Naughty or nice? We polled readers and consulted with matchmakers to help make your days merry and bright this December.
The holidays are often packed full of people and events, leaving limited time to unwind and spend quality time with a date. To help you make room for romance, we’ve consulted with local hoteliers and matchmakers and polled our readers to pull together a list of holiday-themed date ideas. Whether you and your significant other are looking for a party atmosphere or a tranquil spot away from the holiday hubbub, here are 10 options to try this December.
Dinner and a show
Dine out and catch a performance nearby. Amy Andersen, founder and CEO of Silicon Valley-based Linx Dating LLC, recommends a stay at the Park James Hotel and a concert at the Guild Theatre in Menlo Park as a date night, with dinner and drinks at Oak + Violet in the hotel. “Walk and you never have to drive…easy and local,” she says. Upcoming shows at the Guild include the Berlin Holiday Show Dec. 16, a comedy night with Austin Carr and friends Dec. 30 and Fantastic Negrito and Monophonics Dec. 31.
Katy Clark, lead matchmaker of Cinqe.com Matchmaking, recommends Santa Cruz Avenue in downtown Menlo Park for having “some of the best displays of decorations that make it an ideal spot for dating couples.” University Avenue in Palo Alto, she adds, “has some great stores that are perfect for couples to window shop and get into the spirit of the holidays.”
Have lunch or dinner and drinks in downtown Mountain View and see a Western Ballet “Nutcracker” performance Dec. 9-11 or the Oakland Interfaith Choir Dec. 22. Choose from a variety of “Nutcracker” productions from Peninsula Ballet Theatre in San Mateo or Redwood City through Dec. 17. Stanford is also hosting holiday shows throughout the month, including the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale Dec. 14 at Bing Concert Hall and “A Chanticleer Christmas” Dec. 15 in Memorial Church. Check out our sister publication the Palo Alto Weekly’s complete holiday arts and entertainment guide for more recommendations.
Romance at the rink
Holiday ice skating rinks have popped up around the Peninsula. The Great Dickens Christmas Fair & Victorian Holiday Party has set up a skating rink in a Victorian park-like setting that’s adjacent to the fair and free to the public (with $15 Cow Palace parking) through Dec. 18. San Mateo’s Central Park has an 11,000-square-foot outdoor rink open through Jan. 8, with a free skate day coming up Dec. 13. And the Four Seasons Silicon Valley hotel in East Palo Alto is hosting its annual Après Village & Skate Rink on the outdoor terrace, complete with semi-private wooden chalets, holiday food and drinks, fake snow and a skating rink where 25 guests at a time can spend 45 minutes on the ice. And don’t forget about Winter Lodge in Palo Alto, the permanent outdoor ice rink that’s been in business since 1956.
Holiday decor tour
There are several hot spots for holiday lights and decor around the Peninsula. Fulton Street in Palo Alto has transformed into Christmas Tree Lane for over eight decades, festooned with lights and decorations for pedestrians and motorists to admire. Eucalyptus Avenue in San Carlos is another longtime Christmas Tree Lane spot. December is also one of the best times of year to visit Filoli in Woodside, which is awash in more than 20 miles’ worth of lights strung throughout the gardens. Sip on wine and warm drinks in front of your own private fire pit (available for rental), or dine at the Quail Cafe and Woodland Court holiday bar.
See stars and sea stars
Bundle up and head away from city lights to see the Geminids meteor shower, which peaks Dec. 13-14 this year. It’s widely regarded as the best of the annual meteor showers due to the Geminids’ brightness and the number of meteors viewable per hour (roughly 100 to 150 in perfect weather conditions).
And the king tides return Dec. 23-24, marking the highest and lowest tides of the year. The low tides make for a perfect opportunity for seeing starfish, crab, sea anemones and more tide pool creatures visible when this winter phenomenon occurs. Mavericks Beach and Fitzgerald Marine Reserve are two popular Coastside spots for tide pool enthusiasts. Catch the sunset and stay for dinner and drinks at the nearby Moss Beach Distillery, or head to Pillar Point Harbor for options ranging from Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, Blue Ocean Brewing and Jettywave Distillery to Mezza Luna, La Costanera and Sam’s Chowder House.
Book a night or weekend at a Peninsula hotel, or take advantage of its amenities and holiday specials for a daycation. Clark is a fan of The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay for an upscale date night, the ocean views and “a great dinner menu.” The hotel is hosting carolers every Saturday in December (plus Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) and offering an Experience S’More package that includes luxurious accommodations for two, $150 in food and beverage credit and a s’mores kit to use by the fire pits. On-site restaurant Navio also offers a two-hour brunch experience finished with a three-tier dessert tower Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 at $249 per person.
Andersen suggests a “couples detox” date with a walk at the Stanford Dish, followed by lunch at Wildseed in Palo Alto and a couples’ massage at the Rosewood Sand Hill in Menlo Park or LaBelle Day Spa & Salon in Palo Alto.
Check out our hotel dining guide for more staycation inspiration.
Take a hike
Get a workout in while you spend some tech-free time outdoors and learn about the natural wonders in our own backyard. Upcoming docent-led hikes at Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District preserves include the 6-mile scenic aerobic hike at St. Joseph’s Hill Preserve Dec. 14; the 4-mile Water Wonders hike at Monte Bello Preserve Dec. 16, which will teach attendees how plants and animals use water to survive in various habitats; the 3-mile king tides walk at high tide at Ravenswood Preserve Dec. 23, where you might spot rare birds that appear during the king tides; and a 4-mile hike dubbed “Escape the Holiday Madness!” at Picchetti Ranch Preserve Dec. 24, where you can bring a picnic post-hike lunch and go wine tasting at Picchetti Winery afterward. Peninsula Open Space Trust is also leading a guided 5-mile hike at Mindego Hill (Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve) Dec. 18.
Take a class
Become a wine connoisseur or pick up a new recipe by taking a cooking or wine class together. Local options include Sur La Table (upcoming offerings include an Italian steakhouse date night Dec. 9, a winter in Paris-themed class Dec. 10 and a Thai cooking class Dec. 16); Draeger’s Cooking School in San Mateo and Menlo Park (December options are currently waitlisted); Fogbird Cocktails in San Mateo; City of Cocktail in Palo Alto; Baking Arts in San Mateo; and a variety of hybrid wine classes at the San Francisco Wine School in South San Francisco.
Venture into the woods
If you still haven’t snagged your Christmas tree yet (or just want a scenic spot for your holiday selfies), consider making a day of it and cutting one down yourselves. There are several U-cut farms clustered in the Santa Cruz Mountains and on the Coastside, including Skyline Ranch Christmas Tree Farm in La Honda, Rancho Siempre Verde in Pescadero and Santa’s Tree Farm and Village in Half Moon Bay (which also has kids’ activities, so if you’re looking for a quieter date spot be forewarned). Bring a thermos full of your favorite warm holiday drink, pack a lunch and a couple of camping chairs and picnic among the pines before decorating the tree afterward.
Head to a holiday party
Devil’s Canyon Brewing Company is hosting its Holiday Hootenanny Dec. 9 with five bands, food from Fresh Catch, Goldrush, Scratch and Pita Gyros, ugly sweaters and beer. BarZola‘s holiday party Dec. 19 will feature live music from the Magic School Busk, warm ponche navideno and cheese and charcuterie from Feast & Floral. Taplands is hosting a gingerbread house-making and decorating party and competition with craft beer and holiday music Dec. 17. A Grape in the Fog hosts an RSVP-only speakeasy night celebrating the winter solstice Dec. 21 with Prohibition-style cocktails and live music. Ring in the new year with a Latin New Year’s Extravaganza at Maya Nightclub in Redwood City, a dressy dance party at the Hilton in Palo Alto and a Carnival-themed event at the San Mateo Marriott.
Grab a drink
Whether it’s espresso, tea or a hot toddy, going out for cocktails or coffee is a go-to date idea, and the holidays are the perfect time to go for a stroll or sit in a bar or cafe with a companion and a drink. Check out our guides to hot drinks for cold weather, one of-a-kind coffee drinks and must-visit vintners on the Peninsula.