San Francisco Chronicle
Lots to love about these romantic S.F. destinations
“I think it’s just one of the most gorgeous romantic settings in the city. You can rent a rowboat or a pedalboat, and go under the lovely stone bridge, see the waterfall, birds and turtles sunning on logs.” Chronicle columnist Heather Knight, on Stow Lake
Valentine’s Day seems made for San Francisco, which has starred in many a rom-com and earned its reputation as one of the most romantic cities in the world.
“Total SF” podcast hosts Peter Hartlaub and Heather Knight invited Chronicle arts and culture columnist Tony Bravo to the “Cupid’s Span” sculpture along the Embarcadero to choose 12 of their favorite romantic places in the city.
Listen to the podcast to hear them all, including the most couples-friendly live theater, a lover’s lane in the Presidio and some of the most beautiful spots in Golden Gate Park. Here are six of the choices:
Boating on Stow Lake
Lake will be 130 years old this year, and Knight says the boating options never disappoint.
“I think it’s just one of the most gorgeous romantic settings in the city. You can rent a rowboat or a pedalboat, and go under the lovely stone bridge, see the waterfall, birds and turtles sunning on logs. It feels like another world and another century. I think it’s a great escape from the urban feeling of San Francisco.”
S.F. Ballet and Symphony
Bravo loves the romance of San Francisco’s ballet and symphony, and the buildings where they perform — the War Memorial Opera House and Davies Symphony Hall.
“This is going to be a little bit more on the higher end where you’re going to have to spend some money to do this, but I want to point out there are tickets for under $50 at both the ballet and the symphony,” Bravo says. “A date night going to a performing art is a wonderful, romantic evening. It’s a great way to escape outside of yourself. Also, those are two incredibly romantic buildings. The Opera House is one of the most gorgeous buildings in San Francisco. We’re so lucky to have it.”
Hartlaub picked arguably the most cinematic spot in the Presidio, which feels both like the best of San Francisco and an escape from the urban core.
“I love this part of the Presidio. We’ve seen it in all the best movies — it’s in ‘Vertigo,’ it’s in ‘Dark Passage,’ it shows up for a second in ‘The Last Black Man in San Francisco.’ Hike down to sea level and you suddenly get the purest sights and sounds and smells of San Francisco. You smell the salty air and nothing else. It feels like time travel.”
Mile Rock Beach
The labyrinth is currently missing, but Knight still lauded the mystery and romance of Mile Rock Beach at Lands End.
“I discovered this place during the pandemic; I’d never been there before. … It’s about a mile-long trail to the beach, and then just gorgeous views of the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. When tides are low you can explore the coastline. There are some shipwrecks nearby you can see. It’s just totally removed from the rest of the city and stunning, stunning views.”
Grant Avenue in Chinatown
Bravo crafted a wonderful afternoon on North Beach, starting in the most colorful part of Chinatown and ending in the City Lights Bookstore poetry room.
“I love the lanterns in Chinatown on Grant Avenue.
Walking down Grant at night feels like I’m in an Orson Welles movie, like I’m not in this century — you absorb so much of the ambiance and romance of this city. It’s a huge tourist destination for a reason. It’s beautiful.”
Zam Zam bar
The Haight-Ashbury neighborhood is known for its gaudy Summer of Love symbols more than subtle romance, but this legacy bar at 1633 Haight St. keeps it real on Hartlaub’s list.
“It’s a Persian art deco bar that popped up in the 1940s. The bar itself surrounds a mural that depicts a scene with two lovers. They made the space kind of like a tiki bar where you can’t see outside, and it’s a little bit of a time warp coming in. It precedes the Summer of Love by about 20 years, and it’s been the same romantic spot through all the changes in the Haight.”