Where to Go on a Date in LA This Fall

Between Pantages shows, multi-course Kaiseki dinners, and a new ice skating rink, your date card will be full this fall.

Between the warm climate and the general preponderance of evergreen trees, LA doesn’t really get fall in the literal sense; a scattering of yellowish leaves on the ground is as likely to be drought-induced as seasonal. But that doesn’t mean we lose the other joys of fall—the air is crisp and the breeze picks up a sharp edge, the smell of wood fireplaces drifts across town, plaid is all over everywhere, and it turns out that pumpkin spice tastes just as good in a hoodie as it does in a parka.

Fall is also a particularly good time to be dating in LA. It’s warm enough for outdoor adventures and cool enough to get cozy and snuggle. Everyone is back from summer vacations and ready to settle down for the upcoming cuffing season. For long-term relationships, busy summer agendas have slowed down and the kids are back in school, making date night a little more accessible.

So we’ve put together a list of fun date ideas, full of exciting restaurants, the best bars, cool cultural activities, and Old Hollywood charm for anyone who’s got a special someone or is trying to find them, and anyone who’s looking for a good time, a long time, or both. With all of the great romantic things to do in LA this season, the leaves may not fall around here—but you might.

Melrose Rooftop Theatre
Melrose Rooftop Theatre

Go for dinner and a show at two iconic venues

Show your date a good time at two places with a long history of good times—the Pantages Theatre and Grandmaster Recorders. The Pantages has a great lineup this fall, with To Kill a Mockingbird on through November 27, followed by The Book of Mormom until mid-December, and a holiday hodgepodge through the end of the year. And Grandmaster Recorders—the modern Italian-Australian restaurant located in the former recording studio where legends like Stevie Wonder, Bonnie Raitt, and Queens of the Stone Age recorded hits—has built a special pre-show prix-fixe menu to get you into your seats full, happy, and on time. Build your three-course menu from the likes of Panzanella, Striped Bass, or Risotto, with Tiramisu or Sorbetto for dessert, then head just a couple blocks over to the theatre.

Practice your pairs routine at a revamped ice rink

It may not be a frozen pond in a Minnesota forest, but you can still take your significant other for a seasonally appropriate ice skating adventure at Paramount Iceland. The 80-year-old neighborhood gem was recently acquired by the LA Kings and parent company AEG and given a million dollar facelift to bring it into the modern age. The upgrades include a new rink floor, energy efficient cooling, an upgraded sound system, a remodeled interior, and a brand new museum dedicated to Frank J. Zamboni—yes, he is the inventor of the ice-resurfacing machine. The museum will feature his original machine, among other artifacts of the Zamboni family, who are also the former owners of the rink. Public skating is available Friday and Saturday evenings, and if you book in advance you can get all sorts of deals. If you need to learn, there are classes available for all levels.

Splurge on an elegant, intimate Japanese kaiseki dinner

Perhaps you and your significant other are looking for a one-of-a-kind dinner, something that could only happen at this specific moment in this specific city—then Chef Hiroo Nagahara’s modern kaiseki-style residency at Japan House may be just the thing. Kaiseki dining is a traditional Japanese multi-course meal with a long procession of cooking methods, including small bites followed by sashimi, vegetables, soup, grilled food, pickles, rice, and dessert. The format can be flexible, and at Chef Hiroo’s counter you can expect somewhere between eight and ten courses of seasonal, modern cooking influenced by the chef’s stints at high-end restaurants in both Japanese and European traditions. The goal is to explore the visual aesthetics and seasonal aspects of traditional kaiseki, with dishes like Vegetable Ash Brioche, Langoustine and Uni, and Char Siu A5 Miyazaki-Gyu and Matsutake Mushroom.

Rooftop Cinema Club
Rooftop Cinema Club

Level up your movie game

Arts District, West Hollywood
There’s no date more classic than dinner and a movie, but in this town you may want to step things up to make the night memorable. What better way to step it up than by literally raising the date five floors into the air? Rooftop Cinema Club is a favorite for open-air movie screenings, and the Row DTLA location has a great view of the downtown skyline from the Southeast, looking out towards the setting sun. You can arrive early to play games, crush movie snacks, and sip beer, wine, and spritzes, then snuggle up in their lounge chairs to watch great films like Pulp Fiction (November 3), Selena (November 5), or Love and Basketball (November 20).

Across town, Melrose Rooftop Theater adorns the top floor of EP & LP Restaurant and offers a $65 dinner and a movie deal that includes a three-course pre-theater meal with a Baja Tuna Tartare, Twice Cooked Duck Leg, and Choux Bun representing a few of the choices. Afterwards, head to the roof to cozy up on plush bean bag chairs and watch films like Top Gun: Maverick (November 8), Risky Business (November 18), and Home Alone (December 4), with the Hollywood hills as your backdrop.

Take a day trip to the other side of town

The opposite end of LA from wherever you are
LA is huge, but many of us desperately avoid leaving our neighborhoods, especially in this WFH world. Which means you have an opportunity to surprise your special someone with a big outing without ever leaving the LA area. Say you live in Silver Lake, and you just met someone who lives in Frogtown. Grab your crush and hop on the 110 to the South Bay for soba and a scramble down a rocky cliff in Palos Verdes, then stop for ice cream or a beer on the way home. You live in Marina Del Rey and your boo’s in Culver City? Head out to Sierra Madre for coffee and a hike, then stop for sushi or step into a raucous pub for dinner. One of you never leaves NoHo and the other is a die-hard Valley Villager? Cruise down to Long Beach for pastries and the amazing food scene, with a backdrop of twisting cranes and gentle waves.

Photo courtesy of Topgolf

Perfect your swing

El Segundo
Tiger Woods might have marred the image a bit, but we promise, golfing is the ultimate couples sport. Not only can you coordinate in preppy chic outfits, but nothing gets chemistry flowing quite like a bit of healthy competition. Enter Topgolf—the high-tech mega-facility for golf, golf-adjacent games, and drinks— in El Segundo, which might already be the leisure capital of LA County. Escape to the beach town with its crisp ocean air and then duck into the range to whack golf balls at giant targets, crush frozen spiked lemonade and local IPAs, and track your score—because nothing spices up a relationship like a little trash talk. Or take a leisurely stroll while you play the ten-hole course at the adjacent Lakes at TopGolf. Afterwards, dip out to El Segundo’s cute Main Street for pasta, pizza, or poke.

Ms S. Ann/Shutterstock

Cozy up on swan pedal boats at Echo Park Lake

Echo Park
Echo Park reopened last year after some major changes, and though it is still behind a chain link fence with few entrances and exits, the grass is back and ready for a perfect picnic. You can join the hipster crowd with some natty wine and tinned fish from nearby Rapido or Tilda, go a little bigger with a pickup from Honey Hi or Valerie, or best of all, support the local street vendors along Echo Park Avenue, like Alejandra’s Blue Corn Quesadillas. Stroll around the park, feed the ducks and turtles, maybe do some fishing if that’s your thing, and then go for a ride on the iconic Swan pedal boats, which even light up at night.

California African American Museum
California African American Museum

Canoodle over culture at a museum

Various Locations
LA has an impressive collection of museums, many with new and exciting exhibits to help you show your date (or at least let you pretend) that you’re the cultured type. The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures features three floors of exhibition space celebrating moviemakers and the stories they create. Dorothy Dandridge and Ruby Dee: A Shared Centennial celebrates the lives and careers of two Black cinema icons who were both born a century ago and runs from November 3-25, while Hollywood Chinese: The First 100 Years, catalogs the depiction and treatment of Chinese actors in the first 100 years of moviemaking and honors groundbreaking Chinese and Chinese American artists, from November 4-27.

At nearby LACMA, check out a new exhibit on the exchange of design ideas between Scandinavia and the United States. The California African American Museum has several new installations, including Justen LeRoy: Lay Me Down In Praise, a film installation exploring Black performers and environmentalism. There are always interesting exhibits at DTLA’s beautiful Broad, and you can sign on for hour-long exhibition, garden, or architecture tours at the Getty Center, all happening daily right now.

Stroll Smorgasburg

Arts District
The Sunday food fest Smorgasburg LA is a perfect daytime date, spanning five acres of delicious pop-up food vendors at ROW DTLA. You and your boo can sample everything from fried chicken sandwiches to horchata cupcakes to sustainable oysters, and wash it all down with Micheladas, fresh fruit slushies, coffee, and Boba tea. A wave of new vendors arrived at the market this year, including standouts like Israeli vegan spot, B’ivrit, Black-owned Happy Ice, and Korean fried chicken spot, Chimmelier. It’s also a good way to decide if you and your special person can stand the test of time—will your lactose-intolerant pescatarian date be cool with you crushing pralines, cabrito, and smoked gator?

Earle's on Crenshaw
Earle's on Crenshaw

Eat your way through LA’s most iconic foods

Various locations
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 shack. With 35 experiences to choose from, your date card will remain stacked throughout the season.

LA hiking
Unsplash/Zachary Staines

Plan a picnic at the top of a mountain

Even without foliage, fall is the best time to get up and into the mountains with your special someone. Trails are cool and quiet, and it’s even easier to block out the chaos of the city with a beautiful picnic. Want to brave the wilds of Topanga Canyon? Snag sandwiches from Cricca’s and choose from any number of nearby trails. To get high on the Westside, try the Los Liones trail, a seven-mile-plus climb that rewards you with endless ocean views at the top. But first, hit up coffee shop goodboybob for a perfect cortado and a travel-friendly chapati wrap to power you up the trail, and maybe a pastry or two to reward yourself at the top. Looking for more under-the-radar treks? Check out one of these secret hikes or go for a waterfall adventure.

The Original Los Angeles Flower Market
The Original Los Angeles Flower Market

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.

Santa Monica beach bike trail
Joshua Resnick/Shutterstock

Take in the ocean breeze along The Strand

Pacific Palisades to Torrance
Maybe a hike sounds a little dusty and hot, the kind of thing better suited to a hangout than a date; then how about some breezier exercise? A bike ride along The Strand, also known as the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, can take you from the Palisades all the way down the coast to Torrance, a mostly flat and crisp cruise with plenty of places to pull over and hang out, for some booch, some seafood, or sea life.

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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.
Ben Mesirow is an Echo Park native who writes TV, fiction, food, and sports. At one time or another, his writing has appeared in The LA TimesLitroMcSweeney’s Internet TendencyLos Angeles Magazine, and scratched into dozens of desks at Walter Reed Middle School.