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Bacari Silver Lake
Photograph: Courtesy Bacari/Jakob N. Layman

The 18 most romantic things to do in Los Angeles

From horseback riding in the mountains to patio dining by the ocean, here’s how to up the romance in L.A.

Michael Juliano
Edited by
Michael Juliano
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Look, it’s no Paris or Venice, but Los Angeles can be a pretty romantic city when it wants to be. Sweet-talking L.A. into that sentimental mood can take some effort, though, so we’ve combed through the city’s finest restaurants, date ideas and getaways to bring you the very best romantic things to do.

We’ll admit we have a bit of a bias toward the edges of L.A.: A solid slice of our list is in Malibu, and a few other picks are found elsewhere along the coast, up in the mountains or out-of-town in the desert. Because let’s face it: A change of scenery and an open horizon is far more romantic than the sitting in the same old traffic on the 101 for a run-of-the-mill night out.

Also, as much as we wish there was a sure-fire budget-friendly hack, a truly romantic hotel stay these days is going to run upwards of $400 on a weeknight—so while we’ve included a few of those picks, we’ve kept them to just our few favorites.

With all that said, it’s time to light some candles and make some plans for these romantic things to do in L.A.

The 18 most romantic things to do in Los Angeles

  • Things to do
  • Event spaces
  • San Marino
  • price 2 of 4

You may not have a sprawling estate to call your own, but a day at the bequest of entrepreneur Henry E. Huntington isn’t a bad substitute. The outdoor portions of the library, museum and gardens are so spacious that it rarely feels crowded. The usually-in-bloom rose garden is a must, as are the rest of the exquisitely themed gardens, particularly the desert, Japanese and Chinese areas.

  • Things to do
  • Angeles National Forest

Picnics are romance 101, but consider this spot an advanced course: Drive about 40 minutes up Angeles Crest Highway and onto Mount Wilson Red Box Road and you’ll reach its mountaintop observatory. Take a short walk from the parking lot to the shaded Skyline Park pavilion (also home to the Cosmic Cafe on weekends) and you’ll be rewarded with a seasonal lunch spot from 5,700 feet up. For a little more seclusion, the views just off the road on the southernwestern section of Mt. Wilson Circle Road are sublime.

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Trot through the mountains with Malibu Riders
Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/Ryan Ancill

Trot through the mountains with Malibu Riders

Why tackle Malibu’s rolling interior on two legs when you could do it on four? Malibu Riders operates guided horseback rides across Malibu and Agoura Hills, as brief as a 45-minute ride through Zuma Canyon to a two-hour route around Malibu Creek State Park. Our preference? The hour-long option that starts by Paramount Ranch, which charts a course through wooded areas and open fields with a mountainous backdrop.

  • Movies

Drive-ins popped back into fashion again everywhere in 2020, but in L.A. they’d never really disappeared. A couple of years later, they’re thankfully still here, with about a half-dozen old-school spots in the region that offer nightly drive-in screenings. If you’re up for the drive to Montclair, we’re particularly a fan of Mission Tiki (while you’re in the area, take a dreamy detour to James Turrell’s Dividing the Light at Pomona College).

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Joshua Tree is one of the most magical places, period. Spiny trees and jumbles of boulders dot a desert landscape surrounded by arid mountains that’s ideal for leisurely drives, a range of hikes and countless climbing opportunities. It’s also home to some of the most remarkable stargazing in the region, best enjoyed via a night at one of the national park’s in-demand campsites (just don’t mind the sound of wild coyotes howling in the middle of the night).

  • Attractions
  • Beaches
  • Malibu

Small, beautiful and dominated by rocky outcrops, El Matador is easily the most picturesque piece of coastline in the county. It’s particularly stunning around sunset, which peeks in and out of the many coves. Just make sure to wear shoes and not to bring bring too much gear (the western Malibu beach is only accessible via a steep gravelly path from a paid parking lot). Oh, and watch out for high tide when sand comes at a premium.

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  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Downtown Financial District
  • price 3 of 4

Skyscraper-topping restaurants always seem like perfect go-big date ideas, but many end up coasting on views alone. But 71Above—you guessed it, it’s 71 floors up in the U.S. Bank Tower—backs up its height and handsome design with a tasty prix-fixe feast of poached oysters, agnolotti, steak tartare and scallops. Try the bar for a sunset-facing seat, and look out for a pair of tables pushed right up to the edge of the windows.

  • Hotels
  • Boutique hotels
  • Malibu
  • price 3 of 4

A former roadside motel turned stylish (and pricey) beachy retreat, this magazine-spread-worthy spot has easily the best—and most exclusive—rooftop in Malibu. The reason to stay at the Surfrider, this low-key, privileged perch is only open to hotel guests, and it’s a perfect spot for a cozy breakfast while the marine layer burns off or a nightcap overlooking the ocean. Off the premises, make sure to take advantage of the beach gear on loan and a Mini Cooper that you can borrow to cruise the canyons. Just a heads up that weekend reservations book months in advance.

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Ojai could land on this list solely for the Ranch House, a lush patio restaurant hidden behind a bamboo forest. But that’s not the only reason the foot-of-the-mountains oasis is such a great a romantic destination. Small hotels like the Hummingbird Inn make for lovely stays for couples, as does the totally-pampered Ojai Valley Inn. Take a hike, have a spa day, walk through an orange grove or go wine tasting—whatever you choose, Ojai is ripe for romance. (If the wine aspect has you particularly interested, consider putting in the extra mileage and venturing into the Santa Ynez Valley or hop between tasting rooms in Santa Barbara.)

  • Restaurants
  • Mediterranean
  • Silver Lake
  • price 2 of 4

Silver Lake’s shuttered Cliff’s Edge always had the location down, but the Mediterranean-leaning small-plates specialists at Bacari have finally brought in a menu worthy of the secret garden space. Aim for a meal around twilight, and for an extra relaxed evening opt for the 90-minute open bar, which keeps the wine, sangria and beer flowing for $30 per person.

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  • Things to do
  • Pacific Palisades

With a variety of terrain, flora, a waterfall pit stop and views of the Pacific and city, this Pacific Palisades park is perfect for an active, outdoorsy date. You can encourage each other along the sunny, slightly demanding uphill portions, marvel at the breathtaking views from the top and then keep the conversation flowing during the shaded descent. Just don’t roll through the stop signs nearby or that $100 fine will make for one expensive date.

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  • Things to do
  • Echo Park

A former reservoir turned public recreation area, Echo Park’s manmade lake boasts skyline views and summertime lotus blooms. For maximum adorableness, you can push your way through the lake in a swan boat for $11 per person per hour. Reserve a time after 5pm and the boats will all be illuminated for extra romance.

  • Hotels
  • Boutique hotels
  • Rancho Palos Verdes/Rolling Hills Estates
  • price 3 of 4

Paradise is a place on the point of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Situated on an oceanside bluff, this picturesque hotel offers the ultimate in resort life—assuming you can swing the premium room prices. The spa, too, is sumptuous, but you’ll need to book an overnight stay to make the most of it. If that’s not in the budget, opt instead for a meal at Mar’sel, the go-to impress-your-date kind of place on the property. Dinners at the patio restaurant quickly climb into the triple digits, so consider the three-course Sunday brunch for (a still expensive) $85 to keep things in check.

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  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Santa Monica Mountains
  • price 2 of 4

Hike a two-mile loop across the varied terrain of Saddlerock Ranch, with stellar views of the scenic Malibu surroundings along the way, and reward yourself with some wine to-go at the end. The popular tasting room at Malibu Wines never reopened following the Woolsey Fire—the vineyard instead shifted its attention to a wine and beer garden in the Valley—so this two-hour, 21-plus hike is pretty much your only option to trek through the area (and, frankly, a more low-key option).

Jetsetting houses with pools, fire-lit patios, palm-tree–lined scenery: Palm Springs is a primo destination for a bit of desert romance. Stick to an Airbnb for the most privacy, though among the area hotels, Korakia Pensione is particularly romantic. Make sure to ride the gondola up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway while you’re there; you’ll be whisked from the warm desert to a snowy mountaintop well into the spring, and get a little break from the heat in the summer.

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  • Museums
  • Science and technology
  • Griffith Park
  • price 1 of 4

Whether you hike up to it during the day or drive to it at night to gaze at the shimmering sprawl below, Griffith makes for a classic romantic spot. On summer weekends, don’t expect it to be as magically empty as in La La Land, so off-season weekdays are definitely encouraged—as is the charming planetarium show inside the Art Deco landmark.

  • Hotels
  • Spa hotels
  • West Hollywood
  • price 4 of 4

Blocks from the Sunset Strip, this luxe Spanish-style villa offers a lush refuge to guests yearning to feel like rock stars with tranquil gardens, fine dining and celeb-endorsed spa treatments. Every room here is a villa or a suite, but it’s surprisingly not any more expensive than the considerably more boring luxe hotels in the area. At the very least, the lush grounds are intimate and perfect for a romantic stroll, so stop in for dinner on the romantic patio at Cavatina.

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