Most of us have not had the fortune of stumbling upon a Ryan Gosling or Emma Stone at a Hollywood party during our time in L.A.
But even when the pickings seem pretty slim, that doesn’t mean you can’t fall in love in Los Angeles.
You just have to know where to go – and that’s not necessarily where all the other couples are. After all, they’re already in love. (Or, if they’re not by now, they may never be – at least not with each other.)
So, grab somebody you like enough to spend an hour or two with and head to one of these great L.A. places to fall in love. If you can’t get caught up in the rapture of love here, you’d better check yourself for a pulse.
1. Museum of Neon Art, Glendale
The first – and some might say most important – thing you need wherever you take your date is good old-fashioned mood lighting. Even if you’re a fan of day dates or adventure dates that are illuminated by the blinding light of day, you’ve got to admit that everybody looks better cast in shades of ruby reds, golden yellows, bold blues, and the other romantic hues of a good vintage neon sign. At the Museum of Neon Art, you walk through a relatively bright gift shop and into the back gallery which – depending on the current exhibit – will entrance you with flashing lights, kinetic sculptures, plasma art, backlit plastic, and other selections from guest artists and its permanent collection.
Bonus: Canoodle awhile under the Zinke’s Repairs salvaged neon sign behind the museum near the parking lot, or stroll down the neon-glittered Brand Boulevard at night for even more ambiance. Admire the Alex Theatre marquee, and maybe take in a show. Or, if you’re more of a high roller, share a steak at Damon’s while you sit by the glow of the fish tank.
2. Manhattan Beach Pier, Manhattan Beach
Sure, there’s no solar-powered ferris wheel (or any ferris wheel at all) in Manhattan Beach; but because of that, this South Bay pier is the perfect spot to watch the sunset with an unobstructed view. You’ll spot some fishermen – and maybe a shark in the water – but you’ll avoid the crowds of the Santa Monica, Malibu, or Redondo Beach piers, as long as you schedule your visit around the pier’s annual pumpkin races and holiday lighting ceremony. If you arrive a little early, stop in for a free visit to the Roundhouse Aquarium at the end of the pier. It’s open till at least sunset, with extended hours between Memorial Day and Labor Day. After all, jellyfish are at their most romantic while they’re bobbing around in those dimly-lit tanks.
Bonus: This South Bay city has risen as a culinary hotspot in the last few years, but you’ll still be able to find a place to share a meal without an advance reservation. And no matter how late you stay out together, there will be a seat waiting for you at The Kettle.
3. Naples Canals, Long Beach
The residents of the Venice of America canals are probably tired of shooing away couples trying to fall in love as they cross the bridges and meander down the historic walkways, hand in hand. But how can you fall in love with so many other people around? Instead, head south to Long Beach, whose Naples Canals are just as lovely to walk and just as charming – but far less crowded. This little-known area was completed in the 1920s – and rebuilt after the 1933 Long Beach earthquake – by developer Arthur Parson as the "Dreamland of Southern California," though its Mayberry & Parker design is primarily Italianate. Sure, you might hear a Neapolitan gondolier singing “O Sole Mio” under a bridge somewhere in the distance, but if it’s true love, you won’t even notice the couples spending date night in a gondola on the water. Park your car at Marine Park (a.k.a. “Mother’s Beach”) and cross over the Rivo Alto Canal to the Naples Fountain on Naples Island. Or, start off on Ocean Boulevard and head down the Alamitos Peninsula along the East Bayshore Walk until the mouth of the San Gabriel River is in view. Then, turn around and take the East Seaside Walk back up to where you started.
Bonus: The water that surrounds the three islands of the Naples Canals is technically public, so if you’re feeling particularly swept away, you could swim in it. In some parts of the bay, though, it's only ankle-deep – although other can go as deep as 25 feet. Watch out for privately-owned docks, boat launches, and boats.
4. Stahl House, Hollywood Hills
At one point, you couldn’t even buy a ticket to tour Pierre Koenig's Stahl House (a.k.a. Case Study House #22) for just one person. You had to find a date to take with you. Then, the policy changed so that you could go alone, but you’d have to pay the equivalent of admission for two. Although the pricing gap has narrowed somewhat since then, it still makes so much more sense to view this Mid-Century Modern masterpiece as a couple rather than going solo. It makes a great first date for fellow architecture buffs; but even if your date isn’t a fan of Modernism, they’ll appreciate the view from up above the Sunset Strip, just west of Laurel Canyon beyond Chateau Marmont. No cameras are allowed, so take in the view as reflected in each other’s eyes. Tours – which sell out months in advance – are generally available Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday afternoons, late afternoons, and early evenings.
Bonus: Spring for the evening tour to get an extra half hour and catch the sunset, as you sit by the glowing pool. The city below will transform, right before your very eyes.
5. Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood
Situated high above Hollywood Boulevard just west of Vermont Avenue on what was once known as “Olive Hill,” Barnsdall Art Park is home to the Hollyhock House, which Frank Lloyd Wright designed and built for heiress Aline Barnsdall. While the house itself is locked behind a gate except for those times it’s open for tours, you can still peek at the line of enclosures that were built as a "pet pergola" – a kind of petting zoo for children. Historians and docents disagree whether any animals actually ever occupied the pens, but rumor has it that Aline had an emu and her daughter "Sugartop" had a pony. But you might not notice that at first, since Barnsdall Art Park and its Hollyhock House – like the City of L.A. itself – unveil their treasures slowly to visitors. Most people probably only go to Barnsdall Art Park for their winetasting fundraiser events on Friday nights during the summer, but bring a sweetie to sit in the shade of the former orchard on a heart-shaped chair any time of year. You’ll have a view of the Hollywood Sign and Griffith Observatory, without having to deal with the traffic in Griffith Park.
Bonus: Compare notes on the exhibits at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, which is located in the park and is open Thursdays through Mondays, 12 to 5 p.m. Admission is free.
6. Walt Disney Concert Hall, Downtown L.A.
Since it was completed in 2003, the Frank Gehry’s “boat-and-sail” design of Walt Disney Concert Hall has become a landmark of both Los Angeles and its downtown, having elicited some pretty strong reactions from visitors and neighbors alike. But regardless of what you think of the building itself, or its contribution to L.A.'s architectural legacy, it is a marvel to walk around. On the outside, its intricate, undulating design catches both light and shadows, with slivers of glass windows wedged into unexpected places. An aerial pathway takes you around the building's exterior, while down below, you can still spot a few panels of stainless steel that remain fully, dangerously reflective. Among the other public spaces is the Blue Ribbon Garden, which features plenty of flowering trees and planted flowers. It’s easy to get blissfully lost in those little pathways, catwalks, and niches.
Bonus: Extend your date around the corner at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power headquarters, whose A.C. Martin-designed landmark Modernist building is surrounded by a 1.2 million-gallon reflecting pool. At night, the water is all aglow with fountains of cascading water lit in red, yellow, orange, and green.