Travel

35 Perfect LA Date Ideas for Absolutely Anyone

It’s often said that LA doesn’t have seasons, but the arrival of heat lamps on patios and the ability to wear more than one layer says otherwise: it’s cuffing season, people. Even if your situation doesn’t demand a short-term relationship over the colder months, your dating game could probably use a shot in the arm -- a couple can go from stable to stale in the blink of an eye. From outdoor movie screenings and stunning rooftops views to brewery tours and food markets, here are our favorite date ideas that we’re totally willing to let you take credit for.

Ride the rails along the coast in style with the Pacific Surfliner

Various locations
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.)

Catch a flick under the stars at Rooftop Cinema Club

Hollywood and DTLA
Take your date to new heights with an al fresco screening from Rooftop Cinema Club’s latest season, which includes a mix of classics and recent award winners. Forget lugging your own gear and fending off crowds; they provide cozy deck chairs, blankets, and wireless headphones, plus it’s way less crowded than most other outdoor screenings. At the Hollywood location, the terrace rooftop of NeueHouse, you can also score booze and bar snacks on-site, and at the Downtown location on the rooftop of LEVEL, you’ll find a rotating lineup of food trucks, plus classic movie concessions at both locations. Best of all, you can opt for the standard seating with the option to upgrade to bottomless popcorn, or splurge a few bucks more and cozy up in a double deckchair love seat -- this is a date, after all.

Hop through some of DTLA’s coolest hotels

Various locations
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 post up at Veranda. 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 the brand spankin’ new Pilot at The Hoxton, 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.

hike w wolves
Courtesy of Project Wildsong

Explore with wolves in Los Padres National Forest

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.

cozymeal
Courtesy of CozyMeal

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.

pechanga
Courtesy of Pechanga

Golf, gamble, and get pampered at Pechanga Resort & Casino

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).

Enter a world of pure imagination at Lost Spirits Distillery

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.

Catch a flick at Electric Dusk Drive-In

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.

Skyspace LA
Courtesy of OUE Skyspace LA

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.

Take a staycation cruise aboard the 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. They’re gearing up for the winter season, so now’s a great time to check out their Christmas Village.

hiking los angeles
Tiffany Tse/Thrillist

Go Hiking

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.

Explore a new food neighborhood with Six Taste

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.

Taste local wine with wild animals

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).

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 Bowl
Wonho Frank Lee

Roll a spare at vintage bowling at Highland Park Bowl

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.

Scope out the city's architecture at Barnsdall Art Park

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.

Adults Only
Courtesy of Adults Only

Grab a drink in secret at LA's best speakeasies

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.

Explore the bizarre at the Museum of Jurassic Technology

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?

Patina Restaurant Group
Courtesy of Patina Restaurant Group

Lace up your shoes for an urban hike at the secret Beachwood Canyon Stairs

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.

Idle Hour
William Bradford

Take advantage of our weather and dine al fresco

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.

Take a guided tour of the Watts Towers Arts Center

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.

magic castle
Courtesy of Hocus Pocus Focus

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.

prawn
Courtesy of Prawn

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.

Explore DTLA’s brewery scene

DTLA
10 years ago, the LA beer scene was practically a ghost town. Today, it’s hard to walk five feet around the Arts District without hitting a craft brewery. A day spent drinking your way through Downtown’s brewery scene is consistently a great time, and with the restaurant scene looking the best it ever has (shouts out to Badmaash, Tacos 1986, Sonoratown, Otium, and so many others), you’ll have no problem laying down a base of food before/while/after you imbibe. Need more of a guided experience? There are countless DTLA brewery walking tours (like Craft Beer Adventure Club) to help guide you through.

Leave reality behind at Two Bit Circus

DTLA
Sure, you could always go to a normal barcade like EightyTwo or Barcade, but why not level it up? Two Bit Circus has been a smash since its opening last year, thanks in small part to the huge space, large selection of games, and liquor license. They’ve got tons of classic arcade cabinets (including Killer Queen, of course) in addition to pinball and air hockey, but that’s so 2010. You’re here for the virtual reality -- get after it.

Eat your way through The Fields

Exposition Park
On your way to or from the Coliseum? Look no further for drinks and bites than The Fields, USC’s huge, shiny food hall. There are a ton of great vendors here (like Burritos La Palma, Coni’Seafood, and Barbara Jean) as well as ample seating and a beer stall. Upstairs, however, you’ll find Freeplay, a full service barcade with food by Otium’s (and Final Table winner) Tim Hollingsworth. 

Be a living cliche on the Echo Park pedal boats

Echo Park
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. 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.

Spend a day at ROW DTLA

DTLA
For a good stretch of time, the only reason you would be at ROW DTLA was Smorgasburg Sundays. That, we’re glad to say, is a thing of the past: Smorgasburg is still great, but the rest of ROW is absolutely popping off with terrific stuff. In addition to Japanese heavy hitters like Hayato and Pikunico, ROW is home to a brand new burger-boasting Go Get Em Tiger, Alameda Supper Club, and San Francisco’s very own M.Georgina.

Emerge from Howlin Ray’s victorious

Chinatown
There are two seperate titans you’ll need to defeat in order to successfully dominate your Howlin Ray’s experience. The maybe-probably-definitely best fried chicken in LA has a several-hour line most of the time, but that’s really just practice for your ultimate challenge: the Nashville hot chicken itself. No matter what kind of spicy food tolerance you think you have, think again; Howlin Ray’s is simply not playin’ around, so choose your heat level with caution. The flip side? If you and your date can stand triumphant against both the line and the spiciness, the rest of your relationship is gonna be a cake walk.

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Wilder Shaw is a contributor for Thrillist.