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Dry January? Seven places to go and things to do

There’s plenty to do in L.A. when you put down your drink.
There’s plenty to do in L.A. when you put down your drink.
(Alexander Vidal / For The Times)

Whether you’re looking to take a month off alcohol to sleep better and lose weight, or you’ve given up booze entirely, Los Angeles is a great place to be dry. Its busy wellness scene will get you to a higher state naturally, and an eclectic mix of alcohol-free events, dance parties and mocktail mixologists will help you conquer your FOMA (Fear of Missing Alcohol).

“I think so many people see dry living as only a 12-step thing, not a conscious choice not to imbibe something that doesn’t really have any big positives,” said Ruby Warrington, author of “Sober Curious” and co-founder of the no-alcohol gathering Club SÖDA in New York.

Of course, you will have to come up with some stock phrases for those annoying people who will ask you why you’re not drinking. (Have some compassion: Their questions might be a cry for help. And if you are one of those nosy and annoying people who try to police the drinking habits of others, maybe you’re the one with the problem.)

Life can be better without drinking, Warrington says, as you discover perks such as clearer skin, less anxiety, deeper social connections and a better relationship with food. The tricky part when you’re just getting started, she says, can be keeping booze-free entertainment top of mind, and getting friends on board for your dry adventures.

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We asked Warrington and L.A. sober influencer Jessica Jeboult of A Sober Girl’s Guide to give us some of their best picks for alcohol-free fun in Los Angeles.

Meditation class at Unplug Meditation
Looking for something to do that doesn’t involve alcohol? Check out the meditation class at Unplug Meditation, with locations in West Hollywood and Santa Monica.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

1. World-class yoga and meditation

Instead of meeting a friend at happy hour, Jeboult and Warrington like to hit L.A.’s top yoga and meditation studios, not only to join a class but for their special events. Jeboult recommends Unplug in West Hollywood for its great slate of self-help and spiritual guest speakers, as well as the Den Meditation on La Brea or in Studio City, and Wanderlust Hollywood. For those who want to make an event of it, there’s Bender, a rooftop yoga event featuring live DJs, held monthly at the Smorgasburg food festival.

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“It’s a great way to meet people on the same wellness journey” Warrington agrees, and “feel more connected with self and clear-headed.”

2. Booze-free dance parties

If you’re craving more of a party, there are plenty of dance events to get your groove on, including the monthly morning party Daybreaker, which packs in yoga, live performances, dance and kombucha all before the workday starts. For those who aren’t morning people, Unleash!, an “edgy dance journey,” brings music, dance, alcohol-free elixirs and face paint to various locations around L.A. each month. And for a sunset dance party on the beach, there’s the Wave Silent Disco in Venice (silent because the music is on headphones).

With so much energy infusing these events already, participants say alcohol would only detract.

The Szechuan Fizz mocktail at Employees Only in West Hollywood
The Szechuan Fizz mocktail, a spicy concoction including Seedlip Spice 94 and Som Szechuan pineapple vinegar, at Employees Only in West Hollywood.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

3. A burgeoning craft mocktail scene.

Club soda, again!?! Meeting friends at bars and restaurants isn’t as much fun if your only booze-free options are soft drinks and Pellegrino. Thankfully, a new class of alcohol-free distilled spirits and mixers such as L.A.-based Seedlip Drinks, MeMento herbal tonics and Kin Euphorics, a mood-enhancing adaptogenic elixir, are giving bartenders something new to work with. West Hollywood’s Employees Only bar serves up a handful of great Seedlip mocktails, as does Eveleigh in West Hollywood. Jeboult likes the kombucha on tap at the Butcher’s Daughter in Venice, as well as the mocktails and people-watching at the Residency bar and La Peer Hotel in Hollywood. There’s also a growing number of alcohol-free sparkling wines.

“I tell everybody to get a replacement,” Jeboult says. “You want something to drink that makes you feel good … and is interesting,” something with a beautiful garnish and a unique flavor.

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4. Endless opportunities for learning and connection.

Beyond eating out, there’s no shortage of classes, events and shows to be found on Eventbrite, Meetup and other platforms, from booze-free baking, painting and craft classes to continuing education courses at local colleges and TED Talk-type events such as Talk Nerdy to Me, held every two weeks at a Cross Campus coworking space in Beverly Hills.

Another popular booze-free choice is “The Shine,” a variety show founded by meditation teacher Light Watkins that typically happens once a month, featuring short films, meditation, philanthropy, food and storytelling, designed to inspire meaningful conversation and action rather than alcohol-fueled escapism.

For those seeking recovery from substance abuse or alcohol addiction, there are monthly She Recovers Together meetups focused around food tours, talks and dessert rather than drinks.

Hiking yoga
Think of all the calories you’ll burn.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

5. Great weather and plenty of new trails to tackle with friends.

For many, dry living can provide the evening energy needed to finally get out and experience L.A.’s beautiful scenery by foot or bike. From Tuesday evening Sierra Club hikes in the hills of Griffith Park, to walks on the beach, to city runs with BlacklistLA, the Pasadena Pacers, Downtown L.A. Running Group or L.A. Frontrunners (a running and walking club for the LGBT community and friends with evening fun runs three times a week), there’s a walking, hiking or running club for just about every neighborhood.

6. A lively singles scene focused around experiences, not booze.

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There are any number of beer-goggles-free singles events and conscious dinners featured on Eventbrite, but a particularly unusual collection is featured on Deepen, which started as a dating site before evolving into a broader destination for inspiring entertainment. It still features regular singles experiences, such as the monthly “All My Single Friends” comedy show and Shop & Shag, a late-night shopping event for singles at the Venice Erewhon natural foods store.

Urban Lights at LACMA
When was the last time you hit up LACMA?
(LACMA)

7. Tourism. (We know you haven’t seen it all already.)

While it sounds a little corny, Jeboult, a former club DJ, says some of her favorite nights out have involved being a tourist in her city: going on true-crime tours, such as those offered by Dearly Departed Tours, joining city history walking tours and meeting friends at local escape rooms. The Queen Mary in Long Beach has a few spooky paranormal events offered at night. Next door, there are weekly Late Nights at the Aquarium of the Pacific, and L.A.’s museums often host regular nights out, such as Friday night jazz at Los Angeles County Museum of Art. And if you aren’t exceedingly modest, and haven’t hit one of the 24-hour Korean spas off Wilshire Boulevard such as Wi Spa, which offers saunas, scrubs and massage, you’re missing a truly memorable self-care experience.

But if you really want to experience the best of sober living in L.A. or anywhere else, Warrington says you have to be willing to plunge right into some “sober firsts,” such as your first drink-free New Year’s Eve, or Super Bowl party, or house party, or Friday night after-work event.

“It can be so empowering,” Warrington says, as you withstand the initial uncomfortable feeling when that first round is passed, actually have a good time and are still able to hit that spin class early the next day.

She adds: “Challenge yourself to see how much fun you can have without alcohol.”


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