The Best Downtown L.A. Date Ideas

Updated on Oct 8, 2022

Downtown Los Angeles is an ideal date destination with great restaurants, bars, and attractions, many of which are within walking distance.

Traffic and parking can be difficult in downtown L.A., so park your car in a good central location (like Pershing Square) and walk to the attractions. Or, take the Metro if you can.

Here is my list of favorite things to do in downtown L.A. with someone special!

1. 71 Above

71 Above is my pick for the best date destination in Downtown Los Angeles. It’s a fine dining restaurant located on the 71st floor of the First Interstate building. Needless to say, the views are incredible, because you’re towering over almost every other building in the area.

The dining room and bar at 71 Above. Every table has a view.

Often, when a restaurant has a gimmick like a good view, the food suffers. Not the case here. The three-course Prix-Fixe dinner is top-notch and will not disappoint!

This is the place to go if you want to impress someone special! Read my full review here.

2. Perch

Perch is an amazing rooftop restaurant and lounge overlooking Pershing square.  This place has a lot of buzz these days, but for good reason. The view is amazing and the food is good. Later at night the bar gets packed and is practically impossible to get into.

View from Perch
View from Perch

So, the first rule is to make reservations if you want to have dinner!  Plan far in advance, as it gets booked up quickly.

Second, this place is best on a warm summer night. There is indoor seating, but much of the seating is outdoors (and that is where the view is best).  There are covered areas and heat lamps, but you’re pretty high up.  Bring a light jacket or sweater, regardless of the temperature during the day.

The cuisine is French-inspired.  I had the scallops, which were great! There is live entertainment (usually jazz) on some nights.

There is no dedicated parking, so park at one of the pay lots nearby.  The entrance on Hill Street is a bit hard to find, so look for the small sign.

3. The Walt Disney Concert Hall / The Music Center

It’s hard to think of a more classy place for a date than the Walt Disney Concert Hall.  Home to the L.A. Philharmonic, they also have concerts from other performers and bands.  Every New Year’s Eve there is a great show by Pink Martini which I highly recommend.

All tickets to the Disney Concert Hall are now electronic. Get the app on your phone as a backup in case there are any problems with your tickets when you arrive, which happened to me (otherwise, re-sending the tickets requires logging into the website).

You should arrive at least 45 minutes early to deal with parking, COVID check-in, and ticket issues. There’s convenient (and relatively inexpensive) parking under the building on Second Street. When the show ends, there is often a minor traffic jam to get out, just be aware.

After a concert, I like to go to the outdoor courtyard garden on the upper level of the building. Step outside and explore! You’ll find lots of photographers and wanna-be Instagram models there.

If you want to catch a play or other type of performance, the rest of the Music Center is next door (technically, these are all part of the Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County).  The venues there include the Ahmanson Theatre which often features Broadway plays, The Dorothy Chandler Pavillion, which hosts the L.A. Opera, and the Mark Taper Forum which features plays and other performances.

On a budget? Look for free and low-cost events in the Music Center Plaza like A Taste of Dance, where you can get super low-cost dance lessons in a variety of styles.  During the summer, there are free dance concerts here on Friday evenings called Dance Downtown. Finally, matinee performances are significantly cheaper than nighttime ones.

4. The Broad Museum / MOCA / Otium

I’m not a big fan of the cheese grater exterior of the Broad Museum (located next to the Walt Disney Concert Hall). But, I’m a big fan of what’s inside. This building houses much of the modern art that was at LACMA plus more. The main collection is free and well worth seeing, but I really like the special exhibits like Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room and Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life.

For best results, get your tickets online in advance. Special exhibits might require going early and standing in line, or might not be free, but these are usually worth it.

I also like the Broad because it’s open relatively late – until 8 PM on most nights, so you can still see it after work!

If you really want to impress a foodie, make reservations at Otium next door. The New American cuisine is pricy but it, along with the ambiance, will impress. Their open kitchen is a thing of beauty, not chaos as you might expect in a busy restaurant. Like many high-end restaurants these days, the food is served family-style but the servings are very small so you can sample a lot.

Otium will validate if you park in the Broad underground parking structure, and they will ask you if you have to make it to a show at the Disney Concert Hall so they can get you out in time.

Pez Cantina is about a block away and a much more affordable but still tasty option, serving Mexican fare. Note that Pez is closed for dinner on Sundays. Both Otium and Pez have great indoor and outdoor dining.

If you are really into modern art, check out the Museum of Contemporary Art, located across the street from the Broad, and the Geffen Contemporary, located in Little Tokyo. Due to a recent ten million dollar donation from a trustee, MOCA now has free admission!

5. The Downtown L.A. Proper Hotel / Cara Cara / Caldo Verde

With accolades from Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, and the New York Times, the Downtown L.A. Proper Hotel is one of the hottest new hotels in the country.

If you want to impress a date with great food, ambiance, and view, check out the Proper Hotel’s rooftop restaurant, Cara Cara, featuring Mexican-inspired new American cuisine. It’s a more elegant rooftop restaurant than Perch, which can get a bit rowdy later in the night.

If you want to impress a foodie, check out Caldo Verde on the ground floor, featuring Portuguese cuisine by Suzanne Goin (AOC) and Caroline Styne. Better yet, have dinner there and drinks at Cara Cara!

6. Clifton’s

In one sentence, I would describe Clifton’s as a multi-level vintage bar crossed with the museum of natural history, complete with real taxidermied animals (a bison and lion among others)! It’s a great place to go for drinks, Swing dancing (on Friday and Saturday nights on the third floor), regular DJ dancing on the second floor.

Clifton's Cafeteria
Clifton’s Cafeteria

For a great make-out spot, check out the Stone Chapel on the second floor – an intimate cave-like make-out space with a forest diorama in front of you. Knock before entering!

There’s affordable parking at the converted office-building parking garage across the street, above the Burlington Coat Factory.

7. The Edison

Located in a former electrical generator station built circa 1910, the Edison is LA’s steampunk heaven. Much of the original heavy generator equipment remains. Silent movies play on the walls, and most nights they have a live band or performance of some kind. The menu is small but what they do offer is good (tomato soup and cheese sandwiches, yum!)

The entrance is located on an alley off of 2nd street called Harlem Place, but it is practically impossible to identify from the street, so look at a map beforehand.  There is a convenient parking garage across the alley with an entrance on South Spring Street, but, like many downtown parking garages, it’s pretty dingy.  Just warning you.

During the week, there is no cover, but they started having a $10 cover on Fridays and Saturdays.  If you go early or on an off-night, there is usually no line to get in.  But later in the evening, especially on weekends, there might be a line.

Refreshingly, there is very little attitude at the door, but there is a mild dress code: no athletic wear of any kind including sneakers. Men must wear dress shoes and collared shirts. But, you’ll have the best time if you dress up even more and go full vintage or formal – that’s part of the fun!

8. Grand Central Market

Grand Central Market is a really cool indoor farmer’s market-type of area with lots of great ethnic food options. It opened in 1917 and has been in continuous operation since. The selection ranges from a Jewish deli to kickass Mexican food to sticky rice. It’s a great place to stop for a meal, coffee, or beer while in downtown during the day.

Grand Central Market
Grand Central Market

If you’re craving fried chicken, check out Lucky Bird, which features some of the crispiest fried chicken I’ve found.

The Grand Central Market parking structure costs $5 for the first 90 minutes and $2 for every 15 minutes afterward.  For longer stays, park in the outdoor lot across the street to the east. It has some of the lowest parking rates that I’ve found in downtown LA. This is a great launch point for further adventures in downtown L.A!

9. Angels Flight Railway

After your meal at Grand Central Market, spend a dollar to ride Angels Flight – the worlds’ shortest train ride. Opening in 1901 to transport rich shoppers from their mansions to the stores in downtown LA, this railway has been meticulously restored to its former glory. Cost is only a dollar (fifty cents if you show your Tap or Metro card). I like riding it in the evening when it’s all lit up. Or, recreate the scene from La La Land. Afterward, you can easily walk down the stairs if you want to save a few bucks.

Angels Flight Railway
Angels Flight Railway

While I wouldn’t make a trip to downtown L.A. just to on this one-minute “ride”, it’s definitely a fun thing to do if you’re in the area already.

10. The Ace Hotel Restaurant and Rooftop Bar

The Ace Hotel is one of my favorite destinations for an evening out in downtown L.A. Start off with dinner at the hotel’s restaurant on the first floor, Best Girl, headed by chef Michael Cimarusti of Providence fame. It can be a bit crowded and a bit noisy on weekends, but you’ll have no problem having intimate conversation nonetheless. Be sure to make reservations though.

Upstairs at the Ace Hotel
Upstairs at the Ace Hotel

After dinner, take the elevator to the rooftop bar, Upstairs, which features amazing views of L.A. a large jacuzzi, and a towering cathedral-like structure above you. On weekends they sometimes have bands or a DJ. There’s always a good crowd, so go before 9 PM or so, or else there will be a line.

11. The Last Bookstore

If you’re into books, The Last Bookstore is an awesome place, but even if you’re not, it’s worth a stop if you’re nearby.

The bottom floor looks like a regular book store with a pretty good selection of vinyl.

Books and vinyl on the first floor of the Last Bookstore
Books and vinyl on the first floor of the Last Bookstore

But, venture to the top floor to see a cool maze of bookshelves, a “book tunnel” and a Horror Vault.

The Book Tunnel
The Book Tunnel

The Last Bookstore has a quirky vibe that is so rare these days. It’s an ideal place to stop by for an after-dinner stroll. Checking out books just might spur some interesting conversation.

12. V DTLA

This is a hot new restaurant in downtown with an amazing retro ambiance. Plants adorn the walls and the main specialty is pizza, although they are also known for their drinks. You’ll find folks on dates as well as large groups of partiers and singles here. “V” (for the Roman numeral for five, as in the five senses) is definitely worth checking out.

13. The Cicada Club / Restaurant

Even if you haven’t heard of the Cicada, you’ve seen it in movies like “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”.  Stepping inside this amazing art-deco space is like traveling in a time machine back to 1930.  Formerly a men’s clothing store, it’s now a restaurant, featuring Italian and American dishes. On the top floor is a bar serving cool vintage drinks.

The Cicada Club with 18-piece Swing band
The spectacular Cicada Club with an 18-piece Swing band

On certain nights (about once a week), the restaurant turns into “The Cicada Club”, featuring vintage 1920s and 30s bands with Swing dancing on the front floor.  On these nights, there is a cover charge, but it’s waived if you have dinner there.  There are also package Prix fix deals that include dinner and admission.  There is a dress code on these nights. Men must wear a suit and tie.  Women, cocktail dress or suit.  There is no dance lesson, so brush up on your East Coast Swing beforehand.

Parking is valet.  There are nearby underground parking garages, but for something this formal, you should probably utilize the valet.

LA Weekly named the Cicada Club one of the top ten places in Los Angeles for a first date. I don’t know if I would take a first date here because it is super pricey, but it’s definitely a place to take someone special.

14. Staples Center and LA Live

I am not a huge sports fan, but I was impressed by the amenities of the Staples Center when I went to see the L.A. Kings play there recently.  The food was a bit better than what you’d expect at a sports stadium, and even the nosebleed seats had a pretty good view.

Ice Skating during Christmas at LA Live

Next door, LA Live offers lots of casual restaurant options, fine for grabbing a bite before a game or before a concert at the Nokia Theater. It can get quite crowded and tourist-heavy at times, just keep in mind.

15. The City Hall Observation Deck

This is a great FREE attraction that is open during weekdays from 8 AM to 5 PM. The City Hall Observation Deck offers spectacular views of Downtown L.A. in every direction.

The public entrance is on S. Main Street. There is no dedicated public parking for City Hall, but I was able to find some metered parking on S. Main Street a few blocks to the southeast.

You’ll pass through metal detectors, then take an express elevator to the 22nd floor, then another elevator to the 26th floor, then stairs to the deck.

The whole place has a cool old-school feel to it, with lots of marble finishes, portraits of previous mayors, and so forth. Be sure to take an Instagram selfie at the podium with the flags on each site.

We got there at about 4:45 PM, but they let us stay there way past closing, which was great!

16. The Bona Vista Lounge at the Bonaventure Hotel

You can’t miss the distinctive glass cylindrical buildings in the heart of downtown LA that are the Westin Bonaventure Hotel.  Admittedly, the style is very 80’s, and arguably past its prime, but don’t dismiss it just yet. If 71 Above is booked up (as it often is), the Bonaventure can be your backup.

Westin Bonaventure Hotel
Westin Bonaventure Hotel

The Bona Vista Lounge on the 34th floor of the center “cylinder” is a rotating bar that gives you an unparalleled panoramic view of the city.  Because this place is not exactly “hot” right now, it’s unusually not that crowded and you can get a booth or table with no problem. Get past the 80’s décor and it can be very romantic.  It is quiet and good for deep conversation while slowly rotating in the middle of the city.

Yes, the novelty drinks are expensive, but the view makes up for it.

If you want dinner, go to the LA Prime steakhouse, one floor up.  It doesn’t rotate, but you can always go to the Bona Vista lounge afterward.  The food is top-notch.

There is valet parking inside the hotel and a parking garage across the street.  These are rather pricey parking options, but kind of worth it to not have to walk around in this particular area of downtown, which is abandoned and a bit spooky at night.

17. The Downtown Central Library

Okay, going to a library on a date may seem kind of geeky, but I know a lot of book lovers who would be into this.  The Downtown Central Library is a great place to relax and check out some books for free.  But first, you should explore the wonderful interiors and grounds. 

They also have an art gallery and a good gift shop with gifts for book-lovers.

18. Orsa & Winston

If you want to impress a foodie, make a reservation and order the five-course tasting menu at Orsa & Winston. At $85 per person, it’s actually a good deal.

A dish from the tasting menu at Orsa & Winston
A dish from the tasting menu at Orsa & Winston

The restaurant is owned by chef Josef Centeno, who named it after his two dogs. The cuisine is Italian and Japanese-inspired.

Afterward, you can get dessert at Grand Central Market, or even see a concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, both within walking distance.

19. Redbird

Redbird has one of the most charming and romantic outdoor dining areas in downtown Los Angeles, complete with trees and overhead bistro lights. It’s a common choice for weddings, so count yourself lucky if it’s open for dinner. The interior is super nice as well as the building formerly was a church cathedral!

Chef Neal Fraser serves Modern American cuisine with local influences. Definitely a worthy dinner date destination!

20. Le Petite Paris

I love restaurants with great ambiance, and Le Petite Paris definitely has that. You’ll be transported to 1930’s Paris in this super romantic French restaurant in the heart of downtown. The food is good too, with four stars on Yelp.

Le Petite Paris
Le Petite Paris

21. The Millennium Biltmore Hotel

The Biltmore Hotel
The Biltmore Hotel

So many of my trips to Downtown LA have included a quick stop at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel for two reasons. One, because it’s centrally located within easy walking distance from many of the attractions in this article. And two, because it has an extravagant main hall and a small photo gallery with pictures from the early Academy Awards. Try to identify early film celebrities such as Walt Disney and Cecil B. DeMille! It’s worth a stop if you’re anywhere near Pershing Square.

22. The Orpheum Theater

The Orpheum Theater is an amazing venue to see a concert or show.  The 1926 interior has been faithfully preserved and is quite breathtaking.  But, it’s also a great concert venue because the seating area is very steeply angled – nearly every seat has a good view of the stage.

Chris Tomlin performing at the Orpheum Theater
Chris Tomlin performing at the Orpheum Theater

After the show, go across the street to the Ace Hotel, or down Broadway to Clifton’s.

23. The Wolves

The Wolves is a meticulously-restored vintage bar that offers hand-crafted drinks made from locally-sourced ingredients. It’s a great place for a quiet stop before or after dinner.

The Wolves in Downtown LA

24. Rossoblu / DAMA

These are two great restaurants located in the somewhat sketchy Fashion District in Downtown L.A. Formerly industrial loading docks, these restaurants are now in a charming re-developed oasis of overhead bistro lights and soon-to-open stores and cafes.

Rossoblu Italian restaurant was Jonathan Gold’s #10 pick in his 101 Best Restaurants in L.A. list. Chef Steve Sampson features his handmade pasta and market-fresh produce. We had the salad, risotto, pasta, grilled fish, cauliflower, and the Summer Semifreddo dessert. All were excellent!

Directly across from Rossoblu is DAMA Fashion District Restaurant & Bar, featuring Latin-inspired food. We haven’t tried it yet, but it’s highly rated on yelp and has a romantic atmosphere. It’s on our list!

Outdoor dining at DAMA Fashion District Restaurant & Bar
Outdoor dining at DAMA Fashion District Restaurant & Bar

25. H & H Brazillian Steakhouse

If you’re a carnivore, look no further than H & H Brazillian Steakhouse. It’s got a huge classy interior and patio. Reviews for food and service are stellar. After dinner, walk over to Bottega Louie next door for macarons!

26. Walking Tour of LA

Downtown L.A. has some of the most historically significant architecture in Southern California. Going on a walking tour is a great way to see it and a great date idea.  Here are a few options:

Art Deco Walking Tour
This popular tour by the Los Angeles Conservancy has been going on every Saturday morning as long as I can remember.

Downtown L.A. Walking Tour
This tour offers a variety of tours including LA’s Beginnings, Old and New, and Haunted Tales.

The Bradbury Building
The Bradbury Building, the exquisite location where the ending of “Blade Runner” was filmed

27. Howlin’ Ray’s Nashville Hot Chicken (Chinatown)

Is there any meal in Los Angeles worth waiting five hours in line for? Many would say that Howlin’ Ray’s chicken sandwiches are worth the wait, and there is a line that varies from 45 minutes to five hours long to prove it.

I decided to give it a try. I “only” waited an hour and a half to get my prized “Sando”, along with chicken strips and a good selection of sides. Yes, it tasted awesome, but I’m not sure I’d wait that long in line again.

Needless to say, you should only do this if you know what you’re getting into, and want to do something a little crazy (like wait multiple hours in line for a chicken sandwich). If you’re with a date who’s into it and have lots of stories to tell in line, it could be a fun, unique experience. Check their Twitter feed for the line wait times.

Other Nearby Cool Areas: Little Tokyo and the Arts District

If you want even more cool things to do in the area, consider Little Tokyo and the Arts District, adjacent to Downtown LA.

Little Tokyo is a charming area on the outskirts of downtown LA which includes a small outdoor mall and surrounding Japanese-themed restaurants and stores.  It is a small but worthy date destination.  It’s quite lively on the weekend (there was outdoor karaoke in the courtyard on the Saturday we went), but more reserved during the week.

Little Tokyo
Little Tokyo

If you are into ramen or sushi, there are plenty of options.  There is always an insane line to get into Sushi Gen, but locals swear by it (call ahead to get on the list).  After dinner, walk around and get tea or dessert in one of the many shops.  If you want more excitement, walk on over to The Edison a few blocks north for drinks and live music (but beware the dress code).

Just a little further out from Downtown past Little Tokyo is an area known as the Downtown Arts District. It might look rather quiet on the outside, but there are many cool restaurants and attractions there. A few of my favorites are the Hauser & Wirth art complex, and Angel City Brewery.

Angel City Brewery
Playing Jenga at Angel City Brewery. The spiral slide was used to roll down spools of cable that were used for the Golden Gate Bridge!

For details on the Arts District and more fun ideas there, check out my article on the Downtown LA Arts District!

Getting There

For all of these activities, consider taking one of the LA Metro trains to get into downtown. I’ve taken it from Culver City and it beats rush hour traffic hands down.  Cost is just $1.75 each way plus a one-time fee of $1 for the Tap card. Subway coverage in downtown L.A. is pretty good, and it will save you the considerable hassle of fighting insane traffic, searching for parking, paying exorbitant rates, and navigating the confusing downtown L.A. streets.

LA Metro Train
LA Metro Train in downtown LA

Unless it’s a first date, anniversary, or another special occasion, I think the train is a fun way to get around when on a more casual date. Uber is another good option.

Downtown L.A. itself is very walkable. It would be easy to go to many of the locations on this list in one evening without having to set foot in a car! For example, you can easily walk from The Edison to Little Tokyo to the Arts District. Or, you can walk from the library to Perch. I highly encourage combining these ideas into a grand date itinerary!

What are your favorite hangouts in downtown LA? Please comment below! – Brian

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Avishka Rajan
5 years ago

I visited los angeles last year with my hubby and it was really a great destination for couples.Date in los angeles is fundamentally a fun, and to invest quality energy with your accomplice.

Melissa R
Melissa R
7 years ago

Love this list! My husband and I just moved to downtown and we will definitely have to check these out on date nights.

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