Los Angeles

The Coolest Things to Do in LA After Dark

Two Bit Circus
Two Bit Circus
Two Bit Circus

If you’re looking for things to do when the sun’s still up, check out our recommendations for the best things to do in Los Angeles.Congratulations: You picked the right time to live in Los Angeles. LA currently has what might just be the best food scene in the whole country, not to mention a killer bar scene, so it’s understandable if most evenings out are dedicated to working your way down your list of new openings, hotspots, and old favorites to revisit. But if you want to shake up your after-dark agenda a bit and are in search of something new and unexpected, LA’s got a whole world of other interesting nightlife options to explore. From carnival game nights to creepy midnight movies, here’s a solid selection of alternative activities to consider for your next night out.

Pinz Bowling Center
Pinz Bowling Center
Pinz Bowling Center

Roll a strike and eat some pizza 

Various locations
Bowling alleys have come a long way since our childhood outings filled with Formica, frozen pizza, and on-screen scoring graphics leftover from the early Atari era. For a retro-cool evening at the lanes, try Highland Park Bowl; the venue dates back to the Prohibition era, and Hospitality outfit 1933 Group brought it back to its glory days a few years ago, restoring the whole place, unearthing the vintage interior, and creating a menu centered around wood-fired pizzas and classic cocktails, along with a California-heavy beer list. You can also catch live bands several nights a week at the attached Mr. T’s. The longstanding Pinz in Studio City — a massive, always-jamming space with 32 lanes — is always good for celebrity spotting and popular with groups and birthday parties. LA’s four Bowlero-branded alleys scattered around the Westside and South Bay boast lit-up lanes, a big menu of bar food, fun tunes, and league nights. Note that the downside of bowling’s hip resurgence is that it’s not so easy to just walk in and start rolling without a wait, especially on weekends, so you’d best reserve a lane ahead of time.

Watch LeBron in action 

Downtown 
Basketball season is almost upon us, so time to get your tickets to a game, nearly all which take place after dark. OK, so it’s not going to be a cheap outing, but catching a Lakers game at Staples Center is an energy-infused, celebrity-filled, kiss cam-crazy LA evening you’ve got to experience at least once. Clippers tix are usually cheaper since the team has historically played second fiddle in this Lakers-loving city, but this could be their year: Clipper Nation is currently the odds-on favorite to take the title at the NBA Finals in 2020.

The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills
The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills
The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills

School yourself in the world of cheese  

Beverly Hills
If you’re looking for a new excuse to eat cheese and drink wine (and who isn’t, really?), here you go: Every month (other than December and January) the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills hosts three back-to-back cheese-and-wine tasting nights. The tastings – led by the store’s GM, buyer, and all-around cheese wizard and Tony Princiotta – usually center around a certain region, (think Tuscany or the Alps) and features 10(!) artisan cheeses along with seven wines split into three flights. Princiotta invites guest winemakers and experts to participate each month, who introduce and explain the history of the wines, often small production, organic offerings. And in case you haven’t officially reached cheese overload by the end of the two-hour shebang, you can head over to the shop afterwards (the tasting takes place a few doors down) for mingling and discounted … well you know. To get the monthly invite, email [email protected].

Get cultured at a museum after-hours  

Various locations
Many of LA’s most magnificent museums stay open late at least one night a week, so you can swap your usual after-work happy hour for something actually educational. UCLA’s art and cultural center Hammer Museum remains open until 8pm Tuesday through Friday, is free to everyone, and has a pretty robust schedule of programming, including many evening options. Contemporary art headquarters LACMA welcomes visitors until 8pm on Friday nights, and also hosts its Friday night live-on-the-plaza music series Jazz at LACMA starting at 6pm every Friday from April through November. With tons of outdoor space, amazing views, and 110-acres, The Getty is a great spot to let a Saturday afternoon roll into evening. It stays open until 9pm on Saturday nights and puts on its free monthly outdoor concert series Off the 405 in the summer, along with some shows inside its auditorium come winter. Downtown’s architectural masterpiece The Broad (home of the oft-Instagrammed Infinity Mirror Rooms) remains open until 8pm Thursday, Friday, and Saturdays; while admission is free, it’s best to reserve a ticket ahead of time, if you can.

L.A. Derby Dolls
L.A. Derby Dolls
L.A. Derby Dolls

Cheer on the badass ladies of roller derby 

Vernon  
Shake up your Saturday night as a spectator of Derby Dolls: a non-profit all-female, banked roller derby league comprised of 150 junior and adult members spread out among multiple teams with don’t-mess-with-us monikers like the Sirens, Varsity Brawlers, and Tough Cookies. Derbies usually take place monthly (though the organization puts on daily offerings of classes, scrimmages, and skill practices pretty much daily for members) with junior bouts during the day and adults lacing up in the evening. The derbies are the real deal — unscripted with rules and referees and end-of-season semi-finals and championship bouts coming up in November and December. 

Beat writers’ block with booze 

Beverly Hills
We all know the repercussions of drinking and texting, but imbibing while thoughtfully writing a letter the old-fashioned way is a totally different story. An organization called Pen2Paper Project, which holds social workshops on the art of letter-writing and journaling, just launched the series A Nourished Spirit at the Hotel Palomar. Each workshop will have a theme and multiple cocktail pairings meant to give you a little inspiration and liquid courage to start writing. Lead bartender Sarah Mengoni has already come up with some innovative offerings, like the whiskey-and-ginger-liqueur-based Bumper to Bumper, garnished with a teeny-tiny I-405 sign (and part of the LA-themed evening, duh). There are also a few food pairings on offer, and ticket proceeds go toward the youth culinary-training non-profit C-CAP LA.

Bob Baker Marionette Theater
Bob Baker Marionette Theater
Bob Baker Marionette Theater

See a puppet show (seriously) 

Highland Park 
Founded in the ‘60s by late puppeteer and marionette maker Bob Baker (not to be confused with the similar-named former Price Is Right host), the Bob Baker Marionette Theater, dedicated to puppets-on-a-string, unveiled its new home in Highland Park in 2018 after decades spent at its original Downtown theater. Before you scroll right on by and insist that puppet shows are for children and it would be super creepy if you showed up, know this: The kitschy shows, costumed puppeteers, and 2,000+ handmade marionettes really do equal fun for all ages, and some Saturday evening shows are geared towards adults. The theater recently hosted a musical performance to mark the unveiling of its new over-the-top organ, and its Women in Vaudeville show hosted by “world renowned” juggler Lindsay Benner just returned to the schedule along with an upcoming School House Rock performance with puppets.

trekandshoot/Shutterstock
trekandshoot/Shutterstock
trekandshoot/Shutterstock

Hike by moonlight

Hollywood
We Angelenos love our bright-and-early hikes — just try to find parking at 8am on a weekend at Runyon Canyon. Even if you’re a serious morning person, though, it’s worth giving a post-twilight trek a go; you can make the hike up Griffith Park’s Mt. Hollywood since the park is open to the public until 10pm. Better yet, hook up with the Sierra Club’s Angeles Chapter which leads evening hikes on Tuesdays and Thursdays with multiple hikes running around two hours targeted at different skill levels, ranging from OMG-I’ve-never-even seen-a-mountain-before-types to people who spend most of their free time at REI. There’s also a moderate-to-advanced-only hike on Wednesday evenings, and a 2.5-hour Monthly Moonlight hike on the Saturday closest to the full moon, when participants bring snacks for a potluck at the top.

Have a tech-heavy carnival game night

Downtown
Whether you’re an old-school arcade fan or all about the latest and greatest gaming technology, the Arts District’s 38,000-square-foot “micro amusement park” Two Bit Circus will be able to keep you entertained with its wild wonderland of interactive action. The place is filled with competition games like Skee-Ball and balloon pop (real ball, virtual balloons), along with classic video games. The real show-stoppers here are the virtual reality offerings, which let you bounce from tackling VR-infused escape rooms, to banding together with friends to battle zombies during an apocalypse, to making your way through a single-player mazes with pretty killer effects (we know we’re not actually going to fall into the abyss if we step off that cliff, but it’s still enough to get the blood pumping). Entrance is free, and you pay to play. If you’ve got a crew in tow you can go in on a private gaming cabana rented in 90-minute blocks.

Blacklist LA
Blacklist LA
Blacklist LA

Go for a group run after dark

Various locations
Your couch + Netflix seems like a pretty decent option after a ridiculously long day at work, but your body will thank you if you strap on your sneakers and get a little exercise come evening instead. Blacklist LA organizes 3-to-4-mile Community Art Runs on Monday evenings, during which 200+ participants run from a meeting point to a public art piece and learn a bit about it before high-tailing it back. For those who want to reward themselves after a workout, a club called Electric Flight Crew (which you’ll need to join in order to participate) holds weekly runs and workouts in the South Bay, Santa Monica, and WeHo that are followed up by a convivial “No Shower Happy Hour.”

Nuart Theatre
Nuart Theatre
Nuart Theatre

Take in a creepy midnight movie

West LA
The historic Nuart Theater is already a solid venue for film buffs, screening classics as well as new indie films and documentaries, sometimes accompanied by Q&As with filmmakers and movie subjects. It’s here that you can also settle in for a frequently frightening (but sometimes not) movie screening on Fridays at 11:59pm, with flicks that might be a full-on screamfest like Halloween III one week and the Japanese animated fantasy film Spirited Away another. And are there still people out there going to midnight Rocky Horror screenings? Apparently, yes: you’ll find them here on Saturday nights.

Hollywood Bowl
Hollywood Bowl
Hollywood Bowl

Catch a concert under the stars (while you still can)

Hollywood Hills
Few amphitheaters are more magical than The Hollywood Bowl nestled in the Hollywood Hills. Yes, getting in and out is never fun, but once you get there as the sun is setting, indulge in a gourmet picnic and a few bottles of wine, and then catch an amazing act, you’ll have forgotten all about that LA traffic… until it’s time to head home, at least. Though the Bowl is synonymous with summer around here, the season runs all the way through October. Between now and then, you can catch performances by Gary Clark, Jr., Vampire Weekend, Lana Del Rey, and The Who — a band that’s on the schedule three times in October as they continue to pretend they’re going to retire.

Settle in for story time

Various locations
If you’re one of those people who can totally transcend cocktail party fodder with an entertaining story that warrants gasps and guffaws, you just might want to try spilling your guts to a real audience at one of the open-mic StorySLAM sessions held weekly around the city, as part of long-running series The Moth. Not into public speaking? Simply buy a ticket and watch as a slew of storytellers get five minutes each, telling tales centered around a single theme ranging from fear to scandal to joy. Venues, dates, and pricing vary, and you can buy tickets online.

Find yourself stupefied inside a magic castle…

Hollywood
The legendary Magic Castle is, sleight-of-hands-down, one of the coolest venues in LA. You’re inside an old Victorian mansion stuffed with antiques and artifacts, and there’s entertainment lurking around every corner — from a ghost taking requests on the piano to Houdini séances to roving magicians blowing your mind with card tricks while you’re waiting for your martini at one of the many, many groovy bars. Then, there are the wow-worthy scheduled shows that take place in various spaces around the castle all night long. Here’s the catch (because of course, there is a catch): The Magic Castle is a private clubhouse for members of The Academy of Magical Arts, so you can only visit as the guest of a member. Before you insist you don’t know a single real-life magician, though, start asking friends and friends of friends now. You’d be surprised how often someone like Blake in accounting’s husband’s childhood friend can totally get you in. Also note that you’ll have to splurge on dinner in the restaurant before they’ll let you loose in the castle. Just eat quickly.

…or hit another Hollywood magic show

Hollywood 
If you haven’t yet found your in for the castle but still want to see some magic, dammit, you’ve got some nearby options: The Magic Show at the historic Hollywood Roosevelt hotel recently announced that it’s bringing in magic savant Franco Pascali for a weekend residency. The 21-year-old is already a Magic Castle alum and reportedly does a mind-blowing show of magic and mentalism. Down the street, nightlife powerhouses the Houston brothers’ retro-sexy lounge-restaurant Black Rabbit Rose comes replete with an intimate theater attached, boasting top-notch magicians Thursday through Saturday nights.

Hipcooks LA
Hipcooks LA
Hipcooks LA

Expand your kitchen capabilities with a mellow cooking class

Woodland Hills, West LA, and Lincoln Heights
Yes, you’ve got your go-to pasta dish and those special burgers you grill every Fourth of July, but wouldn’t it be great to have something a bit more impressive in your repertoire? Hipcooks‘ hands-on cooking classes focus heavily on multicultural cuisines so you can take on Thai, master Moroccan, and slay sushi depending on what you’re into. The format is casual, the teachers are laid-back, and each session is paired with wine, beer, or cocktails and ends with you getting to eat what you made (we’re imagining hangry chaos ensuing if that wasn’t the case). Note those with dietary restrictions can be accommodated in some classes if you let them know ahead of time. Most classes at the three locations are $70 a person.

Take part in a public star party

Hollywood
One Saturday a month the Griffith Observatory, which sits on the south side of Mount Hollywood, hosts a free public star party where you can try out a gaggle of telescopes and gaze at the sun, moon, planets, stars, and other celestial stuff out in the universe. In case you’re not an astronomer yourself, volunteers from smart-people clubs Los Angeles Astronomical SocietyLos Angeles Sidewalk Astronomers, and The Planetary Society will be on hand to answer questions.

Downtown LA Art Walk
Downtown LA Art Walk
Downtown LA Art Walk

See art while walking

Downtown
While monthly events like this one are often summer-only or have morphed into food truck-line-fueled sidewalk gridlock (we’re looking at you, Abbot Kinney), DTLA’s Art Walk takes place on the second Thursday evening of the month all year long. In addition to more than two dozen galleries and artist’s studios open late, the event often includes pop-up shops, activities, and live entertainment. Hit up the Art Walk Lounge — currently located at The Last Bookstore (worth a separate visit if you haven’t been) for maps and info about what’s going on that night.

Tour a movie studio After Dark

Hollywood
Unlike the daytime tour led by a cheery page taking guests through the New York City backlot (complete with bodegas and brownstones just like the real New York!), the nighttime Tales from the Other Side tours (running Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights from September 20 to November 16) are meant to amp up the spook factor. The flashlight-led outing kicks off with a Champagne toast (cheers to tales of dead celebs!) and promises scary stories as you tour the backlot and soundstages in the dark, finishing up with a walk through the adjacent Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The less-Halloweeny After Dark Tour returns in December.Sign up here for our daily LA email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun Los Angeles has to offer.

Los Angeles

How to Spend a Weekend in Topanga Canyon

Nature and the arts collide in this beloved canyon community.

Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images
Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images
Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images

Situated in the Santa Monica Mountains and known for its vibrant creative community, Topanga is one of Los Angeles’s most prized destinations for art and outdoor enthusiasts alike. And while LA boasts its own sprawling landscape of fun to tap into, you’d be remiss to miss a chance to explore this tucked-away collection of state parks, and cafes, and restaurants-especially when it all rests just 20 minutes away from the city. From a quaint caf√© with dazzling canyon views to a world-renowned, open-air theatre, here are the best ways to pass some time in Topanga now.

Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray
Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray
Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray

Friday

Book dinner at Inn of the Seventh Ray
Owner Lucille Yaney opened this iconic restaurant in 1975 after spotting the property on a drive through the canyon with her late husband Ralph, and it’s safe to say she had a good eye. The land perfectly fits into Yaney’s vision of a romantic, alfresco dining space with tables tucked into cozy nooks and gazebos, all beneath canapes and fairy lights. Today, Yaney co-owns the venue with executive chef consultant Brad Miller. Together, they continue to fulfil the restaurant’s original mission to serve pure, natural foods reflective of the season’s best. That approach appears in dishes like 8-Hour Black Vinegar Braised Short Rib with creamy rosemary polenta, duck bacon Brussels sprouts, and caramelized onion and fig jam; Roasted Mushroom Toast with oyster mushrooms and sherry tarragon cream; and Beets & Whipped Black Pepper Creme Fraiche. Consider the carbs here. Pastas and sauces are made in-house and from scratch, as is the bread (available regular or gluten-free), an order of which you won’t want to miss. Check out the wine list, too, which offers a robust organic and biodynamic selection that has helped the restaurant garner some impressive accolades in recent years.

Check into Topanga Canyon Inn
In addition to plenty of excellent Airbnbs available to rent in the Canyon, there’s Topanga Canyon Inn, a charming bed and breakfast comprised of two Mediterranean-style buildings-Casa Blanca and Casa Rosa-both built by the owners. Guests can enjoy bespoke design details in each room, along with gorgeous mountain views from their own private balcony. Come morning, join other travellers for breakfast, served daily at Casa Rosa.

Saturday

Get coffee at Café on 27
Ready your camera for a coffee date at this AM eatery and caf√©, where ample (and busy) outdoor seating offers some of the Canyon’s best views. A full breakfast and lunch menu is available (complete with hearty orders like eggs Benedicts, soups, and club sandwiches), but for lighter morning fare, spring for a pastry and any of their specialty drinks, such as the turmeric latte or Moroccan mocha.

Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock
Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock
Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock

Hike Topanga State Park
Spanning 11,000 acres and 36 miles of trails, Topanga State Park is the largest state park within the Santa Monica Mountains and one of the world’s largest parks within city limits. Visitors can access the grounds via more than 60 entrances. Once on the trails, enjoy sweeping vistas while exploring the region’s range of plants, habitats, and wildlife, including several resident bird species.

Grab lunch at Topanga Living Café
Guided by their Topanga upbringing and need for a community gathering spot with great eats, sibling team Agustina Ferguson and Bayu Suryawan opened this daytime eatery in 2016. Ever since, locals and visitors have found refuge in the caf√©’s warm, airy space and nourishing, hyper-fresh fare-all California-inspired with global influences. Check it out in plates like the Island Style, a breakfast salad with Balinese corn fritters, a poached egg, and house-made chilli jam, or the tacos (Baja Fish or Baja Shrimp, Carne Asada, or Kabocha Squash), made-to-order and served on handmade tortillas. If you’re seeking something shareable, try the Farmers Market Crudite, a seemingly humble order whose bright beet hummus reminds us that eating your vegetables is, indeed, very cool. And take a drink to-go. The team here takes great pride in their coffee (organic espresso, courtesy of their iconic pink La Marzocco machine) and a lineup of made-to-order smoothies, juices, and teas. Shop your way through town
Visitors can stroll through the town centre’s most popular shops for various fun finds, including Moona Star, Pebbles, and Topanga Homegrown. Be sure to stock up on specialty, local snacks at Canyon Gourmet and satiate your sweet tooth while you’re at it. The organic soft-serve there is a must. Pro tip: Top it with any of their artisanal syrups for a winning combo, namely, the vanilla with cardamom.

Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum

Catch a show at The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
This beloved open-air theatre has hosted productions for decades and is recognized worldwide for its Shakespeare interpretations. In addition to its annual summer season, which includes works like Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the venue hosts concerts, rehearsals, and classes throughout the year for budding actors and playwrights of all ages.

Snag a slice at Endless Colour
This family-run pizza joint specializes in from-scratch pies with clever topping combinations (think purple potatoes, fontina, and truffle oil in the Purple Molly Potato or spinach, leeks, and goat cheese in the Super Greens). Bring some friends, order a pie or two, and check out the drinks list, which includes offbeat options like orange wines and hard kombucha.

Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery
Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery
Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery

Sunday

Check out The Canyon Bakery’s “Sunday Funday”
Situated on the grounds of the aforementioned Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, this bakery specializes in naturally leavened breads, pastries, cakes, and cookies using locally sourced, whole grain flours. There’s a takeout window on Sundays, from 9:30 am until the bakery sells out. A strong following lines up for favourites, such as whole grain croissants and gluten-free pizza, so be sure to arrive early to get your fill.

Try tacos to-go at La Chingona
On your way out of town, grab some tacos at La Chingona, where a team puts forth fresh, organic, gluten- and dairy-free tacos. Orders range to include options like grass-fed beef (carne asada), shrimp (wild-caught), and soy chorizo and can be fashioned into plates beyond tacos, too (think tostadas, salads, and bowls). Open only on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays; this taco stand sees good demand. Plan accordingly, pending your travels, especially to savour an order or two of the churros.

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Nicole Schnitzler is a contributor for Thrillist.

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