16 L.A. places to go on a friend date — because friends deserve quality time too
First, the excitement of meeting someone new. Then, the vulnerability as you connect. Finally, if you’re lucky, the endearing thought that this person might linger in your life for the remainder of it.
Sure, this could be the blueprint of a budding romance, but more often than not, it’s the thrill of a new friendship. And the truth is that they aren’t that different.
There’s the nervousness of getting to know someone, gradually unpacking who they are and — when the honeymoon phase wears off — putting in the work when it’s not as exciting as it used to be. Quality time, a.k.a. friendship dates, foster those relationships, just as romantic ones do with a significant other.
Hiking can be an enjoyable way to get to know someone. Here are some easy and moderate hikes with great views where you can take your next date.
Investing time is how we communicate to friends that we care about them, said Danielle Syslo, a marriage and family therapist who also offers friendship counseling.
“Trust is an essential building block for intimacy. That’s something that takes time. It’s putting the effort and the practice of it to continually show up and open up. It’s making yourself available to your friendships,” she said. “I think it’s really important to carve out time and keep our commitments we make.”
Though schedules are tough to navigate, taking initiative to reach out shows our friends their value to us, she added.
Finding new friends can sometimes feel like dating, and often it’s just as time-consuming. Feeling nervous is normal when hanging out with a new friend one-on-one for the first time.
Once friendships start, they must be sustained. Syslo recommends cultivating curiosity.
From borrowed parking spots to pool pop-ins, not all friendships are created equal.
“It’s taking time to get genuinely curious about what’s going on in our friends’ lives. It’s asking questions, it’s checking in and checking in not just once or twice but making that a consistent thing,” Syslo said. “Part of this process is being open and sharing personal verbal feelings or experiences. The benefit is this not only allows us to be more bonded, but it communicates to my friend the level of trust.”
L.A. County can feel congested with flakes, so when you find the right friend, it’s important to make an effort to develop the relationship.
Whether they’re a best pal in the making or a platonic soulmate, whisk your friend off on a date to one of these spots. And unlike real dating, you’re less likely to get ghosted after.
This story is part of a limited series exploring friendship in Los Angeles, from the superficial to the fulfilling.
Catch a rooftop movie
Upon arrival, follow the signs to the elevator and someone will swipe you up. Friendly staff scatter games like Uno and Cards Against Humanity on the patio tables if you’re early. Parking varies by location, but it’s $8 across the street in DTLA. Don’t forget to bring a blanket!
Stroll through Little Tokyo
Here’s one proposal for a friend date within this historic corridor: After eating at Shabu Shabu House, stroll in the nearby plaza under paper lanterns while nibbling on Honeymee ice cream (real honey is drizzled on top). If you’re there between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., don’t forget to peer into the charming James Irvine Japanese Garden.
Chat at Lady Byrd Cafe
Most meals range from $15 to $18, and cocktails are $13 to $14. On weekends, the line stretches outside the cafe, so be sure not to arrive too hungry. When you grab a table, reminisce with your friend while enjoying the atmosphere.
Frolic around the Huntington
Enjoy getting lost in 130 acres on a friend date. Gaze into the Chinese Garden’s waters or stroll arm-in-arm through the roses of the aptly named Rose Garden. If you and your friend still have energy, venture to the sprawling Jungle and Desert gardens.
Enjoy massive portraits in art galleries and a library that feels straight out of a Disney movie. Adult admission to the grounds is $25 to $29 — and well worth it.
Snack on potato balls at Porto’s Bakery
Expect a line, but the joy of picking pastries out from behind the glass with a friend is worth the wait. Don’t be shy about stocking up; a late-night strudel hits the spot.
Search for the Silver Lake stairs
If you don’t feel like wandering without a guide, SoCal Stair Climbers outlines several potential routes, from easy walks to half-day adventures. One option scours five miles of 23 staircases — over 2,000 steps total.
Alternatively — for the friends who aren’t so keen on huffing and puffing together — just drive your car from staircase to staircase for photo shoots.
Say hi to the otters at the Aquarium of the Pacific
Afterward, wander around Shoreline Village, a seaside shopping center covered in chipped paint and full of quirky souvenirs. Live music happens every other Sunday through September, with its next concert on Aug. 7.
Pose for photos at the Museum of Dream Space
Drink cocktails at Bar Flores
The pleasant ambiance is what makes Bar Flores an ideal friend date destination. If you get there early, claim a window seat near the musicians.
Enjoy more than art at the Getty Center
While tickets are free, don’t forget to reserve them in advance. Parking is $20, decreasing depending on arrival time, and visitors take a brief but fun tram ride up the hill.
Sip potions at Nimbus Coffee
Creative and clever, this shop is ideal for catching up with friends.
Expand your palate at Grand Central Market
The market is teeming with more than 35 vendors selling amplified PB & Js, gourmet oysters and vegan ramen. You cover more ground with two people, so grab your friend and split as many meals as you can.
On-site parking is $4 for the first 90 minutes, tacking on $2 for every additional 15. Take a $2 round-trip ride on the nearby Angels Flight while you let your stomach recover. It’s a unique experience to have with a friend, and you can snap a cute photo to remember the day at the top.
Experience infinity together at the Broad
While admission is free, visitors must reserve a time slot in advance and should note the $17 museum parking. Snag a time slot to see Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrored Room” on the first floor, where you and your friend can experience a mesmerizing space that feels like you’re standing in a galaxy.
Trade novels at the Cerritos Library
Cerritos Library borders on a museum, and this hidden gem is perfect for a friend date. Explore the sculpture garden, trade novels that remind you of each other, or relax in the white marbled reading room. Peek into the children’s section just to catch a glimpse of the human-sized books. Swap stories with your friend about your fave children’s book and swim in the nostalgia as you spot the aquarium and enormous T. rex skeleton.
If you’re a student or virtual employee, work next to your friend to get things done while still investing quality time. Best of all, this friend date is free.
Fly on a trapeze at the Santa Monica Pier
Load up on fun facts at the Natural History Museum
Museum dates offer ample conversation starters for new friends, or time to catch up with old ones while absorbing three floors of exhibits. Adult admission is $15, but L.A. County residents get in free from 3 to 5 p.m. daily.
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