Diana Lopez and her boyfriend Joshua Aldana share a laugh during a Jazz concert at Tupper & Reed in Downtown Berkeley. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, we sought out to compile a list of date ideas representing all that Berkeley has to offer.

Of course, the city is full of delicious dining options, from highly acclaimed and highbrow to affordable and unique. But we wanted to provide date recommendations that are less about going to a hip restaurant or bar and more about getting out and enjoying the city. Think fewer crowds and cliche and more quality time and experiences.

To create this list, Berkeleyside Photojournalist Ximena Natera crowdsourced ideas from Twitter, where dozens of romantics shared their swoon-worthy dates.

Whether you’re entertaining a crush, meeting someone for the first time, or celebrating your long-term relationship — heck, maybe you’re planning a “friend date” — we hope you fall in love … if not with your date, then with Berkeley!

How about some cheese to go with that hike in Tilden

First, visit the Bakery and Cafe at the Cheese Board to pick up some snacks. You can take a peek at the bakery’s schedule online. Once you’ve secured the goods, set out for a hike at Tilden Park.

Zip around the Bay on a free sailboat ride

A boat sails past the Berkeley Pier in mid-October, 2021. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

Did you know the Cal Sailing Club hosts an open house where the public can hop aboard a sailboat for free? This year, the open house voyages will happen monthly between April and November. The voyages take place on Saturdays from 1-3 p.m. The love boat will soon be making another run on April 22.

Stargaze at The Lawrence

Few things are as romantic as looking up at the stars and being reminded that you are but a speck in the universe. Sorry, too existential? Let us try again. Stars twinkle, and they are pretty cool to gaze at too. You and your crush will enjoy a celestial date at the Lawrence Hall of Science. Visit the museum or drive up toward Grizzly Peak Vista Point after sundown.

Margaret Juhae Lee, an Oakland resident, said her husband of 17 years took her on this date early in their relationship. He picked her up in his forest-green Subaru Impreza. “It was 2003, about ten months into our relationship, on Valentine’s Day. He brought a cooler and served brie and crackers and champagne.”

Funny enough, when Margaret asked her husband what he remembered about that night, he reminded her that they also went for dinner at Chez Panisse. “I forgot that part!” Margaret said. So there you have it; stargazing beats a fancy dinner.

Go fly a kite at César E. Chávez Park

Cesar Chavez Park at the Berkeley Marina is known amongst locals and visitors for its high winds, ideal for flying kites. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/Catchlight

The Berkeley Kite Festival may be no longer, but that won’t stop you and your crush from heading to César Chávez Park and embarking on your kite adventure. You can bring your kite or buy one from Highline Kites (only Saturdays and Sundays). Try it at the golden hour for extra romance points.

Show off your dance moves at the Starry Plough

Starry Plough is a good option for a weeknight date. The Berkeley pub has a Ceili, a community-run traditional Irish dance party on Mondays. Grab a Guinness before dance lessons start at 7 p.m. The event is free, but a $5 donation is suggested. On Tuesdays, there’s a free Open Mic Night at 8 p.m. And Wednesdays at 8 p.m., stop by the pub and enjoy a Poetry Slam for $7.

Take the 51B bus to the Berkeley Marina before sunset

Who says public transit can’t be romantic? Berkeleyside Environment Reporter Iris Kwok has an eco-friendly Marina recommendation: Skip the car and snuggle on the AC Transit 51B bus instead. Do it for the pretty views and a good chat.

Picnic in the park on a perfect sunny day

A look down into John Hinkel Park
A look down into John Hinkel Park. Photo: William Lundquist

Grab your favorite snacks and drinks, a blanket, maybe a portable speaker, sunscreen, and head to one of Berkeley’s many parks for a picnic. Some suggestions: Strawberry Creek (stop by The Hidden Cafe for some provisions), Lake Anza (note: it opens in the spring), Codornices Park, and the recently restored John Hinkel Park.

Snack ambling through Berkeley and Oakland

First, you’ll need a temperate day and someone you like being around, says Berkeleyside Housing and Homelessness Reporter Supriya Yelimeli, who submitted this recommendation. Here are her instructions:

Start at Sweet Adeline with coffee and a good pastry. Sometimes an egg sandwich. Head east up Alcatraz Avenue with one foot in Berkeley, and one foot in Oakland, depending on the intersection. Check out those giant statues of a cat and dog on Alcatraz Avenue.

Keep walking, and generously offer to your date (and yourself) that, “Wow, it’s a bit uphill.” An urban hike even. Take a break and walk north/south to find a unique public garden tucked into a South Berkeley house. It could be on Regent. Maybe Colby? Half the fun is finding it. Are you hungry already? Walk up to College, sit for wine and pizza at Casa Barotti, and get a window seat for prime people-watching. Congratulate each other on walking a little over a mile. You made it!

A view of the bay from the Rose Garden in the Berkeley Hills, June 2022. Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/ CatchLight

Crepes and roses — Ooh la la!

For the Francophiles, consider picking up some crepes at La Crêpe à moi and then head north through the hills to the Berkeley Rose Garden. Très romantique!

Yes, lawn bowling

Hear us out. This ancient cousin to indoor bowling is an excellent outdoor activity for not-so-perfect weather (Lawn Bowling is enjoyable even under a drizzle). This date idea is also a perfect chance to test your crush’s frustration threshold, as getting the hang of this deceivingly simple-looking game requires patience and good coordination skills. Tucked in the Poet’s Corner in West Berkeley, the bowling green has been part of the city for almost 100 years. For just $5, visitors can play a game. The club offers snacks and soft drinks, but feel free to bring your sandwiches and snacks.

Have any other date ideas? Let us, and others, know by leaving a comment!

Alejandra Armstrong, Cityside's audience engagement editor, helps amplify the reporting of both Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside and ensures we are connecting with all parts of the communities we serve....

Ximena Natera is Berkeleyside’s photojournalist. Her position is a partnership with Report for America and CatchLight. Born and raised in Mexico City, Natera is a founding member of Pie de Pagina, an...