Romance in San Francisco?
July 14, 2006 11:14 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for not-too-expensive, romantic things/places in San Francisco.

My girlfriend is visiting from Kansas, and I'm taking her up to San Francisco (from Fresno) next weekend (7/21 - 7/23). What are some not-too-expensive, romantic things we could do there? Nice hotel suggestions, good restaurants where I can spend less than $50 on both of us, and general fun activites for a first-timer there would all be appreciated. I know that what-to-do-in-san-fran questions have been asked, but I'm looking at the specifically not-wallet-breaking, romantic angle.
posted by clcapps to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (29 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh - she's kind of an art buff. Any cool museums?
posted by clcapps at 11:16 AM on July 14, 2006

The newly renovated Ferry Building is lovely and has nice view onto the bay. You can get to-go things, or just a baguette and cheese, and have an impromptu picnic.
posted by cacahuete at 11:17 AM on July 14, 2006

SF MoMA, which is right by Yerba Buena Gardens, which is right across the street (Mission) from the new Beard Papa's creme puff shop. All highly recommended for a few hours. If you don't do the MoMA museum proper, you absolutely must do the gift shop.
posted by kcm at 11:22 AM on July 14, 2006

I think the bluff overlooking the Golden Gate bridge from the Marin side is an absolutely gorgeous vista and something good to take in with a loved one.
posted by mmascolino at 11:35 AM on July 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

The big museums (deYoung, SFMOMA, etc) all have free days. SFMOMA has a free evening too. Smaller (more avant guarde and also cheaper) art ideas: Precita Eyes mural tours, 111 Mina, Galaria De La Raza.

There are a million great places to eat. You'll have no problem with that.

Walks in Golden Gate Park, a trip to any beach (I'd recommend the romantic views from Baker Beach), or a view of the whole city from Bernal Hill are all free options.
posted by serazin at 11:37 AM on July 14, 2006

As far as hotels go, I've heard good things about Hotel Triton (downtown/Union Square), the Stanyan Park hotel (in the Haight), and the Washington Square Inn (in North Beach). Each of these neighborhoods are great as a home base, and they're very different.

One of the reasonably priced romantic places we enjoy is Vogalonga, which is an Italian place in the Mission.

Also, the Giants are playing San Diego during that time, and I'm sure you can get cheap tickets through the Double Play window, which is an internet application where people who have tickets can sell them. If either of you are baseball fans, it's a great time. The stadium is really neat, and the views are also terrific Bay Area views from some of the upper View Reserved seats. The only draw back is that the food and drinks there are really expensive (beer = $8!), but the garlic fries are really worth it (only if *both* of you find the smell of garlic to be romantic - otherwise, stay clear of them!!!)
posted by jasper411 at 12:06 PM on July 14, 2006

climb up under the golden gate bridge to a roof at fort point and get all kissy. another good spot for this type of behavior is in the tower at the deyoung and at the top of Coit Tower.

Jasper's hotel recommendations are spot on. The Kimpton boutique hotels are less expensive than some of the big chains and far, far nicer.

Dim sum at Yank Sing, or the big dim sum palace in the Embarcadero, would be fun. Take her to a midnight dinner at the Grubstake in Polk Gulch.

If you eat at the Ferry Building, skip Hog Island; their oysters are fine, but I had a really bad service experience there recently and have heard that's becoming the norm. Swan Oyster Depot is cheaper, better and much more fun.
posted by luriete at 12:14 PM on July 14, 2006

Watch the sun set from Twin Peaks.
posted by NoMich at 12:21 PM on July 14, 2006

if you want a really good deal on a hotel, and are into the alt/boho scene, check out the hotel that is affilliated with the restaurant/bar Medjool on about 21st and mission.
Skip the food there, but enjoy the awsome view from the rooftop bar and stay in the heart of things in a small but nice room for around 50 bucks a night.

then go to the east bay and check out the albany bulb.
posted by milkman at 12:22 PM on July 14, 2006

As for cheap and excellent food, you can't beat Chef Jia's in Chinatown. Some of the best Chinese food I've ever had. It's pretty damn cheap, too.
posted by NoMich at 12:23 PM on July 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

Unless you are a dim sum fanatic with a terribly discerning palate, skip Yank Sing. It's wonderful, but incredibly expensive. If you want dim sum and entertainment for cheap, make a morning of it and wander around Chinatown. Most dim sum items can be bought from tiny shopfronts and bakeries for as little as 50 cents. Oh, and if you happen to stumble on the Golden Gate Bakery there, stop in and get egg tarts. If you definitely want a sit-down place and you have a car, venture into Daly City and go to Koi Palace. There's always a mob of Chinese people outside, but that pretty much confirms that the food is fantastic and the prices are reasonable.
posted by synapse at 12:44 PM on July 14, 2006

The big museums (deYoung, SFMOMA, etc) all have free days.

First Tuesday of the month, I believe. And don't forget the Asian Art Museum.

For Chinese food, skip "old" Chinatown (too crowded and touristy) and head out to the "new" along Clement or Geary, north of GG Park in the Outer Richmond.
posted by Rash at 1:02 PM on July 14, 2006

If you want dim sum and entertainment for cheap, make a morning of it and wander around Chinatown. Most dim sum items can be bought from tiny shopfronts and bakeries for as little as 50 cents.

Great suggestion. I also recommend Clement St in the Richmond district.

A walk in Golden Gate park is nice. Head to the Arboretum (admission:free) and walk around and see families, tourists, flora from all over the world. Even when its crowded there's always quiet walkways. Afterwards, walk out of Golden Gate park down to 9th avenue which is alive and full of shops, grab some tea or ice cream.
posted by vacapinta at 1:05 PM on July 14, 2006

Also, look through the answers to this previous question.
posted by vacapinta at 1:09 PM on July 14, 2006

Response by poster: Wow, thanks for all the great ideas!
I think we'll definitely be hitting up MoMa and the exploratorium - and Golden Gate Park is always nice.

vacapinta: I can't believe I didn't see that question in my search - it's spot on, even down to the gf-being-a-picky-eater.
posted by clcapps at 1:24 PM on July 14, 2006

One of my favorites romantic spots is the Palace of Fine Arts. It's always beautiful, free, and it's really different from Kansas. Then if you leave there and drive across the GG bridge by car. Don't settle for the lookout at the main parking lot--go through the little tunnel headed west and loop around to the high lookout (I think it's marked on this Headlands map, as Battery Spencer.) The view will take her breath away. Then get back in the car and drive 12 miles north to another amazing not-in-Kansas thing, the giant redwoods of Muir Woods. The whole thing will take maybe a hour and a half, and with that and the MoMA and some great food, she'd guaranteed to be swept away.
posted by tula at 1:35 PM on July 14, 2006

synapse: "If you definitely want a sit-down place and you have a car, venture into Daly City and go to Koi Palace. There's always a mob of Chinese people outside, but that pretty much confirms that the food is fantastic and the prices are reasonable."

YES YES YES. Koi Palace is the best Dim Sum around.
posted by kcm at 1:43 PM on July 14, 2006

I'm sure Daly City has great dim sum, but driving to Daly City when they have only a few days in SF does not really strike me as romantic.

The southwest corner of Dolores Park, at 22nd and Church, is my favorite place in the city. Beautiful park, beautiful view of the city skyline. I like it much more than GG Park. There are also a bunch of art galleries on Guerrero out that way, though the quality is highly variable.
posted by occhiblu at 1:50 PM on July 14, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks to that other thread, I just got a $100/night room at the Harbor Court Hotel via Priceline. It looks really awesome - anyone have experience with it?

Also, thanks for all the gallery suggestions, everyone - the lady's going to LOVE it.
posted by clcapps at 1:58 PM on July 14, 2006

Seconding 111 Minna it's always a good time. (Becomes a club later on weekend nights.)

Also check out the Squid List
posted by bitdamaged at 2:20 PM on July 14, 2006

For not-too-expensive dining, I'd suggest Frjtz in Hayes Valley. They've got yummy crepes and delicious, delicious fries. It's a bit casual, but definetely cozy and candle-lit at night (with a nice heated patio in the back), and a great place for snuggling up with someone over a cold beer and good food. It's also a great neighborhood to stroll around in -- with some (free) art galleries, a little park, and tons of cute shops.

Il Borgo is also in the area. It's a bit more expensive but probably within your price range (if you don't go too crazy with the Chianti, of course). It's adorably homey and romantic, and the Italian food there is amazing.
posted by logic vs love at 2:38 PM on July 14, 2006

Thanks to that other thread, I just got a $100/night room at the Harbor Court Hotel via Priceline. It looks really awesome - anyone have experience with it?

No...but thats a great location and its a Kimpton hotel which is an awesome chain. So I'd say you're all set. :)

*bookmarks hotel for future guest recommendation
posted by vacapinta at 3:22 PM on July 14, 2006

You should go to the Japanese Tea Gardens in golden gate park (right next to The De Young, so you could a two-fer). It's cheap and beautiful and has the coolest bridge I have ever seen.

Also, this isn't in San Francisco, but one of the most romantic things I've done was go to the steam trains in Tilden Park in Berkeley. You ride on a little train powered by steam through the woodsy hills, and it's just the greatest.
posted by ORthey at 3:35 PM on July 14, 2006

I've stayed at the Harbor Court Hotel, it's great. You're an easy walk from there to the Ferry Building. It's fun for shopping, the Slanted Door is great, and you can take a ferry to Sausalito which sounds a bit cheesy but is totally nice. Or go to Alcatraz, also much nicer than you might think particularly on a quieter weekday. The Ferry is much more fun if there's no fog.
posted by Nelson at 3:48 PM on July 14, 2006

Woot. I worked on the branding for The Harbor Court. The rooms vary, but it's got an amazing location -- right across from the bay bridge, looking out to Treasure Island, next door to the swankest YMCA in the US (with access for guests if you guys want to work out last I checked).

You'll be less than a block from the F line. That's a romantic time. Take the old F-line down to the Castro, take in a classic movie.

Skip Koi Palace because of the price. Yak Sing is expensive as hell, but you'll be across the street from Yak Sing to go, so you can grab a few tasty bites without doing the whole deal.

The F line (going the other way) will also take you to Fisherman's Wharf, which is not so romantic and is a tourist trap, but at the end of the strip, you can walk up the hill to Fort Mason and get a fantastic view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Harbor Court is also very close to the Embarcadero BART station, which is a good thing for checking out the city.

The first Thursday of every month (I believe, worth double checking) are the gallery tours in SF. You can hit Union Square and wander the small galleries for free and see some pretty amazing works with super high pricetags attached. It's romantic in a city exploration sort of way.

I'll wave hi to you from the sidewalk, as I pass Harbor Court twice a day on my commute ;)
posted by Gucky at 3:51 PM on July 14, 2006

If you have a car, go all the way up Geary Street (west) out to Ocean Beach and have a drink at the Cliff House (they have beautiful ocean views). Then take the Great Highway all the way south to the end (keep going past Sloat Blvd ), turn right when the Great Highway deadends, and drive up to Fort Funston (I think it's the first right on John Muir Drive). The view is AMAZING out there. A hanggliding school teaches there also, so there are always tons of hanggliders out if there is any wind at all. It's one of my favorite spots. (Bring a coat).

And I definitely second the Marin Headlands - all the way up to the top, Hawk Hill. (A lot of weddings happen up there - it's that beautiful...)
posted by gt2 at 11:19 PM on July 14, 2006

Coit Tower has awesome murals inside -- if she's an art buff -- and it doesn't cost anything to look at the murals and the view. Then you can walk down the hill to the North Beach neighborhood and get some Italian food or just ice cream and coffee. (Restaurants are a bit overpriced, but you could come in under $50 for sure.) You could go to City Lights bookstore, which is also right there. The whole place feels like what I imagined San Francisco to be before I got here -- the coffee houses where Jack Kerouac sat, etc.
posted by salvia at 10:31 AM on July 15, 2006

And if you decide to walk in Golden Gate park and then wander down 9th Ave, pop into the Arizmendi Bakery for some fantastic baked goodness. (I think it's by Irving St, 4 blocks up from the park.)
posted by Arthur Dent at 10:25 PM on July 15, 2006

All excellent suggestions here but let me put in a good word for the Monet exhibit at the Palace of the Legion of Honor. It literally made me cry to see the "Waterlilies" in person. There are many other paintings in the collection that are just breathtaking. Seriously, it's well worth the $15 ($5 more than regular admission) it costs to see it and the rest of the museum. Bonus: the Palace is set in a very view-a-rific part of San Francisco with lots of places to sit and picnic and you may even find free parking; we did! I hope you'll consider it, but no matter what you do, may you and your GF enjoy your visit to SF.
posted by Lynsey at 11:11 PM on July 15, 2006

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