Written by Zane Foley
You really did it.
You met someone in Los Angeles who actually gave you their phone number instead of their Instagram handle. Bravo! The bad times of sifting through art shows, catfished tinder dates and awkward work events may finally be over. You caught a vibe and you don’t want to screw this up.
The thing is, though, you’re basically broke. Rent in Los Angeles is out of control and somehow you need to come up with an activity that proves your willingness to spend your resources on your potential partner (look it up, there’s a science to this). You need an amazing date that won’t have you pawning your record collection because the waiter asked if you’d like dessert.
Lucky for you, I’m an expert in the art of the allusive LA cheap date, and I can make you a champion of location, a leader in conversation and an eloquent conductor of chemistry. More importantly, I can give you and your date in an experience of Los Angeles that screams authenticity. Every one of these dates provides a ‘free’ element that won’t make you appear frugal, unsuccessful or just plain cheap. If you’re lucky, pull off the right moves with some style and grace, you might get a second date—or even a first kiss.
Free Jazz Concerts at LACMA
I know what you’re thinking, $12+ dollars a ticket, not to mention parking and the latte you’re going to have to offer your date when you walk past the cute cafe. Never fear, the LACMA museum is open for free to all LA residents after 3 pm every day. Just show your ID at the door and boom, you have two full hours to walk and talk and flex your recently googled knowledge of contemporary art. That’s not even the best part. LACMA offers free Jazz concerts on Friday evenings from April through November. Enjoy a two-hour show from 6 pm-8 pm of high energy, melodic sensitive and speciality bee-bop sounds from some of L.A.’s finest Jazz musicians. An older sophisticated crowd keeps the cops at bay as the unspoken BYOB policy allows you to bring a bottle of merlot to put the cherry on top.
Shakespeare in Griffith Park (Free Admission)
Shakespeare in Griffith Park is a great way to show your date how much you ‘care’ about the local Los Angeles art scene. Because although it is billed as free, there is an opportunity to donate to the show (which you should because supporting local art and all that) so you throw in a $5-$10 dollar bill and your date is reassured it’s not that you don’t have the cash, it’s that you care more about other things. Bring a cozy blanket; it can get pretty chilly in Griffith when the sun goes down. Pair a bottle of wine or your favourite six-pack with some cheese and crackers and the coziness of placing your arm around your date is only moments away. These shows are naturally about love and tragedy, as the perfect segway into sharing your past traumas and begin scripting your couple’s rendition of Romeo and Juliet.
If you arrive a bit early, the historic Griffith Park Zoo is just yards behind where the plays take place. Killing time doesn’t mean you have to waste it. Continue to show your date the value you bring to their lives as an LA aficionado. And as always, good conversation is key to any date or relationship.
1700 Naud Gallery
Shameless plug? In all seriousness, 1700 Naud is one of the best cheap date spots in Los Angeles. Located on the outskirts of Chinatown in downtown LA, this date hits all the right notes for a social evening in LA without the need of extravagance. Consider this: Naud has the perfect trifecta of art installations, free wine/beer and unique ambience and location. Pulling up to the gallery you’re surrounded by industrial warehouses covered in graffiti. The downtown silhouette peaks from yonder as the city metro screams over the 8th street bridge. If you’re a responsible drinker, you can save money by not Ubering and save even more by having your date enjoying the free drinks. Just remember to pack a few singles to tip the bartender. You want to show your date you have class and access to awesome places.
Corral Canyon Hike Malibu
Listen, everyone likes to hike in Los Angeles, or so they say. But are you really going to take her to Runyon Canyon to be surrounded by hundreds of guys who are literally paid to be buff? Or a canyon full of voluptuous Instamodels in petite spandex? Do yourself a favour and take your date to Corral Canyon in Malibu instead.
The scenic drive takes you on top of the Malibu canyons, for a 360 viewpoint spanning as far as the eye can see. The entire surrounding mountain range was once under the ocean, so these amazing bubbly rock formations form tiny caves and random enclaves perfect for a secluded nature’s loveseat. The hike is short and the romance level is off the charts. No park entrance fee, just watch your gaslight. It’s the perfect place for sunset and if you’re lucky enough, a first kiss.
Tour of Downtown: The Last Bookstore – Bradbury Building – Grand Central Market
The last bookstore is one of those places that can come off as a touristy, that is until you take your date upstairs to the hidden tinker-town art galleries. With new local artists being cycled through every few months, and unique light fixtures peppering the artisan shops of LA’s finest crafts, you get to flaunt your enthusiasm for Angelino culture while having plenty of interesting subject matter to keep the conversation going.
From there, just right up the street is the famous Bradbury Building, the oldest standing building in downtown Los Angeles. Remember these knowledge bombs: the Bradbury Building was used for several Hollywood blockbusters, including the original Blade Runner, Chinatown and 500 Days of Summer. Just like The Last Bookstore, entrance into the Bradbury Building is completely free.
Now, depending on your date, the last stop of this downtown tour could get a bit pricey. However, if you can’t feed your date every once in a while, how are you really ever going to be able to afford a relationship? The Grand Central market feels like something out of a movie. With scores of great restaurants packed into a vibrant atmosphere of people watching and delicious food. Everything is counter style eating and made when you order it. Authentic and lively, the energy catapults you into a great evening or a night of Netflix and digestion.
Point Dume, Malibu California
A number of other sites will be telling you to go to the most popular beaches in Los Angeles. Yeah, take your date to the Santa Monica Pier so you can watch 4,000 people play Pokemon Go. Or better yet, how about you hike down to El Matador to literally be shoulder-to-shoulder with thousands of tourists and instaThots taking selfies. Instead, head to the tucked-away paradise of Point Dume Beach.
Just south of Zumba Beach, Point Dume has a petite parking lot that only costs $6 during the week and ensures a personal date experience. Famous for its point, this beach has a nice hike best described as a proposal lookout. The point is perched about 300 feet above the open water. This past spring my girlfriend and I watched pods of whales migrate up the coast from the overlook. Needless to say, it was romantic and unforgettable. Continue to the other side of the point, over rock formations that are fun to climb and you’ll find yourself at your own private beach. Point Dume is truly a gem of a Los Angeles beach and date.
Over The Hill, Bookstore + Sunset: The Iliad BookStore
Another opportunity to flex your intellect, The Iliad cycles through ten-of-thousands of books a month, all used but all generally in great condition. The store also has two adorable cats that love to play hide and seek. Get your date to mention their favourite author and you can find them a $3 paperback that’s probably 20-30 years old. And good for you—it’s a good sign if your potential partner knows how to read.
Mulholland Scenic Overlook
This overlook should be kept in your back pocket at all times. With it’s clever placement in the Hollywood Hills off Mulholland, the overlook is far less famous than traditional spots. From the view, you can see DTLA, the Hollywood Sign, and literally into the Hollywood Bowl. We’re not suggesting you break the law but people have been known to catch ‘free’ Hollywood Bowl concerts here since the bowl opened. Either way, you continue to prove to your date that you know all the spots. You can venture down the trail beyond no trespassing signs to add some excitement. Nothing cements a good date like a memorable story.