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Plan a perfect date at San Francisco’s Presidio Tunnel Tops

Parkgoers visit the Presidio Tunnel Tops on July 17, 2022. | Brian Feulner for The Standard

Editor’s Note: Welcome to “It’s a Date,” the first in a series of date guides to help you navigate your love life with thoughtfully planned and field-tested Bay Area itineraries. First up, a romantic play date at Tunnel Tops with your plus-one.

If you want to impress your date with spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Tunnel Tops, which opened last year, is a great choice—especially for ecology nerds. In addition to stunning scenery, this new-ish addition to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area boasts a tricked-out playground, a campfire circle and a field station, where you and your date can learn about the actual birds and the bees. 

There’s also plenty of room for a scenic picnic—either at one of the park’s many tables or sprawled out on one of the verdant, well-manicured lawns. And with a rotating cast of food trucks parked nearby every day, you can pack light and decide what to eat when you’re there.

Great for: A second date, an adventurous first or science nerds in general   
Vibe: Playful, fun and low-stakes 
Time: 1-3 hours

Test Your Chemistry at the Field Station

The field station wants to make science fun. It’s packed with maps, magnifying glasses and specimens of California flora and fauna. Examine old maps of San Francisco and vintage photo slides of the Presidio, along with paw prints of local animals. Work your right brain by writing a poem inspired by nature or using a colored pencil to draw a California wildflower at a still-life art station. You can take home your doodle as a memento or hang it up on a communal art wall—kind of like carving your initials into a tree trunk or park bench without committing vandalism. 

Tunnel Tops' field station features a range of activities and ecological artifacts, like this taxidermied owl. | Brian Feulner for The Standard

And don’t forget to (literally) stop and smell the flowers. You can make a game out of seeing who can guess the aroma and origin of various flora specimens. Think of it as a test of your chemistry.

Craft Beer and Cocktails on the Go 

Continue your scientific exploration with a beverage. While the Fort Point Beer Company has a production facility in the Presidio, the public isn’t allowed to drink there. Thankfully, one of San Francisco’s best-known brewers can be found selling cold draughts among the many food trucks stationed in the parking lot in front of the Presidio Visitor Center at 210 Lincoln Blvd.

Lady Victory serves cocktails, wine and beer out of a vintage Volkswagen van in the parking lot near the Presidio Visitor Center at Tunnel Tops. | Nick Veronin/The Standard

If you’re looking for something stronger, the Lady Victory Mobile Bar is often also on-site, serving cocktails, beer and wine out of a converted vintage Volkswagen bus. Those preferring a nonalcoholic beverage can order coffee, tea or matcha at other pop-up food stations.

Dine al Fresco With a Golden Gate View 

If you’re lucky enough to get clear skies, views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the bay from Tunnel Top’s grassy lawns are spectacular—especially at sunset. On the other hand, the arrival of San Francisco’s perennial fog could offer the perfect excuse to wrap your arm around your boo. 

READ MORE: The Standard Guide to San Francisco’s Favorite Park Hangs   

Audience members dance to the Cuban band Rumbache at the Presidio Tunnel Tops' grand opening celebration on July 17, 2022. | Brian Feulner for The Standard

A cast of rotating food trucks posts up around the Presidio Visitor Center at Tunnel Tops and by the playground from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekends. Fare includes reliable standbys like street tacos and more unique treats, such as Ukrainian borscht and Pakistani falooda. It all makes for a great conversation piece while the two of you feast on samplings from around the world.

The Golden Gate Bridge is shrouded in fog while visitors enjoy Tunnel Tops' park on July 31, 2022. | Don Feria for The Standard

If you’re feeling the vibe, you may want to linger till the sun sets or walk off hand-in-hand to Crissy Field, Golden Gate Beach or Marina Green for even more scenic views before the sweet sorrow of parting ways—or not.