When summer leaves most of the northern hemisphere, it finally comes to San Francisco. This favored season is always three months late here. If you’ve been to San Francisco in June, July or August, you must agree with Mark Twain, “The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco.”
Though 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 C) may not exactly look like winter temperatures, heavy fog rolling with constant winds can feel colder than snow to unprepared tourists in tank tops and shorts. Unless you intend to experience this unique climatic phenomenon of San Francisco, a local like me would suggest you visit in fall, the city’s warmest season.
Many here call our fall “Indian summer,” and while it does allow summery clothing, it’s not quite as hot as summer elsewhere. You may even need a light jacket or a thin trench coat in the early morning and the evening. Even in the middle of the day it rarely gets above 90 F (32 C), and humidity is usually low here. If you come with your beloved, your palms will stay dry while you stroll hand and hand through the romantic streets of San Francisco.
One of the best places to take a walk in San Francisco is around Stow Lake, located on Strawberry Hill, next to Martin Luther King Drive in Golden Gate Park. In contrast with other scenic spots that tend to be inevitably crowded, this largest and arguably prettiest lake of the park is exceptionally quiet. Parking is easy to find most of the time – a rarity in San Francisco.
Here, you can stroll in an idyllic scene of cotton white clouds brushing through a vast blue sky, with tall trees and lush grass mirroring themselves upon sparkling water.
There are dozens of ducks and other birds who call the area home. And you can join the ducks on the lake by renting a boat. A rowboat would be the most romantic choice for lovers. Cooperating to keep the boat afloat and moving can bring two people closer than ever.
In addition to watercraft, the Boathouse on the northwest corner also rents all kinds of bikes. If you’re in the mood, a surrey may provide a more romantic option than two single bikes. Unlike a tandem, which puts one rider behind the other and makes it difficult for them to communicate on the road, a surrey places the two riders side by side. It may take some practice for you to pedal at the same speed. but as long as the faster rider accepts the slow-paced nature of the vehicle and appreciates the relaxing element of it, a surrey ride can be a couple’s most interactive, communicative and enjoyable joint venture through Golden Gate Park.
There is so much greenery here that you can hardly believe the largest manmade park in the world was once built on sand dunes. If you’re interested in how the miracle was done, read the documents on display at the ground-level museum of the Beach Chalet, an oceanfront two-story building near the west end of the park.
The upper level of the Beach Chalet is a restaurant with a wall of wood-framed glass facing the Pacific Ocean. The relatively new restaurant now substitutes for the Cliff House, a historic landmark (since 1850) of the Ocean Beach that is currently under reconstruction.
Fall is the best time of year to have a dinner with an ocean view at the Beach Chalet. Ocean Beach receives far more foggy days than sunny days during most other months. Only in the fall does the beach rid itself of its usual fog spell. When a clear day comes to an end here, the setting sun throws splashes of golden orange paint tinted with the reddest red, pinkest pink and intense purple to dye the blue cloth of the sky.
After dark, the Ocean Beach becomes a little mysterious, with the constant sound of waves bringing messages from another world. It’s the perfect time for a dreamy walk on the beach.
From there, if you’re not too tired, you could drive up to Twin Peaks for a panoramic view of the nocturnal city next. There, on top of the city, myriads of electric lights sparkle beneath you while above, twinkling little stars fill the night sky.
The next day, of course, you should try to catch a glimpse of some of San Francisco’s world famous sights, starting with the rusty-colored Golden Gate Bridge. course. This architectural marvel has spanned the entrance to the San Francisco Bay since 1937.
Consider taking a ferry ride to Alcatraz. Until 1963, the federal penitentiary housed notorious felons such as Al Capone. Or consider a ride down Lombard Street, known as the “the crookedest street in the world.” Featured in countless movie car chase-scenes, its zigzag switchbacks descend with harrowing steepness between Leavenworth and Hyde streets.
Many visitors are drawn to Fisherman’s Wharf, where numerous restaurants serve delicious seafood. It’s fabulous to have lunch there. But at the end of your day tour, if you crave a panoramic view of the city at dusk, there is no better place to have a cocktail (and dinner if $31 to $50 per person is within your budget) than Equinox, the revolving rooftop restaurant and bar of Hyatt Regency Hotel.
You may need to plan ahead because it’s only open Wednesday through Sunday and window seats are almost impossible to get without reservations. Once you are there, you will see why it’s so popular. Compared with the distant view from the Twin Peaks, the panorama here is more intimate. Many buildings are close by; even the Bay Bridge doesn’t seem too far away. And you get to take a closer look at everything, as the slow moving floor gradually brings you toward each one. If this unnoticeable revolution reminds you of the earth and the universe, wouldn’t you feel fortunate to be right here, right now — and with the right person?
Nob Hill is a great place to spend the rest of the evening. Before the earthquake and fire of 1906, this was where the great railroad magnates lived. This wealthy part of town is still one of the most prestigious addresses in the nation and is home to three of San Francisco’s classiest hotels.
Huntington Hotel has an antique-looking fireplace that creates a cozy atmosphere for a heart-to-heart chat. Fairmont Hotel looks even more luxurious, but it is affordable to have some coffee and dessert in the royal ambiance. An even better deal is to enter the hotel’s roof garden at no cost. Surrounded by taller buildings, the roof garden seems like an oasis in the metropolitan desert. At dusk, it’s a lovely place to snap photos of the colorful flowers around you, as well as San Francisco’s skyline at sunset in the backdrop. At night little light bulbs on all the trees of the garden and lights in the surrounding buildings softly illuminate your path.
After a quiet stroll here, why not dance the night away on the highest dance floor of San Francisco, which is just across the street at the rooftop lounge of Mark Hopkins Hotel? Unlike the Equinox, the Top of the Mark doesn’t spin. But you can, dancing on top of San Francisco lights while the city lights outside the windows look as if they were swirling around you.
San Francisco may not be as well known for romance as Paris or Venice, but this is truly a romantic city. While the city’s world famous tolerance for homosexuals is often mistaken for encouraging homosexuality, it actually signifies the deepest respect for love by eliminating discrimination against any kind of love. Here on the street, you see not only many gay couples but also many interracial couples, mostly heterosexual. San Francisco is where love breaks through any potential boundary, where love conquers all.
You may have heard of “Hearts in San Francisco,” a project debuting earlier this year to raise a million dollars for San Francisco General Hospital Medical Center by having each sponsor install a heart sculpture designed by a recognized or emerging artist somewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area. The heart icon is meant to express how accepting, tolerant and perennially open-hearted San Francisco is.
But why not come and see these hearts of generosity and creativity for yourself? Perhaps you’ll find a particular heart sculpture that will become part of your and your loved one’s fondest memory.
Even if you are not in love with someone, you’ll fall in love with San Francisco.
If You Go
San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau