Things to do / Travel Guide
As Tony Bennett once crooned, “I left my heart in San Francisco.” Well, Tony had the right idea. We can think of no better place for our hearts to be. You see, for those seeking a romantic setting, the central California Coast region is the place. Old-World charm is evident just about anywhere you look, with legendary sites like the Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown, Coit Tower, Fisherman's Wharf, The Embarcadero, and more. Venturing out of the big city, visitors will find many places that offer a more laid-back, but equally romantic setting. Places like the wine country of Sonoma County and Napa Valley or the charming gem of Sausalito are fare game for romance-minded folks, as is the Big Sur area on the coast to the south.
Romantic Accommodations around the San Francisco Bay Area and Napa Valley
Let's start with your choices for lodging. You can find everything from classic full-service hotels to quaint and charming B&Bs throughout the central California Coast. As the focal point of the region, San Francisco offers some fantastic choices in romantic lodging - too many to name, in fact. But there are a few worth pointing out nonetheless. For example, legendary rivals and next door neighbors the Fairmont Hotel and the Mark Hopkins are both located at the top of Knob Hill. The view from the top floors alone is worth the stay, but stylish rooms, excellent service, and attention to detail make these two, well, kings of the hill.
Just outside San Francisco is another great choice. The Post Ranch Inn is a 30-room hotel that sits on a ridge 1,200 feet above the Pacific Ocean on California's Big Sur coast. This place is inspiring. The buildings are constructed from redwood, slate, and glass and provide tastefully-done natural lighting. The inn's Sierra Mar restaurant only serves to compliment the effect, as it also occupies a perch high above the water. The inn spans 100 lush acres full of magnificent redwoods and sequoias, and to keep the natural setting intact, cars are banished to an unseen parking lot, and guests are toted around by Lexus SUVs.
Sausalito, sitting out in the bay, is known as a fantastic spot for artisans, and the romance factor is high here. The Inn Above Tide fits the bill perfectly. This hotel is built on pilings overhanging San Francisco Bay, and its waterfront location puts it within easy walking distance of the eclectic shops and restaurants of Sausalito. Thirty guest rooms have been renovated in warm tones and are comfy and tasteful. Full windows offer spectacular panoramic views, fireplaces and decks are available in most rooms, and some even feature Jacuzzi tubs!
The Archbishop's Palace in San Francisco, built in 1904, is a true window into old San Francisco's rich past. This romantic bed and breakfast, built for the city's turn-of-the-century archbishop, overlooks beautiful Alamo Square. The inn has been painstakingly restored to its original beauty and the large rooms and suites feature queen-size beds, 19th-century French antiques, exquisite linens, fireplaces, and Jacuzzis.
Romantic Dining around the San Francisco Bay Area and Napa Valley
For romantic dining, the central California Coast offers a smorgasbord of choices. Everything from the freshest Pacific Rim seafood to unique Cal-French to the latest in Asian fusion is at your beck and call.
Roy's offers two locations in the region, one at Pebble Beach and the other in San Francisco. It is here that Chef Roy Yamaguchi presents a unique offering of Hawaiian fusion cuisine. Fresh seafood is plated with a variety of side dishes and eclectic garnishes to please the most discerning of palettes. For a romantic cocktail, try the mango martini or the house special Tuaca Lemon Drop. For dessert, you have to try Roy's famous Volcano - a liquid-center chocolate soufflé for the ages (and it's guilt free…ok, not!).
Another excellent choice is the Carnelian Room, high atop the Bank of America Building in San Francisco. Continental cuisine extraordinaire coupled with panoramic views of the bay area makes this one romantic experience you'll never forget. Try to get a window table just before sunset for an evening to be remembered.
Toulouse Lautrec would have loved Absinthe (the restaurant, not the libation…ok, maybe the libation, too). Located in downtown San Francisco, this bistro is an example of Belle-Époque décor and sits next to the Opera House, offering a truly romantic experience. California-inspired French cuisine is the fare, with sensational standard dishes like roasted halibut or confit of duck.
Romantic Excursions around the San Francisco Bay Area and Napa Valley
Looking for some romantic fun outings? Not a problem. Just walking around any one of the special areas of this region will do nicely. There's Ghirardelli Square, Fisherman's Wharf, Chinatown, or the Japanese Gardens to start with. Or take a ferry over to Sausalito for a day of romantic strolls and art gallery hopping - there's no end to it!
Might we suggest a very romantic sunset dinner cruise in San Francisco Bay? There's nothing quite like the breathtaking beauty of “The City by the Bay” as seen from the bay itself. Experiencing it yourself makes descriptions pale in comparison.
Want something a bit more sophisticated? There are a ton of great little nightspots here. Take the Red Room in San Francisco - Jazz permeates the air as top-notch servers bring the house special Cosmopolitan cocktail to your comfy table. Another great spot is Hotel Biron, also in San Francisco, a quaint wine bar/art gallery that has the look and feel of Paris. Tony Niks is a retro lounge with elegance and a friendly flair in the heart of North Beach, San Francisco. And for some cool live music, try Bubble's Lounge, where two tiers of champagne, great hors d'oeuvres and a well-trained serving staff make it a great romantic stop.
The wine country that is Napa Valley and Sonoma County are absolutely romantic, with the many wineries that produce the highly-prized California vintages sought after the world over. There are fantastic inns, bistros, antique shops, specialty shops, art galleries, and the well-known Wine Train. This favorite activity takes passengers on a leisurely train ride through picturesque vineyards while sampling gourmet cuisine. Pampered guests are served by a white gloved staff. A must!
And to top it all off, there's absolutely nothing like taking a hot-air balloon ride above the region's wine country. Lifting off for a sunset whirl over the region is nothing short of magical, with champagne toasts and glorious views serving to rekindle any flames of passion in your romance.
So, in a sea of vacation options, here's a pearl of wisdom for you - for the couple in search of romance, the central California Coast is your oyster.
Romantic Vacation Ideas in San Francisco Bay Area, Carmel, Napa Valley, Central California Coast