The Coolest Things to Do in LA After Dark
If you're looking for things to do when the sun's still up, check out our recommendations for the best things to do in Los Angeles.
Congratulations: You picked the right time to live in Los Angeles. LA currently has what might just be the best food scene in the whole country, not to mention a killer bar scene, so it's understandable if most evenings out are dedicated to working your way down your list of new openings, hotspots, and old favorites to revisit. But if you want to shake up your after-dark agenda a bit and are in search of something new and unexpected, LA’s got a whole world of other interesting nightlife options to explore. From carnival game nights to creepy midnight movies, here’s a solid selection of alternative activities to consider for your next night out.
Roll a strike and eat some pizza
Bowling alleys have come a long way since our childhood outings filled with Formica, frozen pizza, and on-screen scoring graphics leftover from the early Atari era. For a retro-cool evening at the lanes, try Highland Park Bowl; the venue dates back to the Prohibition era, and Hospitality outfit 1933 Group brought it back to its glory days a few years ago, restoring the whole place, unearthing the vintage interior, and creating a menu centered around wood-fired pizzas and classic cocktails, along with a California-heavy beer list. You can also catch live bands several nights a week at the attached Mr. T’s. The longstanding Pinz in Studio City -- a massive, always-jamming space with 32 lanes -- is always good for celebrity spotting and popular with groups and birthday parties. LA’s four Bowlero-branded alleys scattered around the Westside and South Bay boast lit-up lanes, a big menu of bar food, fun tunes, and league nights. Note that the downside of bowling’s hip resurgence is that it’s not so easy to just walk in and start rolling without a wait, especially on weekends, so you'd best reserve a lane ahead of time.
Watch LeBron in action
Basketball season is almost upon us, so time to get your tickets to a game, nearly all which take place after dark. OK, so it’s not going to be a cheap outing, but catching a Lakers game at Staples Center is an energy-infused, celebrity-filled, kiss cam-crazy LA evening you’ve got to experience at least once. Clippers tix are usually cheaper since the team has historically played second fiddle in this Lakers-loving city, but this could be their year: Clipper Nation is currently the odds-on favorite to take the title at the NBA Finals in 2020.
School yourself in the world of cheese
If you’re looking for a new excuse to eat cheese and drink wine (and who isn’t, really?), here you go: Every month (other than December and January) the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills hosts three back-to-back cheese-and-wine tasting nights. The tastings – led by the store’s GM, buyer, and all-around cheese wizard and Tony Princiotta – usually center around a certain region, (think Tuscany or the Alps) and features 10(!) artisan cheeses along with seven wines split into three flights. Princiotta invites guest winemakers and experts to participate each month, who introduce and explain the history of the wines, often small production, organic offerings. And in case you haven’t officially reached cheese overload by the end of the two-hour shebang, you can head over to the shop afterwards (the tasting takes place a few doors down) for mingling and discounted ... well you know. To get the monthly invite, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get cultured at a museum after-hours
Many of LA’s most magnificent museums stay open late at least one night a week, so you can swap your usual after-work happy hour for something actually educational. UCLA’s art and cultural center Hammer Museum remains open until 8pm Tuesday through Friday, is free to everyone, and has a pretty robust schedule of programming, including many evening options. Contemporary art headquarters LACMA welcomes visitors until 8pm on Friday nights, and also hosts its Friday night live-on-the-plaza music series Jazz at LACMA starting at 6pm every Friday from April through November. With tons of outdoor space, amazing views, and 110-acres, The Getty is a great spot to let a Saturday afternoon roll into evening. It stays open until 9pm on Saturday nights and puts on its free monthly outdoor concert series Off the 405 in the summer, along with some shows inside its auditorium come winter. Downtown’s architectural masterpiece The Broad (home of the oft-Instagrammed Infinity Mirror Rooms) remains open until 8pm Thursday, Friday, and Saturdays; while admission is free, it’s best to reserve a ticket ahead of time, if you can.
Cheer on the badass ladies of roller derby
Shake up your Saturday night as a spectator of Derby Dolls: a non-profit all-female, banked roller derby league comprised of 150 junior and adult members spread out among multiple teams with don’t-mess-with-us monikers like the Sirens, Varsity Brawlers, and Tough Cookies. Derbies usually take place monthly (though the organization puts on daily offerings of classes, scrimmages, and skill practices pretty much daily for members) with junior bouts during the day and adults lacing up in the evening. The derbies are the real deal -- unscripted with rules and referees and end-of-season semi-finals and championship bouts coming up in November and December.
Beat writers’ block with booze
We all know the repercussions of drinking and texting, but imbibing while thoughtfully writing a letter the old-fashioned way is a totally different story. An organization called Pen2Paper Project, which holds social workshops on the art of letter-writing and journaling, just launched the series A Nourished Spirit at the Hotel Palomar. Each workshop will have a theme and multiple cocktail pairings meant to give you a little inspiration and liquid courage to start writing. Lead bartender Sarah Mengoni has already come up with some innovative offerings, like the whiskey-and-ginger-liqueur-based Bumper to Bumper, garnished with a teeny-tiny I-405 sign (and part of the LA-themed evening, duh). There are also a few food pairings on offer, and ticket proceeds go toward the youth culinary-training non-profit C-CAP LA.
See a puppet show (seriously)
Founded in the ‘60s by late puppeteer and marionette maker Bob Baker (not to be confused with the similar-named former Price Is Right host), the Bob Baker Marionette Theater, dedicated to puppets-on-a-string, unveiled its new home in Highland Park in 2018 after decades spent at its original Downtown theater. Before you scroll right on by and insist that puppet shows are for children and it would be super creepy if you showed up, know this: The kitschy shows, costumed puppeteers, and 2,000+ handmade marionettes really do equal fun for all ages, and some Saturday evening shows are geared towards adults. The theater recently hosted a musical performance to mark the unveiling of its new over-the-top organ, and its Women in Vaudeville show hosted by “world renowned” juggler Lindsay Benner just returned to the schedule along with an upcoming School House Rock performancewith puppets.
Hike by moonlight
We Angelenos love our bright-and-early hikes -- just try to find parking at 8am on a weekend at Runyon Canyon. Even if you’re a serious morning person, though, it’s worth giving a post-twilight trek a go; you can make the hike up Griffith Park’s Mt. Hollywood since the park is open to the public until 10pm. Better yet, hook up with the Sierra Club’s Angeles Chapter which leads evening hikes on Tuesdays and Thursdays with multiple hikes running around two hours targeted at different skill levels, ranging from OMG-I’ve-never-even seen-a-mountain-before-types to people who spend most of their free time at REI. There’s also a moderate-to-advanced-only hike on Wednesday evenings, and a 2.5-hour Monthly Moonlight hike on the Saturday closest to the full moon, when participants bring snacks for a potluck at the top.
Have a tech-heavy carnival game night
Whether you’re an old-school arcade fan or all about the latest and greatest gaming technology, the Arts District’s 38,000-square-foot “micro amusement park” Two Bit Circus will be able to keep you entertained with its wild wonderland of interactive action. The place is filled with competition games like Skee-Ball and balloon pop (real ball, virtual balloons), along with classic video games. The real show-stoppers here are the virtual reality offerings, which let you bounce from tackling VR-infused escape rooms, to banding together with friends to battle zombies during an apocalypse, to making your way through a single-player mazes with pretty killer effects (we know we’re not actually going to fall into the abyss if we step off that cliff, but it's still enough to get the blood pumping). Entrance is free, and you pay to play. If you’ve got a crew in tow you can go in on a private gaming cabana rented in 90-minute blocks.
Go for a group run after dark
Your couch + Netflix seems like a pretty decent option after a ridiculously long day at work, but your body will thank you if you strap on your sneakers and get a little exercise come evening instead. Blacklist LA organizes 3-to-4-mile Community Art Runs on Monday evenings, during which 200+ participants run from a meeting point to a public art piece and learn a bit about it before high-tailing it back. For those who want to reward themselves after a workout, a club called Electric Flight Crew (which you’ll need to join in order to participate) holds weekly runs and workouts in the South Bay, Santa Monica, and WeHo that are followed up by a convivial “No Shower Happy Hour.”
Take in a creepy midnight movie
The historic Nuart Theater is already a solid venue for film buffs, screening classics as well as new indie films and documentaries, sometimes accompanied by Q&As with filmmakers and movie subjects. It’s here that you can also settle in for a frequently frightening (but sometimes not) movie screening on Fridays at 11:59pm, with flicks that might be a full-on screamfest like Halloween III one week and the Japanese animated fantasy film Spirited Away another. And are there still people out there going to midnight Rocky Horror screenings? Apparently, yes: you’ll find them here on Saturday nights.
Catch a concert under the stars (while you still can)
Few amphitheaters are more magical than The Hollywood Bowl nestled in the Hollywood Hills. Yes, getting in and out is never fun, but once you get there as the sun is setting, indulge in a gourmet picnic and a few bottles of wine, and then catch an amazing act, you’ll have forgotten all about that LA traffic... until it’s time to head home, at least. Though the Bowl is synonymous with summer around here, the season runs all the way through October. Between now and then, you can catch performances by Gary Clark, Jr., Vampire Weekend, Lana Del Rey, and The Who -- a band that’s on the schedule three times in October as they continue to pretend they’re going to retire.
Settle in for story time
If you’re one of those people who can totally transcend cocktail party fodder with an entertaining story that warrants gasps and guffaws, you just might want to try spilling your guts to a real audience at one of the open-mic StorySLAM sessions held weekly around the city, as part of long-running series The Moth. Not into public speaking? Simply buy a ticket and watch as a slew of storytellers get five minutes each, telling tales centered around a single theme ranging from fear to scandal to joy. Venues, dates, and pricing vary, and you can buy tickets online.
Find yourself stupefied inside a magic castle...
The legendary Magic Castle is, sleight-of-hands-down, one of the coolest venues in LA. You’re inside an old Victorian mansion stuffed with antiques and artifacts, and there’s entertainment lurking around every corner -- from a ghost taking requests on the piano to Houdini séances to roving magicians blowing your mind with card tricks while you’re waiting for your martini at one of the many, many groovy bars. Then, there are the wow-worthy scheduled shows that take place in various spaces around the castle all night long. Here’s the catch (because of course, there is a catch): The Magic Castle is a private clubhouse for members of The Academy of Magical Arts, so you can only visit as the guest of a member. Before you insist you don’t know a single real-life magician, though, start asking friends and friends of friends now. You’d be surprised how often someone like Blake in accounting’s husband’s childhood friend can totally get you in. Also note that you’ll have to splurge on dinner in the restaurant before they’ll let you loose in the castle. Just eat quickly.
...or hit another Hollywood magic show
If you haven’t yet found your in for the castle but still want to see some magic, dammit, you’ve got some nearby options: The Magic Show at the historic Hollywood Roosevelt hotel recently announced that it’s bringing in magic savant Franco Pascali for a weekend residency. The 21-year-old is already a Magic Castle alum and reportedly does a mind-blowing show of magic and mentalism. Down the street, nightlife powerhouses the Houston brothers’ retro-sexy lounge-restaurant Black Rabbit Rose comes replete with an intimate theater attached, boasting top-notch magicians Thursday through Saturday nights.
Expand your kitchen capabilities with a mellow cooking class
Woodland Hills, West LA, and Lincoln Heights
Yes, you’ve got your go-to pasta dish and those special burgers you grill every Fourth of July, but wouldn’t it be great to have something a bit more impressive in your repertoire? Hipcooks’ hands-on cooking classes focus heavily on multicultural cuisines so you can take on Thai, master Moroccan, and slay sushi depending on what you’re into. The format is casual, the teachers are laid-back, and each session is paired with wine, beer, or cocktails and ends with you getting to eat what you made (we’re imagining hangry chaos ensuing if that wasn’t the case). Note those with dietary restrictions can be accommodated in some classes if you let them know ahead of time. Most classes at the three locations are $70 a person.
Take part in a public star party
One Saturday a month the Griffith Observatory, which sits on the south side of Mount Hollywood, hosts a free public star party where you can try out a gaggle of telescopes and gaze at the sun, moon, planets, stars, and other celestial stuff out in the universe. In case you're not an astronomer yourself, volunteers from smart-people clubs Los Angeles Astronomical Society, Los Angeles Sidewalk Astronomers, and The Planetary Society will be on hand to answer questions.
While monthly events like this one are often summer-only or have morphed into food truck-line-fueled sidewalk gridlock (we’re looking at you, Abbot Kinney), DTLA’s Art Walk takes place on the second Thursday evening of the month all year long. In addition to more than two dozen galleries and artist’s studios open late, the event often includes pop-up shops, activities, and live entertainment. Hit up the Art Walk Lounge -- currently located at The Last Bookstore (worth a separate visit if you haven’t been) for maps and info about what’s going on that night.
Unlike the daytime tour led by a cheery page taking guests through the New York City backlot (complete with bodegas and brownstones just like the real New York!), the nighttime Tales from the Other Side tours (running Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights from September 20 to November 16) are meant to amp up the spook factor. The flashlight-led outing kicks off with a Champagne toast (cheers to tales of dead celebs!) and promises scary stories as you tour the backlot and soundstages in the dark, finishing up with a walk through the adjacent Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The less-Halloweeny After Dark Tour returns in December.
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