We found love in an affordable place: The 650 guide to cheap dating in Silicon Valley.

Sunset hikes, artistic excursions, classic cinema….How to date on a budget in the Bay’s most expensive zip codes.

Illustration by Kaz Palladino/Awkward Affections

Who says you have to break the bank for an amazing date? And why do so many dates just predictably boil down to “grabbing drinks” and/or “getting dinner”? There are far too many fun things to do around the SF Peninsula to just settle for the obvious (and really…what’s less sexy than being obvious?).

So here is an offbeat array of affordable ideas for creative, fun, wallet-friendly outings that will help you break free from the stale dating habits around Silicon Valley.

Take a look…..(you can thank us later).

The view of the coastline southward from atop the bluffs at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. (Photo by Charles Russo)

For the nature lovers

For those of you who love to be surrounded by the peace and beauty of the great outdoors, nature dates are an awesome way to spend some quality time connecting with your special someone.

For the beach goers, check out our amazing coastline! You can find vast, picturesque, sandy beaches and rolling waves at Grey Whale Cove, Half Moon Bay State Beach and Poplar Beach (to name just a few). They’re all perfect for “long romantic walks on the beach”…if that’s your thing.

A picture perfect sea star in the tidepools of Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. (Photo by Rob Cala)

Need something a bit more hands-on? Along the same stretch of Highway 1, in Moss Beach, the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is a gorgeous seaside setting where you and your date can explore some world-class tide pools. Be sure to check out tide charts a few days before going to make sure you arrive during low tide, when you can find crabs, anemones and sea stars, as well as other occasional surprises like the lancetfish, Pacific octopus and monkeyface eel. (Check out this video for a glimpse of what might crawl out of the water.)

If you have extra time, make sure to hike through the majestic cypress grove atop the bluffs overlooking the beach for some exquisite sweeping views of the coast.

Gray Whale Cove // Highway 1 south of the Devil’s Slide Tunnel (between Montara and Pacifica); 650.726.8819

Half Moon Bay State Beach // 95 Kelly Avenue, Half Moon Bay; 650.726.8819

Poplar Beach // Poplar St and Railroad Avenue Half Moon Bay; 650.726.8280

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve // 200 Nevada Avenue, Moss Beach; 650.728.3584

Alpine Pond, one of the two ponds on the loop. (Image via Yelp)

For those who prefer the turf over the surf, the Skyline Ridge Preserve is a hiker’s paradise. A three-mile loop starting at the Horseshoe Lake trailhead goes by two ponds and onto a segment of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. This three-mile loop crams a lot into its brief trek, making it the perfect hike for a date: not too long, but with great viewing points all along the way.

The view from Hawk Ridge. (Image via Yelp)

The Russian Ridge Preserve is another must-see for nature lovers. This open space is known for its amazing views, wild flowers and epic bird watching. It’s a perfect spot for a picnic and a sunset hike. (Parking is plentiful but can get busier on weekends.)

For a longer outing, incorporate these trails for a great 4.5-mile loop: Hawk Ridge, Alder Creek and Ancient Oaks (grab a map at the trailhead because the particular routes can get confusing). Bring your own water and don’t forget your camera for those romantic sunset pictures with your date.

Skyline Ridge Preserve //650.691.1200

Russian Ridge // 650.691.1200

(Image via the West Wind Website)

For your classic movie date…with a twist!

At the West Wind Capitol 6 Drive-in San Jose you have the best of both worlds: getting to watch a movie on the big screen, while also having private space with your date to enjoy the film and….get to know each other. Bring some blankets and pack snacks to create the perfect, intimate date right in your own car.

Tickets are $8 for general admission and are sold first-come, first-served at the door — so get there early and enjoy quality time with your date before the opening scene.

The Stanford Theatre’s organist playing before the show. (Image via Yelp)

For an equally atmospheric movie outing, the beautiful Stanford Theatre in downtown Palo Alto will transport you back in time. Originally opened in 1925, the wonderfully ornate theater now showcases the classic films of Hollywood’s Golden Age. So sit close during a Hitchcock classic, but also make sure to arrive early to watch the theater’s organist play the venue’s fully-restored Wurlitzer organ in the lead-up to the start of the movie, setting the stage for romance. What is even better than old-timey romance? Old-timey prices! Tickets at the Stanford Theatre are just $7 and popcorn is only $3.

And just because the movie is over does not mean the date has to be. Stroll up and down University Avenue, twinkling with strung lights, and grab a bite or have a drink in some of the many local bars and restaurants.

West Wind Captiol 6 Drive-in San Jose //6330 Hillcap Avenue, San Jose; 408.226.2251

The Stanford Theatre// 221 University Avenue, Palo Alto; 650.324.3700

You can both appreciate and participate with the art at San Jose Art Museum. (Image via SJ Museum of Art Website)

For the art lovers

Looking for a Friday night date destination beyond your local bar? The San Jose Museum of Art is free from 5–9 p.m. on the first Friday of every month, which fits perfectly into an ideal timeframe for a weekend date. It is also free year-round for visitors 17 years or younger, undergraduate students and school teachers (bring an ID). The museum houses an expansive permanent collection and showcases a regularly rotating calendar of featured exhibits (check out their current exhibits ahead of time).

What’s more romantic than a cable car ride? (Image via Yelp)

Looking for something less artsy? The San Francisco Cable Car Museum is free every day and features an array of vintage cable cars housed in a historic rail powerhouse. Take some pics, learn some history and then have a romantic ride through the city on a nearby cable car.

And as long as you’re heading to the city, keep an eye on the current list of free days for San Francisco’s many museums. The Academy of Sciences, the Legion of Honor, the Asian Art Museum and many more all have one day each month with free admission.

Another angle on a free museum visit is Discover & Go. All you need is a membership with a local public library that pairs with Discover & Go (the Peninsula has several!) for a free day pass to participating museums. From there it’s as simple as logging in with your library card and selecting a museum and a date you want to visit. Spots are limited. A list of venues and dates for a two-month window is released at midnight on the first day of every month.

San Jose Museum of Art //110 S Market St, San Jose; 408.271.6840

San Francisco Cable Car Museum // 1201 Mason St, San Francisco; 415.474.1887

Fifth Crow stand at San Mateo Farmers’ Market with their early Fall harvest. (Image via Yelp)

For the organically minded

Rows of food stalls sporting locally-sourced produce? Free samples? Floppy hats, holding hands and healthy eats? If this sounds like a good date to you, there is no shortage of great farmers’ markets all over the Peninsula.

Where to begin? Here are a few of the many that we’ve enjoyed over the years:

The Pescadero Farmers Market has unique hours—3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursdays. It is a very community-oriented affair and with farmland in each direction, the produce is about as fresh as it gets.

(Image via Yelp)

The San Mateo Farmers’ Market—from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.—has great organic fruit stands, bakery tents and a wide range of gorgeous cut flowers. Stop by the Brioche Bakery pop-up for a delicious fresh baked puff pastry!

The Mountain View Farmers’ Market—every Sunday from 9am to 1pm—showcases more than 80 vendors in a downtown area full of coffee and boba shops.

These are just a few of the very many farmers’ market options available around the region. Others include Cambrian Park on Wednesdays; Sunnyvale, South San Francisco and Half Moon Bay on Saturdays; Belmont, Menlo Park, San Carlos and Palo Alto’s California Ave on Sunday.

(Image via the SF Giants Instagram)

For the fans

Found a special someone who also loves to get out of their seat and yell for our local teams? Take them out to the ball game! Giants fan? General sports fan? Hot dog, beer and a good time fan? Giants tickets sell for as low as $10 per person, making this a home run of a date.

Driving (and really—parking) can be a major headache, but the San Francisco Caltrain Station is two blocks from Oracle Park, making it the ideal form of transportation if you’re coming from the Peninsula.

Prefer a rowdier outing to get your hearts a-poundin’? San Jose Sharks games at the SAP Center have all the energy and punch you’re looking for with cheap tickets selling for $15 each. (And yes, the upcoming 2020 season is on sale now.)

Oracle Park //24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco; 415.972.2000

SAP Center// 525 W Santa Clara St, San Jose; 408.287.7070

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Sahale Greenwood Profile Photo

Sahale Greenwood

I am a journalist and photographer with a passion for people and the outdoors. I recently won the Justin T. McCarthy Award for Excellence in Journalism 2021 upon my graduation from Santa Clara University.

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