The good news is we made it. The bad news is you have to get dressed in real clothes and start dating again. (Okay, you don’t have to.) Or maybe you’ve been dating all along. Or maybe you have a partner you’ve been falling asleep next to on the couch among scattered to-go boxes every night for the last year and now you want to take your relationship out in public again. Whatever your situation, it’s time. California is reopening, LA is reopening, restaurants are reopening at full capacity. You can go see live music, or art at a museum, or a movie (!) again. It’s all happening. Whether it’s a first-time meetup, you’re madly in love, or somewhere in between, here are 14 ideas for a great date in Los Angeles:
Get Back to the Bowl
If last summer happened without a Hollywood Bowl season, did last summer really happen? We can’t figure out that math, but the important thing is that live music has returned, and so have concerts at this beloved and iconic open-air music venue. First up, the groovy sounds of Kool and the Gang will precede fireworks on July 3 and 4. Later this summer, look for Christina Aguilera, HER, Sergio Mendes, Ziggy Marley headlining Reggae Night, and plenty of Los Angeles Philharmonic performances. Pick up some tix, pack a picnic, bring a bottle of vino, and celebrate the return of one of LA’s best summer date spots.
See a Movie Under the Stars
Yes, the pandemic revitalized drive-in theaters, allowing us to stay safe and separate in our cars, but we’re ready to get back outside for a proper summer movie viewing experience that doesn’t involve looking through a windshield. E.P. & L.P.‘s Melrose Rooftop Theatre returns July 4, screening favorite flicks (Bridesmaids, Boyz n the Hood, and The Big Lebowski are just a few on the docket) every single night through November. Grab a general admission ticket, which comes with bean bag seating and individual wireless headsets (plus killer views), or upgrade your date with a dinner-and-movie package, which includes a three-course meal from the recently reopened E.P. Restaurant, where you can nosh on modern American like a spicy ahi tuna tostada and wood-grilled steak frites before heading upstairs for the main event. While their Santa Monica drive-in is still operating, Rooftop Cinema Club recently returned with nightly outdoor movies in El Segundo. If things are getting serious, you can opt for double deckchair loveseats (or two singles if you’re taking things slow). Show up early for lawn games and food trucks or opt for old-school concessions during the screenings, which run the cinephile gamut from Blank Panther to The Birdcage.
Live your best life at Echo Park Lake
Echo Park recently reopened and it’s officially the perfect place to spend the day recreating one of those romantic comedy movie montages. Take advantage of the newly planted greenspace by lounging around with a picnic (go the traditional cheese, olives, and pick-ons route or gorge yourself on one-of-a-kind sandos from nearby Trencher), feeding the resident ducks, going a sunset stroll, or a ride on the iconic Swan pedal boats (which in case you didn’t know, actually light up at night!). You’ll need a reservation, so you’ll have to commit to the idea ahead of time. Yes, you’ll be one of those couples, but hey, you just sat inside for a year, so anything goes.
Have a dinner date at an old neighborhood haunt or a fine new find
After an eternity spent navigating closings, openings, limited capacity rules, and investing thousands to expand outdoor dining areas only to have them shuttered all over again, this long-running nightmare for restaurant owners and staffers is finally coming to an end. Ready to go on a (pretty much) normal dinner date again? Make a list of places you’ve been dying to get back to and set up some reservations. In the meantime, here are a few ideas:
After a year-plus closure WeHo’s all-day eatery The Henry has reopened just in time to serve as your solid date spot thanks to its pretty cocktails and global bites in a glam space. If you’re looking for a romantic evening of modern Mexican fare in a sophisticated space, book yourself a table at fabled Mexico City chef Enrique Olvera’s long-anticipated Damianin the Arts District, where the two of you can go to town on seafood-centric dishes like uni tostadas and Dungeness crab gorditas. As the old saying goes, the way to anyone’s heart is through cheese, obvs, which you’ll find plenty of at the airy new Agnes, set within a century-old spot in Old Town Pasadena. Here, chefs Vanessa and Thomas Tilaka Kalb (head cheese and head chef, respectively) are putting out a satisfying Midwestern-meets-Cali menu of good stuff like smoked cod bucatini, chicken liver-stuffed cornbread, and of course, lovely meat and cheese boards, plus piping-hot cheese curds. And for one of the best under-the-radar dining experiences in town right now, take your person to the newly openedFellow in Westwood where former Nomad chef Chris Flint is serving inventive and artfully plated dishes (think composed Hamachi crudo over sorrel and ponzu and pillowy gnudi with summer squash) in an equally impressive dining room linked to a local art gallery.
Rock on again at a music festival
Live music festivals are oh-so-slowly returning to earth. While many of the big dogs won’t be back until 2022 (including Coachella after what will have been a three-year hiatus), a few smaller fests are happening here in LA over the next few months. Jane’s Addiction, Cage the Elephant, Counting Crows, and Ziggy Marley are headlining Redondo Beach’s BeachLife Festival (which had its inaugural show in 2019) on the waterfront in September. Later that month, Eddie Veder’s Ohana Fest is back in Dana Point with the exact same lineup that never was in 2020, including Veder, Black Pumas, Kings of Leon, Brandi Carlisle, and Yola. HARD Summer Music Festival-which blends electronic and hip-hop-will be popping up at San Bernardino’s outdoor NOS Event Center July 31–August 1 with headliners including Future, DJ Snake, Dillon Frances, and SayMyName. And if you’re ready for a road trip, come September you can make the ride to triple-threat music-food-wine fest BottleRock in Napa Valley to see headliners including Foo Fighters, Guns N’ Roses, and Stevie Nicks, or to Vegas’s Life Is Beautiful, with a serious lineup including Tame Impala, Megan Thee Stallion, Billie Ellish, Green Day, and ASAP Rocky.
Canoodle over culture at a museum
Nearly all of LA’s most impressive museums are back open for the first time since March of 2020, many with new and exciting exhibits. LACMA is up and running with an exhibition by renowned Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara, and the California African American Museum has reopened with a trio of new summer installations, including April Bey: Atlantica, The Gilda Region, an immersive installation that serves as Bey’s first solo museum exhibition in LA and reflects on feminism, queerness, internet culture, and more through an Afrofuturist lens. DTLA’s beautiful Broad is back with new works by heavyweights like Lichtenstein and Warhol. (Hopefully the Infinity Mirror Rooms follow suit soon enough). And everyone’s favorite summer cultural hot spot the Getty Center-with its impressive architecture and glorious gardens-is welcoming visitors again, offering multiple new photography exhibits and more. As of press time, all of the above require visitors to get tickets online ahead of time, even when admission is free. Make sure to plan ahead so you don’t get awkwardly shut down in front of your date upon arrival.
Stroll Smorgasburg (again!)
Oh man, we missed this one. Get ready for the return of Sunday fabled food fest Smorgasburg LA as of July 4. And what better daytime date idea than exploring five acres of deliciousness at the ROW DTLA, sampling everything from fried chicken sandwiches to horchata cupcakes to sustainable oysters, and washing it all down with Micheladas, fresh fruit slushies, and Boba teas. It’s also a good way to decide if you guys will make it. Love BBQ and cheeseburgers but realizing your date is a lactose-intolerant pescatarian? Now may be the time to cut your losses.
Maybe you stopped working out when your gym closed. Maybe you stopped working out before your gym closed. Hey, we’re not here to judge. But if you’re looking to get back to some kind of fitness routine that doesn’t just involve walking to the front door to meet the delivery guy, then grab your partner and do it together, which has to be at least a little more fun than going at it alone? Maybe not. Many studios that started offering outdoor classes during the gym shutdown are still at it so you can experience beach yoga, rooftop bootcamp, and HIIT in the park together in the fresh air. Check out our favorite outdoor workouts in LA to get some inspiration, get your workout on and then go load up on mimosas and brunch as a much-deserved post-exercise treat.
Earn yourself a picnic at the top of a mountain
Now that our days are long and sunny again, you can finally catch up on that Vitamin D you’ve been missing with some outdoor activities and thankfully, LA is flush with a bounty of hiking options. Sure, Runyon is right in the middle of the city, but you’ve already taken enough Instagram photos there to last a lifetime. Mix it up and seek some adventure outside the city. Want to brave the wilds of Topanga Canyon? Sandwiches from Cricca’s are a must. To get high on the Westside, try the Los Liones trail, a seven-mile-plus quad-burner that rewards you with endless ocean views at the top. But first, hit up the legendary Italian deli and bakery Bay Cities for dreamy Italian subs on life-changing bread (the signature Godmother includes something like 74 different types of meats), along with pints of salads and sides by the pound (pick from the grab-and-go fridge to save time), and a killer cheese selection for mountaintop enjoyment. Looking for more under-the-radar treks? Check out one of these secret hikes.
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.
Stroll some of LA’s botanical gardens
Our outdoor gardens are always a good spot for a solo stroll and peaceful reflection, but they also make for a dynamite daytime date spot when you want to mix things up with an alternative to dinner and drinks. Nearly all of the best spots-like the Arboretum, The Huntington, Descanso Gardens, Expo Park’s Rose Gardens, and even the Poppy Reserve-have reopened. Many update their calendars online with what’s in bloom so you can study and then show off your horticultural knowledge on your date. And don’t forget to reserve your tix in advance.
Perhaps a traditional hike is a bit too vertical for you. If you want to keep your exercise of the horizontal persuasion, bike the Marvin Braude trail, which runs from the Palisades all the way down to Torrance. The majority of the journey is car-free, flat, and chock full of the prestigious sea breeze that makes Southern California so famous.
Cruise the coast in a rented convertible
Car rentals have been down since the start of the pandemic, meaning that you can now rent luxury cars and convertibles for cheaper than ever before. Live out your Hollywood fantasies with a leisurely drive up the Pacific Coast Highway, complete with a fabulous silk scarf (to keep your locks in check) and enormous sunglasses. Grab lunch at La Super Rica Taqueria in Santa Barbara and sink your feet into the legendary purple sand at Pfeiffer State Beach in Big Sur before you U-turn it back to the City of Angels.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.
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 @modlizbeth.
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 café with dazzling canyon views to a world-renowned, open-air theatre, here are the best ways to pass some time in Topanga now.
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.
Get coffee at Café on 27
Ready your camera for a coffee date at this AM eatery and café, 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.
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 café’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.
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.
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.