Hey Area is where we find answers to questions you ask. Cameron Williams wanted to know: "What’s the best place in the Bay Area to have a first kiss?"
Cameron sent us this question because, he says, “At the time I was getting more serious with my girlfriend. I was thinking, what are romantic spots in the city?”
There are a lot of them. Personally, I’ve always thought Dolores Park is really romantic. It has rolling green hills, lots of hidden spaces to get some privacy, and a great view of San Francisco. And people seem to agree with me — the park is often full of couples cuddling and making out. So I ask some about their favorite places to kiss.
“At the Fillmore,” says one park-goer.
“Golden Gate Park,” suggests another.
“Let’s say Twin Peaks,” decides one couple.
“Here,” another couple tells me. “Dolores Park.”
All good answers. But what I really want to know is, what are the qualities that make a great spot for a first kiss?
“A lot of it has to do with feeling safe, both emotionally and physically,” says Barnali Ghosh, a landscape architect and walking tour guide in Berkeley. “And I think safety is often created by the kind of lighting you have, the kind of landscape you have.”
I meet Barnali on Shattuck Avenue. She and her husband walk home together from BART along this street, and they love to kiss here. Barnali tells me that’s because this spot has a lot of the qualities that make a great place to kiss someone. First, there’s the right level of light.
“Not so much that you feel self conscious,” she says.
Also the right view: it has a little nature. And, Barnali tells me, you want the right amount of activity. Not too much traffic. “A romantic encounter is sort of interrupted every time you have to cross the street,” she says.
And not too much noise. “I think construction noise or leaf blowers would make it hard,” Barnali acknowledges with a laugh.
It’s not just about the landscape. The people around you matter, too. Barnali remembers one time at a dinner party, when she and her husband were kissing. And another person there commented on it. Barnali describes their reaction as being, “You know, I’ve never seen Indian people kiss ... publicly.”
That didn’t feel good. A lot of people take for granted that they can kiss in public, but that’s not true for many people. That can be because of race or ethnicity, or because of gender or sexuality.
“A lot of queer and trans issues are becoming more visible, which is really beautiful. But that doesn’t necessarily equate to safety,” says Dominique Cowling. She works for Community United Against Violence, where she helps LGBTQ people build healthy relationships. That can be tricky when it’s not always safe or comfortable to be visibly queer.
“Maybe we can’t hold hands, or maybe we can’t kiss in this area or this neighborhood,” Dominique tells me — because LGBTQ people still face discrimination. “And so we have to be very, very mindful and vigilant of the certain cities that we’re in. Even if they’re open, and even if they have neighborhoods like the Castro, we still have to be very, very aware, which has an impact on our nervous systems in different ways.”
That can make it hard to get in the mood to kiss someone. But Dominique says there are still places where those things don’t get in the way — like, for example, Grizzly Peak up in the Berkeley hills.
“You can get a nice little view of the Bay. Being in nature is a really beautiful thing. I think Mother Nature is kind of queer too, and like, supports us,” she says, laughing.
Ultimately, it’s about creating a space where both you and your partner can feel comfortable and respected — that’s what’s really romantic.