Updated: June 2, 2014
Dating: it can be hard on both the psyche and the liver. If you’re trying to find love, but are sick of dimly lit bars and rejection, try embarking on an outdoor adventure with your potential partner. The upsides of doing something active and outdoors are endless: you seem cool and original; you get to wear sunglasses; you can test your date’s physical and mental fortitude and you are already having fun so it really doesn’t matter if all they talk about is their ex. If, in the end, you can’t find someone you feel all mushy in the stomach about, you can always take yourself on any of these dates.
1. Bike Ride to Tiburon
The ride across the Golden Gate Bridge and down through Sausalito on to Tiburon is well-worn for hardcore cyclists. But, despite the fact that you’ll probably be seen perspiring in front of your date, the romantic views and entertainment make this activity a great date idea too. Take snacks and helmets and make stops whenever the spirit moves you. Check out MapMyRide for a good route. Some recommendations: along the waterfront in Sausalito you can get a great view of the city (if the fog hasn’t devoured the skyline). The bike path off of Bridgeway just outside of Sausalito goes through a pretty estuary so you can stop and look at the birds. Once you get to Tiburon, if you like your date, get a margarita at Guaymas and take the ferry home. If you don’t — or you want an extra challenge — get back on your bike and race the whole way back.
2. Ferry Ride to Angel Island
Take a picnic on a ferry over to Angel Island. The boat ride itself is fun, with views of the city and Alcatraz. Make sure you sit outside, even if the wind threatens to blow you off! Once on the island, get away from the main picnic area and find a more secluded spot with a view. You can also always bring bikes and ride around the entire island. Advanced daters: if you really like the person you are going with, you can reserve a campsite and stay the night!
3. Outdoor Slides
If you’re looking for something a little less planned and with fewer people, try the secret (okay, not even barely a secret anymore with 419 Yelp reviews) Seward Street Slides in San Francisco. These concrete slides were apparently built in this out-of-the-way park in 1973. There are two challenges: the very hilly hills you have to climb to get there (so be prepared for a little awkwardness in front of your date) and the neighbors who aren’t thrilled about the park next door. Bring some old cardboard boxes and don’t tell your date where you are going (but make sure he or she knows it isn’t a fancy restaurant—concrete slides can be rough on nice outfits). And don’t scream too loudly or leave any trash. Happy neighbors means slides for other people’s first dates and maybe even your second dates.
4. Take Muni to Ocean Beach
The fact that San Francisco sits on the edge of the ocean makes beach-going a natural outdoor date idea. The journey itself is simple, fun and adventurous. Depending on which beach you want to end up at, you can get on either the L or the N line of the Metro (both stop at the Embarcadero and all the downtown stops). If you take the L, you end up on the south end of Ocean Beach, by the zoo, where the water is fairly wild and it’s mostly frequented by surfers. If you time it right, you can watch some amazing surfing. Get a hot chocolate at Java Beach at the San Francisco Zoo, take off your shoes and walk down to the water. If you want to keep the date going, amble around the zoo, or walk along the beach all the way to Judah and hop on the N line to get home.
Option B is to start on the N line and stop at Trouble Coffee and walk north to the Golden Gate Park and the Cliff House or south to the zoo (about 2 miles). Either way, bring binoculars for the surfers and the birds and warm clothes. Extra credit: a blanket to sit on and cuddle and a thermos of hot toddies.
5. Hunt for Art at The Bulb
Take your potential true love on a walk through a one-time landfill, now a park called the Albany Bulb, in Albany! Do you want a partner who likes adventure, beauty and a little risk-taking? Then this is the perfect date for you. Explore the park, search for art, check out a book from the library and make up stories about how you will move here together after the apocalypse.
6. Go Tide Pooling in Bean Hollow
If you have access to a car and a good windbreaker, head south down Highway 1 to Bean Hollow State Beach, three miles past Pescadero. Tide pooling is a good activity to gauge the true character of a date. If you bring someone who starts filling pockets with starfish, turn right around and head home. But if he or she is taking only pictures and leaves only footprints, you can head to the Pigeon Point Lighthouse Youth Hostel, get a room for the night and reserve 15 minutes in the hot tub overlooking the ocean.
7. Hit the Farmers Markets
Knock out grocery shopping and dating at the same time! Ride your bikes to the Alemany Farmers Market, which happens every Saturday off of Alemany Boulevard in San Francisco. You can get locally grown produce, eggs, honey and more, organic and not-organic. Once you fill up your basket, grab a pupusa from one of the hot food vendors and peruse your prospective mate’s choices. If all he or she bought was one orange, there’s probably a significant other lurking somewhere and you should abandon the whole thing immediately. But if you approve of the purchases, here’s a chance to show off your cooking skills as you prepare a feast for lunch. This is how true love always starts in movies.
– By Lizzy Acker