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The Short Version: Nestled among the Santa Cruz Mountains, Filoli Historic House and Garden gives visitors a chance to explore a historic 654-acre estate in the California countryside. Colorful flowers bloom all year round at Filoli’s vast and vibrant gardens. You can tour the mansion or the gardens with a date to find intimate nooks perfect for having a quiet conversation and capturing pretty pictures. Many couples enjoy strolling hand in hand down the winding pathways and soaking in the fragrant elegance of this historic destination. The 56-room Georgian-style mansion transports visitors to another time by providing a laid-back place where they can slow down and enjoy each other’s company. Filoli also has a one-mile nature trail, a traditional afternoon tea event, and late-night summer exhibits to engage the senses and entertain daters looking for a memorable experience in a beautiful setting.
Built in California in 1917, Filoli’s historic mansion and gardens stand as a beautiful reminder of the promise of the early 20th century. An American entrepreneur named William Bowers Bourn II built the estate as a personal refuge for himself and his wife. When he started the project in 1912 at age 55, he wrote that he planned to devote “the afterglow of my life” to its development. “There, I hope to grow young,” he said at the time.
The name Filoli is an acronym of William’s personal creed: “To fight for a just cause; to love your fellow man; to live a good life.” Fight. Love. Live. These are the values that founded the estate, and, although it has changed hands over the last century, the grounds continue to inspire people to live life to the fullest.
Today, the site is recognized as a California Historical Landmark. Its last owners, William and Lurline Matson Roth, donated the house and garden to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1975 because they believed it was too beautiful to be kept private. Filoli Historic House and Garden, a nonprofit organization, began to co-steward the estate in 1976 with the National Trust, thus ensuring that the mansion and its grounds would remain for the enjoyment of future generations.
Filoli opens its doors to visitors from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, rain or shine. Anyone can explore the 56-room mansion and its 654 acres of land.
When couples explore the country estate and its surrounding nature trails, they experience the tranquility and charm of a bygone era. Filoli’s luxurious design complements its natural surroundings, including the breathtaking Santa Cruz Mountains. Each year, nearly 175,000 visitors tour Filoli’s grounds and enjoy a calm respite from their busy lives.
“Filoli offers unique restorative experiences for the whole family throughout the seasons,” said Marketing and Digital Media Coordinator Gretchine Nievarez. “Any visit, of course, would make for a memorable date!”
When the Roth family purchased the Filoli estate in 1937, they transformed it into a social destination. The family hosted elaborate high society balls where couples could dance the night away and enjoy the splendor of the mansion and gardens.
Mrs. Roth was particularly fond of flowers; she added magnolia, camellias, and roses to the gardens and filled the House with fresh floral arrangements. Many people admired her work in the gardens and the colorful bouquets of flowers placed throughout the mansion. To this day, Filoli continues to attract people from all walks of life.
You can take your date on a garden tour to appreciate the soft fragrances and vibrant colors of the flowers. It only costs $5 per person to take a docent-led tour through the manicured garden. Depending on the season, you could see bright purple wisteria or deep red roses in the formal garden. You can go online to see what’s in bloom before your visit.
If you want to make your date extra special, you can cap the day with a traditional Afternoon Tea — a monthly event that runs from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. You can reserve a table for two for $165. Your ticket includes the entrance fee, a three-tiered tray serving finger sandwiches, freshly made scones, mini pastries, and indulgent desserts. Filoli also serves its signature Filoli Rose Tea in china teacups.
“You can transport yourself to another time when life seemed a lot simpler,” Gretchine said. This lovely tradition gives couples a delicious way to make their afternoons more memorable. Whether you’re coming on Valentine’s Day or just a regular Wednesday, you’ll enjoy a high-class teatime in a relaxing atmosphere.
Filoli also has more engaging outdoor activities for active couples and families. Its beloved hiking grounds take hikers through chaparral, oak woodlands, riparian corridors, and redwood groves. In the springtime, you can take a 90-minute nature hike with a guide for $10 per person. Experienced docents share interesting facts with visitors to make Filoli’s history come alive.
“Exploring the Nature Preserve is another romantic option,” Gretchine told us. “You can see wildlife and plants in their native habitats.”
You can also take a self-guided tour along the Estate Trail, which opened in 2017. This one-mile loop extends beyond the House and Garden. Couples can get away from it all and see turkeys in the fields alongside the trail. After your explorations, you can grab a bite to eat at Filoli’s Quail’s Nest Café, a conservatory-style café located at the Visitor and Education Center.
Summers at Filoli bring even more opportunities for fun and romance. Every Thursday night from June 7 until Aug. 31, the house and gardens will stay open late until 8 p.m. During these extended hours, visitors pay a little extra to have the chance to watch the sun set while wandering the gardens.
In addition to its extended hours, Filoli also features live music performances, art exhibits, and flower shows in the summer. The Colors of California will offer a series of fun nights filled with delightful sights, sounds, and tastes. Appetizers, beer, and wine are for sale during these special nights.
The Summer Opening Event on May 31 would make a great date activity because Filoli will serve champagne upon arrival and feature dancing by the pool. Tickets cost $65 for members and $75 for non-members.
“The summer season is when Filoli will be celebrating the Colors of California in layers of exhibits, events, and programs,” Gretchine explained. “Mark your calendars for the return of our other popular events and our all-new Summer Nights.”
Filoli draws many couples wishing to lose themselves in the beauty of its gardens and the intimacy of its grounds. The historic destination provides a picturesque setting for a date, a proposal, an anniversary, and other romantic moments.
“I was looking for something different than the usual to take my girlfriend on a date,” said Evan Wilson, who discovered Filoli in an online search and surprised his girlfriend with a trip to the mansion. “We were both enchanted with the beauty of the gardens and historic house and have been coming back ever since.”
“Words can’t express how beautiful the place is.” — E., a visitor of Filoli
Evelyn Chu called Filoli “a must-visit garden in the San Francisco Bay Area.” She also pointed out that because the different flowers are in bloom throughout the year, every visit offers new sights and smells. “There are always flowers blooming whenever you visit here,” Evelyn said. “Staffers at the cafeteria are all volunteers and super nice.”
One visitor said she went to Filoli with her husband on Valentine’s Day and had a splendid time. They enjoyed afternoon tea together and toured the gardens at their leisure. “Everything was perfect,” she said. “The gardens are so beautiful. Words can’t express how beautiful the place is.”
Love is at the center of Filoli’s name as well as its mission. The historic estate has provided a romantic backdrop for countless couples throughout the years, and it will continue to wow guests for generations to come.
Since it opened to the public over 40 years ago, Filoli Historic House and Garden has enamored people from all walks of life. Whether you’re dancing in the botanical gardens in the summer, going hiking in the fall, or enjoying high tea in the spring, the estate offers many opportunities to impress a date in the breathtaking California countryside.
“My husband and I were pleasantly surprised at how beautifully the house was decorated,” said Linda W. in a Yelp review of Filoli’s holiday decorations. “The garden at night with all the twinkly white lights was spectacular! We enjoyed being able to have a glass of wine while strolling the garden.”