You don’t have any money but you don’t want to stay home bored. Luckily there are lots of great things that you can do in San Francisco without spending a penny. Here is our roundup of the ten best free San Francisco date spots.
1. Golden Gate Park
You can spend an entire day in Golden Gate Park without seeing all of its magic and you don’t have to spend a cent. You can walk hand-in-hand amongst the beautiful trees. You can spread a picnic blanket out and take a nap on a sunny day. You can play Frisbee or ride your bike.
In addition to all of these regular park activities, here are some other free options in Golden Gate Park:
- Take the elevator up to the tower lookout at DeYoung Museum for a great aerial view of the park. No charge if you’re not going to the rest of the museum. When you exit DeYoung take a moment to enjoy the beautiful view of the living green roof across the way on the top of the California Academy of Sciences.
- See the buffalo roam. The wild bison lounge about in their enclosure in the center of the park for you to see at no charge.
- The free gardens. The rose garden, the garden at the windmill, the AIDS Memorial Grove and the flowers planted on the outside of the Conservatory of Flowers are all beautiful bits of nature to see at no cost.
There are also some activities in the park that normally have a fee but can be free if you go on the right day and time. Some examples:
- DeYoung Museum offers free admission to all regular exhibits on the first Tuesday of the month. This museum is also always free to children under age 12.
- The California Academy of Sciences is free on selected Sundays quarterly throughout the year. There are also free neighborhood days for San Francisco residents. Check the website for exact dates.
- The San Francisco Botanical Garden is always free to San Francisco residents. It’s free to everyone early in the morning (7:30 – 9) and is also free the second Tuesday of each month and selected holidays. This is a beautiful date spot.
- The Conservatory of Flowers is free on the first Tuesday of each month.
- The Japanese Tea Garden is free if you enter before 10am on Monday, Wednesday or Friday.
If you plan in advance, there are also a lot of fun free events to enjoy in Golden Gate Park. Perhaps the most popular of these is the annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass music festival each October.
2. Other San Francisco City Parks
Golden Gate Park is the largest and most famous of all of the parks in the city but there are plenty of other parks here to enjoy on a free date. Dolores Park is a popular sunny spot for picnics as well as free outdoor summer movie nights. Washington Square Park, Alta Plaza Park, Alamo Square, Duboce Park and Lafayette Park are just a few of the other city parks that make great date spots. See our guide to great SF Parks here.
3. San Francisco City Beaches
San Francisco’s beaches aren’t the first pick on the list because it’s often so cold on the coast here. However, if you wear the right layers and enjoy walking along the beach then these can be terrific spots to spend the day without spending any money. Go to Ocean Beach to do the longest walks along the coast. Try Baker Beach if you want an edgy date at a clothing-optional section of beach. Go to Aquatic Park or Crissy Beach for brave wading in the bay. If you’re at Aquatic Park on the first Saturday of the month check out the free Sea Chantey Sing-Along about the historic ships at nearby Hyde Street Pier.
4. Union Square
This city square right in the heart of San Francisco’s Financial District has a lot to offer, not the least of which is some great free people watching. In the winter months you can see the big Christmas tree and watch people ice skating on the temporary rink (including the free Drag Queens on Ice annual performance). Summer evenings are a great time to catch free outdoor movies. Other performances happen at lunchtime and in the early evenings throughout the year. And even when nothing formal is happening there is usually a street performer or two playing music in the square. Take your camera and go around to the four corners of the square to take pictures with your sweetheart at each of the San Francisco heart art sculptures.
5. San Francisco’s Street Fairs
There is at least one street fair each month in San Francisco and usually many more (especially during the summer months when you can hardly go a weekend without one!) If you can avoid the temptation to spend money on artisan wares and overpriced food then these can be fun people-watching, music-listening date spots. Note that a few of the annual street fairs (San Francisco Pride, How Weirde Street Fair) do have by-donation fees, though payment is generally not required for entry.
6. More Free Museum Days
As mentioned above the museums in Golden Gate Park offer free days at various times throughout the month. So do most of the other museums in the San Francisco Bay Area. Most of the museums have their free day either the first Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday of the month but these do vary from place to place. If you mark your calendar you can fill a good chunk of any month with free dates to see art, science and other smart exhibits.
7. San Francisco Art Gallery Openings
And speaking of art, don’t forget all of the free San Francisco art gallery opening events that take place throughout the year. The annual month-long SF Open Studios is a great opportunity to see artists at work in their spaces. Other free events include the First Thursdays Free Gallery Art Walk and the North Beach First Fridays Art Crawl, plus of course there are individual gallery openings all of the time.
8. Free Sunday BBQs
In an effort to get you in their doors in the hopes that you’ll buy drinks there are several places in San Francisco that offer free grub. On Sundays get the free BBQ at Malotov’s in Lower Haight or Bender’s Bar & Grill in the Mission. Check SF Fun Cheap for other similar free food deals throughout the week.
9. Stairway Walks
There are some beautiful, unique stairways in San Francisco, many of which are remote and romantic. The Filbert Street Steps, the 16th Avenue Tile Steps, and the Lyon Street Steps are all popular choices but a quick search online will turn up many, many more options for your romantic walking pleasure.
10. The Local Library
Many people forget about all of the amazing things offered through the local library system. Nearly every day you can attend something interesting for free at the main San Francisco library or one of the city’s many branch libraries. These include lectures, film screenings, art shows, various classes and more. Additionally, the library hosts SF City Guides, which are free walking tours all around the city every day of the week.