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10 great friend dates in LA for platonic pals

Looking for date ideas sans romance? Here, friend dates for both ladies and gents, with all the fun and none of the fuss.

Photo by Image Source/Rex/REX USA
LA's best friend dates

Coming up with friend date ideas is way lower maintenance than choosing a romantic restaurant or picking a first date spot. But the pickins can sometimes feel slim (even in a city with 101 things to do—literally—on any given weekend). If you're looking to make a plan with friends, one that deviates from your daily routine and doesn’t involve shopping or sitting at a coffee shop (nothing against coffee, but let's get creative, people), here are a few suggestions for the ultimate #FriendDate, complete with their very own hashtags—because what's a friend date without at least a little social media documentation?

RECOMMENDED: Date ideas in LA

Wi Spa

For quality friend time, there is no better sanctuary to simultaneously detox, beautify and unwind than Wi Spa. A traditional Korean-style spa just minutes from Downtown and Koreatown, Wi is the affordable alternative to LA's more extravagantly priced luxury spas (where you're really just paying for location and masseuses that resemble Fabio—no judgement there). Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Wi is ideal for post-work de-stressing, weekends, and late night insomniac (or post-last call) sauna sessions. Though there are separate floors for men and women, Wi also boasts a family-friendly, co-ed jimjilbang, the communal epicenter where you can also snack on some fresh Korean cuisine. And with the help of thousand-year-old mineral salts, imported detoxifying clay and hormone-balancing jade, you can soak up some friend time and some you time at the same damn time. #multitasking

RECOMMENDED: The top Korean saunas in LA's Koreatown

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Koreatown

Langer's Deli

Good food and good conversation are the main ingredients to any friend date recipe. But it's sometimes tricky to differentiate one trendy tapas spot from the next overpriced (and oh-so-loud) gastropub. Take a break from the big hype and small portions and grub like native Angelenos at Langer's Deli. Dishing up the finest pastrami in all of Los Angeles, and arguably in this great, carnivorous nation (though don't tell that to a die-hard New Yorker unless you're prepared for a lecture), Langer’s is a Los Angeles institution dating back to 1947. With a rich backstory worthy of transforming a boring lunch into a LA history lesson, an afternoon at Langer's is a filling way to experience a slice of LA foodie culture while avoiding an “industry crowd.” Stubbornly situated in not-quite-up-and-coming Westlake, smack across the street from LA's storied MacArthur Park, Langer's has remained family-owned, standing its ground against all odds. The James Beard Award-winning eatery is a favorite among celebrities, too. In a column for the New Yorker in 2002, Nora Ephron literally salivates, "The hot pastrami sandwich served at Langer’s Delicatessen in Downtown Los Angeles is the finest hot pastrami sandwich in the world... It’s a symphony orchestra, different instruments brought together to play one perfect chord. It is, in short, a work of art." Amen, Nora. Ultimate food for thought (and friends). #PastramiParty

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Westlake
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Echo Park Lake

Echo Park Lake

The newly rehabbed Echo Park Lake is a little sliver of Central Park in LA; perfect for one-on-one friend catch-ups, lakeside yoga, big group doggie dates and meandering with baby strollers. Start off with brunch at the new Square One at the Boathouse; this unassuming lakeside establishment comes with real culinary cred. An offshoot of the original Square One on Fountain—and owned by the same folks behind Gingergrass in Silver Lake—a friendly staff serves up an abbreviated menu including Intelligentsia coffee, cheddar cheese grits topped with a farm fresh egg and tomato chutney, and parmesan kale salad. Major selling point: there's always ample outdoor seating, people watching and water bowls for panting pups. After lunch, work it off with a tandem cruise around the lake on a pedal boat, which you can rent for $10 per person from 9am to sunset daily. If you prefer to travel by land than by lake, the lush and bustling park is a hub for joggers, bicyclists and walkers (not the zombie kind), so grab your Nikes and a running partner and enjoy the fruits of this multimillion-dollar renovation project. In the mood for a lazy Sunday outside? You can always park it on a grassy knoll with a blanket, bottle of wine and picnic basket packed with snacks. #EchoParkLake (No really, it has its own hashtag.)

RECOMMENDED: Echo Park Lake reopening (slide show)

Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles

Unless you're living under a soundproof rock buried ten feet under the earth's surface, you've probably heard that the Ace Hotel has opened its boutique doors to DTLA. Discretely located inside an ornate deco theater in the historic United Arts building (although the marquis is a dead giveaway), the Ace is playing a starring role in Downtown's ongoing cultural renaissance. With a jam-packed social calendar that will tempt even your "I don't venture east of La Brea" friends, the hip hospitality chain has "friend date" written all over it in capital letters—with an exclamation point. Link up with the girls (or boys) and drop a name or steal someone’s reservation at LA Chapter, the Ace's in-house restaurant manned by Chef Ken Addington of Brooklyn’s popular Five Leaves. No reservation? No problem. Hit the roof for a raw fruit tropical cocktail or a stiff American whiskey. If it’s brunch o’clock, put your name down on the waitlist, grab a to-go latte from Coffee Counter in the lobby, and take a walking tour of your rapidly gentrifying surroundings. Just a few blocks away from the Ace, blogger darling Acne Studios recently celebrated the grand opening of its 5,000 square-foot flagship in the ground floor of the Eastern Columbia Building, while a massive new Urban Outfitters just sprung up down the block. You're in the 'hood—may as well make a day out of it. #DTLAce

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Downtown Historic Core
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Thrift shops

Okay, we know we said no shopping, but really we were putting the kibosh on the Barney's and Maxfield money pits of the world. Thrifting is a glorious loophole in the "no shopping" rule because it's good for the environment, the wallet and all the bystanders that have the privilege of admiring your ever-expanding collection of suede vests. Thrifting is the best friend date ever because it's an activity that requires a brutally honest companion to offer a second opinion; someone who can veto or green-light every single pair of misguided clown pants you try on. A common side effect of thrifting is bargain goggles, a state of delusion that occurs when you lay eyes on something absolutely hideous priced at just $5 and become irrationally convinced that it's a good idea to buy it. This is where your trusted companion must be counted on to intervene with common sense and a critical eye. LA is full of thrifting gems that haven't been completely picked through, including the mystical Hidden Treasures in Topanga Canyon, Mister Freedom for men, and hip, dreamy Tavin on Echo Park Boulevard. #DiscountGoggles

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Annenberg Space for Photography

Looking for an activity to stimulate your mind rather than the economy? Annenberg Space for Photography is LA’s only cultural space committed entirely to the photographic arts. Located in the heart of Century City, the contemporary venue is architecturally inspired by the inner-workings and mechanics of a camera and its lens. Free (worth a second mention) and educational, Annenberg is a nerdy #FriendDate for those looking to get cultured on a rainy Sunday without the high price of museum admission. It's also perfect for family dates and groups with kids (depending on the exhibit). Post-photos, pop into Chef David Myers much-raved-about Hinoki & The Bird for a signature lobster roll on a charcoal bun. Or for a more kid-friendly menu, scoot over to the Century City Mall for a surprisingly clean and not-too-depressing food court.

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Century City

Griffith Park

Recommended

We enjoy a good happy hour gossip session as much as the next overworked desk jockey. But sometimes it's nice to see friends in their natural state—hoofing it up a hiking trail in dirty sneaks, sweating out last night's office party cocktails like a mere mortal. Griffith Park is truly one of the most scenic escapes in LA: Nestled high above the tree-lined neighborhood of Los Feliz, it's the more grounded alternative to the star-studded slopes of Runyon Canyon. Though there are several routes to reach the top, parking at the intersection of Los Feliz Boulevard and Fern Dell Drive and trekking your way to the Observatory is the preferred method of many. For a post workout refuel, hit The Trails cafe, a rustic breakfast joint tucked away behind the foliage. A popular pit stop for hikers, the downhome eatery—owned by Jenny Park and Mickey Petralia—serves up Stumptown coffee and specializes in comfort foods: pies, chili, snake dogs (a signature hot dog on a stick wrapped in puff pastry) and quiches that negate all the working out you just did. Because actual human contact can sometimes be better than a podcast, and is definitely the best kind of motivation, grab a friend and hit the trails (both kinds). #Nature

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Griffith Park
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Bitter Root Pottery

How many times have you picked up a beautiful ceramic bowl, examined the price tag and thought, “I could totally make that… if only I knew how to make this type of thing.” Six times? Us too. This is the year to get serious about your hobbies—and enlisting a friend always helps. A beginner’s pottery class at Bitter Root on Beverly Boulevard is a creative way to spend a crafternoon getting your hands dirty with a friend, while simultaneously disconnecting from social media and channeling your repressed inner Picasso. If it's your first time at the potter's wheel, the two-hour instructional class includes clay, firing, and glazing (handled by the instructor) for just $50; a steal, considering how much money you'll eventually save on kitchenware. Be warned: sculpting a hunk of raw clay into a bowl capable of holding liquid is harder than it looks. But even if your final product is lopsided and practically unusable, you're guaranteed to have quite a few laughs and some solid bonding time while making it. Added perk: Slamming inanimate slabs of clay against a worktable is highly therapeutic. #CrafternoonDelight

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Beverly

Korean BBQ

For dinner dates of four or more, Korean BBQ is your secret weapon. A visually stimulating, group-oriented, sensory overloaded way to feast, Korean BBQ provides built-in entertainment, so you don't have to carry all the burden of conversing with your friend's partner whom you just met for the first time and have nothing in common with (except, perhaps, for a mutual love of galbi). LA has no shortage of mouth-watering Korean BBQ spots, ranging from AYCE (all-you-can-eat) to high-end and expensive—some of which are grill-it-yourself and others that are full-service. Part of the fun is weathering the elements—the smoke and heat and your sweater smelling like charcoal for days. Soot Bull Jeep, Park's BBQ and Soowan Galbi are among LA's consistently top-rated Korean BBQ hot spots. Great for birthday parties, special occasions and eaters with adventurous palates, Korean BBQ is about the culinary experience—from the strip mall setting to the sizzling hunks of pork belly and kimchi-fried rice grilling up before your hungry eyes. #KoreanBBCrew

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X Lanes

The holy grail of arcade games and bowling, X Lanes in Little Tokyo is a virtual paradise for mixed-gender hang sessions. (Our only complaint: not enough air hockey tables.) If you're looking for a high-energy club vibe without the aimless standing around, plus the added exhilaration of 24 lanes of LED-lit bowling, this is your sanctuary. With over 100 arcade games, a nine-table billiard room and karaoke ('90s power ballads, anyone?), there is no shortage of entertainment for your geek squad to feast on. And speaking of feasting, X Lanes also has a restaurant and full sports bar, because bowling while buzzed is highly amusing, and karaoke to Alanis Morissette after three vodkas is the stuff memories are made of. For large parties, you may want to make reservations ahead of time, as lanes do fill up quickly. Order a round of mozzarella sticks, bogart the Dance Dance Revolution machine, and make a night of it, you crazy kids. #GutterBalls

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Skid Row

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