You may have been spending a lot of time with your significant other in recent months, or only seeing your romantic interest virtually. Whatever the case, February is an ideal month to add a little spice to your love connections with these fun, amore-filled activities.
1. Stop and Smell the Flowers
Botanic gardens abound in the East Bay, featuring aromatic attractions all year long. (Due to COVID-19 restrictions, many locations require advance online reservations.) Among the winter-blooming plants at The Gardens at Heather Farm in Walnut Creek are bright daffodils, found throughout the six-acre property, and flowering camellias lining the back of the Meadow and Shade Gardens. Admission is free, but donations in support of the nonprofit are appreciated. Other idyllic options include the Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Regional Park and the University of California Botanical Garden in Berkeley. gardenshf.org, ebparks.org, botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu.
2. Try a Tango for Two
While hitting the dance floor at a nightclub may not be in the cards right now, you and your partner can still show off your moves—or learn some new ones. Explore the sensual Argentinian tango under the instruction of Mira Barakat at a socially distanced private lesson in her North Oakland studio ($90 an hour for couples) or via Zoom. Sample other online courses such as Bay Area instructor Lisette Perelle’s tango technique group classes on Zoom every Sunday ($10 per person) or the Thursday couples tango class taught by “Legends of Tango” Judy and Jon ($15 per couple). Make sure you have wood floors and room to move in your home dance space. mirabarakat.com, lisetteperelle.com, tangowithjudy.com.
3. Put Love on the Menu
Beloved special-occasion restaurants such as Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Esin Restaurant and Bar in Danville, and Va de Vi Bistro and Wine Bar in Walnut Creek may jump to mind when planning a date night in typical times. For those looking for other romantic spots with outdoor dining options, Lafayette’s Postino Restaurant dishes up Italian fare in an elegant setting, while Rêve Bistro serves French comfort food on its charming patio. For more inviting open-air dining, head to Pizzaiolo in Oakland for pasta and wood-fired pizza. chezpanisse.com, esinrestaurant.com, vadevi.com, postinorestaurant.com, revebistro.com, pizzaiolooakland.com.
4. Book a Private Chef’s Table
If you’d rather savor a top-quality meal at home, consider hiring a personal chef for your special night. Oakland-based company The Heirloom Chef dishes up four-course couples’ dinners, based on seasonal, prearranged menus. The freshly prepared meals are then dropped off at your door. Find other private chefs creating custom-made dishes from all over the globe at Cozymeal or Private Chefs of the SF Bay. Prices vary. theheirloomchef.com, cozymeal.com, sfprivatechefs.com.
5. Raise a Glass
Toast your future together at one of Livermore’s 55 winery tasting rooms (reservations may be required; operational status subject to current county health regulations). You’ll find award-winning wines, welcoming patios, and sweeping pastoral views. Many wineries are also hosting private and virtual tastings. For the latest information on the area’s wineries, check the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association website. lvwine.org.
6. Get a Room
Sticking close to home doesn’t have to mean sleeping at home. Surprise your sweetheart with a stay at one of the East Bay’s finest hotels. Take advantage of the Romantic Escape at the Park package at the Lafayette Park Hotel and Spa, and indulge in a night of European elegance, along with chocolate-covered strawberries and a bottle of champagne. The Purple Orchid Wine Country Resort and Spa promises sublime lodging in Livermore, including modern country-style suites with personal fireplaces. Drink in views of the San Francisco Bay from the Claremont Club and Spa, A Fairmont Hotel. The palatial hotel, located in the Berkeley Hills, offers luxurious contemporary accommodations that reflect its rich history. lafayetteparkhotel.com, purpleorchid.com, fairmont.com/claremont-berkeley.
7. Cuddle Up at the Drive-In
Experience a movie date from the comfort of your car at Concord’s West Wind Drive-In. The all-digital cinema plays first-run films, and you can bring your own snacks (think treats that work well in close quarters). If you prefer to chill on the couch, consider a classic romantic comedy like Sleepless in Seattle, costarring the East Bay’s own Tom Hanks. westwinddi.com/locations/Solano.
8. Show Your Sweets Side
Forget those grocery store candy boxes. For sweets that impress, try locally made chocolates from Berkeley’s Casa de Chocolates, truffles from Barlovento in Oakland, or assorted treats from Danville Chocolates. For a sugar-free indulgence, pick up a few of Elizabeth W’s bath fizz hearts at Whim House in Danville, but be warned: The foil-wrapped hearts look good enough to eat. casadechocolates.com, barloventochocolate.com, danvillechocolates.com, whimhouse.com.
9. Take to the Water
This chilly season doesn’t scream for an aquatic adventure, but nothing says romance like a sunset cruise. Bundle up and check out Passage Nautical’s private yacht charters on the San Francisco Bay. Boats depart from Jack London Square in Oakland, with rates starting at $625 for a four-hour charter (social distancing and face coverings required for the duration of the ride). For a truly unique encounter, try the North Bay Bioluminescence tour from Blue Waters Kayaking. Take an evening paddle on Tomales Bay and witness an amazing marine light show; fares are $118 per person. passagenautical.com, bluewaterskayaking.com.
10. Walk a Romantic Route
East Bay parks promise natural wonders and refreshing hikes at sites throughout the region. Find spectacular panoramic views of the Bay Area along the paved Nimitz Way Trail to Inspiration Point at Tilden Regional Park (the trail can get crowded so avoid peak times). For another picturesque hike, complete with waterfalls, trek to Little Yosemite, a natural gorge in Sunol Wilderness Regional Preserve. Looking for an urban stroll? Explore the new Township Commons park at the Brooklyn Basin development in Oakland and revel in expansive open space and waterfront views of Alameda and San Francisco (grab some delicious takeout from Rocky’s Market for a mid-walk nosh). ebparks.org, rockysmarket.com.