As the weather cools and we stand a little closer, there's no denying that autumn is the season when summer flings fall in love. It's time to break out that new wardrobe and hit the town (and country) with one of these romantic dates near San Francisco.
Sweep Her off Her Feet
An autumn bike ride has it all -- colors, leafy smells, and a breeze that keeps you so fresh and so clean. There are plenty of great bike rides through the Bay Area, but the Marin Headlands trails have some of the best views. For a trip that's about 9.5 miles, start on the Marincello Trail, followed by the Bobcat, Miwok, and Old Springs trails.
Directions: Take Golden Gate Transit bus 70 to Marin City-Donahue & Terners and transfer to bus 17 to Tam Junction-Shoreline & Almonte. From there bike to the trail head.
On This Date, We're Just Gonna Wine
Autumn is the perfect time to sip, stomp and savor in California's beautiful vineyards. This fall, make time for one of the many festivals or farm tours, which come in every flavor. Go gourmet at Lava Cap Winery, where the tastings are free and there's plenty of cheese, meats and sweets to build a picnic. Or maybe you want to show off your fancy footwork at McGrail Vineyard and Winery's Grape Stompin' and Wine Sippin'. Everyone walks away with a token "grape-foot" tee, but glory goes to the fastest stomper (fullest bottle in 30 seconds wins a prize).
McGrail Vineyard and Winery's Grape Stompin' and Wine Sippin.' Everyone walks away with a token "grape-foot" tee, but glory goes to the fastest stomper (fullest bottle in 30 seconds wins a prize).
The Love Boat
Row (or kayak) a boat on the Petaluma River. Rent your vessel from Clavey Paddlesports. The company also offers tours that take you through the marsh into bird-watching territory, and then to an old duck hunter's cabin for lunch. Back onshore, find your zen (or at least your buzz) at Lagunitas Taproom and Beer Sanctuary (1280 N. McDowell Boulevard), where live music rocks out every day the joint is open. Although the taproom is not open Mondays and Tuesdays, free tours of the brewery are offered daily.
Directions: Take Golden Gate Transit Bus 101 to Fourth Street & C Street.
Bring Out Your Wild Side
There's nothing like a petting zoo and some afternoon sunshine to bring out the kid in anyone. With hiking trails, picnic spots and a miniature farm, the Tilden Nature Area provides hands-on fun for all.
Directions: Take BART to Rockridge and then catch AC Transit Bur #67 in to the Canyon Drive. Or take BART to Downtown Berkeley. From there, you can either take the AC Transit Bus #67 to Grizzly Peak Boulevard, or rent a bike from the BART bike station and hit the park on two wheels.
Hop over to Ici for an ice cream (in my book, ice cream is a year-round dessert). The classics are tasty, but don't be vanilla. Add a little mystery and try out one of the more exotic flavors. I recommend the Maple Bacon or Rum Raisin.
Where: 2948 College Ave. in Berkeley
As my mom always said, only date a man who can give you the world. Sound too heavy for a first date? Well, at least give 'em a little piece of Paris. The Cantor Arts Center displays the second largest Rodin gallery in the world. After posing with the Rodin sculptures and making fun of the artsy know-it-alls, grab a quick bite at the Cool Café. Enjoy an espresso and a dish from the café's entirely organic and locally grown menu.
Directions: From Mission St & 9th St, take the KX bus toward Palo Alto. Hop off at El Camino Real and stroll to 328 Lomita Drive in Stanford.
Lady and the Champ
It's weird to bring your friend along on a date, unless we're talking man's best friend. Besides, everyone knows dogs have the special power to help their lonely owners find love. Make it a pet friendly date and head for Sausalito where great hikes, beach walks, wine tastings, delicious food, and spectacular views abound. Trek down to Rodeo Beach to take a coastal hike or throw a frisbee down the sandy stretch. Pet-friendly restaurants abound in Sausalito including Fred's Place (1917 Bridgeway Boulevard), Fish (350 Harbor Drive), Poggio (777 Bridgeway Boulevard), and Kitti's Place (3001 Bridgeway Boulevard).
Directions: Pets are permitted on the Golden Gate Ferry, which makes daily departures from San Francisco to Sausalito. All dogs must be in hand-held containers while aboard the ferry.
Turn Up the Heat
Can't get enough of romantic Sausalito? Want to show off your skills in the kitchen? In the Kitchen (300 Turney Street) leads one-night cooking classes several times a week. Every weekend, choose from daytime or evening classes and get hands-on instruction on pairing local cheeses, cooking comfort dinners, or baking cupcakes. Classes usually last two to three hours (prices vary). Craving a dose of ... shipyard in your romantic excursion? Le Garage (85 Liberty Ship Way, Suite 109) should add a little industrial chic. Grab a drink at this steel-and-glass boat garage turned French bistro. Bonus: Since Sausalito is in the "banana belt" of the San Francisco Bay, the outdoor seating here might be 15-20 degrees warmer than similar locales in San Francisco. Is it hot in here, or just me?
The Ultimate Secret Rendezvous
Ever noticed that lighthouse between Piers 39 and 41, out in the water just off from the sea lion hangout? There's something rather heady and "in-the-know" about approaching the tourist-riddled Pier 39 and picking up a courtesy phone to call for a clandestine rendezvous with an eccentric millionaire. Then Forbes Kiddoo, the affable gentleman who dreamed up the world's only floating island, whooshes up (yes, he runs boat service nightly) and whisks you out to the sandy haven, part Tiki hut, part Pirates of the Caribbean, and part covert lair. The hearty fare here (think braised short ribs, creamy sauces, and rich risottos) is not cheap, but it's also not outrageous for the experience. For the best experience, head out just before sunset and take in the incredible views of the city skyline, Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate. And make sure to brave the 55 steps to the top of the lighthouse. Standing there, in the heart of the city yet looking out at it, I felt a magical solace--and I fell in love with San Francisco all over again.
Directions: Pick up the courtesy phone at "H" dock (left of Pier 39, below the pedestrian overpass) and the free shuttle will pick you up (after 5 p.m. nightly)
By Kaitlin Roberts