Bernal Heights Mood-Maker

San Francisco is among the most romantic cities in America. And amorous moods can be easily conjured by…

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San Francisco is among the most romantic cities in America. And amorous moods can be easily conjured by an afternoon visit to one of the most understated pockets of the city, Bernal Heights Park. This hilltop haven and surrounding neighborhood pack some serious soul. Start at the end of Folsom Street and walk along the paved road (no cars allowed), winding all the way to the top of Bernal Hill. If you want to wander off the road, there are several shortcuts via a network of red dirt trails and wooden staircases. The park offers plenty of greenery (especially after the recent rains) and some spectacular views of the city and South Bay that rival those from Twin Peaks.

BONUS: On the southern side of the park, Cortland Avenue offers everything from saloons and eateries to coffee shops and independent bookstores. For some comfort food with a matching atmosphere, grab a table at the Liberty Café and get a signature chicken pot-pie or banana cream pie (they make all kinds of pies). Or for a smooth cup of coffee with a lively vibe, stop into the Progressive Grounds where folk singers gather close to the backroom fireplace and the outdoor patio adds charm.

The Liberty Cafe, 410 Cortland Ave., San Francisco; 415-695-1223.

Progressive Grounds, 400 Cortland Ave., San Francisco; 415-282-6233.

From Highway 101 in San Francisco, exit Cesar Chavez going west and turn left onto Folsom St. Continue uphill on Folsom St. and look for the parking lot for Bernal Heights Park. Cortland Ave. is on the south side of the park. See a map here. Bernal Heights Park is very dog-friendly.

WEEKEND SHERPA EXTRA: Want even more ideas? Check out last year’s issue, Romance Last-Minute.

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