Romantic San Francisco Getaway
July 29, 2004 11:32 PM   Subscribe

Need some tips for planning a romantic night in San Francisco, specifically recommendations for a hotel, restaurant for dinner, and possibly a show or other evening activity. [mi]

Recently graduated from college and my gf from PA will be visiting California for the first time. I live in San Jose, so i know my way around the city and am pretty familiar with the standard daytime touristy activities in SF, but I'm totally clueless about hotels, restaurants, theatres, etc. We're not on a shoestring budget, but trying to stretch our money as far as possible. Probably willing to spend an absolute max of about $350 for hotel room + dinner + evening activity (i was thinking a play or something, but am quite open to suggestion). oh, and my girlfriend is kind of a picky eater, so nothing too exotic in the restaurant department please.
posted by rorycberger to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
oh, and in case anything is time-specific, we'll be there the night of friday, august 20th.
posted by rorycberger at 11:47 PM on July 29, 2004


I'm partial to the Cliff House restaurant, but I've only been there once, and it was a special occasion. Don't even know if its still there, that was in 1988.
posted by Goofyy at 12:09 AM on July 30, 2004


I really dig the "king suites" at the Diva, which is within easy walking distance of most of the major stages (and across the street from a couple of them). The rooms are pretty cool, too, and quite a bit cheaper.

You're not from around here, are you? $350 is a shoestring budget. A nice but not luxurious room is going to run as much $200 a night if you stay downtown, although you can most certainly find bargains if you're willing to compromise on room size, quality, or location.
posted by majick at 12:25 AM on July 30, 2004


Oh, and as far as food for picky eaters goes, when you're downtown:

Macarthur Park if you don't mind the afterwork yuppie crowd. Make sure to try the au gratin potatoes. One side will split easily between two people.

Delancey is worth hopping a quick metro train for, and is priced very reasonably. The desserts are perfect for date-sharing.

The Tadich is kind of seafood-heavy on the menu, but will have something excellent for anyone.

If you're not into the downtown thing, I've got plenty of other ideas.
posted by majick at 12:33 AM on July 30, 2004


The Savoy Hotel is on Geary at Jones, which means you can tell her you are just a few blocks from Union Square, without mentioning that you are even closer to the Tenderloin. Worked for me ;-)
posted by planetkyoto at 1:02 AM on July 30, 2004


Well, there might be some wiggle room on the budget; I was sort of figuring on $150-200 for the room, $75-125 for dinner, and $50-100 for a show or something. And if I find a bargain for one of those things, I could splurge a bit on another. I was also sort of planning for there being other expenses as well (drinks, taxi, etc.). I guess my *real* budget is more like $500 or so. I want everything to be nice, but we don't need anything extravagent either. Tadich sounds promising; she actually does really like (most) seafood. Thanks!
posted by rorycberger at 1:07 AM on July 30, 2004


Altho' I couldn't get a room there last time I was in SF The Triton comes recommended, is right by the Chinatown gate & does special romance packages at $169 per night. [See 'Sex in the City' on this page]
posted by i_cola at 2:41 AM on July 30, 2004


Use Priceline for the hotel room. Whenever I travel, I stay in nice hotels for under $100/night using Priceline. You can't choose the exact hotel, but you can choose which areas of the city you'd like to stay in, the star rating of the hotel, and how much you're willing to spend. Once I even stayed at the Park Hyatt in San Francisco for $45/night, but that was lucky.
posted by smich at 8:14 AM on July 30, 2004


See Beach Blanket Babylon. It's awesome and VERY San Francisco. Can't miss it, and it's not too expensive, either.

The Starlight room is good for dancing and has a wicked view. It's atop one of the hotels on Union Square.

When my husband did this for us, we stayed in a GREAT B&B near the Haight but for my life I can't remember what it is called. The B&B's throughout the city are much less expensive than hotels downtown, and quaint and more "san Francisco-ish" than a big hotel. I recommend them. Here's a link to some of them with good pictures.
posted by aacheson at 8:18 AM on July 30, 2004


I didn't really like the Triton. I found the rooms far too small for comfort -- about the size of a dirt cheap motel room -- and during a one night stay, the AC/heater, dresser drawer, and toilet all broke. The staff was really nice, the location is pretty good especially if you favor shopping, the "romance package" was cute, and the decor and ambience of the place are cool, but after my experience I don't think I'd return.

For a more inexpensive, homey stay, try the Hotel Metro on Divisadero, in my old neighborhood. It's a quick walk from the Haight, right over the hill from the Castro/Market area, quick and easy to run downtown, and there are plenty of places to eat nearby and the entire neighborhood is lit up with open wireless. You can stand in the middle of the street at Divisadero and Page and see 5 or 6 open networks. A King Foot sub from across the street is great for lunch the next day and there are decent crepes to be had at the Bean Bag a couple of blocks away.

As to Priceline, I wouldn't really use it for a romantic getaway givcen that you have no control over where they put you, but it *is* a good way to get a cheap room for a weekend with a more adventurous theme.

One thing about the Tadich, by the way: since it's smack in the middle of the financial district, the entire area will be an eerie ghost town by the time dinner's over. It's well placed for a post-dinner walk along the waterfront or a cable car ride up California Street (both winning romantic strategies, if you ask me!), but you aren't really going to find other stuff to do in the immediate area.
posted by majick at 8:42 AM on July 30, 2004


The food might not be incredible but the view and setting at Julius' Castle atop Telegraph Hill are spectacular.
posted by birdsong at 9:01 AM on July 30, 2004


Re: Priceline - What happens if I make a lowball offer and it can't find anything for me. I was thinking like $75 for a four star. Does priceline just give up, or keep searching forever? If it finds a room for $76 (or higher) is it going to charge me for that? I'm open to the idea, but don't want to have to wait on it to make other arrangements.

Thanks for all the suggestions, so far I'm thinking dinner at Tadich and Beach Blanket Babylon, but still open to other suggestions. As for the hotel, I think I'm more into the idea of a big city hotel than a B&B, but I'm not sure.
posted by rorycberger at 9:30 AM on July 30, 2004


oh, and if I do use Priceline, which neghborhood would be best to search in? I was thinking Union Square East - Embarcadero, Union Square West, or Fisherman's Wharf; other choices are: Cathedral Hill, Civic Center Area, San Francisco Airport, San Mateo, and South San Francisco.
posted by rorycberger at 9:34 AM on July 30, 2004


For romantic dinners, my wife and I always go to Bizou over at 4th and Brannan. Small, charming - maybe a bit noisier than I'd like, but the setting feels very intimate and the food is very gracious (and don't leave without getting the chocolate vacherain for dessert).

Beach Blanket Babylon is fun & raucous entertainment - not sure I'd use the word "romantic" to describe it. I suppose it depends what you're into. Theater tends to get a little slow in August. The SF Chronicle has an entertainment calendar thing that you could survey and see what seems interesting.

You might want to check out Bed and Breakfast places in North Beach . Seems like it might be lovely to wander around North Beach at night with your girlfriend. Lots of lovely bars and restaurants that you could wander about aimlessly...
posted by jasper411 at 9:38 AM on July 30, 2004


A great cheap place to stay is the Nob Hill Hotel, which is kinda on the corner of Nob Hill. The location isn't too hot, as it's sort of close to the Tenderloin. Wandering around not knowing where you're going can get you into some dicey spots. The price can't be beat. We got a night's stay in one of their Queen rooms for $55 from Hotels.com. The room was tiny -- just big enough for the bed and a wardrobe, but that made it even more charming. I think our bathroom was half the size of the room. If you're seriously on the cheap, check it out. I hope the hotels.com link works, they seem to expire quickly.
posted by zsazsa at 1:28 PM on July 30, 2004


If you go Priceline, either of the Union Square options or the Wharf is what you want. "Civic Center Area" will put you in the Tenderloin, which is bad. "Cathedral Hill" is a little out of your way. The rest of the options aren't even in San Francisco at all, they're in the suburbs (and sub-suburbs) -- in Friday afternoon traffic, you'll be over an hour's drive away from your downtown activities.

Oh, another hotel I thought was cool: The Cartwright. Small Victorian rooms, nicely restored without being too pristine for comfort. Well located. The theme is Ask Metafilter green. Good breakfast options nearby.

Speaking of breakfast: Your primo date weekend should include morning-after breakfast at Sears Fine Food even if it's not close to where you're staying. Make a pilgrimage if necessary. Picky-eater friendly, a staff like something out of a diner movie, pancakes to die for.

Enjoy yourself however you please in my hometown, but I beg of you, eat breakfast at Sears!
posted by majick at 1:46 PM on July 30, 2004


SFstation tends to have good theater/music/dance listings.

"Union Square West" could be a bit of a euphemism for "the Tenderloin", which is not so nice.

The Hotel Rex is nice - and all of the hotels in that group (click the "hotels" link in the menu) are quite good.

Try Open Table for restaurant reservations. They have a pretty good selection.

I know North Beach is considered "romantic" for wandering, but there are really much more romantic places with less tourists & porn - Potrero Hill has beautiful views of the city and some lovely restaurants & cafes. Twin Peaks is gorgeous day or night for great views. Wandering the beaches or Golden Gate Park can be a wonderfully romantic way to spend the day, and a picnic can be better than the fanciest restaurant.
posted by judith at 1:53 PM on July 30, 2004


When I visited SF with a date, the most romantic part of the whole trip was walking along the beach.
See, on the east coast we only have the shore, but the beach was much more romantic.
(ok, being funny, but walking the beach was the most romantic part - and the cheapest)
posted by milovoo at 1:56 PM on July 30, 2004


Oo! And speaking of the next day: if you want to get out and explore the city, the TransitInfo trip planner is a great day trip tool for people who don't know the vagaries of the transit system. Just don't trust anything it says about bus or metro schedules, because there are none. What it knows about routes is valuable, though.

And yes, it'll tell you how to get to the beach. Mostly, you just have to find a way to get on the 38 Geary going west, until you get to some sand. There's parking down at Ocean Beach, but you're not crazy enough to try something like driving (and thus, the Herculean task of parking) during this interlude, are you?
posted by majick at 1:59 PM on July 30, 2004


Dinner and a show together: Teatro ZinZanni

I went a couple of years ago, and it is an awesome and *excellent* show, and the food was wonderful

$125/per person (+$10/per person tip for the wait staff that comes on your drink bill) The ticket cost includes the show and the food, but not drinks. And it would be worth it at twice the price.
posted by antimony at 2:01 PM on July 30, 2004


NO NO NO to SF airport, San Mateo, or South SF. ESPECIALLY NO to Civic center... is dangerous and really really bad juju after dark. And dirty. And FULL to the BRIM with crazy, drugged out homeless people. Anything south of market after dark is a BAD idea, too.

North Beach, Union Square, Embarcadero, the Marina are all nice areas. I'm not a fan of Fisherman's wharf...too many cheap and cheesy shops. I'd try north beach first.
posted by aacheson at 2:04 PM on July 30, 2004


Oooh, a picnic would be perfect for lunch on friday, she'd love that. Any tips for where to park, where to sit, etc. at golden gate park?

[on preview] She's actually here for a week, and we'll probably be spending a night in santa cruz (a day at the least), and a day in monterey, so we've already got plenty of beaches on the itinerary. I figured we'd focus more on the tourist traps attractions while in the city. Although I've never actually been to the beach in SF, so if there's something amazing we'll be missing, let me know.
posted by rorycberger at 2:15 PM on July 30, 2004


judith - Hotel Rex doesn't have any rooms available, but that looked great.

Found the Hotel Drisco on the same site, and it looks perfect, but I haven't heard anyone mention Pacific Heights. Is this going to be out of the way, a nice/bad neighborhood, etc.? (for reference, map/directions here)
posted by rorycberger at 2:40 PM on July 30, 2004


Pacific Heights is lovely - one of the fanciest neighborhoods in the city - you'll have great views, and there are great restaurants near there. You might try the lovely-but-affordable Hyde Street Bistro for romantic dining.

Pacific Heights also has nice proximity to North Beach, as well as the Exploratorium and Presidio - the Palace of the Legion of Honor is a great art museum out there as well. A bit off the beaten track, touristwise. And since it sounds like you'll have a car, that will be easy.

Golden Gate Park has restricted vehicular access on weekends, but there's plenty of parking on the outside edges, especially on the north side.
posted by judith at 3:21 PM on July 30, 2004


Golden Gate Park: Park on Lincoln, the southern edge of the park itself. Try to stay somewhere near 9th Ave, because that's where you'll be getting your picnic goodies. There's an Andronico's and a couple of good delis nearby.

Take your basket into the Arboretum. There's a grassy expanse if you want to picnic out in the open, but if you want something more intimate there are all kinds of nooks and crannies along the paths.

As you pass through the Arboretum gates, take notice of the entrance garden. It's inspired by fireworks, and possibly one of the most striking theme gardens I've ever seen in terms of proportion, placement, grooming, and plant selection.

Alternately, park somewhere on the western edge, along the beach. Take in your picnic at one of the windmills, and go for a walk along either or both of park or beach. On the northwest corner of the park is a Safeway if you want to assemble your picnic goodies from there.
posted by majick at 3:29 PM on July 30, 2004


I grew up in Pacific Heights (actually just moved away)... My high school is a block away from Hotel Drisco and somehow I've never noticed it before, even though it seems I drove by every morning for 4 years. Have no worries about the place... I may be biased but most would say it's the nicest neighborhood in the city.

There are several good restaurants on Fillmore which is nearby - Jackson Fillmore for Italian, Galette for crepes, Florio for French bistro food, Chez Nous for French/Mediterranean small plates. None of those are expensive or fancy though. Chez Nous and Galette in particular would probably be good places to go for a nice lunch the day after perhaps?

For your dinner, another option would be to go down to Cow Hollow/Marina where there is a wealth of good restaurants. I strongly recommend Merenda on Union - the place is excellent.

As for tourist attractions, it's not exactly right next to anything, but if you have a car you can easily reach Fisherman's Wharf, North Beach, Golden Gate Park... pretty much anywhere. You could also go down to the Marina for incredible views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the bay. Good luck!
posted by swank6 at 2:26 AM on July 31, 2004


Great pac heights information there, swank6. I'd add that if you have a car you can easily reach the wharf and North Beach, but you will not easily park. I'd advise against trying to drive to those neighborhoods.
posted by majick at 7:01 AM on July 31, 2004


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