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Arts and Entertainment

13 Outdoor Dates In Los Angeles

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If you're tired of boring old restaurant or bar dates, we've got a list of some of our favorite outings under the sun while the days are still long. Our favorite places include perfect picnic spots, hikes that lead you to a waterfall or architecture tours. As always, let us know your favorites in the comments.

Eaton Canyon waterfall (Photo by Jay Edwards via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
Eaton Canyon Hike

Eaton Canyon is a gem of a hiking spot not too far away from L.A. It's a relatively easy 3.8-mile hike that leads you through streams and a waterfall—much more entertaining and down-to-earth than, say, Runyon Canyon. Pack a picnic so you can dine by the waterfall. It gets a little crowded on the weekends, so if you're looking for something a little more secluded, we recommend you trek out there on a weekday. It's also a great place to view wildflowers during the springtime. You can find more information on the trails here andhere. Parking is free near the Nature Center. (If you're looking for more hiking trails, check out our "10 Best Los Angeles Hikes For The Summer" here.) If the date's going well, you two can drive about 3 miles out from Eaton Canyon to Pasadena's Dog Haus for a fun, casual spot for hot dogs and beer.

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Kayaking in the Naples Canals (Photo by Terrell Woods via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
Kayaking in Long Beach

Kayaks On The Water is the go-to place in Long Beach for kayak rentals. For $9 in cash ($10 with credit card), you get an hour-long kayaking session, a life vest, and a kayak. They make you watch an instructional video on what to do in case you guys are newbies. You get to paddle through the Naples Island Canals and see beautiful waterfront homes, and you can kayak over to different restaurants along the way (or even to Starbucks). And just a heads up, parking can be a little tough in this area, so plan ahead; you can find parking on the streets or at metered spots. The rental shop's hours change seasonally, so check out their website before you go.

While you're out there, you might as well visit Naples Rib Company (just a little over a mile away) that's open for lunch and dinner on the weekends, and dinner on the weekdays. They've got some succulent ribs, tri-tip and prime rib, with all the fixins like corn on the cob, mac 'n cheese, BBQ beans and cole slaw.

Beachwood Canyon stairs (Photo by Jean Trinh/LAist)
Secret Beachwood Canyon Stairs

When you walk through Beachwood Canyon's secret stairs, you can't help but feel like you're a bit of an explorer going on a hidden adventure. According to Secret Stairs LA, city planners built the historic stairs in the early 20th century so that Angelenos could easily get down from hillside neighborhoods to transit lines and shops. The Beachwood Canyon Stairs take you through to old Hollywoodland and a once-gated community where famous folks like Humphrey Bogart and Bela Lugosi once lived. You'll also pass through some great homes in the Hollywood Hills, a fancy chateau and get great views of Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood Sign. There are instructions on how to get up there here. The stairs are steep on this 2.6-mile walk (that starts and ends around 2695 N. Beachwood Drive), so wear tennis shoes and workout clothes. Keep in mind you might get a little sweaty. After you've worked up an appetite, you can stop by the Beachwood Cafe that's generally open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., except on Sundays when they close at 3 p.m. They're an all-American neighborhood joint, with a really cool retro interior. Owner Patti Peck was on Food Network's Chopped, and her spot whips ups items like farm fresh egg scrambles and breakfast burritos in the morning and fancier fare in the evenings like steak frites.

Hayden Tract building (Photo by John Lopez via the Creative Commons on Flickr)
Culver City's Hayden Tract

Just a few blocks away from downtown Culver City is a revamped (and once-forgotten) industrial center, dubbed the Hayden Tract. It's a great spot for exploring some far-out architecture with a futuristic flare (think more along the lines of Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Hall). Developed by Frederick and Laurie Samitaur Smith and designed by architect Eric Owen Moss and his firm, it covers a few blocks from Higuera Street to Jefferson Boulevard. The buildings now mostly serve as offices for media companies and graphic designers, but if you walk around the area (that has plenty of lush lawns), you'll run into some deconstructed, post-modern buildings that the team has been redeveloping since the 1980s.

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Start at the corner of National Blvd. and Hayden Ave. and you'll be greeted by the the Samitaur Tower, a 72-foot structure made of structural steel and glass, shaped like a tornado. Continue south and you'll see the What Wall, a brick wall that bulges out of an industrial building with windows that seem to have jumped out of a Salvador Dali painting; the Stealth Building, which is more than a rectangular-shaped building, but ominously juts out in geometric shapes; the Umbrella Building with boxes and bridge-like structures poking out; and the Cactus Garden, an open-air structure with cacti in planters raised high above the ground. Over on National Blvd., you'll find the Beehive office building that though looks round, is layered in crazy angles. (More info on a walking guide can be found here.

Close by, you can grab some coffee from a hip L.A. roaster, Bar Nine, which recently opened this year. Inside, you'll find a sleek, spacious and modern interior that reflects the industrial feel of the Hayden Tract. It's a spot to get espresso shots and pour overs, with beans from Guatemala to Ethiopia. They also serve breakfast and lunch, with dishes like breakfast sandwiches with bacon and gruyere and portobello mushroom sandwiches.

Venice Canals (Photo by Jean Trinh/LAist)
Venice Canals

The Venice Canals are a little slice of heaven built to mimic Italy's romantic Venice waterways. The historic man-made canals were built by developer Abbott Kinney in 1905. Nowadays, you can take a leisurely walk around the canals, crossing over arched bridges (the perfect backdrop to a couple selfie) and walking through pathways behind people's homes. It's amusing checking out the architecture of these homes, a blend between old styles and new; you can see small cottages that were built in the early 1900s, mid-century modern homes, villas, and three-story contemporary houses. Kayaks and canoes are tied up next to the homes, floating on the water, painting an idyllic picture. If you enter on Dell Street right after S. Venice Boulevard, you'll be in the center of it all and approach your first bridge. We suggest getting there a couple of hours before sunset for ultimate romantic time (and also to avoid getting a sunburn).

Then, you can take a short walk that's less than a mile over to Abbott Kinney Boulevard to check out some mom-and-pop restaurants, shops and bars. If you want to keep it low-key, grab a large slice of pizza (we highly recommend the curry chicken one) at Abbott's Pizza Company, a mainstay known for their sesame bagel crust. Or go to the Tasting Kitchen for a hip interior, communal dining tables, inventive cocktails, with dishes like lobster pappardelle and salt-roasted branzino. (Entrees there range from $16 to $40.) You can also grab some cocktails, craft beers or wine at trendy bar, The Otheroom; it's dimly-lit and full of cushy velvet couches—perfect for setting the mood.

Griffith Observatory (Photo by Chris Lott via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
Griffith Park

Sometimes you just need an easy outdoor date where you can keep busy for a couple of hours. Luckily at Griffith Park, you can do all of that. You can take a romantic walk through the Ferndell Nature Museum, where you get transported out of the hustle and bustle of L.A. into a shady path full of green trees, tiny bridges, and running streams and ponds with koi fish and frogs. If you feel like getting more of a workout, you can continue onto the Griffith Park trail, which is pretty steep and takes about 40 minutes to an hour to get up to the top. But then you can get 360-degree views of the city atop Griffith Observatory. You can even explore the observatory for free or buy tickets for a Planetarium show. (For directions on the hike, visit this website here.)

Then as a reward for getting your daily workout over, grab some sandwiches, desserts (like scones, pies and cookies) and Stumptown coffee over at The Trails cafe off of the trail, and eat your meal at their outdoor picnic tables. They're also vegan and gluten-free-friendly, with options like an avocado sandwich with soy bacon bits and sprouts, as well as gluten-free muffins, and seasonal vegan pies.

On the other side of the park entering on Crystal Springs Drive, there are a bevy of other activities you can get into: like renting a bicycle to ride through the park, hopping on the historic Merry-Go-Round that was built in 1926, and visiting the L.A. Zoo or even exploring the empty (and kind of creepy) cages from the Old Zoo.

Inside the Bradbury Building (Photo by Shawn Park via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
Downtown Architecture Tour

If you and your date nerd out together over cool architecture, downtown is perfect for an afternoon stroll where you can check out some historic buildings. The L.A. Conservancy put out a self-guided walking tour for some of the cool landmarks that were featured in (500) Days of Summer. Some of these buildings were built in the late 1800s to early 1900s, so there's already a lot of history there. The tour starts you off at the San Fernando Building on 400 South Main Street, and takes you to Hotel Barclay, the Continental Building (L.A.'s first skyscraper), the breathtaking Bradbury Building (where Blade Runner was filmed), and the Million Dollar Theatre. It also has you take a stop at Grand Central Market, where you can eat and drink from a variety of food vendors. (Unfortunately, you won't be able to get to the iconic bench that was featured in (500) Days of Summer as the area where it once stood, Angels Knoll, is now closed off to the public.) Not too far away is Perch restaurant and bar, where you can get sweeping views of the city from the rooftop of the building while you and your date sip on some cocktails. Head over to Maccheroni Republic for some delicious, bang-for-your-buck pasta dishes (we highly suggest ordering the Bianchi and Nieri Pasta).

The view of the city from Barnsdall Art Park (Photo by Archie Tucker via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
Barnsdall Art Park

Barnsdall Art Park is an underrated green space nestled in East Hollywood. Up on top of a grassy hill, you can get breathtaking and panoramic views of the city—perfect for epic sunset viewings. There are even heart-shaped iron-wrought chairs. Bring a blanket and a picnic basket with you and you two can spend an afternoon here and get your sunbathing on. You'll see other couples, families and dogs there as well, but it's never too crowded. Walk around the park and explore the Municipal Art Gallery, the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House and a Barnsdall Gallery Theatre (in case you want to watch a performance). And if you're there on a Wednesday, you can catch the park's farmers market that runs from noon to 6 p.m. and grab some food from the vendors. For more information on the park and events there, visit their website.

Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine Temple (Photo by CindiK. via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
Pacific Palisades Zen Day

If you and your date are spiritual types or just want some tranquility after a busy work week, then you might want to take a stroll at the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine Temple in the Pacific Palisades. The serene grounds are beautiful with plants and flowers, and there's a lake smack dab in the middle of it with swans and ducks swimming by. A windmill also sits by the lake. There are yoga and meditation classes offered, so check their website for the schedule. It's free to the public. Weekends can get a bit crowded here, so go during the weekdays if you want to avoid people. (More information about the Lake Shrine can be found here.)

And just about a 2-mile drive out, you can eat at Matthew's Garden Cafe, an adorable spot that actually makes you feel like you're dining in a garden with the tables outside; they're also known for their crepes and panini. There's also Cafe Vida that serves delicious, healthy options on American and Latino fare as well as juices and smoothies.

Watts Towers (Photo by Michael Ngim via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
Watts Towers Arts Center

Italian immigrant artist, Simon Rodia, built these 17 dreamy, open towers with steel, concrete, tiles, glass and items he found on the streets from sea shells to figurines from the 1920s to 1950s. Some of them get up to 99 feet tall. It's worth it for a guided tour for $7, which runs on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and gives you a better understanding of Rodia's work. They also show you a short film on the artist after the tour. You can check out the towers on your own self-guided tour from Wednesdays through Sundays. For more info on hours of operation, visit their website here.

About half a mile away, you can stop by Watt's Coffee House for some breakfast or brunch. We're talking about some delicious grub, like fried chicken and waffles, grits, and sausage and eggs. The soul food cafe has photos of R&B and blues artists adorning its walls, and is a historic spot in its own right since it opened in the 1960s. Service can be slow, so go here when you're not in a rush.

Picnicking at Malibu Wines (Photo by Cassie via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
Malibu Wines

What's fun about Malibu Wines is that it's a casual spot where you can bring a picnic basket while you go wine tasting. It's located very deep in Malibu, so you feel like you're far away from the city. Expect a Malibu crowd though with lots of polo shirts in the mix. You can try to find a picnic table to hang out at (though it's hard to find an empty one on the weekends), or bring a blanket so you can sit down on the lawn. They mix up their events on site with live bands, outdoor movie screenings and food trucks; you can check their schedule here. If you valet your car, it's $14 cash, but they also offer a shuttle service about half a mile away, where you can park for free and get bussed over. Get more info about Malibu Wines on their website.

Paddle boating at Echo Park Lake (Photo by Sterling Davis via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
Echo Park Paddle Boating

Just last year, Echo Park Lake's paddle-boat rentals resurfaced after a four-year hiatus due to budget cuts. For $10 (cash only) per person, you and your date can paddle boat around the lake for an hour, checking out lily pads and views of downtown. Hey, even Parks and Recreation's Aubrey Plaza paddled out in the lake. It's open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to half an hour before sunset, and you can rent the boats at 751 N. Echo Park Ave. (There are also canoe and gondola options available over the weekends.) More info about it can be found here.

And after you've worked up an appetite, you two can head over to Square One at the Boathouse, located right along the lake. These folks specialize in brunch food, and you can get some delicious items like bacon and cheese grits topped with an egg, french toast bites, squash blossom breakfast burritos and vegetarian club sandwiches. There's plenty of seating and tables, inside and out. They serve food from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., but continue to sell Intelligentsia coffee and pastries until 5 p.m.

Ballona Creek Bike Ride

This is one of the best bike rides around town, and it's suitable for beginners. You don't have to contend with traffic or many hills. The Ballona Creek Bike Path runs along the creek. If you want to do the whole thing, start out on the Eastside of Culver City at Syd Kronenthal Park, where it definitely feels like you're right in the middle of the city—because you are! (If you're not so sure of your skills, there are plenty of entry points along the way if you want a shorter trip.) You're surrounded on all sides by art- and graffiti-filled concrete. You're outside but it doesn't feel quite like nature yet. But as you head southwest, it feels like the city is melting away. An ocean breeze picks up, the creek widens, there's less concrete and more flowers. The payoff comes when you finally hit the ocean in Playa Del Rey. If you're kind of a biking noob, you can bask in the glow of completing eight miles while you watch the boats pass by in the Marina. If you've still got some gas left in the tank, you can continue biking on the paths along the coast in either direction. Otherwise, you can turn back to Syd Kronenthal Park. Father's Office is just right around the corner if you want a beer and a burger. Or you could get off early at Duquesne Avenue or head up to East Borough for a modern, Californian take on Vietnamese. They've got outdoor seating if you're feeling a little sweaty. If those place don't work out, there's a boatload of others in downtown Culver City. —Emma Gallegos

For more information on accessing the bike path, visit Los Angeles Bike Paths. We have directions on how to access the wetlands here and you can keep up with the latest news or find out about guided tours on the Friends of Ballona site.

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