aubreylorraine.com | 10 Cheap Dates in San Francisco
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10 Cheap Dates in San Francisco

Ahhh, San Francisco. Can a city really get any more beautiful than this? Streets covered with people, not bustling – but taking their time soaking up the sun as it peers through the fog. Vibrant and bold views of the Golden Gate Bridge and likely home to some of the best food trucks. We are lucky enough to call this beautiful, vibrant, and culturally diverse city, home.

“San Francisco itself is art…. every block is a short story, every hill a novel. Every home a poem, every dweller within immortal.” – William Saroyan.

Alejandro and I spent many of our first dates here in the city, and like most people our age, we were always on a budget. But in a place like San Francisco, you don’t need much in your wallet to enjoy your day – as long as you know where to go!

1. Clarion Alley

Clarion Alley is a small, one block (560ft) alley in San Francisco between Mission / Valencia St. and 17th / 18th Streets. The walls here are filled with notable murals painted by the Clarion Alley Mural Project. Throughout its history, Clarion Alley and it’s mural project (CAMP) has used art as a force for those who are marginalized. It is place where “culture and dignity speak louder than the rules of private property or a lifestyle that puts profit before compassion, respect, and social justice.” How amazing is that?

We have been here a handful of times, and each visit we see a new mural. Each piece is beautiful and seriously eye opening. You’re going to want to set aside a solid 45 minutes or so to walk this block and really appreciate each and every mural. Give yourself time to let each one speak to you and take the time to listen. It’s going to give you all sorts of feels.

QUICK TIP: Although San Francisco is considered a relatively safe city, we don’t advise you visiting here at night.

When you’re done, walk down to La Taqueria on Mission Street and get yourself one of the best burritos you have ever had. I feel it is my duty as a travel blogger to let you know that I have heard amazing things about their lengua (beef tongue) burrito. Though, I am vegetarian and have not personally tried it – if you aren’t, you might want to step out of your comfort zone and try it. When in Rome, right?

P.S. Don’t let the lingering smell of human urine turn you off from walking down this alley. It’s worth it.

2. 16th Avenue Tiled Steps

These are apparently some of the most photographed stepped in the United States – and for good reason! The 16th Avenue Tiled Steps are beautiful, intricate and, let’s be honest, seriously friggen’ cool. They are located in a residential area with super limited parking, but where in San Francisco isn’t the parking limited? We have visited the steps a handful of times and it has never been crowded. You’ll see the occasional photographer at the bottom and a few people lingering on the steps, maybe having a breather. Climb up this 163 step staircase and you’ll be greeted with some amazing views of the city.

QUICK TIP: Because this is a residential area, there are no bathrooms. So make that stop beforehand if you think nature will be calling.

There are signs everywhere on this street advising you to not leave your valuables in your vehicle, and I strongly suggest listening to those. Having your car broken into can ruin the date real fast.

Learn more about the history of the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps here.

3. Grandview Park

Didn’t work your glutes enough walking up the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps? Not to worry!

We accidentally stumbled across this place during our first trip to the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps and it did not disappoint. Grandview Park (aka Turtle Hill) is just You’ll climb a few more steps to get to this amazing view of the city, but it is entirely worth it. About halfway up the hill to this roughly 4 acre park, is an awesome lookout with a swing that will throw you out over the hillside. Catching the sunrise or sunset from up here is seriously breathtaking.

QUICK TIP: Bring a windbreaker, just in case. It can get really chilly up here!

One of the best things about urban exploring is the lack of crowds.  So grab your date, and a cup of coffee or bring your picnic basket (people still own those, right?) and settle in for some romantic moments soaking up a 360 degree view of San Francisco.

4. Pier 39

I know what you are thinking – ‘But, piers are always pricey!’. Well, here is the thing about this pier, you don’t need to spend a dime to enjoy it. Most  days you can catch a free magic or comedy show in the center of Pier 39, and there are plenty of street performers that are free to enjoy on the outskirts. If you happen to be there between late summer and early spring, you will be able to feast your eyes (and ears) on the sea lions that flock to the pier by the hundreds (you can read more about them here).

Grab yourself a hot chocolate or mocha at Biscoff Coffee Corner and wander through the many stores and shops. Check out Houdini’s Magic Shop and then head into Solve It! Think Out of the Box for some mind puzzles and brain teasers on display that you can try and solve with your date. Lefty’s is also on the pier, a left-handed haven for kitchen tools, office supplies, musical instruments & more. Although neither of us are left-handed, we like to drop in just to check out their quirky stuff.

Walk all the way down the strip of shops and you’ll be greeted with the amazing view of the bay. With the Golden Gate to one side and the Bay Bridge to the other, the site is pretty amazing and if it calls to you, there are a few telescopes you can use for a small price and even greater views.

5. Fisherman’s Warf

Just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Pier 39 lays Fisherman’s Warf. This is another touristy spot that is worth visiting, even if you have been here before. One of the most interesting places to visit would be Musée Mécanique. This space is filled with ancient arcade machines, robot marionettes, fortune telling machines (think Big, with Tome Hanks), and other electronic mechanical things that are a total blast from the past. Entry is totally free and most of the arcade ‘games’ only cost you a couple quarters.

There are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat here, but the food is a overpriced and honestly, over-hyped because it’s often visited by out-of-towners. Even still, it’s a great place to walk around just for the pure energy that fills the streets.

6. Treasure Island Flea Market

Whether you are in the city with your partner, or having a group date with your friends, the Treasure Island Flea Market (aka Treasure Fest) is always a good idea. Admission is only $3 for adults, free for children under 12 and it’s totally pet friendly. If you want to opt for a more VIP experience, you can get two tickets for $11 (or 4 for $20) and it includes a seasonal sangria or mocktail of your choice. You can only get this deal online – so plan ahead if you want to go that route! You can visit their website and stay up to date with events here.

They have rotating food trucks, 400+ vendors, music from up and coming local artists, and DIY workshops. You don’t have to purchase anything here to enjoy yourself – in fact, Alejandro and I mostly go for a drink and some grub at the trucks. But spending time par-oozing through the different vendor booths is super fun and you can always find something worth taking home with you.

7. SoMa Streat Food Park

Hit up happy hour during the weeknights from 3pm-7pm. Get yourself a beer or sangria for $3 or a pitcher for $13 and chow down on dishes from 10 rotating food trucks. You can get most any meal here for around $10 and the atmosphere is full of good vibes. Stay up to date with their Facebook Page so you don’t miss out on special events like the stand-up comedy on Fridays, their Drunk in Love: Galentine’s Day Bottomless Sangria Brunch (because sometimes girl dates are the best dates), or my personal (recent) favorite, The Great Mac ‘n Cheese Melt-Off (need I say more?).

On Sunday mornings you can also opt for a bottomless mimosa brunch for $12 while the trucks serve up crepes, eggs, breakfast sandwiches, and waffles galore.

8. Alamo Square Park

This beautifully green park has a playground, tennis court, and views of the city’s most iconic houses, The Painted Ladies.

You probably recognize these adorable houses from the opening credits of the American sitcom Full House but did you know they have actually been seen in an estimated 70 different television ads, shows and movies? They were constructed between 1892 and 1896, meaning they survived the 1906 earthquake.

Their Victorian architecture is amazing and really pops with the color palette chosen for each house. They are beautifully cared for, so grab yourself some lunch and head here for some seriously adorable Instagram shots and spend a few hours lounging in the park with your loved one, snacking and people watching.

9. Golden Gate Park

The Academy of Sciences ($36 per adult), Japanese Tea Garden ($9 per adult), Botanical Garden ($8 per adult), De Young Museu ($26 per adult), Conservatory of Flowers ($9 per adult) all call this place home along with several other attractions. All of them are definitely worth a visit, but you don’t need to pay for any of them to enjoy your time here.

Grab a coffee and get lost inside this urban park that is over 1,000 acres of well manicured, green and lush plant life. There are some beautiful lakes, meadows, and even a couple waterfalls you can find inside this place if you give yourself the time to explore.

Parking is easy, and it’s a great date to take your four legged family member along with you. The entire park is dog friendly and there are even some off leash dog runs and parks inside.

Walk all the way to the west end of the park and you’ll spot a pasture grazing herd of American bison that have long been cared for by the San Francisco zoo.

10. After dark at the Exploratorium

Every Thursday at 6:00pm, the Exploratorium closes it’s doors to the busloads of field trippers and invites everyone age 21 and up to enjoy over 650 interactive exhibits that explore science, art, and knowledge. Every time we visit here, our eyes are opened to a new way of thinking and experiencing.

It’s an awesome place to go on a double date or with a group of friends. Tickets are $19 at the door and don’t include drinks but you can save yourself a few bucks buy purchasing beforehand online.

Each week, After Dark hosts a new themed event. From ‘Sexplorations’ to events centering around music, you can always find an something that suits everyone’s fancy and curiosity. Along with all the normal exhibits you will get to experience some one of a kind interactions at each event, so it’s something you’re going to want to keep coming back to.

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