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The best date ideas in Los Angeles

Looking for date ideas? Los Angeles has it all, from free and divey to romantic and truly unique—check them out.

Venice Beach
Photograph: Courtesy Viviana Rishe
By Michael Juliano and Time Out contributors |
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Whether you’re already in the wedding planning stages with your significant other or are trying to woo someone new, there are so many date ideas in Los Angeles that it can be overwhelming. Here’s our guide to planning the best night out, from cheap and easy dates to some of the most romantic restaurants in L.A

The 15 best date ideas in L.A.

Venice Canals
Photograph: Roberto Nickson
Things to do

Stroll along the Venice Canals

Venice

Take a romantic stroll through these three canal-lined blocks—hence the name, Venice—and you’ll discover an idyllic scene: arching pedestrian bridges, charming beach houses, bunches of ducklings and the occasional paddle boarding bulldog. And if you happen to own a tandem kayak, tour the ’hood by water via the launch ramp at Venice Boulevard.

Huntington Library
Photograph: Courtesy the Huntington Library
Things to do, Event spaces

Spend an afternoon at the Huntington Library

San Marino

The bequest of entrepreneur Henry E. Huntington is now one of the most beautiful attractions in the Los Angeles region. From a Gutenberg Bible to an exquisitely landscaped Japanese garden, nearly every inch of the estate’s ever-growing grounds and collection is essential. It’s best enjoyed at a leisurely pace rather than as part of a mad day-long dash; consider treating your date to a meal on the patio or in the Rose Garden Tea Room.

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Temescal Gateway Park
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/
Things to do

Hike Temescal Canyon together

Pacific Palisades

With a variety of terrain, flora and views of the Pacific and city, this Pacific Palisades park is great for an easygoing but still uphill hike. You’ll experience vast, breathtaking views that span from Catalina to Downtown and enough varied terrain to keep the conversation flowing. Just don’t roll through the stop signs nearby or that $100 fine will make for one expensive date.

Attractions, Wildlife centers

Embark on a boozy adventure at Malibu Wine Safaris

Malibu

Malibu Wine Safaris combines two of the things we love most: beautiful animals and generous pours of wine (and both in a stunning canyon setting). Its 90-minute tour ($65) will whisk you around the scenic Saddlerock Ranch & Vineyard, with stops to see exotic animals and six wine tastings along the way. If you our your date insist on meeting local icon Stanley the Giraffe, that’ll run you an extra $30—but we think that money is better spent on some BBQ at the nearby Malibu Cafe at Calamigos Ranch and your parking fee at Point Dume State Beach.

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Vineland Drive-In
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Paul Narvaez
Movie theaters, Drive-in

See a drive-in movie at the Vineland Drive-In Theatre

San Gabriel Valley

Travel back to a time of cheap tickets and flicks from the privacy of your own car at what’s perhaps the only top-notch date spot in the City of Industry. While it’s a cinema sin to smooch loudly in a movie theater, you can cozy up a bit more easily at the adrive-in: Keep it in your car and we’re cool.

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Wildlife Learning Center
Photograph: Courtesy Wildlife Learning Center
Attractions, Animal rescue homes

See cute animals at the Wildlife Learning Center

San Fernando Valley

Walk around the leafy grounds of this suburban Sylmar sanctuary to see everything from monkeys to foxes. For hands-on photo ops, request a close encounter with a porcupine, a Siberian lynx, a two-toed sloth or an impossibly adorable fennec fox. Make sure to say hi to Zeus, the starry-eyed blind owl in the gift shop.

Hoxton Hotel rooftop restaurant DTLA Pilot Los Angeles
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo
Restaurants, Contemporary American

Tackle a seafood tower together at Pilot

Downtown Fashion District

Downtown has become a bona fide destination for hotel bars and rooftops—we particularly love the earth tones and showy cocktails at Rudolph’s Bar & Tea at the Freehand as well as basically any space at the neoclassical NoMad. But our go-to date spot among DTLA’s hotels sits just a few blocks south atop the Hoxton Hotel. The chic seafood-forward Pilot is split up into a casual rooftop bar and a more formal (and astoundingly charming) sit-down restaurant where you’d be missing out if you skipped a spot–prawn–heavy seafood tower with a side of saffron aioli.

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Mulholland Drive
Photograph: Michael Juliano
Things to do

Take a joy ride along Mulholland Drive

Encino

Mulholland Drive is the road of classic make out points, and a clutch date night route to avoid cross-town traffic at the same time. Make sure to get real cozy at the half dozen or so overlooks along the way. Follow the road to its gravelly terminus at San Vicente Mountain Park, where a decommissioned radar tower provides 360-degree views of Palos Verdes, Downtown and the entire Valley, including the adjacent Encino Reservoir.

Highland Park Bowl
Photograph: Wonho Frank Lee
Things to do, Games and hobbies

Go on a double date at Highland Park Bowl

Highland Park

There are few L.A. venues more beautiful than Highland Park Bowl, and it’s a triple threat, no less: a bar, bowling alley and restaurant all in one. The price to rent a lane fluctuates between $25 and $70 per hour, depending on the date and time, so drive that cost down with another couple or two (each lane accommodates up to eight).

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Alamo Drafthouse
Photograph: Michael Juliano
Movie theaters

Have dinner and a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

Downtown Financial District

If you’ve never been to an Alamo Drafthouse location, here’s the gist: The theater screens first-run flicks along with repertory picks (for example, Terror Tuesday, with deep-cut horror films) all within auditoriums that feature plush, reclining seats with in-theater food and drink service (including booze). In other words, if you’re looking for dinner and a movie, you can do both in one pretty cool spot in Downtown L.A.—just maybe save the romantic chitchat for later, lest you reckon with the theater’s hardline no talking, no texting policy.

Griffith Observatory
Photograph: Courtesy Daniil Vnoutchkov
Museums, Science and technology

Take in the view from the Griffith Observatory

Griffith Park

Whether you hike up to it during the day or drive to it at night to gaze at the moon, the Griffith Observatory makes for a romantic location. Look out at the city below—which often makes for interesting conversations—or sit through the observatory show. Just don’t expect it to be as magically empty as in La La Land.

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Echo Park Lake, lotus
Photograph: Rozette Rago
Things to do

Picnic at Echo Park Lake

Echo Park

The Eastside’s historic Echo Park Lake boasts beautiful views of the Downtown skyline, and during the summer lotus gardens in bloom. Bring your own picnic basket and roll out a blanket, or hit up on-site spot Beacon. You’ll also find pedal and swan boats rented by the hour—possibly the cutest couple activity ever, though it will cost you ($11–$25 per hour).

Santa Monica Farmers' Market
Photograph: Courtesy Santa Monica Farmers' Market
Shopping, Markets and fairs

Stock up at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market

Santa Monica

We love the idea of perusing fresh fruits and veggies with a new crush. Even if you don’t buy anything, you can sample some fresh eats, people-watch and plan for a future spent cooking breakfast for each other—maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Regardless, Santa Monica hosts four of our favorites, particualrly on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.

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Little Prince
Photograph: Courtesy Little Prince
Restaurants, American

Have a romantic meal at Little Prince

Santa Monica

Choosing a date restaurant is hard. It needs to be romantic without being too formal, special without being too expensive and cool without being tragically so. We think Alma chef Ari Taymor’s Santa Monica spot perfectly fits that bill, whether for a bright brunch and walk around town, or a low-lit dinner. Make sure not to skip some of the most decadent sticky buns in the city.

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