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Things to Do on Valentine's Day in the Bay Area (That Don't Suck)

KQED News Staff | Feb 2, 2022

It's easy to write Valentine's Day off as a stale holiday with far too many expectations put on it. But in 2020, Bay Curious published an episode called "Bay Area, I Love You," which reframed the whole holiday. We opted to focus on another type of love — the affection we feel for a place. Valentine’s Day doesn't have to be a schmaltzy day for those who have partnered up; it can also be a day to celebrate all types of love. Love is, after all, a pretty special feeling, whether it's for a partner, a friend, a place, a pet, a family member, or yourself!

This year, Bay Curious has curated a list of experiences we think will deepen your connection with any companion while finding something fresh to do here in the Bay Area. We're calling them Bay Curious Dates. Grab a companion and set out to try something new this month. We're confident these itineraries make for great dates — we tested them!

Raw and rustic Tomales Bay

10 a.m. Wildlife by boat A tandem kayak is a splendid way to explore the rugged shoreline around Tomales Bay, even in winter! You’ll likely get a close-up view of the birds flying low across the water, Tule elk grazing on Tomales Point, and jellyfish doing a mesmerizing dance through the water. If you go between March and June, you may even catch harbor seal pups on Hog Island. Paddle out from Miller Boat Launch ($5 parking) to explore Hog Island and the shoreline around White Gulch. From there, head south and pull up onto any of the many beaches along the way. At this time of year, you’re bound to have it to yourself! Outfitters nearby include Blue Waters Kayaking and Tomales Bay Expeditions.

1 p.m. Enjoy oysters bayside

After a morning on the water, you must try the local fare of choice — oysters! The small town of Marshall offers a trifecta of delightful restaurants, no matter your style, with Hog Island Oysters, The Marshall Store, and Tony's Seafood. For a little special occasion flair, we like Tony’s — where after an oyster appetizer, you can dive into some clam chowder, cioppino, or a fried oyster po'boy.

3 p.m. Knock around town

Recover from your seafood feast by wandering around the charming town of Point Reyes Station. The place is loaded with fun gift shops, each offering a unique twist on the genre. Be sure to wander through the art gallery tucked in the back of Toby's Feed Barn and pursue the staff picks at Point Reyes Books. No trip to Point Reyes Station would be complete without a stop at Cowgirl Creamery, where you can buy a hunk of cheese to enjoy later on (... or on the car ride home!)

Oakland (picnic, museum, bakery)

1:00 p.m. Lunch at Vegan Mob

Start your date with vegan BBQ and soul food at Vegan Mob in Oakland. Housed inside a lime green structure on Lake Park Ave, this popular BBQ spot is hard to miss and hard to dis. Owner Toriano Gordon transforms classic recipes into healthy alternatives that will make even the most stubborn carnivores question their beliefs. Soul food enthusiasts will love the "smackaroni" and cheese, yams, collard greens, and vegan fried shrimp. Don't forget a lemonade, and save some room for dessert!

1:30 p.m. Sun and songs Around Lake Merritt

Carry your food over to Oakland's biggest gem, Lake Merritt — it's a six-minute walk away. Bring your picnic essentials, and find a grassy spot to lay on while you enjoy your meal and soak up the sun. If you forget your Bluetooth speaker at home, there's always music floating around the lake, from the drum circles held at the northwest corner to the lowriders that spin the block pumping 70's Soul and R&B.

3:00 p.m. Mothership: Voyage Into Afrofuturism

Just a six-minute walk from the south end of the lake lies the only place where Octavia E. Butler, Sun Ra, Whitney Houston, and a host of contemporary artists come together to make a powerful statement about the beauty of Black folks. Oakland Museum of California's Mothership: Voyage into Afrofuturism imagines a joyful and justice-centered future for Black people — combining photography, literature, song, dance, and design into a unique experience that will leave you both in awe and maybe in love.

5 p.m. It's All Good Bakery

Catch a ride to North Oakland for the final stop of the day — It's All Good Bakery. Owner Kim Cloud serves slices of history with his homestyle sweet potato pies, cakes, cookies, and other soul food desserts. Decades ago, this little storefront hosted revolutionaries. It was the site of the Black Panther Party's first headquarters. Today, stop by to enjoy all the classics: Red Velvet Cake, Banana Pudding, and Cloud's personal recommendation, 7-Up Pound Cake. Finish off your Valentine's date with a sweet treat and a slice of Black history!

Boards, brews, and bowling in Pacifica

9:30 a.m. Surf or turf

Get an early start to your day and hit the beach — either by taking a surf lesson at Linda Mar Beach or catching some breathtaking ocean views with a hike up Mori Point. If you want to get wet, book your surf lesson in advance through Norcal Surf Shop ($94 per person for a group lesson). They'll set you up with a rental wetsuit and board, and you'll be in the water hanging ten in no time! If you're looking for a drier way to spend the morning, drive a little north of Linda Mar to the Mori Point trailhead. You can take a short stroll or do the whole 2.8-mile hike. Either way, you'll be rewarded with gorgeous scenery. Morning conditions can be a little foggy and windy, so (as always in the Bay) bring layers.

12:00 p.m. Beachside Burritos

After you've worked up an appetite, it’s time to refuel. If you're feeling thrifty, look no further than the most beautiful Taco Bell in California — located right on Linda Mar beach. It's got all the classics you know and love, plus you can get a "Twisted Freeze," which is essentially a spiked icee. Order a few chalupas and enjoy the people and dog watching on the sand. If you're looking for a more elevated atmosphere, head across the freeway to Pacifica Brewery. This cute gastropub has plenty of space indoors and outdoors, and they even have live music on their backyard stage occasionally. The food is good, and the beers are tasty. What more could you want?

3:00 p.m. Spares and Strikes

BOWLING! That's what more you could want! Right across the parking lot from Pacifica Brewery is the very nostalgic Sea Bowl, which has it all: bowling ($30-40 per hour, per lane), billiards, and an arcade. This isn't your new and trendy bowling alley: here, you'll be rolling next to the regulars in matching shirts and the kids’ birthday parties. Slide around in those funny bowling shoes ($5) and play a few friendly (or extremely competitive) games. Bonus points if you win your date something from the claw game.

Wheels on deck in Hayes Valley

2:00 p.m. Bay Area classics at Salt & Straw

At the corner of Hayes and Laguna Street sits a promising date spot: ice cream parlor Salt & Straw. It’s known for its unique twists on the classics, like "Salted, Malted, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough” and the vegan option, "Marionberry Coconut Sherbet." You really can't go wrong with any of their dreamy flavors. The scoops start at $5.95 for a small. Upgrade to a house-made waffle cone for $1.50 extra, or grab a pint if you need help keeping your date-induced anxiety down. Enjoy your sweet treat while checking out the latest art installations at Patricia's Green Public Park (Hayes St. and Octavia St.).

3:00 p.m. The Painted Ladies on Steiner Street

Remember the beautiful Victorian homes shown in the opening credits of Full House? The Painted Ladies are just a few blocks away in Alamo Square, waiting for you to come to take a photo (free of charge!). Take a small detour on your way to pass the affirmation "Black Lives Matter,” painted in yellow block lettering on Fulton Street. The words stretch across three blocks between Webster and Octavia. In the midst of all the art and conversation, you finally see Steiner Street and Alamo Square Park. Take a left once you hit the corner, pass Grove St., and voila! The iconic Painted Ladies. Find an empty spot in the park across the street to marvel at the nearby architecture and downtown San Francisco views.

4:00 p.m. Skating at The Church of 8 Wheels

Abandoned churches make great roller rinks … but they also make for great dates! Head to The Church of 8 Wheels for an unforgettable few hours of music, skating, and laughs inside an old church. Prepare to leave your ego behind and fall (no pun intended) into a state of fun with your date. $15 gets you in the door. Roller blades to roller skates are available to rent for $5. Be sure to reserve your spots in advance!

Let us know what your favorite spot in the bay is for this Valentine's Day! ❤️

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