Where to Go On a Date in LA This Summer
Get ready to hit the apps (and the town) again.
The good news is we made it. The bad news is you have to get dressed in real clothes and start dating again. (Okay, you don’t have to.) Or maybe you’ve been dating all along. Or maybe you have a partner you’ve been falling asleep next to on the couch among scattered to-go boxes every night for the last year and now you want to take your relationship out in public again. Whatever your situation, it’s time. California is reopening, LA is reopening, restaurants are reopening at full capacity. You can go see live music, or art at a museum, or a movie (!) again. It’s all happening. Whether it’s a first-time meetup, you’re madly in love, or somewhere in between, here are 14 ideas for a great date in Los Angeles:
Get Back to the BowlIf last summer happened without a Hollywood Bowl season, did last summer really happen? We can’t figure out that math, but the important thing is that live music has returned, and so have concerts at this beloved and iconic open-air music venue. First up, the groovy sounds of Kool and the Gang will precede fireworks on July 3 and 4. Later this summer, look for Christina Aguilera, HER, Sergio Mendes, Ziggy Marley headlining Reggae Night, and plenty of Los Angeles Philharmonic performances. Pick up some tix, pack a picnic, bring a bottle of vino, and celebrate the return of one of LA’s best summer date spots.
See a Movie Under the StarsYes, the pandemic revitalized drive-in theaters, allowing us to stay safe and separate in our cars, but we’re ready to get back outside for a proper summer movie viewing experience that doesn’t involve looking through a windshield. E.P. & L.P.’s Melrose Rooftop Theatre returns July 4, screening favorite flicks (Bridesmaids, Boyz n the Hood, and The Big Lebowski are just a few on the docket) every single night through November. Grab a general admission ticket, which comes with bean bag seating and individual wireless headsets (plus killer views), or upgrade your date with a dinner-and-movie package, which includes a three-course meal from the recently reopened E.P. Restaurant, where you can nosh on modern American like a spicy ahi tuna tostada and wood-grilled steak frites before heading upstairs for the main event. While their Santa Monica drive-in is still operating, Rooftop Cinema Club recently returned with nightly outdoor movies in El Segundo. If things are getting serious, you can opt for double deckchair loveseats (or two singles if you’re taking things slow). Show up early for lawn games and food trucks or opt for old-school concessions during the screenings, which run the cinephile gamut from Blank Panther to The Birdcage.
Live your best life at Echo Park LakeEcho Park recently reopened and it’s officially the perfect place to spend the day recreating one of those romantic comedy movie montages. Take advantage of the newly planted greenspace by lounging around with a picnic (go the traditional cheese, olives, and pick-ons route or gorge yourself on one-of-a-kind sandos from nearby Trencher), feeding the resident ducks, going a sunset stroll, or a ride on the iconic Swan pedal boats (which in case you didn’t know, actually light up at night!). You’ll need a reservation, so you’ll have to commit to the idea ahead of time. Yes, you’ll be one of those couples, but hey, you just sat inside for a year, so anything goes.
Have a dinner date at an old neighborhood haunt or a fine new find
After an eternity spent navigating closings, openings, limited capacity rules, and investing thousands to expand outdoor dining areas only to have them shuttered all over again, this long-running nightmare for restaurant owners and staffers is finally coming to an end. Ready to go on a (pretty much) normal dinner date again? Make a list of places you’ve been dying to get back to and set up some reservations. In the meantime, here are a few ideas:After a year-plus closure WeHo’s all-day eatery The Henry has reopened just in time to serve as your solid date spot thanks to its pretty cocktails and global bites in a glam space. If you’re looking for a romantic evening of modern Mexican fare in a sophisticated space, book yourself a table at fabled Mexico City chef Enrique Olvera’s long-anticipated Damian in the Arts District, where the two of you can go to town on seafood-centric dishes like uni tostadas and Dungeness crab gorditas. As the old saying goes, the way to anyone’s heart is through cheese, obvs, which you’ll find plenty of at the airy new Agnes, set within a century-old spot in Old Town Pasadena. Here, chefs Vanessa and Thomas Tilaka Kalb (head cheese and head chef, respectively) are putting out a satisfying Midwestern-meets-Cali menu of good stuff like smoked cod bucatini, chicken liver-stuffed cornbread, and of course, lovely meat and cheese boards, plus piping-hot cheese curds. And for one of the best under-the-radar dining experiences in town right now, take your person to the newly opened Fellow in Westwood where former Nomad chef Chris Flint is serving inventive and artfully plated dishes (think composed Hamachi crudo over sorrel and ponzu and pillowy gnudi with summer squash) in an equally impressive dining room linked to a local art gallery.
Rock on again at a music festivalLive music festivals are oh-so-slowly returning to earth. While many of the big dogs won’t be back until 2022 (including Coachella after what will have been a three-year hiatus), a few smaller fests are happening here in LA over the next few months. Jane’s Addiction, Cage the Elephant, Counting Crows, and Ziggy Marley are headlining Redondo Beach’s BeachLife Festival (which had its inaugural show in 2019) on the waterfront in September. Later that month, Eddie Veder’s Ohana Fest is back in Dana Point with the exact same lineup that never was in 2020, including Veder, Black Pumas, Kings of Leon, Brandi Carlisle, and Yola. HARD Summer Music Festival—which blends electronic and hip-hop—will be popping up at San Bernardino’s outdoor NOS Event Center July 31–August 1 with headliners including Future, DJ Snake, Dillon Frances, and SayMyName. And if you’re ready for a road trip, come September you can make the ride to triple-threat music-food-wine fest BottleRock in Napa Valley to see headliners including Foo Fighters, Guns N’ Roses, and Stevie Nicks, or to Vegas’s Life Is Beautiful, with a serious lineup including Tame Impala, Megan Thee Stallion, Billie Ellish, Green Day, and ASAP Rocky.
Canoodle over culture at a museumNearly all of LA’s most impressive museums are back open for the first time since March of 2020, many with new and exciting exhibits. LACMA is up and running with an exhibition by renowned Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara, and the California African American Museum has reopened with a trio of new summer installations, including April Bey: Atlantica, The Gilda Region, an immersive installation that serves as Bey’s first solo museum exhibition in LA and reflects on feminism, queerness, internet culture, and more through an Afrofuturist lens. DTLA’s beautiful Broad is back with new works by heavyweights like Lichtenstein and Warhol. (Hopefully the Infinity Mirror Rooms follow suit soon enough). And everyone’s favorite summer cultural hot spot the Getty Center—with its impressive architecture and glorious gardens—is welcoming visitors again, offering multiple new photography exhibits and more. As of press time, all of the above require visitors to get tickets online ahead of time, even when admission is free. Make sure to plan ahead so you don’t get awkwardly shut down in front of your date upon arrival.
Stroll Smorgasburg (again!)Oh man, we missed this one. Get ready for the return of Sunday fabled food fest Smorgasburg LA as of July 4. And what better daytime date idea than exploring five acres of deliciousness at the ROW DTLA, sampling everything from fried chicken sandwiches to horchata cupcakes to sustainable oysters, and washing it all down with Micheladas, fresh fruit slushies, and Boba teas. It’s also a good way to decide if you guys will make it. Love BBQ and cheeseburgers but realizing your date is a lactose-intolerant pescatarian? Now may be the time to cut your losses.
Eat your way through LA’s most iconic foodsOne 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 indoor and 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.
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 at it alone? Maybe not. Many studios that started offering outdoor classes during the gym shutdown are still at it so you can experience beach yoga, rooftop bootcamp, and HIIT in the park together in the fresh air. Check out our favorite outdoor workouts in LA to get some inspiration, get your workout on and then go load up on mimosas and brunch as a much-deserved post-exercise treat.
Earn yourself a picnic at the top of a mountainNow that our days are long and sunny again, you can finally catch up on that Vitamin D you’ve been missing with some outdoor activities and thankfully, 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. To get high on the Westside, try the Los Liones trail, a seven-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.
Feel the flower powerThe Flower District and the Original Los Angeles Flower Market are some banger only-in-LA experiences. 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 gardensOur outdoor gardens are always a good spot for a solo stroll and peaceful reflection, but they also make for a dynamite daytime date spot when you want to mix things up with an alternative to dinner and drinks. Nearly all of the best spots—like the Arboretum, The Huntington, Descanso Gardens, Expo Park’s Rose Gardens, and even the Poppy Reserve—have reopened. Many update their calendars online with what’s in bloom so you can study and then show off your horticultural knowledge on your date. And don’t forget to reserve your tix in advance.
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.