Courtesy of Candice Mathews/Inter-courses

Nothing says “romance” in San Francisco more than a deconstructed dinner or an epic pillow fight. 

Jenna Scatena
January 13, 2016

Forget the overpriced prix fixe this Valentines’ Day this year: In San Francisco, even romance is about innovation. Celebrate in style with these seven unconventional experiences perfect for the holiday.

Unconventional Dinner Date

Veer from the conventional white-linen dining experience with “Inter-courses,” a new popup that puts a typical San Francisco (read: innovative) spin on the notion of a romantic dinner. Three courses of small bites and cocktails are choreographed to play off different senses—using colors, textures, and intimate space as much as taste.

Picnic by the Bay Lights Show

Orient yourself in the evening at Cupid’s Span, a green space on the Embarcadero with an art installation in the form of an arrow plunging into the earth. Bringing a picnic blanket for the grass or just posting at one of the park benches is a romantic way to catch the sunset away from the crowds. Stay to watch the Bay Lights show twinkle across the Bay Bridge before dinner.

Savor Claude Lane

Transport yourself to Europe in San Francisco’s tiny, oft-overlooked alley in the Financial District, Claude Lane. Checkered awnings and outdoor heaters shield al fresco diners dotting this carless strip, while white-linen tablecloths and candles set a timeless, sultry mood amid the fog. Dine at local favorites Gitane Restaurant & Bar or Cafe Claude, for Spanish or French fare with a modern California bent.

Drinks with a View

There are few, if any, San Francisco drinking institutions more iconic—and romantic—than the Top of the Mark bar on the upper level of the InterContinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco. Request a booth by the window for vertiginous views of the skyline, illuminated by evening stars and stellar classic cocktails.

Sausalito Escape

Sometimes the best way to see San Francisco is from afar. Catch the Golden Gate Ferry across the bay to Sausalito. Leave the Ferry Building at sunset to see the skyline framed by pink clouds as the sun sinks behind it. In Sausalito, opt for an upscale-casual modern Mexican dinner a la pork belly tacos at Copita Tequileria y Comida. Make it an overnight at the romantic Inn Above Tide, named one of T+L’s “World’s Top 50 Hotels” this year.

Group Pillow Fight

Single, stood up, or just looking to release a little playful aggression? Every year approximately 1,000 people amass at Justin Herman Plaza with pillows in-hand for an annual Valentine’s Day pillow fight. Arrive at dusk, and don’t forget a kitschy Valentine’s Day-themed costume. 

A New Spin on Cheese and Flowers

Pick up the Valentine’s Day cheese assortment from cult company Cowgirl Creamery, which includes their Heart’s Desire cheese and a heart-shaped triple cream cheese, and Uber over to the Stow Lake Boathouse in Golden Gate Park. After a picnic in the eucalyptus grove and rowing around the lake, cap off the day at the Conservatory of Flowers.

Jenna Scatena is on the San Francisco Bay Area beat for Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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