Culver City is one of the most underrated date destinations in the Los Angeles area. It’s packed with really hip, fun, and romantic places that are ideal for a date. Here are my top recommendations.
1. The Culver Hotel
I consider the Culver Hotel to be the jewel of downtown Culver City. Completed in 1924, it offers unique history and charm. Famous for housing the “Munchkins” during the filming of “The Wizard of Oz”, the hotel fell into disrepair during the ’50s and ’60s but was restored to its former glory in the 1990s. The main lobby is a great place to meet up for drinks and appetizers or dinner!
After hanging out in the lobby, be sure to go upstairs to check out the Paris-inspired Velvet Lounge Thursday through Saturday after 8 PM.
The Culver Hotel is an ideal romantic setting for appetizers or drinks with someone special. It’s a great place to start or end a great date.
2. Downtown Culver City
The rest of Downtown Culver City is very walkable and charming. On weekend nights you’ll many couples and groups going to restaurants and strolling around.
One of my favorite upscale restaurants there is Akasha, featuring farm-to-table California cuisine.
Last time I had their mushroom salad and roasted chicken. Both were excellent! This place can get crowded so make a reservation on weekends.
There are many others that I haven’t tried yet! The ones on “restaurant row” on Culver Blvd. can be especially romantic if you sit outside on a beautiful day.
After dinner, you can get frozen yogurt at Cold Stone Creamery, have drinks at the Culver Hotel, or just stroll along the pleasant tree-lined streets and people-watch.
Ample parking is available in surrounding parking garages, or sometimes on Venice Blvd.
All of this makes downtown Culver City an ideal and romantic date area!
3. Platform / Margot
Platform is a small but very cool outdoor shopping and dining area tucked away on Washington Blvd, near the Helms Bakery and across from the Shay hotel. Yes, it’s a shopping mall, but it’s hip and serene, with desert plants and cargo-container-inspired architecture, making it an informal, mellow date idea. I’ve never felt more relaxed at an L.A. shopping mall.
My recommended plan is to start out with brunch or dinner at Margot, on the third floor. It features California / Mediterranean cuisine in a light, airy setting with a great view.
When we went, the arancini and eggplant toast appetizers were outstanding. The salads were tasty and the fish and scallops were also great. The pastas are made in-house and are highly recommended. Note, the food is served family-style so it’s best to go with at least a group of four to sample a lot of dishes.
For awesome tacos with homemade flour tortillas check out Loqui. This is definitely a more informal place, but has some of the best Mexican food around.
4. The Helms Bakery District
The original Helms Bakery opened in 1931. The Helms Bakery District is now a pedestrian area offering some of the coolest furniture stores around. Maybe looking at furniture is the first thing you think of when you want a date idea, but it can be really fun if you’re into this type of thing.
Check out HD Buttercup, a huge furniture showroom featuring some of the most eclectic (and expensive) items around, including this scale chrome version of the Apollo Command Module.
You never know what you’ll find there. Much of it is impractical, but it’s always fun.
Afterward, have a beer at Father’s Office, which also has some of the best fries and burgers in town. Don’t ask for ketchup though – they don’t have any!
Another casual option is Pasta Sisters. Their complimentary bread is amazing!
For something more exotic, check out Lukshon, featuring Asian-inspired noodles in a modern setting. Note they are closed on Sundays and Mondays.
5. The Culver Steps
Also within downtown Culver City is The Culver Steps, a new development just east of the Culver Hotel (not to be confused with the Culver City Stairs – see below).
The nice thing about this mixed-use area is that it has plenty of outdoor space where you can hang out as long as you want. So, grab some ice cream at Salt and Straw or coffee at Philz and hang on the steps! It’s a great place for an informal date or to catch with an old friend.
6. Citizen Public Market
Within downtown Culver City, but warranting a separate entry on this list is Citizen Public Market. This is a new food hall with unique restaurants and rooftop dining!
As of this writing, it’s not fully populated with restaurants, but that makes it that much easier to find a table on the roof!
Etta is a hot new restaurant at the Shay Hotel, across the street from The Platform at the Ivy Station complex. It specializes in wood-fired pizza, pasta, and their “lobster picnic”. It’s got a great ambiance with a spectacular bar and a large outdoor patio. But the food is also a star of the show. We enjoyed all of our dishes, which by the way, are intended to share, so come hungry if you’re a party of two.
8. The Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook (“Culver City Stairs”)
I think it’s so amazing that, within walking distance of downtown Culver City, there is a huge hill where you can hike up and get a great view all the way to downtown L.A. The Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook is exactly that.
For a good workout, do the stairs, which dwarf the more famous Santa Monica stairs. For a more leisurely stroll, do the switchback trail. Both lead to the top, where you’ll have a panoramic view of the city. It’s ideal to time it so you reach the top around sunset!
One tip – try to go after it has rained when it will be green and lush. Avoid the middle of the day in the summer because there is very little shade.
9. Ginger’s Divine Ice Cream
In my opinion, Ginger’s Divine Ice Cream on Washington Blvd. (in the part of Culver City that is west of the 405) has the best ice cream flavors in Los Angeles. I know that’s a bold statement considering the company it’s in (Salt & Straw, Jeni’s, Van Leeuwen, Sweet Rose, etc.) but to back me up, it’s got rave reviews on Yelp and there’s always a line to order. They also have a really good selection of vegan flavors.
Their ice cream is also some of the most expensive you’ll find in L.A., but if you’re on a date, it’s worth splurging here. There’s no on-site seating, but the shop is still super charming and cute. Definitely worth a trip if you’re looking for a way to extend a dinner date that is going well.
10. Hatchet Hall
Just across the street from Ginger’s is Hatchet Hall, a “wood fire cookery” and wine bar with a large covered outdoor dining area and rustic indoor space. The cuisine leans toward southern cuisine, featuring their famous cornbread in an iron skillet and game meats as well as traditional beef and chicken. Servings are family-style making this place ideal for bigger groups, but if you’re hungry or don’t mind leftovers, then Hatchet Hall is an informal but cool option if you don’t mind seriously straying from your resolution to cut down on meat.
Afterward, walk across the street to Ginger’s Ice Cream, if you have room!
11. Tangaroa Fish Market
“Tangaroa” is New Zealand’s Maori god of the sea. Tangaroa Fish Market, across the street from Hatchet Hall and a block from Ginger’s, is a local favorite that serves seafood favorites like clams, oysters, ceviche, fish tacos, octopus, shrimp, and lobster. Our favorite, though, is the fried whole branzino with roasted potatoes and edamame corn salad.
It’s definitely an informal place; you order at a window and take the food to your outdoor table. But I love the charming bistro lights and outdoor bench seating, perfect for a casual meet-up on a summer night.
Just a warning though, they don’t take reservations and tables fill up quickly on Friday and Saturday nights. Come early or pick a weekday.
Afterward, you MUST walk half a block up the street for dessert at Ginger’s Divine Ice Cream!
12. Alibi Room
Also on Washington Blvd. is chef Roy Choi’s Alibi Room, where you can get his famous Kogi Tacos in a brick-and-mortar location as opposed to a food truck.
This is definitely an informal place with bar seating inside or picnic benches outside. But, the food simply kicks ass. If your date is a foodie, they will appreciate the dishes here and overlook the lack of formality.
If you’re on the move, there’s usually a Kogi truck parked at 3434 Overland Avenue.
13. Little Fatty (Mar Vista)
I don’t have a huge number of Chinese/Taiwanese restaurants on this site (besides Din Tai Fung), but Little Fatty in Mar Vista definitely deserves a spot. It is casual but hip, with a huge bar as well as indoor and outdoor seating. The cuisine seemed to me to be more “American” Chinese food (i.e., Orange Chicken), rather than authentic Taiwanese food, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We enjoyed everything we tried here. Definitely make reservations otherwise there will be a wait to get in during peak dinnertime hours (which tells you what other people think of the food here).
14. Village Well Books & Coffee
If you love books and you love coffee, Village Well might be the perfect spot for an informal meetup. It’s not very big, and the book selection isn’t huge, but the books are carefully curated. It’s also within walking distance of the restaurants in downtown Culver City, so there’s plenty else to do.
The only bummer is that they are not open at night, so make it a daytime destination.
15. The Ballona Creek Bike Path
This is a bike path along Ballona Creek (really a concrete flood control channel) that takes you directly to Marina del Rey. The Ballona Creek Bike Path has wide, well-maintained paths that go under major streets so you never have to stop. Round trip, it’s under fourteen miles.
While biking next to a concrete flood control channel might not seem like the most romantic date idea, the view improves as you approach the ocean, and it does have its own kind of charm. It’s definitely one of the most hassle-free bike paths in the city, as you bypass all cars and intersections.
Enter the bike path near the intersection of Jefferson and Duquesne (which is where I took the photo above). Park at the meters on Jefferson, which go up to ten hours. You can also enter near Overland and Jefferson, but parking is harder to find in that area. Check out more hints for the Ballona Creek Bike Path in my article.
16. Rolling Greens
No, it’s not a pot dispensary. Rolling Greens is a plant store. Why would I recommend a plant store as a date idea? Because this one is unlike any other plant store you’ve been to in Los Angeles.
First of all, the Culver City location is huge, with three levels located on a hillside terrace (the same hillside as the Culver City Stairs).
Second, they have an insane selection of cool and unusual household plants, especially succulents, from tiny one-inch tall ones to backyard varieties.
Third, it’s a hidden gem, something you’d never find when driving past the entrance on Jefferson. And, it actually has a nice view of the city.
It’s more like a botanical garden than a plant store.
If you need any plants or pots for your home (and who doesn’t?) bring a friend or a date to Rolling Greens, then hang out in downtown Culver City afterward. If you’re even remotely into plants, guarantee you’ll have a fun afternoon at Rolling Greens.
17. ArtBar LA
Located in Mar Vista, west of Culver City, ArtBar is part bar, part art gallery, and part performance space. It’s a whimsical and eclectic destination, the perfect place to bring an artsy date who would loathe a typical sports bar. Entertainment can range from DJ to burlesque dancers. You never really know what to expect!
18. Versailles Restaurant
Versailles restaurant offers some of the best Cuban food in Los Angeles. They’re known for their famous garlic chicken served with fried plantains, rice, and black beans. It’s simple fare, but insanely good and you’ll be stuffed afterward.
The ambiance may not be the most romantic, but you go here for the food, not the atmosphere. They don’t take reservations and it can get crowded. Parking can be tight as well.
Oh, you might as well forget about meeting anyone else afterward, because the smell of the garlic and onion will repel anyone who didn’t have dinner with you there. But, that could be just what you want!
19. The Culver City Farmers Market
The Culver City Farmers Market happens every Tuesday from 2 to 7 PM. This is not a huge farmer’s market, but it has a good selection nevertheless, and it’s conveniently located right in downtown Culver City.
20. Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area
Located just southeast of Culver City, the Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area is one of the largest urban parks in the L.A. area. It can be a nice place for a picnic (there are lots of tables) or an easy hike with some good views of the West Side and even Downtown L.A. It’s no Descanso Gardens, but it’s fine if you live nearby and don’t want to go far.
For me, the highlight is the newly constructed Mark Ridley-Thomas bridge that spans La Cienega Blvd. and takes you to the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook (the “Culver Stairs”) previously mentioned. I’d say that hiking over that bridge to Baldwin Hills is a “must-do” adventure. On the other side is the Stoneview Nature Center, which is a nice bonus before you arrive at the Overlook.
The park is free during the week but charges $7 admission on weekends and holidays, and can get very crowded with family picnics, children’s birthday parties, quinceaneras, and stuff like that. For those reasons, I would avoid weekends. Also, $7 isn’t a lot of money, but somehow it feels wrong to me to pay to get into what is basically a large public park. Yet another reason to go during the week.
21. Hidden Garden Thai
Located in a very unimpressive mini-mall on Sepulveda, Hidden Garden Thai has some of the best Thai food on the West Side, with four-and-a-half stars on Yelp. No, this is not an upscale or very romantic joint that you would take a date on your anniversary, but you should come here if you simply want really good pad Thai or curry. Prices are reasonable and the food is amazing. Warning – “medium” is pretty spicy, so order carefully!
22. Special Events in Downtown Culver City
Along with the attractions I’ve already mentioned, check out the special seasonal events in Culver City:
The Culver City Car Show – Happens in May and features classic cars from the ’50s along with food and music!
Free Concerts – Every summer Culver City puts on free concerts at city hall. Google “Culver City free concerts” for more info.
Check out more Culver City special events here.
So, that’s my list! What are your favorite date spots in Culver City? Please comment below! – Brian