Lifestyle

14 Best Date Ideas for LA This Winter

Get out there already.

cheese board
| Photo courtesy of Paper Pizza Company
| Photo courtesy of Paper Pizza Company

A year into the pandemic and there may finally be a light at the end of the tunnel with COVID cases trending downwards, a vaccine finally here, and the stay-at-home order lifted. That said, trying to have fun, let alone attempting to pull off a proper date, still requires an annoying amount of research, military-style preparation, and a willingness to completely bag your plan and come up with a new one on a moment’s notice. If the above doesn’t sound super appealing, we’ve come up with a cheat sheet of better-than-decent (yep, that’s where the bar is set these days) safe date ideas you can do with someone you’re desperately trying to impress … or just another human who isn’t driving you crazy at the moment. From patio dining (yay!) to virtual cooking lessons to outdoor options, there’s enough here to see us all through to the day when we can finally go see a really loud band at a bar and not have to talk during it. Hopefully.

Eat your way through LA’s most iconic foods

One thing the pandemic has proven is that many of our favorite LA meals translate just as well when devoured from a greasy paper bag or eaten on the roof of our cars. And with outdoor dining resumed, we can set our sights back on checking off every worthwhile food experience the city has to offer, like taking a tour of Boyle Heights’ Taco Row, noshing on Poppy & Rose’s Southern-style brunch before hitting up the famous Flower Market on Saturday mornings, or visiting the late Jim Morrison’s favorite Venice burger shack. With 33 experiences to choose from, your date card will remain stacked throughout the season.

Sharpen your skills with a live cooking lesson from a pro 

If you haven’t become a better home cook while you were cooped up over the last year, there’s still time. If you’re ready to up your carbs-during-COVID game, look no further than Italian eats catchall Eataly, which will teach you how to whip up stuff like homemade pasta, gnocchi, and gnudi via interactive Zoom classes and ingredients delivered to your door, including sauces to pair. Mail-order gourmet food outfit Goldbelly is doing live cook-alongs where you can sign up to get a shipment for everything you need to make Chinese New Year garlic noodles with Shirley Chi of Culver City’s Mrs. Chi or V-Day confections with Cake Boss Buddy Valastro. For a private experience, choose a country and The Chef and the Dish will hook you up with a chef who hails from said nation and show you how to craft one of its signature dishes during a for-your-eyes-only virtual cooking lesson. Think arroz con pollo from Peru, pho from Vietnam, and jambalaya from the good old USA.

Sri Rao cooking
Bollywood Kitchen | Photo by Kyle Rosenberg

Or get schooled in curry (and also Bollywood)  

For a killer chicken curry with a side of entertainment, get a ticket to the Geffen Stayhouse’s latest one-man-show Bollywood Kitchen with filmmaker and cookbook author Sri Rao. The theater will send you a beautiful box of non-perishable ingredients (including an impressive array of Indian spices that will likely last years as long you don’t cook curry every day), recipe cards, and a shopping list. The night of the show you’ll whip up the curry and sides, in addition to a kicked-up Mumbai Mule cocktails alongside Rao, who will be cooking, sharing kitchen tips, telling stories, and playing clips from Bollywood classics, all from his own kitchen. Your dinner will be ready just as the show ends, so you can log off and gorge yourselves. Bollywood Kitchen has shows every Friday and Saturday through March 6. 

Photo courtesy of L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele

Remember that the couple that eats pizza together, stays together

OK, so that’s not really a saying, but have you ever seen anyone arguing while scarfing down pizza? Exactly. To be sure, LA has become a seriously stellar pizza town in recent years, so it’s not surprising that during the pandemic, plenty of pizzaiolos have found new ways to help us enjoy the perfect pie at home. For a DIY date night, grab a pizza kit from L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, Roberta’s, Milo & Olive,  pop-up Lupa Cotta, or a limited-time Valentine’s Day weekend kit from Tartine’s Silver Lake location. If you’re looking to do some booze-pairing with that pie, try one of Post & Beam’s $20 specials, which includes a pizza and either a 16-ounce craft beer or eight-ounce craft cocktail. To keep the spontaneity alive, follow Quarter Sheets pizza pop-up on IG to sample their rotating menu of inauthentic (their words!) Detroit-style pizza with at least one pie with ingredients that will make you do a double-take (and possibly a double-order). And for those who want to attempt to say I love you through sauce, cheese, and crust, Downey’s Paper Pizza Company is offering red-crusted heart-shaped pies in honor of the holiday and La Morra Pizzeria has an entire Valentine's Day shop with heart-shaped bake-at-home pizzas in margherita and pepperoni, plus gift boxes that add on goodies like handwritten cards, hand-crushed chili flakes, and wildflower honey.

Work out (together)

Maybe you stopped working out when your gym closed. Maybe you stopped working out before your gym closed. Hey, we’re not here to judge. But if you’re looking to get back to some kind of fitness routine that doesn’t just involve walking to the front door to meet the delivery guy, then grab your partner and do it together, which has to be at least a little more fun than going it alone? Maybe not. Though gyms are still indeed shuttered, many studios are offering outdoor classes (and now is a much better time to be doing burpees out in the elements than during the scorching summer). Check out our favorite outdoor workouts in LA to get some inspiration.

Earn yourself a picnic at the top of a mountain

Outdoor activities are the safest way to go at the moment, so it’s a good thing that LA is flush with a bounty of hiking options. Sure, Runyon is right in the middle of the city, but you’ve already taken enough Instagram photos there to last a lifetime. Mix it up and seek some adventure outside the city. Want to brave the wilds of Topanga Canyon? Sandwiches from Cricca’s are a must. Headed to the San Gabriel mountains? Highland Park’s Otoño is currently operating as Otoño Mercat, selling conservas and other imported Spanish goodies. To get high on the Westside, try the Los Liones trail, a 7-mile-plus quad-burner that rewards you with endless ocean views at the top. But first, hit up the legendary Italian deli and bakery Bay Cities for dreamy Italian subs on life changing bread (the signature Godmother includes something like 74 different types of meats), along with pints of salads and sides by the pound (pick from the grab-and-go fridge to save time), and a killer cheese selection for mountaintop enjoyment. Looking for more under-the-radar treks? Check out one of these secret hikes.

Dine al fresco (again!)

After the two most recent Groundhog’s Day-esque months of takeout and cooking, cooking and takeout, outdoor dining is finally allowed again. In addition to giving Angelenos a safe place to enjoy a restaurant-quality meal that didn’t have to take a car ride to get to your plate, thousands of hospitality industry folks will get to return to work again: a huge win. Since many eateries set up fantastic (and usually heated!)  patios prior to the November shutdown, there are all kinds of options for romantic, al-fresco dinner nights. Not every restaurant has chosen to reopen (and some may sadly remain shuttered for good), so check in with your favorites on their reopening plans. Check out our favorite outdoor patio options to get you started. And keep an eye out for on-site Valentine’s Day menus and happenings on reservation sites like Resy and Tock.

Go old school at a drive-in movie

Even if you sorely miss the experience of watching a flick in a crowded dark theater while gorging yourself on $16 popcorn, you can still take advantage of the comeback of the drive-in theater experience with newly created pop-ups, revamped outdoor series, and retro spots that have been reinvigorated. Rooftop Cinema Club’s The Drive-In at Santa Monica Airport will be screening two-to-three movies a night until it ends its run at the airport on February 6 (and then will likely return to the airport later this spring before hopefully hitting rooftops again later this year). After that, Street Food Cinema will start up its drive-in at the SM Airport beginning February 11. Electric Dusk Drive-In and Secret Movie Club’s collaboration, Parking Lot Cinema, is still going strong at the Sears parking lot in Glendale, screening new and old faves and a Valentine’s Day weekend double feature of Casablanca and When Harry Met Sally. And Torrance’s Roadium is ready to fill your Friday date-night needs with weekly screenings of old-school flicks, too.

Krispy Rice
Photo courtesy of Krispy Rice

Enjoy your favorite restaurants at home

Given the open-close-open-close roller coaster California has been riding over the last year, our resilient restaurants have done an impressive job of pivoting (yes, it’s an overused buzzword, but it’s a fitting one.) Many venues began offering takeout for the first time ever and plenty of others got creative with everything from at-home tasting menus to cocktail kits to video-accompanied omakase experiences to DIY dinners. Keep your cookware in the cabinet and check out some of the city’s best takeout and delivery options here. Also keep in mind, many (and many more than we can list here, sadly) venues have special impress-your-partner-at-home-without-having-to-actually-cook Valentine’s Day dinners ready for pickup and delivery. Opt for an elaborate Italian meal with multi-course menus from the likes of Rossoblu, Angelini Osteria, and Osteria Mozza. Carnivorous couples can go to town with a steakhouse feast from Baltaire, Bourbon Steak L.A. or The Finishing Gourmet, or a Southeast Asian-inspired BBQ dinner from Cassia. You can also get cute with a “Hold my Hand Roll” box from Katsuya spinoff Krispy Rice.

Don’t forget, though: Third-party delivery services take commission fees, so it’s always better to order directly and pick up food yourself, when you can.

cake bars
Photo courtesy of Flouring LA

Feel the flower power 

Get a double dose of flour/flower at Hotel Figueroa weekend pop-up Flour + Flower Bar, where chef Heather Wong’s Flouring LA bakeshop is joining forces with florist Stephanie Castaneda’s DTLA design shop Vases to Vases, offering plenty of sweet and stylish offerings for Valentine’s Day gifting (or keeping). Grab a V-Day-inspired box of desserts including floral-pressed lavender lemon shortbread bars and pink crumb cake donuts, along with small and large mixed bouquets and vase arrangements overflowing with roses, orchids, and other good-smelling stuff. You can pre-order and pick up every weekend in February. (And if you miss Valentine’s Day, you can be the hero on some other random day this month.) 

If you’re still in need of a flower fix, the Flower District and the Original Los Angeles Flower Market are some banger only-in-LA experiences (and COVID-safe!). 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.

Stroll some of LA’s botanical gardens

Our outdoor gardens have long been a place for peaceful reflection, and these days, we could all use more of that. Many of the best spots—like the Arboretum, The Huntington, Descanso Gardens, Expo Park’s Rose Gardens, and even the Poppy Reserve—have reopened with strict safety precautions. Respect the rules, get lost in the trees, and enjoy a healthy dose of forest bathing.

Be a living cliche on the Echo Park pedal boats

Okay look, this is probably on every LA date idea list that has ever been written, but at the end of the day, who cares? Echo Park Lake’s pedal boats are a defining activity of our city, and there is no relationship forged in Los Angeles that doesn’t include them—and now that we’ve arrived in a new year that’s feeling a bit too deja vu for our liking, it helps to feel some semblance of your old life. If it helps, go under the guise of making fun of it (“Wouldn’t it be so totally lame if we did that?”). You’ll be unironically enjoying it before you know it.

Hit the Marvin Braude Bike Trail

Perhaps a traditional hike is a bit too vertical for you. If you want to keep your exercise of the horizontal persuasion, bike the Marvin Braude trail, which runs from the Palisades all the way down to Torrance. The majority of the journey is car-free, flat, and chock full of the prestigious sea breeze that makes Southern California so famous.

 

Cruise the coast in a rented convertible

Car rentals have been down since the start of the pandemic, meaning that you can now rent luxury cars and convertibles for cheaper than ever before. Live out your Hollywood fantasies with a leisurely drive up the Pacific Coast Highway, complete with a fabulous silk scarf (to keep your locks in check) and enormous sunglasses. Grab lunch at La Super Rica Taqueria in Santa Barbara and sink your feet into the legendary purple sand at Pfeiffer State Beach in Big Sur before you U-turn it back to the City of Angels.

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Wilder Shaw would just love it if you continued to wear a mask. Check out his delivery game on Instagram and Twitter.
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