant aromas. berkeleyheritage.com.
Picnic High in the Sky
❑ Unpack a wine-and-cheese picnic on Tilden Park’s Seaview Trail. Halfway between the steam trains and Wildcat Canyon Road is a table on top of the world. ebparks.org/parks/tilden.
❑ Admire lilacs, rhododendrons, and camellias that come to life in February at the UC Botanical Garden. botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu.
❑ Book a couples massage at the Claremont Hotel Club and Spa (consider tacking on an herbal bath in the Bay-view tub beforehand), then continue unwinding with sunset mojitos and live jazz on the deck at Paragon. claremontresort.com.
➽ ➽ SENSUAL SOAK:
Tantricjoy.com’s Jan Robinson suggests a hot tub soak at Piedmont Springs
Sunset, Dinner, and ...
❑ Watch the Golden Gate sunset from the Berkeley Bayfront Trail, before an intimate dinner at Eve, where husband and wife Christopher and Veronica Laramie whip up a prix fixe menu to remember. eve-berkeley.com.
❑ Surprise your sweetheart with handpicked orchids from Bloomies at Market Hall and dark chocolates from Bittersweet Café, before sharing small plates at César Latino or Adesso on Piedmont Avenue. (Adesso’s a winner at happy hour, offering free hors d’oeuvres to sample.) rockridgemarkethall.com; bittersweetcafe.com; barcesar.com; dopoadesso.com.
❑ Transport yourself to space with dinner, a movie, and the universe at the Chabot Space and Science Center. Enjoy a bistro-style dinner before snuggling up for a planetarium show. Top off the night with a telescopic view of the galaxies. chabotspace.org.
❑ Chow down on fresh (aphrodisiac) oysters at the Lake Chalet before embarking on a moonlit gondola tour of Lake Merritt, where strings of lights reflect off the placid water. thelakechalet.com; gondolaservizio.com. —Serena Renner
The Tri-Valley isn’t just an intersection of valleys but an epicenter of casual date fun, from tasting the fruit of local vines to horseback riding through golden hills to burning rubber on the racetrack.
Catch the Sun
❑ Watch the sun rise over the valley from the Pleasanton Ridge. Head northwest at the top of the ridge, through Augustin Bernal Park, to find a pond teeming with bullfrogs. You may find a prince to kiss—or better yet, give your date a smooch. ci.pleasanton.ca.us.
❑ Split a giant cinnamon roll at Denica’s Pastry Café in Dublin, as you dream about your sweet future. (Yes, those are “double chocolate orgasm” cookies in the display case.) denicascafe.com.
❑ Get an early start on a day of wine tasting in Livermore Valley, with a bike ride along vineyard-lined Tesla and Greenville roads. Tasting rooms begin opening as early as 11 a.m. Break up the booze with small plates at überhip Underdog Wine Bar. lvwine.org; underdogwinemerchants.com.
Go Head to Head
❑ There’s no harm in some friendly competition. So why not battle it out for bragging rights at 45 miles per hour on the go-kart track at Umigo in Livermore, with expert aim on the bocce court at nearby Campo di Bocce, or on the links surrounded by San Ramon’s beautiful Dougherty Valley at the Bridges Golf Club. umigoracing.com; campodibocce.com; thebridgesgolf.com.
❑ Traverse the Sunol wilderness on horseback like it’s the Wild West, taking in beautiful waterfalls, eagles, and wildflowers. Moonlight and overnight rides are also available. westerntrailriding.com.
❑ Go retro, and fly around the rink hand-in-hand with your sweetie at Dublin Iceland or the Golden Skate in San Ramon. You’ll feel like a giddy junior high kid all over again. dubliniceland.com; thegoldenskate.com.
➽ ➽ DITCH THE CAR
The bicycle-friendly Iron Horse Trail connects Dublin to Danville—and beyond.
❑ Snag a table next to the cozy fireplace and order crab cakes at Barone’s in Pleasanton. Afterward, catch a show at the new Firehouse Arts Center. Cabaret singer Wesla Whitfield performs Isn’t It Romantic? on February 13. Then, head to a luxury suite at the Rose Hotel for the night. baronespleasanton.com; firehousearts.org; rosehotel.net.
❑ Share a sinfully decadent dessert at Simply Fondue in Livermore. Dip marshmallows, fruit, and cake into one of 17 different chocolate concoctions, including white chocolate Amaretto. Then, stroll quaint First Street.
❑ Hit one of Danville’s hot wine bars for drinks, small plates, and live music. Stomp, in Blackhawk Plaza, has waterside dining and an outdoor fireplace to set the mood. stompsf.com.
❑ Test your teamwork at a couples cooking class at Pans on Fire in Pleasanton. The Valentine’s Day class includes oysters, steak with truffled mashed potatoes, and a double dark chocolate cake. You’ll get to know other Tri-Valley duos and end with a delicious feast you helped prepare. pansonfire.com. —Leeanne Jones
There’s a reason for bumper-to-bumper backups on the Bay Bridge. San Francisco offers a world-class range of cultural, culinary, and just plain fun activities to keep couples happy from morning ’til night.
Breakfast in Splendor
❑ With its majestic glass ceiling, the 102-year-old downtown Palace Hotel’s Garden Court is about as grand a breakfast (or Sunday brunch) location as you’re likely to experience. Or walk to the Ferry Building, where you can sip Blue Bottle Coffee and munch on fresh Acme bread—or spoil your lunch with Ciao Bella Gelato, Recchiuti Confections, or Scharffen Berger chocolates. sfpalacerestaurants.com; ferrybuildingmarketplace.com.
❑ Get a hit of the city’s rustic side at the Cliff House, with vistas over the rough waters (and seal-covered sea rocks) off Ocean Beach. Work off their famous popovers at the nearby Lands End Trail. Start at the Merrie Way parking lot for an easy 3.5-mile roundtrip hike with spectacular views of the Bay coastline and Golden Gate Bridge. cliffhouse.com; parksconservancy.org.
Brainy Day Fun
❑ Enjoy the museum-surrounded urban oasis that is Yerba Buena Gardens. Then, pop by SFMOMA to check out an exhibit or enjoy an espresso and the unique view from the museum’s rooftop sculpture garden. yerbabuenagardens.com; sfmoma.org.
❑ Get your date’s blood pumping at House of Air, a new play space made up of dozens of connected trampolines inside a former airplane hangar in the Presidio. houseofairsf.com.
❑ There are myriad romantic activities in Golden Gate Park, including a boat ride in quaint Stow Lake, a stroll through the Botanical Garden or Japanese Tea Garden, the view from the top of the deYoung’s nine-story tower, or a fragrant visit to the Conservatory of Flowers. sfrecpark.org/ggp.aspx.
❑ Experience the dazzling city skyline from a new perspective with a Bay cruise. Red & White Fleet offers bridge to bridge sunset and evening cruises, while Hornblower Cruises has three-hour dinner and dancing tours. redandwhite.com; hornblower.com.
❑ For some risqué, R-rated entertainment, catch the smash-hit, Tony Award–winning musical Avenue Q, featuring a hilarious cast of humans and puppets, at the Orpheum Theatre. February 15–27, shnsf.com.
❑ Avoid the shrieking kids, and book a private after-hours tour at the California Academy of Sciences, which offers a cocktail, one-hour tour, and a three-course meal at the museum’s lauded Moss Room. calacademy.org.
❑ Teatro ZinZanni’s current show, License to Kiss II: a Sweet Conspiracy, mixes fine art, fine dining, and fine confections into one impressive spectacle. love.zinzanni.org. —Ethan Fletcher
Hike to rip-roaring waterfalls, kayak the res, go tandem skydiving—or just chill at a gorgeous art deco theater. With so many choices, love-seekers in Contra Costa are sure to make sweet memories.
Kayak Quiet Waters
❑ Start the day by surprising your love with a rowboat rental at the Lafayette Reservoir or a two-person kayak at San Pablo Reservoir. It’s an easy way to abandon the rat race and drift away on still waters into scenic seclusion. ebmud.com.
❑ Sip cappuccinos, and stare into each other’s eyes at Cherubini Coffee House, an adorable café and antiques shop tucked against Alamo Creek. cherubinicoffeehouse.com.
❑ February is the perfect time of year to take one of Mount Diablo’s most scenic hikes: Falls Trail to Back Creek Trail. You’ll see several raging waterfalls and an abundance of wildflowers and wildlife. Mount Diablo Interpretive Association hosts a guided hike on February 12. mdia.org.
Take a Love Leap
❑ Feel like taking the ultimate romantic leap? Skydiving offers a killer adrenaline rush for lovers. “It’s a great shared experience,” says Bay Area Skydiving instructor Mark Fosbury. “Going up to 13,000 feet and then jumping out of the plane is the kind of thrill you’ll always talk about.” bayareaskydiving.com.
❑ Don’t forget the little things—like chocolate. My wife never tires of the sweet surprise of dark chocolate honeycomb confections from Concord’s Rachel Dunn Chocolates. racheldunnchocolates.com.
❑ Finish the afternoon with cocktails at Crockett’s Dead Fish restaurant. Ask for a private heated booth on the patio, which faces west over a steep cliff and offers a Bay view that takes your breath away. thedeadfish.com.
A Blanket of Stars
❑ Join the Mount Diablo Observatory Society, and you’ll be invited to a series of stargazing events around our favorite mountain. mdia.org.
❑ For dinner and a movie, the art deco glamour of the Orinda Theatre puts multiplexes to shame. Nearby restaurants, such as the cozy Table 24 and the classic Casa Orinda (ask for a table by the copper fireplace) pair perfectly for a nice night out. theorindatheatre.com; table24orinda.com; casaorinda.net.
❑ If laughter is your aphrodisiac, try the ribald French sex farce Boeing-Boeing, playing at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek through February 26. lesherartscenter.org.
❑ For serious romantic ambience, head to the second-floor dining room at Élevé in Walnut Creek. The restaurant’s artisan cocktails and Vietnamese cuisine set a sexy mood, and on some nights, live jazz sweetens the view of the lights on Main Street below. eleverestaurant.com. —Peter Crooks