While those who don’t live in LA may not believe we have seasons, the arrival of heat lamps on patios and the ability to wear more than one layer says otherwise: LA's version of winter has arrived. What better way to embrace the season than by planning a brilliant date that offers plenty of opportunities to cozy up with your special someone? From culinary adventures to stunning views from both rooftops and horseback, here are our favorite winter date ideas that we’re totally willing to let you take credit for.
Carson Take a break from your usual hop-heavy brewery date night, and discover refreshing new flavors together at Honest Abe’s Cider House and Meadery. Located just down the road from the spooky and sour brews of Phantom Carriage Brewery in Carson, this cider house features 15 rotating taps of classic ciders (as well as creative ones like pineapple and pomegranate), plus a variety of meads, wine, and even brandy -- perfect for warming up on a chilly fall night. The cozy tasting room has couches and games, plus Taco Thursdays and free pizza and movies on Fridays.
Indulge in a late-night “Burger Bang Bang” at Old Man Bar
Old Man Bar might not be the name that first springs to mind for a date, but the dark and cozy cocktail haven hidden inside Culver City’s Hatchet Hall is prime date territory and not some old fogey hang. They’ve also just launched a new “Late Night Burger Bang Bang” special every Sunday and Monday from 10pm to 1am perfect for an after-hours meetup -- complete with ’80s jams on the turntable. Of course, you may need to clarify to your date that the “bang bang” implies a tempting combo of a beer and a shot paired with a juicy burger and beef fat fried potatoes for $25 -- but that’s up to you. Also, the burgers are limited each night, so don’t be late.
Ride the rails along the coast in style with the Pacific Surfliner
While more adventurous than first or second date material, a day trip by train along the coast aboard the Pacific Surfliner is full of so much romantic California charm, it’s perfect for more advanced date plans. Hop on an early(ish) train on Saturday from Union Station, admire views of the Pacific as you breeze northward, and you’ll be in Santa Barbara by lunchtime, sipping local vintages at tasting rooms like Kunin Wines or artisanal booze at Cutler Spirits, and eating at Funk Zone staples like The Lucky Penny, The Nook, Les Marchands, Helena Avenue Bakery, or the patio at Shalhoob's for Tri Tip and burgers. After a leisurely stroll around town, you can hop back on the train, sip craft beer and wine on board, and catch the sunset on the way back home. (Unless things go really well, and you wind up staying the night.)
Hotel bar hop at some of Downtown LA’s coolest accommodations
Trying to find romance at a hotel bar is not typically advisable, but bringing a date to some of the coolest bars in town that just so happen to be in beautiful hotels is a solid choice. Consider dropping into the newly restored stunner Hotel Figueroa where you two can sip Spanish-style gin and tonics at Bar Figueroa or drink poolside at Rick’s (and stay tuned for the opening of Bar Alta). Over at the utterly stylish Nomad Hotel, you’ll find craft concoctions at the sleek Giannini Bar just off the main lobby; nearby, the Freehand welcomes you with creative, tea-inspired drinks at Rudolph’s Bar & Tea in the lobby, and seasonal sips on the rooftop with Broken Shaker. Other highlights include Metropole Bar at Hotel Indigo, the always-hip Upstairs rooftop bar at Ace Hotel, the Rooftop at The Standard, and Spire 73 on the 73rd floor of the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown -- which lays claim to the tallest open-air bar in the Western Hemisphere.
Lebec The thrill of hiking is amplified tenfold when you’ve got two magnificent wolves leading the way. Thanks to IfOnly -- a company that peddles one-of-a-kind experiences -- you and your date can trek through Los Padres National Forest with ambassador wolves from Project Wildsong. The hands-on experience includes a handler, who will teach you all about the species and answer any questions, lots of lupine licks from the animals, and plentiful selfie opportunities.
Downtown Yes, you’ll have to deal with long lines and masses of people taking photos of every bite they eat, but it’s worth it -- and now that the weather is cooling (slightly), you won’t melt on the asphalt. Every Sunday, this sprawling food fair hosts vendors with plenty of fall-friendly fare like Katsu Sando with their fried cutlet sandwiches, Filipino brioche from Ensaymada Project, and Brothecary, known for its bloated XLB dumplings. Pro tip: Share one of everything so you can try it all, go as early as possible to avoid the afternoon hordes, and don’t forget to spend some time in the beer garden.
Invite a top chef to cook a meal for you at home
Your kitchen Some nights you just want to enjoy a home-cooked meal -- but if neither of you feels like slaving away in the kitchen, Cozymeal is the answer to “So, what’re we having tonight?” Based on the kind of cuisine you want, Cozymeal will send a top chef -- some of whom have worked at Michelin-starred restaurants -- to whip up a gourmet feast in your kitchen. You can choose to help mix, chop, and stir, or just sit back with a glass of wine and watch how it’s done.
Temecula Falling in love is all about taking risks, so take your date to gamble the night away at the West Coast’s largest resort and casino. The two of you can easily make a day trip out of Pechanga, which recently completed a $300 million expansion to add a luxury spa, yoga studio, 4.5-acre pool complex, and over 500 new rooms and suites. Stroll around the massive casino floor and try your hand at everything from blackjack to baccarat, then use your winnings to indulge in some pampering at Spa Pechanga. If getting massaged and moisturized isn’t your cup of tea, hit up the picturesque golf course, or dive into one of the splashy new pools (preferably the one with a swim-up bar serving blackberry mojitos and banana coladas).
Pacoima While booking a flight with your date might be a bit premature, you can still hop aboard a retro-themed flight with the Pan Am Experience and sip cocktails together in first class. The immersive, five-course dinner experience features an exact replica of the airline’s Boeing 747 done to the last 1970s-era vintage detail. Order martinis from the open bar, feast on chateaubriand carved seat-side by flight attendants in the iconic Pan Am uniforms, and even shop old school items from the duty-free cart. You also tour Air Hollywood studios, where pretty much any film or TV show set on an airplane is filmed. It’s a fun, one-of-a-kind experience that's sure to impress.
Arts District Unlike any other distillery tour you’ve experienced (and there are some great ones in LA), Lost Spirits Distillery will take you and your date on an immersive Willy Wonka-esque journey that’s half amusement park ride, and half mad scientist laboratory. Along the way, you’ll sample their award-winning rums and peated malt whiskeys, which utilize innovative technology to reverse-engineer the otherwise lengthy aging process within a matter of weeks. The team -- which includes founders Bryan Davis and Joanne Haruta, and their autonomous talking computer system TESSA -- are happy to geek out with you if you’re a booze enthusiast, but you can also just enjoy the ride, parts of which are inspired by Pirates of the Caribbean. Either way, don’t forget to grab a bottle to go, so you can continue the date at home.
Play games and drink brews at breweries in the Arts District
Arts District Drinking and games have been essential date material since the dawn of time, so you owe it to your ancient ancestors to make good on this tried-and-true combination. One of the best spots to do so is in the Arts District, where it seems like a new game-filled brewery opens weekly. Head to the neighborhood’s OG, Angel City Brewery, where you’ll find darts, cornhole, and on Tuesdays, trivia and tacos -- all of which pair excellently with their ever-increasing roster of creative beers. Make it a brewery crawl, and head over to Arts District Brewing Company, where vintage Skee-Ball, pinball machines, and other classic bar games will entertain you both as you sip on a wide range of brews and chow down on eats from Fritzi Coop. Boomtown Brewery features pool, darts, table-top shuffleboard, ping-pong, and cornhole; while Iron Triangle Brewing has foosball, cornhole, plus trivia and board game nights.
Glassell Park Steam up your windows with your date at the only drive-in movie theater left in LA proper. Order food from Electric Dusk Drive-In’s Snack Shack, bring your own hooch, and watch (or don’t, WINK WINK) classic movies up on the big screen from the comfort of your car.
Grab a drink and get your heart racing on a slide 1,000 feet above DTLA
Downtown There’s nothing like an exhilarating experience to bring people closer together, which is why you should take your date to OUE Skyspace LA at the top of the U.S. Bank Tower. There, you can zip down a 45-foot glass slide from the 70th floor to the 69th(!) floor on the outside of the building; afterward, soak up spectacular views from California’s tallest open-air observation deck. They also recently debuted the new Skyspace Bar, one of the highest bars in SoCal, where you’ll find LA-inspired craft cocktails, premium California wines, local craft beers from nearby breweries, as well as bites from the new grab-and-go counter. If stretching is your thing, there’s also sunset yoga classes up there the first Tuesday of the month on the observation deck. And if you’re ready to pop the question, they offer a wedding proposal package with a private dinner, string quartet, and a helicopter tour that leaves from the roof. If you’re not quite ready for that, though, just head up to 71Above, one of the most romantic restaurants in town, for a fantastic prix fixe dinner and cocktails. The sunset views up there are so legendary, they even have their own Instagram account.
Tour the secret tunnels beneath the streets of DTLA
Downtown Venture below street level to discover the hidden tunnels, former speakeasies, and lore of the city’s underbelly with Cartwheel Art’s Underground LA tour. In partnership with Hotel Indigo, the tours will give you and your adventurous date an up-close look at the legendary secret passageways once used to transport booze (and bodies!) during Prohibition, and the clandestine watering holes used by those in the know. Once you’ve seen a side of the city that most haven’t, you’ll likely want to whet your whistle at a modern-day LA speakeasy like The Varnish, The Slipper Clutch, or Jackalope. Also note that Cartwheel Art has several other tours for other options as well, in case secret tunnels aren’t quite the date you had in mind.
Share your creative side with art classes at LACMA
Exploring LACMA’s numerous exhibitions and taking selfies in front of Levitated Mass and the streetlamps of Chris Burden’s Urban Light could constitute a respectable date on its own, but why not kick your creativity up a few notches and sign the two of you up for art classes at the museum? The adult classes include drawing and painting, mixed media printmaking, and more, and not only will you learn about composition, color, and technique together, but you can gift each other your own works of art. Most of the classes are five, once-a-week sessions, so this is really more for advanced dates (if you’re more of an entry-level option with less commitment and the addition of booze, try Paint Nite). Chat about your artistic progress post-class over gourmet farm-to-table bites at Ray’s & Stark Bar (another Patina Group star). Still can’t get enough of your art endeavors? Check out the museum’s 3D exhibit, which Ray’s & Stark Bar plays off of with a special 3D menu and experience you guys won’t want to miss.
Take a staycation cruise aboard the haunted Queen Mary
Long Beach Head down to Long Beach to the historic (and haunted) Queen Mary, which offers a multitude of date options in one location. The retired ocean liner, which sailed from 1936 to 1967, hosts numerous historical tours, as well as the Ghosts and Legends tour and paranormal-themed dinners sure to bring you and your date closer together. It also features monthly comedy shows and local band nights at the Observation Bar & Art Deco Lounge, and you can check the calendar for special seasonal events. If things go really well, you can even book one of the stylish staterooms for a luxurious staycation.
Various locations Don't worry, we're not recommending hiking hiking -- the hikes we're referring to (10 of which we detailed here) are instead easy-breezy short ones that'll get you to I-think-I-can-see-San-Diego-from-here heights. They're all ranked from one to five, with a one being a suuuuuper-easy hike, and five being just a little bit not-easier.
Various locations For both the new transplant in the city, and the longtime local who plainly just loves food, Six Taste’s walking tours hit up five or six different spots in one tour, focusing on the most edible and historical highlights of neighborhoods all over LA.
Make sure your next date can be a romantic dinner in with a Hipcooks class
Multiple locations Whether you consider yourself a Top Chef or a Boyardee Chef, your cooking game can always use some refining. Hone your skills and get messy together at one of the classes from this fun and affordable cooking school (at the Eastside, Westside, or Woodland Hills locations). You might just learn how to make some dim sum or pasta from scratch. Added bonus: You get a meal (and usually booze!) out of it.
Beverly Hills Stock up on culture cred with your date by checking out a jazz/theater/dance/classical production at the Wallis, the impressive arts center in Beverly Hills (of all places), and enjoy a sweet happy hour at the upscale Italian bistro Cecconi’s before the show. Hungry diners can pop in and get a little tipsy with some wine and cocktails, and soak up all that booze with gourmet bites (including truffle burgers, pizzettas with porchetta, and short rib croquettes) for $3-9, Tuesdays through Saturdays from 3-6pm.
Malibu Because Sonoma is a bit far to drive for someone who maybe accidentally swiped right, this handy wine tasting room along Mulholland offers you two a chance to sip vino with a view without awkwardly suffering through the smell of cow pies while driving north on the 5. Pack a picnic/stock up at Trader Joe’s and catch some live folksy music on the weekends, or get wild with the Wine Safaris, where you can take a jeep tour to meet and feed zebras, camels, giraffes, and more wild animals on the property (while tasting wine along the way).
Downtown We already told you how awesome OUE Skyspace LA is for dates, so what are you waiting for? From the two open-air observation decks, located 1,000 feet above the city, you get 360-degree views of Downtown Los Angeles. Visit at sunset and it’s one of the most romantic spots in town. But there is one small problem: how will you ever outdo yourself?
Go nighttime bike riding
Various locations The Passage is a weekly bike ride that starts and ends at a donut shop (score!), and along the way aims to hit unexplored parts of LA -- sometimes hitting pool halls, bowling alleys, and karaoke along the way. Is it oddball? Yes. Is it still an awesome date? YES.
Highland Park Sure, many of LA’s classic and well-worn bowling alleys have that endearing je ne sais quoi (like All Star Lanes’ karaoke stage!), but if you want to really impress a date, Highland Park Bowl is where it’s at. This historic joint has been open since the Prohibition era and was the former home to punk rock venue Mr. T’s Bowl. The revamped alley’s been given a glam makeover that melds the old with the new, like a recovered mural from the 1930s, chandeliers made of vintage pin-setters, and some seriously good wood-fired pizzas and craft cocktails. Pro tip: Go to happy hour Monday through Fridays from 5-8pm for discounts on drink and food -- like a $10 pizza-and-draft combo or $3 PBRs -- and lanes.
East Hollywood Barnsdall Art Park is one of the most underrated spots in LA to get a gorgeous view of the city and some culture under your belt. For the architecture buffs, Frank Lloyd Wright’s first-ever LA project, Hollyhock House, sits on this hilltop and is open for viewing with the purchase of a ticket Thursdays to Sundays. Pack a picnic for a sunset meal for extra bonus points with the date. And check the park’s calendar, as throughout the year it also plays host to wine tasting parties, outdoor movie screenings, gallery openings, and plenty more fun cultural events that are prime date material.
Various locations The Prohibition era may be long gone, but the idea of sneaking into a speakeasy never gets old. A few years back there were only a scant number of LA bars with secret entrances and special passwords -- now, we have so many (not-so-secret anymore) bars that you and your date could even do a bar crawl visiting these watering holes. But shh, you didn’t hear it from us.
Culver City While some people like to have romantic candlelit dinners on dates, others love a good adventure exploring really weird and creepy stuff. Don’t let the name of this place confuse you -- it’s not quite a museum like LACMA or MOCA -- but rather a bizarre experience exploring art, trinkets, and stuff that will have you giggling and muttering to your date, “What the hell?” We don’t want to spoil it for you, but all we can say is go in with an open mind and just know you’re in for a fun and delightfully unsettling time. An added perk is that you get to end your visit with a trip to the rooftop garden where you can have tea and cookies… because why not?
Hollywood Hills One of the coolest things about LA is its many, many secret sets of stairs. From Silver Lake to Santa Monica, you’ll find hillside neighborhoods with shortcuts dipping up and down random sets of stairs -- something Angelenos used to use back in the day, many for the sadly defunct streetcars. Our favorite route is the Beachwood Canyon one that goes through what old Hollywoodland once was. It's a chill 2.6-mile hike/walk where you and your date can get a little sweaty (that’s sexy, right?) and have fun figuring out the route and discovering some cool views and architecture porn along the way. If the date’s going well, extend it a little further with a bite to eat at nearby Beachwood Cafe, which just so happens to be owned by Chopped winner Patti Peck.
Various locations LA is #blessed with good weather pretty much most of the year, which means we have a plethora of al fresco dining and drinking options. We’ve highlighted 20 of our favorite restaurants with outdoor patios here, from a sweet rooftop bar with Fijian food to poolside dining at a swanky ‘60s-style hotel.
Watts Watts Towers is unlike anything else you’ll see around LA. Go on a guided tour and walk through the 17 historic art structures made of steel and mosaics. The tallest one is nearly 100 feet high! After you’ve gotten your dose of history and art, do yourself a favor and take your date to Watts Coffee House for soul-food brunch and get some of the best fried chicken wings and waffles in town.
Star Parties in Griffith Park
Los Feliz Whether you venture up to the Griffith Observatory on a hike or take the easy way by car, it’s always an excellent, starry-eyed date destination offering stunning views of the city. You can, of course, re-enact plenty of movie scenes from Rebel Without a Cause to La La Land -- or better yet, take your date to the Star Parties held one Saturday a month, where you two can peer through telescopes to see the real stars of Hollywood. Then head down to date night classic Little Dom’s to get cozy in a booth with a bottle of red and some hearty Italian eats.
Enjoy a magical meal
Hollywood You’ve probably heard couples talk about how they want to add some magic back into their relationship, so why not add some actual magic to your next date? Surely you know a magician -- er, illusionist -- who can get you into the legendary, members-only Magic Castle where illusions abound and dinner is actually much better than it used to be. Or, if you don’t, you could impress your date with an intimate show at Black Rabbit Rose, the new magic theatre from the creative Houston brothers (Break Room 86, Good Times at Davey Wayne’s, etc). After the show you can grab magic-inspired cocktails and excellent Thai-Chinese from Crying Tiger.
Journey through LA's historic past
Downtown There’s nothing like a bit of vintage Los Angeles history to inspire swoons straight from a classic noir romance. Start off with a ride on the newly reopened and restored Angels Flight, the iconic funicular railway that originally opened in 1901. Afterward, head over to Grand Central Market, which celebrates its centennial this year, where you and your date can feast from the myriad of delicious vendors (both new and legacy). Pro tip: The market now stays open for dinner, and offers nightly date-friendly events like Prawn’s trivia night, where you can win prizes and gift cards from GCM vendors every Wednesday until the end of August. You could also head down Broadway to historic Clifton’s and grab a drink at the Pacific Seas tiki bar. Explore even more with Esotouric’s unique and fascinating tours, which take you through the darker corners of LA’s literary, cultural, and true crime past.
Take in a floral-inspired brunch
Flower District Even if you aren’t a budding botanist yourself, exploring the historic Southern California Flower Market and Original Los Angeles Flower Market is an incredible only-in-LA experience that everyone should check out. Plus, what date wasn’t improved with a bouquet of fresh flowers (especially ones at a fraction of the cost of retail shops). Admission is just $2 per person for the general public, and you two can roam through the fragrant aisles freely, but just be sure to go before noon when most vendors close. There’s also a farmers market between the two flower markets on Saturdays, and you definitely want to grab brunch or lunch at Poppy & Rose. There you’ll find incredibly delicious American classics, including biscuits & gravy and buttermilk-brined fried chicken, as well as salads and egg dishes.
Crafts, brews, and sea life in San Pedro
San Pedro Venturing down to San Pedro may be unfamiliar territory for some, but the drive is well worth it if you’re looking for a unique date adventure -- and possibly even a staycation. Kick off the date at Brouwerij West, the massive brewery specializing in Belgian-inspired brews that use unique grains and ingredients. Grab a bite at the food truck parked outside, and catch live music during the warmer months. Across the way, you and your date can also check out works from local artists at Crafted, and you should definitely visit the Frank Gehry-designed Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, where you can explore exhibits of Southern California’s sea life, or get even more up close during guided tide pool walks or local excursions. While you’re in the area, grab a bite at one of the excellent eateries in nearby Long Beach -- like Roe Seafood, which has exquisite seafood spreads and classic cocktails, or modern Southwestern restaurant Panxa Cocina.
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Danny Jensen is a regular Thrillist contributor and a certified date idea specialist. It’s a thing. Look it up. For more inspired ideas for your next date, follow him on Instagram @dannyseamus and order up a copy of his new book, 100 Things To Do in Los Angeles Before You Die, which is full of cool, romantic (and totally platonic) things.