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Cheap and Sweet Venues For Date Night in LA

Updated on December 15, 2010

As metropolises go, Los Angeles has more than its fair share of lonely, horny, frustrated people (we're also terribly glamorous and creative and talented obviously). Dating here is a cut-throat business requiring dedication and money.

The amount the average woman spends on looking good in this town, she could probably buy herself a new car every year. As for the amount of money the average man spends on wining and dining ... well depending on how much he likes to date he may well have been able to get a new car, and a chauffeur every year.

If you're lucky enough to be doing dinner and a movie on a regular basis with someone special ... or several not-so-special someones, things can get very pricey, very quickly.

Bearing that in mind here are a few classic date places that are relatively inexpensive, and a sweet alternative to dinner, drinks, and films.

Griffith Observatory.

The observatory was renovated a few years ago and provided your date is someone who would enjoy a chilled venue, they'll like the marble floors, incredible views of LA, hands on exhibits, and the impressive artwork on the entrance ceiling foyer.

It's closed on Mondays and Christmas day but every other day it's open until 10 pm, and if you're up there at night you can check out the stars through the observatory's telescopes.

A must see is the planetarium show ($7.50 per ticket at the time of writing, entrance to the observatory is free). It lasts for 30 minutes and is a magical experience. Sit in a comfortable, reclined chair and journey through the history of the universe, guided by the chocolate smooth tones of one of the planetarium hosts, who must all double as voice over artists. One of the best ways to relax after a long day.

A word of warning, it's crowded on the weekends, the parking lot fills up quickly and you may be in for a bit of a trek up a hill if you can't find a space, great views though!

Hollywood Bowl

It's a summer classic, listening to a performance at the Hollywood Bowl. Canoodling couples flood the amphitheater filling up the seats from the dollar rows at the top of the stratosphere where you have to use an oxygen mask because the air is so thin, to the three figure box seats at the front that supply a table for your wine and nibbles needs. They bring with them cushions (the seats are both hard and cold), blankets and a cheerful resignation to staying the whole evening because even if they want to leave early they can't, as all the cars are packed in together like sardines.

Alternatively, if you want to be really romantic, visit the Hollywood Bowl during the day when there is no performance. You can explore the grounds without restraint; have your picnic with no fear of random strangers putting their elbows into your brie; stand on the stage itself and be overwhelmed by the sheer size of the place. Generally it's empty, so plenty of opportunities for affectionate squeezes. Or you might get really lucky and catch a rehearsal - an informal performance for you and your date. Oh... and of course it's free then.

First Friday's at the Natural History Museum.

Is your date intelligent? Is she/he interested in the world around them? Do they appreciate slightly quirky, off beat things? Did they enjoy the film, "Night at the Museum"? If the answer to all these question is yes, then you must take them to a First Friday night.

This is one of those events that lots of people hear about, but never go to it. The Natural History Museum on Exposition Blvd in Los Angeles hosts and evening on the First Friday of every month where they turn the museum into a night club. There is an early tour, followed by an entertaining lecture (it's true, the speakers are normally very good, I suspect many of them have done a few tours on the comedy circuit), DJ lounge, bar serving wine and beer, food hall with catering from restaurants around Los Angeles, and a concert in the North American Hall with two acts.

Tickets are nine dollars, the same as regular admission price, and you can look at all the normal exhibits, just with funky lighting and music. The concert hall only has capacity for 500 people so if you want guaranteed entry to that you can buy a fifteen dollar ticket instead, however the performance is shown on a big screen as well in the Grand Foyer so if it's at full capacity no-one misses out.

The Getty Center

Personally, I don't think this is the best place for a first date, it can be crowded and if you don't yet know a person's sense of humor and their likes and dislikes, a big art museum might not be such a great choice. Like a theme park it can go wonderfully right - the start of many fun jaunts and 'remember that time we.." stories; or it can go horribly wrong and be relegated to worst date ever stories that leave you with a disastrous nickname - "Roller Coaster Rolf" or "Pretentious Art Ass". Third of fourth date would be much better, then it becomes a great place for a strolling and talking date.

On a sunny day the gardens are lovely to walk around, and the views are always spectacular. It is free entry but you do have to pay $15 dollars for parking, and there are admission charges to special gallery events. If your date is really into art they've probably been here before, it is after all an iconic part of Los Angeles, but if it's been a while since their last visit they'll probably enjoy going again.

Huntington Gardens and Library.

Here's a slice of peace and tranquility. The gardens are beautiful and varied enough to be interesting - there's the Australian garden, the Chinese garden, the Japanese garden, the Jungle garden, the Shakespeare garden, it goes on and on. You get the idea, there's a lot of pretty plants and flowers. There's also a superb library, complete with that inimitable old book smell, a fine art collection, and a delightfully quaint tea-room.

Normally it's $20 admission, but if you go on the first Thursday of the month and get your tickets in advance ... it's free.


A marvellous post work place to take a date, especially if they haven't been in LA for very long. If you and your date both have LA county driving licenses then it is free entry after five on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday (LACMA is closed on Wednesdays). Alternatively, go on the second Tuesday of the month and admission is free to everyone.

They have a really big range of different art styles there so you'll be able to find something to admire together and something to mock together. If it is still light then look at the sculpture gardens and zip along to the La Brea tar pits next door. The great thing about this place is that it's central and during the week it is never crowded, not even in the evening when it is free.

Be sure to experience the massive installations by Richard Serra, enormous steels bands standing like ribbons. If you and your date stand opposite one another in one of the big circular areas and put your ears to the walls you can have a whispered conversation that rings loud and clear to each of you!

The Los Angeles Central Library

The downtown library is a gem. The art deco arhcitecture nestles between tall, shiny office buildings and shows them all up. Enjoy a quiet moment out front in the gardens, once inside you can ride the escalators up and look at the sculptures hanging in the rear vestibule. Don't leave without visiting the children's library, and the great hall. The great hall is as one might expect, enormous. The huge domed ceiling has a spectacular globe of the earth suspended from it and the walls are covered in murals. From the Great Hall meander into the children's library, it is one of the oldest parts of the library in existence and this reflected in the dark wood panelling and bookcases, the murals on the wall. They have a cozy reading area and a in the back rooms even a puppet theatre. It's very sweet, and it's all completely free.

The library is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am until 5.30 pm, 8pm closing on Tuesday and Thursday

Be warned though, this is a place to go with someone that you know likes being around you, and you around them because there's a lot of just strolling and looking and talking. It doesn't take long to see the place so you'll be meandering on somewhere else afterwards. Oh and if your date doesn't like reading ... probably not the place to take them.

The Downtown LA Art Walk

This would be a good event to combine with a look at the downtown library. Every second Thursday of the month, four blocks of downtown Los Angeles galleries, stores, and warehouse spaces throw open the doors to the general public starting as early as noon, and going until 9pm at least. There are bands in the streets, the food trucks roll out, galleries are handing out drinks and nibbles, and there are throngs of people everywhere. It's a good vibe and is one of the best times to see downtown LA. And yes, it's free.

and lastly...The Magic Castle

Technically, the Magic Castle doesn't belong on this list because it's not cheap, however the Magic Castle is so amazing, everyone should go once.

Don't waste this superb date night on someone you're only half interested in. The Magic Castle is sophisticated, sexy, swanky, and other things beginning with S. Yes, it is also expensive and exclusive, but worth it for the right person.

The Magic castle is a club for magicians and magic enthusiasts, it is a charming warren of bars, magic rooms and memorabilia, The decor has a faded grandeur that chimes perfectly with the atmosphere of hiding glamorous secrets. The doors open at 5pm and shut at 1am leaving you ample time to sip cocktails, watch the big magic shows on the main stage and the intimate shows in the smaller theaters, and have a sumptuous meal in their Victorian style dining rooms.

Here's the catch, there are only three ways that you can actually get into the Magic Castle:

  1. Be a member of the club .... which means either being a really good magician or paying membership fees for a year (if you're dating a lot of different people one year this might not be such a bad option, but if it's just one date, a year's membership fees would be a big splurge).
  2. Get yourself and your date invited in by a member. Members can issue guest invitations to people of their choosing, so if you're comfortable with stalking and befriending a person for your personal gain, this may be the route for you.
  3. Book a room at the Magic Castle Hotel. The club and the hotel are run by different people, however if you are staying at the hotel you are granted access to the club as well. Rooms run about the same as Vegas weekend prices but it's a considerably more classy experience.

Good luck.


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    • danielgreen profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks for the recommendations!


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