28 Dates in 28 Days
Stumped for date night ideas? Diablo’s editors found a fun, sexy, serendipitous outing for every day of the month.
Dinner at your neighborhood restaurant may be tried and true, but use our guide to this month’s must-hit dates to break out of your routine and give your love life a jolt. From expert picks to first-person accounts, we’ve got something for everyone—and something on every day—to make this February your most romantic month yet. Read on for our favorites.
2/1 Tinder Test
No. Swipe left on the phone. Nope. Swipe left again. Tap on photo. He’s holding a Coors Light, clearly wasted. Definitely not. Crappy taste in beer. Swipe to next photo. Oh crap, did I just swipe right to say I was interested? What if he—“You’ve been matched!” Oh no. Please don’t start a conversation. Please don’t start a—“Hi hi hi!” Hi hi hi? Really? That’s your opening line?
OK, so not all of my Tinder encounters were this, well, unfortunate. And to be honest, it was only after my editor asked me to brave the digital waters—or in this case, flames—that are the Tinder-o-sphere that I nervously agreed to try the dating app. But I was determined to make the best of it. So I selected a few photos from my Facebook account, gave some basic info in my bio, and because of the horror stories I’ve heard from friends with firsthand Tinder experience, I made sure to include “not interested in hooking up.”
Within 12 hours, I had 30 matches. Eight initiated contact; I responded to seven; four asked me out; one met me for coffee; and one date is in the works.
The verdict? If you’re willing to wade through countless profiles to find “the one” (or atleast the one right now), take it for a spin. But read his bio before you swipe right, and avoid the drunk guys who like cheap beer. Happy swiping—er—hunting. Free, gotinder.com.
2/2 [expert pick] Place for Dancing
“As dancers, we have different styles we enjoy, but I’m really passionate about Argentine tango. One place I really like for an informal practice session, called a practica, is Monday Night at The Beat in Berkeley.” $7–$12, tangomango.org.
—Amar, instructor at Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Walnut Creek
2/3 Get Your Game Face On
For a healthy dose of competition, challenge your date to a match on Clayton’s bocce ball courts, which opened last summer. The city’s leagues claim the courts most weekday evenings during the year, but the courts are free for nighttime play until the spring league starts again in April. Stop by Skipolini’s to pick up the bocce ball set, grab a few drinks, and order a pie for two, which will be delivered courtside. Free, claytoncbca.org/bocce.
2/4 Love and Basketball
A high-energy Warriors game makes Oakland’s Oracle Arena an adrenaline-packed date night destination—especially when stars Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are shooting the lights out. Cuddle close, and try and land an on-screen smooch on the kiss cam, when the Warriors play at home versus the Dallas Mavericks. $45 and up, nba.com/warriors.
Enter our contest for a chance to win Warriors tickets.
2/5 Reservoir Romance
On an especially pretty day, skip out of work early, and head to the Lafayette Reservoir to rent a pedal boat or kayak. You and your date can explore the lake while getting a little exercise. If you fancy yourself a skipper, bring your own motorless boat to launch. $15 and up, ebmud.com/recreation/lafayette-reservoir.
2/6 The Art of Love
Oakland’s monthly Art Murmur has ballooned in size since launching in 2006, but the First Friday events still offer the perfect opportunity to view the works of budding artists arm in arm with a date. In addition to the überpopular original Uptown Oakland location, Old Oakland, Jack London Square, and the Temescal district all host their own versions of the event. Free, oaklandartmurmur.org.
2/7 Let the Good Times Roll
You don’t have to fly to the French Quarter to get down Mardi Gras style. At the biannual New Orleans Bash fundraiser at the Bothwell Arts Center in Livermore, artists, designers, and musicians join forces to create the ultimate Bourbon Street experience, complete with Louisiana cuisine, Hurricanes, and a Preservation Hall Experience inspired by the New Orleans club where jazz music was born. Stop by the souvenir shop with your date before joining the festivities to deck yourselves out with boas, masks, and beads. $15–$30, livermoreperformingarts.org/bothwell-arts-center.html.
2/8 Next-Level Coffee Date
Chatting over coffee is a good call when it comes to first or blind dates. But if you really want to impress a partner with your espresso expertise, head to a coffee-cupping session at Blue Bottle’s Webster Street coffee bar in Oakland, on a Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. Free, bluebottlecoffee.com.
2/9 [expert pick] Sunset Hike
“One of the best places to watch the sunset is in the Tri-Valley at the north end of Livermore’s Del Valle Regional Park. Leave your car at the Arroyo Road staging area, and hike a little over a mile to the bench at the top of the trail. Look south over the lake or northwest toward Mount Diablo to watch the sun sink over the Tri-Valley.” Free, ebparks.org.
—Mark Ragatz, chief of park operations for the East Bay Regional Park District
2/10 Lovin’ Spoonfuls
East Bay breweries host a bevy of San Francisco Beer Week events from February 6 to 15, but the best bet for date night takes place in an ice-cream shop. The folks over at Smitten Ice Cream’s Rockridge location will be freezing up four beer-infused flavors, featuring suds from local breweries. For pricing and tickets, visit sfbeerweek.org.
2/11 Friendly Fire
“Warning. Warning. Warning,” my Day-Glo plastic vest boomed as I scurried through the black-light maze, trying to find a place to hide. I’d been hit, and things weren’t looking good. Another blast shot inches past my chest, and I took off ... well, at a speed walk. Running is against the rules. So is drinking. But rules are meant to be broken, so my boyfriend and I downed a few beers before walking to Concord’s Q-Zar for a laser tag date night.
I always thought laser tag was a little juvenile, until I was crouched down in a dark corner with adrenaline coursing through my veins, defending my base like I was Rambo. My boyfriend was somewhere on the other end of the course, creeping toward the enemy base. Heart pounding, I waited—and felt my entire vest vibrate from a direct hit from my opponent, who had snuck up behind me. I fled into the darkness and ended up rushing past my boyfriend, who was laughing maniacally while firing at enemy combatants.
Am I going to win any awards for my laser tag prowess? Unlikely. Is stealth my boyfriend’s dominant trait? Nope. But instead of planting our butts on barstools at a local pub, we ran around in the darkness battling opponents decades our juniors. We emerged, although on the losing team, feeling victorious. We had broken out of our usual date night routine. Now, I just need to work on my aim. $9–$50, q-zar.com.
2/12 Classic or Kinky?
Diablo’s monthly Classic Film Series at the Orinda Theatre has a perfect flick picked for V-Day: Billy Wilder’s charming romantic comedy Sabrina, starring Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. Or if you’re into the kinkier side of things, you can catch a screening of the valentine to S&M, Fifty Shades of Grey, which hits theaters that night. Free, lamorindatheatres.com; $7.50 and up, fiftyshadesmovie.com.
2/13 Love Story
One man, one woman, tons of drama. In A. R. Gurney’s Love Letters—a Pulitzer Prize for Drama finalist performed by countless famous duos over the years—two childhood friends born into wealth and position exchange letters, notes, and cards throughout a 50-year period, maintaining a romantic attachment despite living separate lives. Eventually, the two become involved in an affair—but it’s not the happy ending you may have hoped for. The Encore Players bring it to life at the Bothwell Arts Center in Livermore for three shows (also February 14 and 15). $25, livermoreperformingarts.org.
2/14 Valentine’s Day Roundup
The big day is here, but what to do? Go on an adventure, get those endorphins pumping, or relax with the arts.
by Rachelle Cihonski and Danielle Crider
The Adventurous Couple Romantic rendezvous by land, air, or sea.
Land: Romance is on the rails with the Niles Canyon Railway. Take a seat on the vintage train, and enjoy the two-hour trip from Sunol to Niles and back, as you sip Livermore Valley wines paired with delicious hors d’oeuvres. $79, ncry.org.
Air: Sweep your partner off his or her feet (literally) with a hot air balloon flight from Napa Valley Balloons, Inc. You can request to have your trip documented with in-flight photos, so be sure to share a smooch. Once you’re back on solid ground, toast the occasion with a sparkling wine brunch at Domaine Chandon winery’s Étoile Restaurant. $215, napavalleyballoons.com.
Sea: Love is on the water this Valentine’s Day. Board a Hornblower Berkeley dinner cruise with your sweetheart. Sip the free-flowing champagne, get starry eyed on the dance floor, and watch the breathtaking San Francisco skyline pass by. $130, hornblower.com.
The Sporty Couple Break a sweat with your sweetie.
Take a swing at love—and lobs and lightning-fast pitches—in one of San Ramon Sports’ batting cages. Pitches range from 35 to 80 mph; odds are, you’ll connect with at least one—and your date. $4–$75, sanramonsports.com.
Prove the depth of your love by taking a bullet for your girl or guy at Livermore’s American Paintball Park. The paintball pellets sting a bit, but the heroic gesture won’t go unnoticed. Love can be messy, so come dressed in clothing you don’t mind getting splattered. $20–$60, americanpaintballpark.com.
Grin and Bare It
Strip down to your skivvies, and join half-naked runners for the Cupid’s Undie Run in San Francisco. Get your endorphins flowing from this roughly one-mile run, and raise money for the Children’s Tumor Foundation. $40–$50, cupidsundierun.com.
The Cultured Couple Soak in romance alongside the arts.
Love and Laughs
Fill the night with laughter watching Charles Morey’s adaptation of the French comedy The Ladies Man at the Village Theatre in Danville. The Paris setting adds the perfect amount of romance to the evening. 8 p.m., $28, villagetheatreshows.com.
Del Valle Fine Arts presents the world-renowned Cypress String Quartet, which has been performing together for almost a decade, at the Bankhead Theater. Its unified sounds are sure to provide harmony in your own relationship. 8 p.m., $28–$42, livermoreperformingarts.org.
What’s the foolproof recipe for love? Livermore Shakespeare Festival’s Sonnet Café: A Romantic Evening of Wine, Chocolate, and Poems of Passion, in Dublin, has the three key ingredients: iambic pentameter, wine, and chocolate tasting. Don’t miss a chance to dedicate a live-tweet sonnet creation to your date. Also February 13, 15, 20, 21, and 22, 8 p.m., $25–$30, livermoreshakes.org.
For more Valentine’s Day events, including special menus, visit diablomag.com/valentines2015.
2/15 [expert pick] Love Seats
“Here are three reasons to watch movies at Livermore’s Vine Cinema and Alehouse. One: quality art house films and classics nights. Two: food and grown-up drinks from Zephyr Grill and Bar next door. And three: snuggly love seats, so you can make sure that arm you’re touching is the one you want to touch.” $8–$10, vinecinema.com.
—Peter Crooks, Diablo resident movie expert
2/16 Castro in the Creek
Walnut Creek’s off-the-beaten-path Club 1220 is popular for its welcoming atmosphere, inclusive vibes, stiff drinks, and hoppin’ dance floor, which pumps out everything from Whitney Houston to Top 40 hits. In addition to a monthly calendar of events—including drag bingo and karaoke—the club offers free pool every Monday, from opening (4 p.m.) to close (2 a.m.). Free, club1220.com.
2/17 Brain Power
Want to really impress your date? Grab a pint, split some beer cheese nachos, and show off your smarts at E.J. Phair Brewing Company’s trivia night. The pub’s Concord location is the perfect place to capitalize on all of that so-called useless information you’ve seen on Jeopardy and saved in the back of your brain. Free, ejphair.com
2/18 Folk Music Fun
Berkeley’s Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse relocated to the Arts district a few years back, and a great bar and better acoustics make it one of the best live music venues in the Bay Area. Show your sensitive side, and buy tickets to the triple header of fantastic femmes: Mary Gauthier, Eliza Gilkyson, and Gretchen Peters. $32–36, thefreight.org.
2/19 Conquer the Sex Shop
For a shopping outing your partner will definitely want to join, stop by Feelmore Adult Gallery in Oakland’s Uptown district. Jazz plays in the background, and the shop’s X-rated wares are lit like fine works of art by two chandeliers, which also highlight vintage magazines and community artwork. But the best part is the staff: They encourage customers to pick up the products and talk about sex in frank and open terms—no judgment. feelmore510.com.
2/20 Ghost Hunting
If you want to hold tight all night, book the History Mystery Overnight Investigation on the famously haunted USS Hornet in Alameda. After dinner in the crew’s mess, investigate the ship’s paranormal hot spots in a small group with flashlights, digital recorders, and electromagnetic meters. Then, spend the night in the original crew’s bunks. Sounds romantic, right? $100, uss-hornet.org.
2/21 Chabot Lasers
When I was a teenager growing up in New York City, one of my favorite things to do was get friends together to head over to the American Museum of Natural History to see Laserium on a Saturday night. It was one of our first big adventures without the parental units, who wouldn’t have enjoyed the loud rock music and trippy light show.
When I heard that Chabot Space and Science Center had LaserMania, I wondered if the grown-up me would still think it was cool. I asked my husband if he’d like to check it out. He was game; but I wasn’t sure if he’d like this trip back to my teens, since he grew up in Iran and isn’t as enthusiastic about my loud rock and roll.
Despite my hesitation, my curiosity won out. We sat high up, so as not to scrunch our no-longer-teen necks, and I grabbed Fred’s hand and took a deep breath, hoping that he would like it, and I wouldn’t be disappointed.
The show we saw started with a cartoony kind of depiction to a Beatles song, and I felt my heart sink as I thought, “Oh man, this is going to be so dopey.” But it wasn’t. The cartoons were charmingly sweet and lively, and were mixed in with the trippier swirling light show that I remembered. It was mesmerizing and transported me back to my teens, reminding me how fun it was going out for the evening when that was a really big deal. Which is kinda like how it is now that I’m all grown up, and we get to ditch our parental duties and go have some fun. $14, chabotspace.org.
2/22 [expert pick] Best Brunch
“Lafayette Park Hotel’s The Park Bistro and Bar has one of the classiest, quietest dining rooms—super plush and romantic. Maybe best of all is dining on the patio. There’s a fire pit, and it’s relaxed. Chef Adam Carpenter does classic American food with great technique and inspired presentations; he uses top-notch, sustainable ingredients.” $39, lafayetteparkhotel.com.
—Nicholas Boer, Diablo senior food editor
2/23 Brew for Two
What’s better than a nice cold beer? Maybe nothing, except rubbing elbows with your crush while you brew it. Grab a wing couple or two for a fun group date, and claim your kettle at Diving Dog Brewhouse in Oakland.
Choose from more than 20 recipes, and then soak and season your way to a handcrafted brew, using the ingredients and instruction provided by the staff. Diving Dog does the hard part for you, allowing the beer to ferment on-site before it’s filtered, carbonated, and placed in kegs.
Return a few weeks later to bottle it yourself: You can even provide the brew house with a custom label. Hopefully, by the time it’s ready for sippin’, you’ve scored a few more dates. $300 per kettle, divingdogbrew.com.
2/24 Night of the Arts
The National Gallery in London and Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum present an on-screen exhibition of Rembrandt’s work at Cinemark Theatres in Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek. After the 90-minute presentation, stroll through the Bedford Gallery to observe The Object and the Void, an exhibit of four cutting-edge West Coast metal artists. $11.50–$12.50, cinemark.com; $3–$5, bedfordgallery.org.
2/25 [expert pick] Comedy Club
“You should check out Bunjo’s in Dublin because the owner is so supportive of young (and not so young) comics. Who knows—you may see the next Dane Cook or Robin Williams.” $10–$15, bunjoscomedy.com.
—Randy Wight, founding member of Contra Costa County’s Ready or Not Improv
2/26 Table With a View
My sixth anniversary is just a week away, and my wife wants to take a trip to a waterside paradise to celebrate. Not to worry—we don’t even have to leave Contra Costa to get our coastal groove on. We’re going to have dinner and drinks at The Dead Fish.
We first went to this perched-on-a-cliff restaurant, with its mouthwatering food and its jaw-dropping view, when we were still in the just-friends stage of courtship. The calamari appetizers and crab enchilada helped kick-start the relationship into the romantic phase. (The Bloody Shark—the restaurant’s tangy take on a Bloody Mary—also helped.)
Here’s the ultimate inside tip for a cozy romantic dinner: Ask for one of the private heated booths on the restaurant’s patio: You can gaze at the beautiful views the San Pablo Bay and Carquinez Strait, or you can close the curtain for privacy and gaze into each others’ eyes.
Waiter, another Bloody Shark, please. thedeadfish.com.
2/27 Tickle the Ivories
You may not have Liberace’s flair for the dramatic, but you can still impress your date with your musical inclinations at McGah’s Pub and Pianos in Danville. Stop by on Friday and Saturday nights for Dueling Pianos, when two pianists rile up the crowd by playing requested tunes—the audience is encouraged to clap and sing along. If you’re celebrating an anniversary, let the players know and you could be called to the stage and roasted with a special song or dance. mcgahs.com.
2/28 Perfect Pairing
For a shamelessly hedonistic culinary experience, book two spots for chocolate and wine tasting at Pieces of Chocolate in Danville. On Saturday nights, owner and chocolatier Michael Barnes takes up to 14 people through three stages of tastings, describing everything from how the salt is harvested and the molds are produced to the origins of the Northern California wines he hand selects.
To start, nibble on house-made chocolates ranging from mild (Sriracha) to hot (scorpion pepper), which are cooled by sweet but floral Orange Muscat. Stages two and three bring espresso and pure chocolates with pink salt, to name a couple, paired with Cabernet and Zinfandel Port.
In addition to Saturday night tastings, Pieces of Chocolate is available for private parties. $45, piecesofchocolate.com.
BONUS: Relaxation Station
Somehow, my hubby-to-be made it to nearly 30 without ever receiving a massage. How he's been deprived.
So it was fitting when, at the end of his first week at a new job, we booked a couples' massage at Lafayette Park Hotel and Spa, one of the quaintest and most romantic spas in the East Bay. On a Saturday morning, we wound our way through the regal hotel's hallways and found ourselves in the vine-covered courtyard. Tucked near the tempting heated pool, outdoor fireplace, and sauna, was the spa.
After a few minutes of relaxing with a beverage—hot tea for me, fruit-infused water for him—we were led outside and to the couples' massage suite inside the main hotel. The room was dimly lit, with soothing music and naturally inspired aromas wafting through the air. When our massages began, I could hear his therapist ask him to fully relax—which was challenging for both of us at the end of a work week and the start of a busy weekend.
But I felt the tension ease away, as the other massage therapist rubbed out the stress in my shoulders, stretched out my back, and worked down to my sore calves. I could hear my fiancee's breathing slow … and then slow some more … until it reached a tranquil, unmistakable rhythm.
He was drifting into sleep. Not bad for a first-timer. lafayetteparkhotel.com.