Where to Go on a Date in LA This Fall

Leaf peeping, horror films, and artsy excursions are sure to set off a spark.

van gogh exhibt
Photo by Alexandra Has, courtesy of Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit

It’s been a rollercoaster of a summer. Yes, COVID is still camped out in our lives, but fall is looking bright (or at least not too bleak) as California has become a model state with the lowest case rate in the country. Whether you had a hot vax summer or kept your love life pretty low key, we’re here to remind you that it’s officially cuffing season, and you’ll have to get out there pronto to make sure you’ve found someone you can tolerate by New Year’s Eve. That means going on actual dates. With someone else. So, if you’ve swiped right but are officially stumped as to what to do beyond coffee (snooze) or a drink (yawn), here are 13 date ideas for the fall season that you’ll actually enjoy:

Go all out for spooky season

Many of LA’s annual spooky activities were put on pause or reinterpreted for a drive-thru format last year, but we’re happy to report that our favorite tried-and-trues are back in full force this year with plenty of pumpkin patches, haunted mazes and hayrides, and Instagrammable backdrops for you and your date to enjoy. For a premiere pumpkin picking experience, head to Culver City to Mr. Bones Pumpkin Patch where you’ll find adorable Halloween-themed mini-homes that are perfect for capturing your first photo together, plus plenty of pumpkins you can pick and carve later on at home. In Sherman Oaks, Tina’s Pumpkin Patch offers a slightly more lowkey experience, plus a petting zoo with llamas. LA’s famous Haunted Hayride is back this year, if you want to see if your date spooks easier than you, and Freeform’s Halloween Road is coming to the Heritage Square Museum, where you’ll be treated to an immersive event that takes you inside of classic Halloween films like Hocus Pocus and Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. Local theme parks are also getting in on the hair-raising action: Halloween Horror Nights is back at Universal Studios, Fright Fest is ongoing at Six Flags, Knotts Scary Farm is in swing in Buena Park, and Disneyland is hosting Oogie Boogie Bash, a Disney Halloween Party, on select nights through Halloween.

descanso garden's foliage
Descanso Gardens

Do some leaf peeping

OK, so SoCal will never serve as the backdrop of some Hallmark movie about a hard-nosed city lawyer falling in love with an apple farmer while trying to save a fall festival. But we actually do have trees with leaves that change color here and sometimes the weather even dips into the 60s. Which means that you can indeed spend a day date looking at fall foliage. Catch plenty of autumnal hues on foot at Descanso Gardens, which is also putting on its “Carved” event nightly throughout October, where you stroll a mile-long path lined with hundreds of illuminated Jack-o-Lanterns. Or, if you’re looking for more of a leisurely drive (which might be best for a third or fourth date, just saying), hit the road and head for Lake Arrowhead, where the San Bernardino Mountains will provide plenty of red, orange, and yellow along the way; pay a visit to Julian, the apple-picking capital of the world (or, at least the San Diego area); or kick it closer to home and cruise up the PCH, stopping to hike at Malibu Creek State Park, which should provide plenty of pops of color via vistas of the Santa Monica Mountains.

Snuggle up to a scary movie under the stars

It’s that time of year, when you pay to let an old horror flick scare the bejeezus out of you. Throughout October, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery will be doing Saturday night screenings of just the kind of movies you’d expect to watch while sitting atop dead people—from Nightmare on Elm Street to The Shining. E.P. & L.P.’s MelroseRooftopTheatre continues to show favorite flicks every single night through November, with a focus on scary screenings in October with the likes of Scream, Seven, and Candyman. Grab a general admission ticket, which comes with bean bag seating and individual wireless headsets (plus killer views) or class it up with the dinner-and-movie package, which includes a three-course meal from E.P. Restaurant before heading upstairs for the main event. Also getting into the spooky spirit is Rooftop Cinema Club, with outdoor locations in El Segundo, DTLA, and the Santa Monica Airport. The movie series is transforming into the punny “Rooftop SIN-ema Club” for the month of October with freaky films at all of its locations, along with special pre-movie events throughout the month including axe throwing, DJ sets, and trivia. If things are getting serious, you can opt for double deckchair loveseats (or two singles if you’re still on the fence).

van gogh exhibit
Photo by Alexandra Has, courtesy of Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit

Gogh see Van Gogh

The legendary impressionist artist Vincent Van Gogh has captivated the country this year, with the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit, a series of digital shows hitting 20 different North American cities, including, most recently, our own, running through January. You’ll wind through 500,000 cubic feet of large-scale projections (totaling 90 million pixels) of the artists’ works including heavyweight pieces likeStarry Night and Sunflowers, all with original song compositions serving as the backdrop. If you want to make it an impress-your-partner bigger-deal date, you can upgrade to the date night package, which comes with access to an exclusive-use booth for an hour (though you can wander the exhibit after that for as long as you like), plus goodies like limited-edition posters, truffles, and a candle and diffuser to take home.

Bring on the burlesque

For something sexy but not sleazy, sidle up to a burlesque show. The Hollywood Roosevelt’s hidden theater is currently home to the bi-weekly On the Fringe by Tracy Phillips cabaret-style show, which promises a high-energy happening with a sprinkling of rock, punk, and plenty of flexibility. And Noho’s The Federal Bar often plays host to a variety of burlesque troupes who come through to shake their stuff. Look for girl-power-themed The LaLas and cosplay crew Villainesque Burlesque performing in October.

Ms S. Ann/Shutterstock

Live your best life at Echo Park Lake

Echo Park reopened several months back 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 the on-site cafe), 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.

tatel interior
Photo by Wonho Frank Lee, courtesy of Tatel

Have a dinner date at a fine new find

Whether you’re all about al fresco eating or are comfortable back inside a proper dining room, you’ve got your pick of hot new spots to hit for your next dinner date. The buzziest of all might be Beverly Hills’ new Tatel, a gorgeous new Spanish restaurant (with locations in Ibiza and Madrid) from a partnership that includes tennis great Rafael Nadal. Michelin-starred chef Luigi Fineo heads up the kitchen here with a focus on traditional Spanish dishes and local ingredients. Also in BH is a splashy new scene at Sa’Moto, hospitality guru Sam Nazarian’s new collab with Chef Masaharu

Morimoto inside the Doheny Room, where you’ll find a variety of sushi rolls, noodle dishes, and some standout starters including hamachi tacos and a trio of smoked ceviche … along with a lot of attractive people. The ground floor of Culver City’s soon-to-be-opened hotel The Shay is now home to the LA outpost of Chicago’s Etta. The fresh pastas and wood-fired pizzas are dynamite, the room is stunning, and the bar program is on point. Basically, a perfect date spot. Over the summer another beloved Chicago-based restaurant, Girl and the Goat, opened in DTLA’s red hot Arts District after years in the works. Here, Top Chef champ and James Beard award winner Stephanie Izard is doing creative global cuisine laced with California produce at the new At Mateo complex. Finally, you can pop over to Greekman’s—Jonah Freedman’s Greek-inspired patio restaurant adjacent to his namesake cocktail den Freedman’s in Silver Lake, where you and yours can feast on charcoal-grilled souvlaki, plates of lamb chops and grilled octopus, and house-made hummus and pita until the end of October.

Photo courtesy of The Broad

Canoodle over culture at a museum

Nearly all of LA’s most impressive museums opened back up this spring, many with new and exciting exhibits, so show your date that you’re the cultured type (or just pretend) and hit one of them up. In September, LACMA unveiled Ink Dreams, a presentation of work from the Foundation INK Collection, a 400-piece collection that will run through December. The California African American Museum has a few exhibitions running into the winter, includingApril Bey: Atlantica, The Gilda Region—an immersive installation that serves as Bey’s first solo museum exhibition in LA and reflects on feminism, queerness and more through an Afrofuturist lens. DTLA’s beautiful Broad is showcasing new works by the likes of Lichtenstein and Warhol, and throughout the fall you can sign on for an hour-long exhibition tour at the Getty Center, where you’ll get an in-depth guided view of the exhibition Fluxus Means Change: Jean Brown's Avant-Garde Archive. Currently, most of the above museums require visitors to reserve 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

The Sunday fabled food fest Smorgasburg LA returned over the summer and we can’t think of a 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.

Earle's on Crenshaw
Earle's on Crenshaw

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 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 shackWith 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.

LA hiking
Zachary Staines/Unsplash

Earn yourself a picnic at the top of a mountain

The days may be getting shorter, but you can still get a good dose of Vitamin D (and exercise!) thanks to LA’s 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 power 

The 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.

Perhaps a traditional hike is a bit too vertical for you (at least in front of someone you might eventually want to take home to your parents). 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.

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Lizbeth Scordo is a food and lifestyle writer who will be out tonight and every night for the rest of her life. Follow her on Instagram @modlizbeth.