Good planning is key on first dates
First impressions are critical, so first dates are very important. The location you pick should be fun, but not too distracting. It should be edgy, but not too crazy. The logistics need to be right, and of course, it should be romantic. See some of my picks below that meet these criteria.
Things to Consider
It’s important to pick a first date location where you and your date will feel safe since you presumably don’t know each other very well. It should also offer an easy way to exit if one of you decides it isn’t working early on. Thus, a two-hour wilderness hike far away from civilization is not a good first date idea.
It should be somewhere quiet enough where you can have quality conversation, but also interesting enough to give you something to talk about if you run out of things to say. Thus a movie or loud concert are not good first date ideas unless you also do something else.
A first date should also be informal and not cost an arm and a leg. On the other hand, there should be other interesting stuff in the area to allow you to extend the date should things go well.
Finally, the logistics (parking, traffic, etc.) should be easy so they don’t put a damper on your time together.
Here are my top ten first casual date ideas in Los Angeles!
1. Coffee at Urth (or another non-chain coffee house)
Grabbing coffee is probably one of the most common first date activities, and for good reason. Coffee shops are safe public places where you can spend lots of time having good conversation.
Rather than going to one of the big chains, I like going to a coffee shop like Urth Caffe. Although you do have to line up to order, once you’ve ordered a waiter brings the coffee your table. This is nice on a date. Plus, I like the ambiance and their baked goods are incredible! Urth has locations on Melrose, in Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Downtown LA, Pasadena, Laguna Beach, and Orange. All have great ambiance, but the one in Orange is probably my favorite.
This is not the only good date coffee house around! Find one near you that has charm, good coffee, good service, and other interesting things to do nearby such as Bon Vivant Cafe in Atwater Village and The Guest House in Los Feliz.
2. A Museum (LACMA or other)
I think a museum is one of the best places to go on a first date. They offer plenty of opportunities for conversation (albeit quietly) along with artwork to talk about when you run out of things to say. There are so many great ones to choose from in the Los Angeles area including the Norton Simon, Getty, and many more.
I like LACMA in particular because it has so much to see, not only in terms of art but also the grounds and the adjoining Tar Pits. There are also special events like salsa dancing and summer concerts. If things are going well, you can go on to the Grove, have a meal on Third Street, or see some vintage cars at the Peterson Automotive Museum across the street.
A cool trend with museums these days is to have special evening events where they serve alcohol, have DJ’s, and cater to adults. Some examples include the Getty’s “Off the 405” summer concert series and Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific’s “Night Dive 18+”.
Check out my full list of LA museum date ideas.
3. Downtown LA
Downtown LA is one of my favorite areas of the city to explore. You’ll find great restaurants, quirky bars, and historical landmarks, many of which are within walking distance of one another. One of my favorite destinations is Grand Central Market. From there you can check out Angels’ Flight and re-create the scene from “La La Land”, or check out the Bradbury Building where the original “Blade Runner” was filmed. During the day you can go to the top of the LA City hall for a great view of the city. I also love the Last Bookstore. See my full list of Top Downtown LA Date Ideas.
4. The Arts District
Right next to Downtown LA is the Arts District, a great area for an interesting walking date. Check out the galleries at Hauser & Wirth, then have lunch or dinner at Manuela. Or, grab a pie at Pie Hole, then a beer at Angel City Brewery! There are tons of things to do here, all within walking distance. Read my full article on why the Downtown LA Arts District is a great area for a date.
5. The Grove / Fairfax Farmer’s Market
Yes, it’s crowded and touristy (it draws more visitors annually than Disneyland), but The Grove / Fairfax Farmer’s Market is still one of my favorite places to go with someone special. Although the fountains at the Grove are pretty cool, I really like the vintage feel of the Farmer’s Market, with almost too many food options. I also like reading about the history of the Farmers Market in the displays, as well as seeing the vintage gas station out front! Read about more mid-city date ideas.
6. Your Local Farmer’s Market
Farmers markets are usually charming and fun in a low-key way, especially if one or both of you are foodies or likes to cook. My favorite ones are in Hollywood, Santa Monica, and Culver City. Find one in your area that is close to a good restaurant, so you can transition to that afterward if things are going well.
7. Santa Monica Pier / Ocean Avenue / Third Street Promenade
Santa Monica has gotten really touristy and the traffic can be bad, but it’s still a great place to walk around on a date if you can get around the traffic and parking issues (or take the Metro). Read about my top Santa Monica date ideas.
I recommend parking at one of the parking structures on Second or Fourth streets, then spending time on the Promenade or walking on the pier and Palisades Park on Ocean Avenue. There are many great restaurants and bar options around there – read about them here. Not to mention, the surroundings are pretty nice!
8. Old Town Pasadena
This is a popular area and can get pretty crowded during peak periods, but I still enjoy spending time here. There are some great restaurants and it’s fun just to walk around. Hang out here after visiting the Norton Simon. Check out my full list of Pasadena date ideas.
9. Hip, Artsy Neighborhoods
You might not need to go far to find an interesting date area. There are many hip, artsy neighborhoods that are perfect for a first date in the LA/OC area. some examples are downtown Culver City, Larchmont Village, Atwater Village, Silverlake, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Long Beach, Downtown Anaheim, Glendale, Burbank, Sherman Oaks, Los Feliz, Venice, and Huntington Beach.
10. Your Favorite Neighborhood Bar
Do you have a fun local bar “where everybody knows your name”? Or, maybe you’d like something more impressive like one these amazing vintage bars? LA has lots of great rooftop bars, dive bars, trendy bars, you name it!
And Very Importantly…
When planning a first date, or any date for that matter, always have some ideas on what to do after your initial date activity in case you really hit it off. Ideally, your second date should come right after your first!
That’s why it’s good to go on dates in walkable areas of town (like the ones I’ve mentioned), so you can easily take a stroll after dinner (or whatever you initially do) without having to worry about driving, parking, meeting up again, etc. That’s just too much friction. It’s too tempting to just call it a night if the logistics are too inconvenient.
That’s my list! Have you been to any of these? What are your tried-and-true great first-date spots in LA? Please comment below!
If you want some more formal date ideas, check out my list of most romantic restaurants in LA! – Brian