Hollywood, CA is known for many things – its nightlife, the entertainment industry, and sometimes as a tourist trap. But Hollywood also has some of the best date destinations in the L.A. area, as long as you know how to avoid some of the insane traffic that can happen on weekend nights. Here are my picks for the best date ideas in Hollywood, and I’m also including Los Feliz since it’s adjacent.
1. Yamashiro Hollywood
If you read my site, you know that I believe Yamashiro is one of the best date restaurants in Los Angeles. The ambiance is amazing, whether you’re dining inside or in the inner courtyard.
But what really sets Yamashiro apart, though, is the view from the gardens in front of the restaurant. Walking the pathways in front of the restaurant is a MUST after dinner. At 600 years old, the red pagoda is the oldest structure in Los Angeles (it was shipped in from Japan). There is much more history to this great landmark!
I think the recently overhauled Cal/Asian food at Yamashiro is great, but it’s not Michelin-star level. If you want to impress a foodie, or if you’re looking for the buzziest Hollywood hotspot of the moment, go elsewhere. But for everyone else, I can almost guarantee a magical time at Yamashiro.
2. The Magic Castle
It’s hard to think of a more unique and enchanting dinner date idea than The Magic Castle, located off of Franklin on the same loop as Yamashiro.
The Victorian castle was constructed in 1909 as a private residence, but later became a dedicated venue and club for performing magicians. Photography past the entrance area is strictly forbidden, but take my word for it that the interior is wonderfully ornate and there are plenty of exhibits and curiosities to enjoy!
The Magic Castle is technically a club where only members and their guests can attend. To get a guest invitation, you can check out the Magic Castle’s list of magicians, follow them on social media, and politely request an invitation.
Be sure to read the dress code on the website, as they are VERY strict about it. If you want to take it to the next level, dress vintage! Period attire from 1900 to the 50s would work wonderfully here, as long as it satisfies the dress code.
Entrance is $45 per person plus $30 for valet parking (as of January 2024). In addition, purchase of a dinner entree is required. They offer standard American beef, chicken, fish, and vegetarian options. Entrees start at $49 and up, but sides are pretty much required if you want anything other than a few small fingerling potatoes that come with the entrees. It’s a pricey meal for what it is, but you can think of it as part of the cost of admission.
There is a main show, usually around 45 minutes long, that you sign up for in advance. In addition, you can arrive early and stay late to see shorter shows performed by magicians at smaller tables. Definitely take advantage of these intimate acts! And, definitely roam around the entire castle to take in all of the wonderful decor! Be sure to check out every floor. The bottom floor has the Hat & Hare Pub and Lounge where you can get bar food and see more acts performing behind the bar as well!
Although it’s a pricey date, I’d recommend the Magic Castle as a really unusual and fun date idea! Even if you’re not into magic, the ambiance makes it fun nevertheless.
3. The Hollywood Bowl
If you’re looking for a longer date idea, then the Hollywood Bowl is pretty awesome. Pack a meal, picnic on the grounds, then enjoy live music under the stars at this legendary outdoor concert venue.
I have a whole guide with tips on how to enjoy the Hollywood Bowl. I’ll say this now though: bring a jacket!! Even if it’s eighty degrees during the day, it can get really cold up in the Hollywood Hills at night! Or better yet, bring a blanket to snuggle under.
4. Show at the Pantages Theatre
If you really want to impress, take your date to a show at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre. It almost doesn’t matter what is playing there, but if you can score a big-time Broadway production like Hamilton, so much the better. The interior of this vintage theatre is exquisite. You pretty much can’t go wrong if you bring a date to a show at the historic Pantages Theatre in Hollywood.
5. Mama Shelter / Desert 5 Spot / Tao / Beauty & Essex / Bar Lis
There’s a concentration of ultra-trendy restaurants (including two rooftop ones) around the Dream Hotel on Selma and Cahuenga. These are prime date restaurants with amazing interiors and/or views. The big caveat here is that as the night goes on, this area becomes pretty rowdy with young clubbers: women in skimpy tight dresses and douchey-looking guys. So, while this area has some great date restaurants, especially for younger folks, be sure to avoid the late-night crowd starting at, say, 9 PM on weekends (weekdays may be okay).
Mama Shelter has a ground-floor dining area serving American entrees as well as a rooftop restaurant serving bar menu type of food. Hands down, go for the rooftop for the amazing views and ambiance.
Time Out describes Desert 5 Spot as “the least douchey new rooftop in Hollywood”. With its upscale Western theme, it’s kind of a unique animal, well worth visiting. They don’t serve food, just drinks, and occasional live bands.
The Dream Hotel has its own rooftop restaurant, The Highlight Room, serving California Cuisine. Like Mama Shelter, the menu isn’t huge, but the food is good and the ambiance is super romantic as long as you avoid the later hours, as I mentioned. Needless to say, you need to make reservations.
Tao Los Angeles is adjacent to the Dream Hotel and has an epic Asian-themed dining room with a statue of a multi-armed Hindu goddess overlooking it. It reminds me of the opening scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and its “Anything Goes” number. Despite the over-the-top interior, the food is actually good too, with a solid four stars on Yelp! This would be a fun date destination!
Beauty & Essex has its own unique ambiance, both inside and in its charming patio. You enter through a pawn shop with a huge illuminated sign! The cuisine is American with international influences (Asian, Mexican, Italian). A great formal date restaurant!
Bar Lis is a buzzy new bar just south of Mother Wolf and has incredible decor and ambiance, as well as great views. Like the other restaurants/bars in this area, it turns into more of a singles hot spot later on in the night, so go early for drinks if you’re on a date. Be prepared for high prices for drinks, of course.
6. Mother Wolf
One of the buzziest restaurants in Hollywood is Mother Wolf. If you can score a reservation, you’ll be treated to an upscale ambiance and some of the best Roman-style pasta in town from chef Evan Funke (you should watch the documentary about his obsession with pasta; it’s actually well done). We also loved the prawns and fried artichoke.
The only problem with Mother Wolf (and so many other restaurants in L.A.) is the noise level. All of the surfaces are hardwood or tile with no sound dampening, so you almost have to shout to talk to your dinner companion as the night goes on (early in the evening, before it fills up, it’s fine). If you don’t mind this caveat, Mother Wolf will impress anyone who wants to be at the hippest restaurant in Hollywood with award-winning fine cuisine and potential celebrity sightings.
7. Griffith Park
During the daytime, Griffith Park has some awesome hiking trails with great views of the Hollywood sign. Amir’s Garden is a 5-acre oasis, reachable from the Mineral Wells Picnic Area. For a quick bite inside the park, check out Trails Cafe and its charming picnic table area on Fern Dell Drive or Franklin’s Cafe on Los Feliz Blvd.
Later in the day, try an evening horseback ride (no experience necessary).
The one HUGE caveat with Griffith park (and so many other destinations on this list) is that the traffic can get insane during peak periods. Once, I made the mistake of trying to go to the Griffith Observatory after dinner on a weekend and was stuck in a huge traffic jam. It was just a second date and it really put a damper on things (I didn’t get a third date). Oh, and check the schedule for the Greek theater to make sure there isn’t a concert starting or ending right when you want to go.
Griffith Park can be hellishly crowded during the day as well. One holiday weekend we tried to drive through the park and had to turn around due to the traffic! If you want to hike there, go during the week or very early in the morning!
I don’t want to scare you away from Griffith Park, because it truly is an amazing part of Los Angeles and you SHOULD go there. Just be beware and avoid the peak periods.
If you want to impress a foodie, but not make it look like you’re trying to impress them, bring them to Saffy’s. Tucked in a nondescript area of East Hollywood, Saffy’s seems like a casual neighborhood Mediterranean eatery. But, it’s brought to you by the people behind Bestia and Bavel, two of the best restaurants in Los Angeles. Every single dish we tried at Saffy’s was simply amazing.
As with most new trendy restaurants in L.A., the food is served family-style. The grilled lobster skewer is a “must-order”. Our server suggested the grilled onion & endive salad, which may not sound like a particularly good combination, but it was excellent as well. So were the tomatoes on pureed eggplant. You’ll want to get shish kabobs or Shawarma as your main dish since these are their specialties. We tried the latter and it was probably the best Shawarma we’ve had in L.A. The marinated Castelvetranos olives were great, but I would skip those on a first date because they have pits that you have to spit out; not a good look. Anyone you bring here will be blown away by the food, I guarantee it.
The only downside to Saffy’s is the noise level inside. Like so many L.A. restaurants, seemingly no thought was given to acoustic dampening and you have to shout to talk to your date. So, I recommend sitting outside on a summer evening! Background music was KCRW-type of modern electronic music when we were there.
Afterward, watch the sunset at Barnsdall Art Park just a few blocks away (see below), or cruise down Sunset Boulevard towards the West.
9. Themed Bars: Sassafras Saloon, La Descarga, Scum and Villainy Cantina, The Spare Room
Of course, Hollywood is famous for its bars and nightlife. If you want to impress a date with a drink, check out some of these truly unique bars!
If Disneyland had a bar in New Orleans Square, it might look like Sassafras Saloon, which describes itself as “a charming piece of the South”. I love the exterior facade located INSIDE the bar! Walk inside to find yourself in a living room with a fireplace. Or, check out the stuffed bear in the back corner. This is a super cool bar that won’t disappoint! There are occasional Burlesque shows as well.
Another amazing bar seemingly created by Disney Imagineers (but not), is La Descarga. You enter on the second floor through a closet and seemingly step back in time to 1930s Havana. Note, there is a dress code – upscale attire only (check the website). After 10 PM it turns into more of a nightclub with a band or DJ, sometimes with Burlesque dancers or Salsa, and it can get insanely crowded as the night goes on, too much so for a date. Reservations are recommended.
Any Star Wars fan will already know about the Scum and Villainy Cantina, which started as a temporary pop-up and is now a permanent (hopefully) attraction on Hollywood Boulevard. They serve a bar food menu (with creatively-named items of course). Costumes are encouraged! They don’t take reservations and there is no cover. So, if you are dating a sci-fi fan, get ready to chug some blue milk at Scum and Villainy! Check their calendar for karaoke, trivia, and game nights.
The Spare Room, within the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard, describes itself as “a gaming parlor and cocktail lounge”, which is a great description. More plainly, this is probably the nicest two-lane bowling alley (at $100/hour) you’ll ever go to. But just enjoying the gorgeous vintage vibe of this place is enough to impress.
10. Cafes and Restaurants in Los Feliz
Also adjacent to Hollywood, and right below Griffith Park is the community of Los Feliz. There are lots of great restaurants and coffee houses on Hillhurst Boulevard.
One of my favorites is The Guest House, which used to be an actual Craftsman residence. The indoor and outdoor spaces are super charming, and the food is good too, making this a top date idea in Los Feliz.
A similarly charming restaurant is Alcove Café & Bakery, perfect for a date brunch or lunch. This place is very casual – you order at the counter and they bring the food to your table. I love the outdoor seating at this place!
For a slightly more upscale dining experience, check out Farfalla Trattoria. It’s got a charming interior, good food, and very reasonable prices!
For vegan food, we really enjoyed Seabirds Kitchen, and we are not vegan!
If you want hipster coffee drinks, check out Maru Coffee for your matcha with oat milk. Just a warning, though, you will have to wait in line. There’s usually a long one going out the door!
For dessert, there’s Jeni’s Ice Creams.
There are also some notable restaurants on Vermont Avenue.
For Italian food, I love Palermo, with its classic old-school decor. It’s casual and unpretentious, and the food is wonderfully satisfying.
And let’s not forget the retro, somewhat kitschy Dresden, either the lounge (made famous by the movie, Swingers) or the dining room for old-school American classics like filet mignon and prime rib.
For dessert, you can walk from either of these to House of Pies. The ambiance won’t win any awards, but I’ve spent many a late night here after dancing at the Derby, and the pies don’t disappoint.
There are many other charming cafes in Los Feliz, it’s impossible to list them all here. Try one of my favorites or explore and find your own!
11. The Hollywood Farmers Market
One of the best farmers’ markets in Los Angeles is the Hollywood Farmers Market, happening every Sunday from 8 AM to 1 PM. Of course, it has a great selection of standard farmers’ market stuff like produce, vegetables, and crafts, but what sets it apart is its hot food selection. So, buy your fruits and veggies, but plan to stay for breakfast. Our favorite item there is the Kanom Krok, a kind of Thai coconut dessert/snack.
You will probably also run into your favorite local chef, whether you realize it or not, pulling a wagon full of veggies for the upcoming week.
12. Barnsdall Art Park
You wouldn’t think there’s a safe park in Hollywood with nice green grass where couples enjoy the sunset, but that’s exactly what happens at Barnsdall Art Park around dusk!
It’s a great way to continue an early dinner date. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House is in the center of the park at the top of the hill and is now back open for in-person tours!
13. Cinespia Movies at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery
In most cases, I believe that seeing a movie is not a great date idea. But seeing a Cinespia movie screening at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is an exception. First of all, I love the wide-open spaces and palm trees on the grounds; I feel like I’m in India or Southeast Asia when I’m there. Second, it’s outside and you’re on a blanket. If you love movies, then this might be a great way to enjoy one with a date. Just be warned, it gets crowded, so go early to grab a good spot.
14. Goth/Industrial Dance Clubs
I would not bring a date to most Hollywood dance clubs unless you’re both into douchey guys, scantily-clad women, judgemental doormen, and deafening music. But, I would take a date to go dancing at a goth/industrial club! Everyone keeps to themselves – no slimy guys hitting on you or your date. No pretentious dress code either – just wear black! And finally, you’ll dance to awesome music from the 80s and 90s, i.e., Bauhaus, The Cure, KMFDM, Depeche Mode, Siouxie and the Banshees, and Nine Inch Nails. And, you won’t feel out of place no matter how old you are at these clubs.
Bar Sinister is probably the most famous and one of the longest-running goth clubs; if you do go there be prepared possibly for a bondage show. Other goth/industrial clubs come and go frequently so Google for the latest info.
15. Hollywood Boulevard
Last but not least, is Hollywood Boulevard, including the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Hollywood and Highland. Yes, this area is touristy as hell, but if you or your date have never been there, it’s well worth going to see ONCE to find your favorite actors’ stars embedded in the sidewalks. Go to the Mann Chinese Theater and see the footprints in the cement. Visit the Kodak Theater where the Academy Awards are held.
Note, the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel is in the area, so you can easily pop into The Spare Room for a drink while you’re here.
You’re probably tired of me saying this, but more than anywhere else on this list, this is somewhere you should avoid during weekend evenings due to insane traffic.
If you really want to impress a foodie, and you have the moola to spend, Providence has two Michelin stars and numerous awards and accolades (i.e., one of the top 50 restaurants in the United States by Gourmet magazine).
Serving sizes are very small but there are many courses including some amuse-bouche appetizers and bonus desserts, and even some granola to take home for breakfast the next morning! Of course, the service is absolutely top-notch.
We had our anniversary dinner here in 2023 and it ran around $900 without alcoholic drinks. It was an interesting experience but really only a true foodie, i.e., someone who recognizes the name of chef Michael Cimarusti, will truly appreciate this meal.
My wife loved it, so it was worth it, but if it was just me, I’d rather have a pizza and $880 extra dollars in my pocket! But if you love this type of culinary adventure, Providence is one of the best in Los Angeles.
More Date Ideas
This article took a lot of time and research to pick the very best date ideas that Hollywood has to offer but I’m really happy with the results, as there are some really great date ideas here! Let me know what you think!
Looking for more ideas? Check out these great date ideas in West Hollywood and on the Sunset Strip: