Leave your hearts in San Francisco – Katherine Price has found the ten most romantic things to do in the city
The Americans know how to do one thing right, and that's breakfast. If you and your partner go out for one meal a day, make it the first (and most important, of course). Enjoy the classic all-American experience to start off the day in a traditional American diner. Whether it's pancakes, croissants or french toast, you can guarantee that you'll be served up generous portions of good, hearty, cheap food to gear you both up for the rest of the day. There are great cafes and diners in every neighbourhood of San Francisco, including central areas of the city. Try Dottie's True Blue Café on 28 Sixth Street, between Mission and Market.
The beautiful scenery of Golden Gate Park lends itself perfectly to a hand-in-hand stroll. Entry to the park is free, although there is a charge to enter some of the individual gardens. Enjoy the sheer natural beauty of the park itself, wander through the tropical rainforest of the California Academy of Sciences, the botanical gardens of the Conservatory of Flowers, the redwood forest within the Arboretum and relax with a traditional cup of tea in the Japanese Tea Garden. The Garden of Shakespeare's Flowers blooms with over 200 flowers and plants mentioned in the dramatic works of the English writer. It's one of the quieter, smaller gardens but there's plenty of space for whispering sweet nothings.
San Francisco is great for outdoor cinema during the summer. And what's more - it's generally free. Take a blanket along with a picnic (plus extra blankets to snuggle up in when it gets colder in the evening) and enjoy the show. There are showings all over the city depending on your tastes including new releases, classics, and foreign films. Bernal Heights devotes itself to showcasing local talent, and some even involve the local restaurants for special deals and food-to-go.
There are also several outdoor theatre performances. Try the annual 'Mountain Play' in the Mount Tamalpais State Park, or the Shakespeare Festival. Woodminster Amphitheatre puts on three musicals (sing along optional).
Overlooking the San Francisco skyline, there's Coit Tower. For the most romantic experience, try to catch the last lift up before 5pm, when the sun is going down, and see the lights of the city twinkling far below you... Standing 210ft atop Telegraph Hill, the tower offers one of the best panoramic views over the city. Gaze over the city's most famous landmarks including the Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Street, Alcatraz and Pier 39. Adult non-resident tickets to the top of the tower only cost $7.
The Musee Mecaniquein the Bay's Fisherman's Wharf is home to a collection of over 300 20th century penny arcade games, one of the largest privately owned collections of such games in the world. Get your fortunes told, 'test' your love, take over the photo booth, peep at Naughty Marietta in the Cail-o-Scope and play the games that you can't just find in any old place anymore. Entry is free, all you need is the change to play the games.
Take a stroll or cycle across San Francisco's most iconic landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge. The world's ninth-longest suspension span in the world will give you plenty of time to canoodle to your heart's content. Even if the international orange steel giant doesn't exactly scream romance to you, on a clear day the views certainly will. It's great way to end the day, and to see the city before the fog rolls in.
The Bay Area is a great place to walk and take in the San Francisco atmosphere. Appreciate the views across the water all the way out to Alcatraz, enjoy the profusion of street performers, laugh at the sea lions huddled on Pier 39 or just watch the boats come in. Make sure you take a coat; this may be California, but the sea breezes can be icy cold, and wet weather rolls in rapidly.
Another great place for a picnic is Alamo Square Park - a stretch of greenery in the Western Addition neighbourhood overlooking the city skyline and the famous 'Painted Ladies' Victorian houses. Best appreciated along with a romantic cheese-and-wine picnic for two on one of the picnic tables dotted around.
On clear days you can see the Bay and Golden Gate bridges and the TransAmerica Pyramid from the park's centre. Despite this, the park is more private than you would think, and at the right time a quiet corner can be found to enjoy the natural beauty of what is one of San Francisco's most scenic locations.
'Buena Vista' means 'good view' in Spanish - and Buena Vista Park lives up to its name. Its location in the hills of the Haight-Ashbury and Buena Vista Heights neighbourhood is ideal for watching the sun set over the city. It's far-removed enough from the city itself to provide a bit of escapism; lose yourselves in the oak-wooded depths of the oldest park in the city.
To get a taste of proper wildermess 12 miles north of the city stands Muir Woods, one of the last remaining coast redwood forests remaining in the San Francisco Bay. The trees can grow up to 380ft tall and provide the ideal habitat for over 50 different species of bird, several threatened species of fish and various mammals. The park itself is ideal for hiking and enjoying the wild inhabitants of the woods.
If you or your partner have a penchant for ale, then the Anchor Ale Brewery offers free tours - two a day - though must be reserved in advance (reservations are taken up to six months in advance). The tour details the history of the company dating back to the California gold rush and takes you round the traditional copper brewhouse where they hand-brew their products. There's a tasting session after a tour of the building - the perfect opportunity to raise a toast to married life.
Image by Salim Virji
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